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Poker Mental Game & Planning

Parkinson's Law in Poker

5,023 Views on 22/12/16

One of the simple tools we can use to increase our efficiency and improve the way we structure our goals is so called Parkinson's Law.

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Time management is a very relevant subject for poker players and the one that we quickly learned to adapt from the world of business and self-improvement.

Given the fact that poker alone is more concerned with things like odds, outs, EV and hand combinations we have to borrow from other disciplines when learning about the proper way to manage our daily poker routines.

One of the simple tools we can use to increase our efficiency and improve the way we structure our goals is so called Parkinson's Law.

Parkinson's Law

Parkinson's Law states that:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

While this sentence was a part of a humorous essay by Cyril Northcote Parkinson published in 1955 in "The Economist" it has very real implications both for individuals and giant organizations. If we allocate a certain arbitrary amount of time for a specific task (like hand review, or database analysis to use examples relevant for poker players) we're likely to spend all of that time on said task even if the actual amount of time necessary to finish it is smaller than the arbitrary amount we decided to use.

Another consequence of the Parkinson's Law is the fact that people tend to finish tasks at the last possible moment (if you ever had a school or work project with a deadline you know exactly how this works).

Everybody Win(g)s It

One of the most important skills poker players develop throughout their careers is self-awareness. Self-awareness allows us to - speaking quite frankly - see through our own nonsense and in turn see through illusions created and maintained by others. While there are some truly hard working people in this world, people who pour themselves entirely in the activities, work or mission of their choice they are also very few and far between.

"75% of poker players think they are better than the other 75%" we all like to paint ourselves and think of ourselves as hard working people. It's simply a function of our ego. "I work as hard as I can" is a phrase that we all hear suspiciously often. Think about it.

Why Woody Allen's "80% of success is showing up" sounds more like a profound statement than a joke? Why is the 80/20 rule such a groundbreaking discovery for most people? Why it was possible for you or your friends to work on a school assignment at the last possible moment and still pass it with flying colors?

We all think that we're hard workers and even if you're on the right side of the bell curve as far as hard work is concerned there's still a ton of things you can do to boost your efficiency and Parkinson's Law is a great reminder of that.

Using Parkinson's Law

First of all, you can't really use the Parkinson's Law when it comes to actually playing poker. This is simply because of the fact that you can't affect the pace at which the game of poker is played and so while there's a great deal you can do to make sure you're playing the optimal amount of hours each day (by taking a look at your win rate, hourly, tendency to tilt or play your B/C game, bankroll management etc. etc.) it's outside of the scope of this article. 

That being said, by using Parkinson's Law you can safely assume that you're most likely highly inefficient when it comes to other poker-related activities in your routine. Again you can't really watch a 30 minute coaching video in 20 minutes but it's entirely possible that you can shave some time from the 1-1.5 hours it usually takes you to watch said video and make notes. Maybe you only need 15 minutes instead of 30 minutes for analyzing the hands from the previous day before you start playing your session.

Try to experiment with the amount of time you allocate for certain tasks in your routine to see if you can boost your efficiency by simply adjusting those arbitrary numbers of minutes and hours.

For example, if your current poker daily routine looks something like this:

  • 17:00 - 18:00 Watching coaching videos/reading strategy articles.
  • 18:00 - 19:00 Analyzing hands from the previous day.
  • 19:00 - 22:00 Cash game session.

You might increase your efficiency without sacrificing anything by slowly making your way down to something like this:

  • 17:00 - 17:30 Watching coaching videos/reading strategy articles.
  • 17:30 - 18:00 Analyzing hands from the previous day.
  • 18:00 - 21:00 Cash game session.

This is obviously a simple example and specifics will differ between individuals, but what's consistent for most of us is the fact that according to Parkinson's Law we can all use a bit more efficiency in our lives.

Parkinson's Law can be an amazing tool when it comes to developing and maintaining new productive habits. Remember the last time you were late for your flight and you somehow managed to time every task you had to perform perfectly in order to make that flight (or plane or a train or a work deadline etc.).

If you treat every task like a plane that won't really wait for you, you'll be surprised at how much you can achieve in a very limited amount of time.

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Matt VIP

Matt is predominantly a mental game and planning expert, with a terrific knowledge of science, meditation, practical methods of improvement and of course, a good level of poker skill! Look out for his strategy articles and follow him for hi ... Read More


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