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Process vs Outcome: To win at poker? Or become more skilled at poker?

Process vs Outcome: To win at poker? Or become more skilled at poker?

Have you ever asked yourself why you play poker? If not, do so now.

Is it because you simply want to make money?
Is it because you want the thrill of winning a tournament?
Is it because you enjoy becoming skilful at poker?

All of us have different processes we use and outcomes we hope to achieve.

But focusing on outcomes isn’t the best approach to poker.

In this article, we’re going to look at process vs outcome, a subject that BBZ’s Performance Coach Frank Hamel recently covered in a BBZ Daily Seminar.

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Trust the process

Let’s use exercise as an example.

If you go to the gym to lift weights solely to lose weight, you’re going to be disappointed when you don’t see much change over the first few months. This can be disheartening and might make you want to give up.

Instead, let’s say you go to the gym in order to become more skilled at lifting weights. You simply want to become better at the activity and get stronger.

Well, if you do that consistently, you will certainly lose weight.

The outcome becomes a byproduct of the process, i.e. the skills you build over time.

“There’s something more sustainable about thinking about it as a skill rather than hitting a milestone or reaching an outcome,” says Hamel.

“What happens after you reach the outcome? What’s left? Are you going back to the gym afterwards or are you just stopping?”

But if your goal is to get more skilled, you’re going to focus on the process, rather than the outcome, of your behaviors and actions.

When it comes to poker, we’d be lying to ourselves if we said we’re not playing to make money. That’s the outcome we’re all trying to reach.

But do you enjoy studying?

Do you enjoy knowing exactly what to do with a short stack in order to go as deep in a tournament as possible?

Do you enjoy navigating a final table with the skills you’ve worked hard to obtain?

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Let’s say your ideal outcome in poker is to win a tournament. How are you going to approach it?

Well, you could register for every single tournament on the schedule to give yourself the best possible chance of winning one. That’s essentially like buying lottery tickets. If all you care about is winning a tournament, you could just go all-in to create big pots and increase the variance. If you play an infinite amount of tournaments with this strategy, you will win one eventually.

This is an outcome-oriented approach: “Let’s play as much as possible, I should win one eventually by blindly clicking buttons.”

So what’s the process-oriented approach?

“It’s about getting better at playing certain spots and situations, so now when you play a tournament, it’s not about winning it, it’s about the spots and situations you’re trying to get more skilled at,” says Hamel.

What’s more important to you? Winning a tournament? Or feeling more skilful at playing more spots in poker?

“Just by understanding that, you can understand your motivators and how you should shape your practice and performance.”

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The practice of skills

What is the optimal way for you to become more skilled at poker?

  • Recovery
  • Adaptation
  • Repitition
  • Sustainability

We don’t necessarily think about physical activities as a skill. When we go running, we think about running until we’re tired and pushing ourselves to our limits. Not many people think about practising their running skills and improving their form.

These are two different ways to approach that activity.

Let’s say you go to the gym for the first time in years and do an intense 90-minute workout where you completely push yourself to your limits.

What happens next? Your body is out of action for several days as it needs to recover, because it hasn’t adapted to such a strenuous workout. This means you can’t use repetition as your body takes longer to recover. This simply isn’t sustainable.

Instead, you should try a shorter but still intense workout, without entirely burning yourself out. This way, your body can recover and adapt much quicker, AND you can repeat the workout more frequently. This is a sustainable training process.

Now let’s apply this to poker.

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If you decide you want to become more skilled at poker and you study for eight hours in one day, not only are you going to be tired when you come to play your session, but you won’t be able to repeat that process every day and sustain it over a long period of time.

Instead, focus on shorter, intense study sessions. Watch a BBZ Daily Seminar, study charts for an hour, or use a training tool like GTO Wizard or DTO. Not only can you recover faster from your study sessions (i.e. you won’t be too tired to play), but your brain will adapt to processing the information you learn as you can repeat the process day in and day out and sustain it forever.

“Recovery always comes first when you’re tired,” says Hamel. “Adaptation comes from the repetition of those straining moments where you’re challenging yourself more, without breaking.”

It’s all about the long game.

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