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The Independent Culture
"You're never too young to lose and never too old to learn," they say. As the new year begins, poker players, like other people, take stock. If you are a winner, fine. If you are a loser, the reason is simple: you played badly. That's it, no excuses. Everyone has some losing nights, even months-long losing streaks. But luck evens out, while bad play is a constant.

People play poker for various reasons: "just for fun", for a night out with the boys, for a way of blowing off steam from a high-pressure job, or to escape family life. Such reasons are enough, if the price is right. But unlike, say, tennis, when you can lose and still have a good game, or team games, when you are all in it together, poker is measured in money. The only true satisfaction lies in being a (modest) winner. I don't even mind being a loser, if I played it right.

So the question, for winners and losers alike, is: how does one improve? Poker books have their place, but do not really do the job, which is one of self-analysis. The hands you misplayed, the bets you called when you knew you were beaten, the bets you didn't make when you knew you were best - the whole gamut of poker mistakes is in the floppy disk of every player's memory.

Probably the best learning opportunity comes in the hands you are not playing, when you can sit back and watch everyone else. One of the best things about poker is that everyone's "moves" can be seen. You can't remember what happened in the game? Well, in the new year, why not keep a record, by writing down one or two hands after each game, to see if there are any lessons you can teach yourself?

Seems like a good idea. Might even try it myself.