I have been reading a book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg that discusses how habits are formed and how to change them. The current chapter talks about how Starbucks created a culture where their baristas could and would be friendly to their customers. This was not an easy task, since shifts are long, customers can be difficult, and fast food workers are not known for their discipline to their job. Howard Schultz, the CEO created an interactive manual for training their workers in which they would explore how they would respond to difficult circumstances. Having a plan of action allowed the workers to feel a sense of control over the outcome and to follow the plan they had written out before being involved with an angry customer or an unhappy boss. This had a lasting impact of the workers lives, and often changed their entire outlook to both work and home.
How does this apply to poker? I noticed that most people don’t have a plan for certain poker situations. About a month ago I was playing and a tight player opened in early position and got a few callers. The board came T62 with two diamonds, and he bet and was checkraised. He reluctantly called and folded to a turn bet after showing two kings and saying that the other player must have flopped a set. The problem was, that the guy who checkraised him was going to bet any turn, and the man who folded two kings had no plan. I am sure that he said to himself that he would call the flop and fold to a turn bet, but what was that based on? Certainly not his opponents tendencies or the turn card that came off. The unfortunate reality is that he was just guessing because he had no way to figure out whether he should call or fold.
The only way you are going to be able to figure out the answers to those questions is when you are not in the heat of battle. You need to spend time looking over the math, working with the numbers to figure out what would make the situation profitable for you, and what types of opponents fit that criteria. Then, in the heat of battle, you have a decision plan so that you don’t have to rely on guesswork and feel that might be tainted by the amount of money involved, feelings towards opponents etc. In the same way Starbucks employees have written down how they will deal with an angry customer, you can know how to deal with a flop raise vs. an aggressive opponent, so that you don’t do whatever comes to mind and you can rely on your training.