Humans usually fear change, but once a year they embrace it by making New Year's resolutions. More often than not, people lack the discipline and patience to follow through on their resolutions and some even break them by January 2.
I always make a closer inspection of my poker game at the start of the New Year. I'm an avid note-taker and have an accurate accounting of my sessions since I started playing poker seriously in 2003. At the beginning of January, I crunch the numbers from the previous year and determine a game plan for the New Year. A couple of years ago, I discovered that tournaments were a huge leak for me so I eliminated them from my daily poker diet and my results next year were remarkable because I devoted more time to cash games.
2008 was an off year for me because of a setback during the last quarter. Poor game selection was my downfall. I routinely played during non-optimal circumstances and catered to my inner action junkie instead of being more selective. Due to a hectic travel schedule, I lacked large chunks on unstructured time. I frequently played online poker in hotel rooms late at night or inside airports while awaiting my flight. I often joked around that the location where I won the most money in 2008 was Long Beach Airport. I had a lot of delayed flights there and spent most of that time playing online poker, specifically short-handed pot-limit Omaha cash games. The results were outstanding, but sadly, the rest of my PLO play that year was dismal.
I was constantly challenged to find the perfect games due to time constraints and playing at odd hours in random time zones. The slumping economy also had an indirect effect on the poker industry and some of my favorite middle-stakes games dried up. I still needed my poker fix so I played more short-handed limit hold 'em games and PLO cash games. The swings in both games can be immense. I posted some of my biggest wins since the UIGEA came into effect, but I also posted some of the biggest single session losses of my poker career. The rush was amazing, but playing those games was not the most fiscally responsible thing I could have done with my bankroll, particularly in these harsh economic times. I had to promise myself to be more disciplined in 2009 about game and table selection.
It's always important to try new things. During the Christmas break, I decided to learn Badugi, an Asian variant of a low-ball game. You're dealt four cards. There are multiple betting rounds and you have three opportunities to draw cards. An actual Badugi is a low hand comprising four different suits. Straights don't matter but multiple suits count against you.
PokerStars recently added Badugi to their software. I have been slumming around the lowest limits and taking my lumps while learning to play. One of the best attributes of online poker is the ability to learn a different game in a short amount of time. Outside of Southern California and high-stakes mixed games, poker rooms rarely spread Badugi. It is not easy to find. I don't know too many places in Las Vegas or Atlantic City where you will find low-limit Badugi tables. Luckily, PokerStars fills that void.
The switch to Badugi was necessary to cater to my inner action junkie. I'm learning a new game which is fun and challenging, and playing small stakes won't drain my bankroll, like those massive swings I experienced at PLO. In 2009, my poker goals are to improve my overall table selection and devote time to learning Badugi. It's a modest goal but definitely attainable.
Best of luck at the tables this year!
Paul "Dr. Pauly" McGuire is a writer, poker player, and avid traveler from New York City. He's the author of the Tao of Poker blog which can be found at taopoker.blogspot.com. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com.