The right motivation

In my poker career, my biggest challenge has always been motivation. Since I travel so much, it's difficult for me to get into a steady routine when it comes to playing online. It's impossible to play your best game 100% of the time when you play for one or two days, then take a break for a week to travel to a tournament, then come back and play another couple days before taking off again. You can never be on top of your game in these conditions.

However, on recent month I was able to play about 50,000 hands, which is a lot for me. I played every day and made a lot of critical improvements. Getting into that routine really helped me and I feel like I again have the passion not only to play online, but to keep working on my game. Sometimes it can be pretty boring to sit down with a calculator and review hands, but it's absolutely crucial if you want to become a better player. The bitter cold weather in Moscow actually helps in this situation because I don't want to leave my house in the winter, even for a short walk!

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Poker has progressed so much in the past few years. I am constantly changing my game and adapting to new conditions. People play a much more balanced game now and there are way less fish in the waters, especially online. Even weak regulars can beat a fish with huge leaks in his game, but when a player has no overt leaks, it's really hard to win. It's not enough to just be an average player; you have to find an edge in spots you've never looked in before.

I've always had a general idea of where my stats should be--how often I should raise pre-flop, how much I should three-bet, things like that. Now, I have to look deeper. I have to work on my turn game. I have to work on my river game. For example, if you aren't check-raising often enough on the river, it's a leak and good players will find a way to exploit it. Before, I could afford to make some stupid calls and still be a profitable player because I would make up for it in other spots. Now, you cannot afford to make any mistakes. The game is much less forgiving.

However, even in this state of the game, different styles can still be profitable. I was recently talking to one of the best Russian 6-max cash game players and he told me he could name me the ten best 6-max players in the world and none of them play the same way. Even their pre-flop ranges are different. It reminded me why I love to play poker. Poker is about understanding your opponent and exploiting his mistakes. And when you're able to adapt your play and make different styles and strategies work, it's more fun.

Obviously everything can change, but right now I really have the motivation to grind cash games online. Motivation has always been key to my success as a poker player. Sometimes I was motivated because I needed the money; sometimes it was because I was obsessed with the game. But whenever I was motivated and was able to grind online consistently, I always had good results. Now that my drive is back, I hope to achieve that success again. The games are harder now and maybe it won't be enough, but I'm excited to try.

Ivan Demidov is a member of Team PokerStars Pro

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