We spoke about patience and discipline at some length already in a previous lesson, but these issues are important enough to revisit them again here. In fact, they are the cornerstones of good play. While they are not enough, and you still require skill to succeed, all the skill in the world will not help you unless you have the patience to put the plan into action, and the discipline to stick with it.
Let's talk about patience again first. One of the big advantages we're going to have against our opponents is that we're going to be more patient than they are. By their being more eager than we are, this will amount to us having the advantage over them. They are forcing the action, while we are not. They are playing marginal hands, while we are not. They are pushing hands further than they ought, while we are not. Each time our opponents make a mistake and we do not, it adds to the advantage we have over them.
By doing so though, this is going to have us doing a lot more folding than our opponents. We aren't going to be getting anywhere near the action they are. They will thus be more "entertained" than we do. A lot of players play poker for this reason. Let them be entertained by their poor play. We need to be entertained by our success.
Folding so much can be rather dull though, especially if you've previously played a lot of cards. Perhaps frustration may set in, particularly if you haven't had a hand in a while, which can happen. There's always action going on though, and you need to condition yourself to paying attention to the game, and seek to discover information about the way your opponents are playing. This can be made more entertaining for you if you try to guess what opponents have, and see if you're right.
However, the fundamental thing here is that your patience is taking you toward the correct moves rather than the incorrect ones. And this is the way you need to think about this. Each time you fold, you need to think - I made the correct move, as by folding in this particular situation, I will make the most money at this game. And you need to continue to think that way in spite of cards which may come up which would have hit your hand. Playing the hand over time instead of folding, while it would have made money this time, will lose over time, and this is what you need to focus on when this happens.
Then, as you continue to correctly fold your hands, there's going to be instances where it's correct to stay in the hand. This is just a continuation of acting the same patient way, and seeking to make the correct decision each time. As you become more adept at doing this, you will actually find games more relaxing and thus more enjoyable.
Now, let's deal with discipline again. Again, this is a little different than patience, since patience is dealing with the fact that we have to not get upset at the fact we're not in a whole lot of hands, and wait for the right opportunities to strike, when we have the mathematical advantage. Discipline is more general, and involves sticking to our strategy and game plan regardless of whatever happens. Knowing the right move to make is a product of skill, where making sure you follow through and make the right move is discipline.
This may not seem to be that big of an issue, but in the normal distribution of luck, there's going to be times where you may feel that you need to do something different. It's fine to analyze your own play and seek to improve, but that is something to do when you are away from the table, under careful thought. The kind we're referring to here is more a product of frustration though. You haven't had a hand in a while so you play something you normally wouldn't, and something that you know isn't a good move. Or you stay in a hand too long because you haven't won one in awhile. Or you see opponents winning with garbage hands and decide that maybe you will play some too. Or you are angry over a bad beat, and get too aggressive. Or you may get upset at yourself that you made a mistake, causing you to make further ones. Or you allow yourself to decide more on a whim than on the real chances of winning. Or you don't allow yourself to think enough before you act, causing you to make decisions you wouldn't normally. And so on, and so on, and so on.
All these cases have a similar theme. You have a certain skill level, and have a game plan based upon that, but you're letting yourself get away from it. Again, the time to make changes is after the game, away from the pressures and frustrations of it, when you have all the time you need to carefully deliberate things through.
It's easy to say you need to be disciplined, but it isn't quite as easy to do it. Here's an idea that can help get you through this. Aside from trying your best, there are going to be some times when you feel this slip away. If at all possible, this is the time where you need to take a break and collect yourself. And take as long a break as you need to regain yourself before you return. It is not profitable to play poker when you don't have your game with you, no matter how good that game may be.
In addition, if you feel that there's something that you need to change while in the midst of a game, write it down. Later, you can look over these notes and seek leaks in your game. If you feel that something does come up which you recognize does need changing, again, step away from the table and make sure you give it enough thought before changing strategies.
Patience and discipline, like other skills in poker, need to be developed. They must be kept central in your mind in order to do so though. As you get better at mastering these two skills, your bottom line will be rewarded.