As we grow in the game of poker, it's useful not to expect too much too soon. One way to curb expectation appropriately is to think of ourselves as serving an apprenticeship. There are a few reasons for this.
&Bull; It keeps us rooted in reality. An apprentice knows that he's in the learning phase of his career, and requires nothing of himself beyond learning.
&Bull; It keeps us humble. Today's achievements are meaningless, except as a function of moving us closer to perfect play.
&Bull; It keeps us patient. No sensible apprentice expects to master all the tools of the trade overnight.
&Bull; It alerts us to the need for a poker toolkit. Yeah, tools. Here are some you definitely need:
A NOTEBOOK. I can think of nothing more vital for growth in poker than a player's journal in which to record discoveries, painful lessons and targets of new opportunity. Much of what you discover will not be new, for others have walked the path before you. But the discoveries you make and record, even if not new, are the ones that carry the force of revelation, and the lessons you learn for yourself are the ones that stick with you most.
What form should your notebook take? Whatever form you're comfortable with. You could keep a spiral-bound cheapie in your pocket when you play, or maintain a bigger book for more extensive recollections, or write on a computer like I do. Or all of the above. Just not none of the above. You can't really consider yourself serious about poker if you're not taking notes, or at least note.
A SCORE SHEET. What separates poker pretenders from genuine students of the game is a willingness to book all losses and wins faithfully. Absent this commitment, we tend to get fuzzy with our thinking and imagine that we're "generally beating the game" with no real evidence to back that claim. The minute you record your first session-results, your apprenticeship has well and truly begun.
Paper and pencil will serve you in this at minimum, though there's no shortage of electronic tools out there, too, to make easy the matter of recording, sorting, and analyzing the hard truth of your play. Again, it doesn't matter which method you use so long as it's not no method. Serious players keep score, and that's that with that.
A LIBRARY. "If I have been able to see further," said Sir Isaac Newton, "it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants." With so much solid, sensible poker literature out there, no poker apprentice need ever go through the journey alone. And only through hubris or laziness would one ever ignore or overlook the words that have come before.
What books should be in your library? Oh, man, just go off in all directions at once. Every book has something to teach you, if only to show you approaches you don't feel are right for your play. Also remember that you can't enter the same river twice, and the book you read as a neophyte will speak completely differently to you once you've had a chance to grow in the game. What other poker tools can you think of? Take note of them and integrate them into your apprenticeship. Just remember...
If you're not slowly getting better, you're slowly getting worse.