Success is packed with fundamentals

October 10, 2017, Mark Brement  

I’m resuming teaching my poker class at Pima Community College in the near future. Please take a moment to absorb this testimonial: “Mark Brement has been my coach for more than five years. Today, I make money at poker on a consistent basis. Coach started with fundamentals and then went on to plug a number of leaks in my game.”

This student is a player who I think of as an “easy keeper.” He read all the books, grew his game and took a great deal of time and effort to make poker a winning hobby. Furthermore, he retook my three classes numerous times.

At all levels, poker is a vexing game and in to be a winning player we must be willing to spend a significant portion of time on game improvement. Before a player enrolls in advanced class, it’s a better idea to take the beginning class I offer because poker players often stray from fundamentals.

I have taught hundreds of players. Never has a player complained to me that he should’ve passed on the early class. Quite the opposite, at the beginner level, we’re focused on fundamentals.

The higher stakes and longer we play cards, the more likely somewhere along the line we develop a bad habit that costing us money. My favorite coaching story is about Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches of all time.

On the first day of training camp, Lombardi walked into the locker room and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football,” and from that point on fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals were stressed.
Whether you consider yourself to be an expert or a beginner, here are a few fundamentals that deserve introspection:

BLIND PLAY: Many astute players overplay their blinds based on the notion that the player in the blind believes he is “priced in.”
Also, blind-play strategy is vastly different in tournaments. Yes, at times we’re priced in to play.

Confused yet? Don’t forget that by calling the raise from the blind, we have effectively entered into a contract to combat an opponent who, for the rest of the hand, will have positional edge.

This is often overlooked. If we’re not hitting our hourly win-rate targets, analysis on blind play is a good place to start.

STARTING HANDS: Players tend to open their game for two reasons: As players gain experience, they become more comfortable straying from their strict discipline. And, when losing, players become less disciplined. You can’t beat this competitive game of skill unless you stick to fundamentals. “This is a football.”

— Mark Brement has spent 15 years teaching and coaching all facets of poker, including at Pima CC. Email him at brementmark@gmail.com.