As far as I'm concerned, the single most important thing that you have to do in order to be successful at limit hold 'em is this; every single time you play, you must bring your shit to bear. All the weapons you have in your belt, all the tools in your box, all the talents that you have should be brought to bear upon your opponents 100% of the time. You must not just sit there in a live 20/40 game telling yourself you need 3 more hours for the day, barely paying attention, simply assuming that when a good hand comes you'll be able to tune back into the game and crush the guy sitting across from you. I have been guilty of this more times than I care to count, and doing so can be summed up succinctly in two words; fucking fail. You are not entitled to win, and like it or not your edge is extremely small (unless your opponents are actually trying to give their money away....OK sometimes it seems like they are, but still) and you simply cannot afford to give any of it away. If you bet the turn when you should check behind, or make a silly call down because you haven't been paying attention to the nut-peddler's nut peddling ways for the past 15 minutes because Roy Cooke's article in Card Player about saving bets in the Bellagio 30 was just too riveting (or hilarious) to put down, guess what? You should have just gone home. In the entire last hour you've been trying to win 1 big bet, right? And you just fucked up and gave the nut peddler 2 bets you didn't have to because you weren't bringing your shit to bear. You really should have just gone home.
The same goes for playing online, as I'm learning this month. I'm finding it much easier to tell when I'm "in the zone" online and making good decisions and bringing my shit to bear. When I am, I'm looking for spots to steal pots, I'm not c-betting mindlessly, I'm thinking hard about barreling the turn, I'm developing a plan for the hand before I click the buttons. I'm checking guys stats, looking to see if I'm likely to get check/raised if there is merit to barreling off with this gutshot or if he really is so tight that I can fold these jacks right here even though I know they are an over pair but jeebus what do you think the 30/2/.4 has when he caps you preflop? When I'm not in the zone and not brining my shit to bear I'm just sort of mindlessly clicking the buttons, usually "raise" preflop and "bet" and "bet" without thinking too much of it. This is simply unacceptable. Poker is not like a real job where less than 100% of your effort still gets 100% of your pay (at least in the short term). In poker it simply doesn't work that way, and it's not even linear. There could be games where at 100% focus and attention you are a 1 big bet per 100 winner, but at even 75% focus and attention you are actually a losing player! Imagine if your boss docked you for coming into work and surfing the web when you were supposed to finishing up your TPS reports? That would really change your perspective, wouldn't it? Yet poker players show up to play less than 100% ALL THE TIME and think nothing of it, or worse, think arrogantly that their B game can still crush these fools while browsing 2p2 and checking their email while texting and listening to music all at the same time. Guess what....you probably can't, and if you can, you could probably crush them more if you simply brought your shit to bear.