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Julian Thew Column

I've learned to control my game...now I need to improve my focus

Pokerjolt columnist Julian Thew, who has just been knocked out of two tournaments in Las Vegas, explains why mental preparation is just as important as strategy...

by Julian Thew PokerJolt July, 9th 2010
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Julian Thew insists wannabe poker pros must be realistic

Above: Julian Thew insists wannabe poker pros must be realistic

Just five minutes clear mental preparation would have made a huge difference

Hi everyone and welcome to my new Pokerjolt column.

I'll be writing here regularly about what I'm up to on the poker circuit and giving you loads of tips and advice based on my own triumphs – and disasters! - as a professional player.

Some of you may already know I got my nickname Yo-Yo, because my chip stack had a reputation for going down, then up, down, then back up again!

It's certainly true that I used to play far too loose. It's a common mistake among amateurs and I'm happy to admit it was my biggest fault before I became a pro.

Nowadays I'm a tight-aggressive player, although I have occasional 'spewey' tendencies. What I mean by that is, although I've learned to control my game, instinctively I'm still a risk-taker and that comes out from time to time...just not always at the right time!

I got into poker because I was looking for a competitive outlet that hopefully didn't involve sport...and poker fitted that bill perfectly.

I'm certainly a competent player now and I'd like to continue to earn a good living from the game, maintain my Pokerstars sponsorship and bag a few more titles along the way in the next few years.

The trick is to keep learning every day. I try to do that, but if I'm honest some days I don't really think about it. As I write this I've just busted early in two tournaments in Las Vegas because I wasn't focused enough. Just five minutes clear mental preparation would have made a huge difference.

A lot of you will play almost entirely online, but that wasn't the case for me when I was learning the game. Prior to signing with PokerStars I didn't play much online at all, but at the moment I'm playing around 40 hours-a-week on the site – and maybe 15-20 hours of live poker.

Life's not one long holiday camp though. It can get lonely playing on the tour and personally, I don't think there's a worse feeling as a tourney pro than busting a big event and being hundreds – or thousands – of miles away away from the wife and kids.

When you're living out of a suitcase it's important to have friends on the circuit – and people you respect. Funnily enough, the guy I look up to most is another Pokerjolt columnist, JP Kelly. He became a very successful young live player five or six years ago then disappeared off the horizon; spent time learning the online ropes and now competes at the top level in both fields. That's a phenomenal achievement.

Speaking of big steps, one of the things I want to do with this column is help amateurs who want to turn pro realise their dream. I did it, but it's not easy – and you'll need all the help you can get.

The key thing is to be realistic. You have to be prepared to go back to work if things don't pan out. You also have to be sensible with your bankroll and make sure you have enough money behind you to withstand the worst 12 month run you can possibly imagine. And be disciplined and treat it like a business, if you don't do that you're dead in the water before you even start.

But, if you can do all that, I have some good news for you. Don't believe the naysayers, the poker boom isn't over – the game is getting stronger and it will grow even faster as its image continues to improve.

A decade from now I'm certainly hoping to be making a good living from poker.

And with lots of hard work, a dose of realism and enough practice, you could be too.

Julian Thew plays at PokerStars.com

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Julian Thew

Julian Thew Julian 'Yo-Yo' Thew got his nickname because his chip stack had a habit of going up, then down, then back up again. The Nottingham-based pro has won more than $2,500,000 in live tournaments but now plays for up to 40 hours-a-week online at Pokerstars. Read his tips for aspiring pros here in his exclusive regular column.

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