Having huge performance expectations is one of the biggest mistakes you can do before any major poker series. I think most poker players are pretty good with managing money expectations. We learn very early in our careers that playing poker involves lot of variance. Because of this we learn that we should target our focus and energy around our performance instead of results. Performance is something that is completely under our control. Or is it really?

I believe performance is something we cannot control 100%. If you would have 100% control of your performance then poker would be easy. You would just decide before every single session that you would play in the ZONE. Easy right?

Well not really as many of you will realize. Why even our own performance is something that is not 100% under our control? Why can’t we just decide that we are going to play our best possible poker in every session and actually do that?

Playing your absolute best or ”being in the zone” is quite often something we don’t understand completely. Think about it for a second. Can you describe every detail of your ZONE and how do you get there. Can you explain why do you reach the zone on Monday but play your B-game on Tuesday? Well I can’t because I don’t have complete understanding of my ZONE. I try to study it and I try to find triggers that will get me there but do I have 100% control of it? Definitely not. Being in the zone or reaching it is very complex concept filled with lot of small details and triggers. Did you sleep well last night? Did you play one hand which created some uncertainty in your game? Did you have an argument with your girlfriend or did you just feel lazy and got yourself a Big Mac instead of eating something healthy. Even one of these things can create a barrier which will make it impossible for you to reach your absolute best in your daily session.

So what is my point here? Should I just accept that my performance is out of my control? Is my everyday performance just as random as flipping a coin. Well no. Your goal is to study your zone. Your goal is to make sure you are professional and don’t create unnecessary barriers which will make it harder for you to play your best. Your goal is to manage your expectations and accept that there might be days where it will be impossible to reach your full potential.
First goal for you is to define your zone. This might be a bit tricky because like I already mentioned you probably don’t understand it completely. So the goal is to make notes after every time you play in the zone. How did it feel to play in the zone? What did you do earlier that day? How focused were you ? How well did you sleep? How much studying have you done recently? How did you warm up for your session?

Describing and defining your zone after every single time it occurs will make it easier for you to understand it. You will probably learn and find some things that correlate pretty well with your zone. You will most likely also find things that you should avoid if you try to reach the zone.
For me there is definately few triggers that quite often occur before I reach the zone.

1. Learning something new in poker
2. Intense studying
3. High enough energy levels – sleeping well + eating well
4. Feeling good about myself
5. Having clear and well defined goals

So if I want to reach the zone I need to make sure I do everything I can to achieve these things. These ”zone triggers” are quite often also things that are under your control. You just have to spend some time to achieve and be disciplined.

So doesn’t it mean that when I do achieve all these things I will automatically reach the zone ? Unfortunately no. Like I mentioned your zone is very complex thing and even though I have studied mine for couple years I still don’t have complete understanding of it. Zone is also something that evolves and changes over time and because of this understanding it becomes even harder.

So what can you take from this article to help you with your WCOOP journey. First of all you will be playing intense 3 weeks and expecting that you will be playing your best poker every single day is unrealistic goal for 99,9% of the poker players. Accept this and you will deal with possible bad days much better. After all expectation is something that you think will actually happen every time. If you don’t have full control of things you are expecting to happen you will do much more harm than good by setting the bar too high.

Don’t get me wrong tough. This is not a ”green-light” to start being a lazy poker player. Quite the opposite actually. You job is to accept that somedays it will be impossible to reach your absolute best BUT at the same time your job is to study your zone and do all you can to create best possible environment for your ZONE. Eat healthy. Sleep 2 more extra hours instead of grinding random websites online or watching new season of Narcos. Stay away from facebook, tinder or whatever it is that will get you distracted while playing. Be disciplined and professional. If you can do this you will automatically increase your chances to reach the zone.

For more information on the topic I highly recommend Jared Tendler’s book ”The Mental Game of Poker 2: Play Poker In The Zone”.
Best of luck for the wcoop and see you at the tables

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