Emotion and Poker Don’t Mix

Aggressive PokerHow many times have you been playing online poker and watched as one player berates another in the chat box about how he has supposedly played badly?

I’ve seen it many many times and when it happens it always reminds me to not let emotion enter into my game play.

I’m no Saint and in the past I have let my emotions get the better of me and tilted but it hasn’t happened for a while and I do everything I can to ensure it doesn’t.

You cannot let emotion be a part of your game if you want to succeed.  If you look at the top pro’s, most of them do not show a lot of emotion and they seem to manage suck outs and bad beats very well. I know it’s a long hard process but it’s something you must do to take your poker game to the next level.

Now I’m not saying you don’t feel anything when you get sucked out on or win a big pot.  I’m talking about not letting those feelings play a part in your decision making.  I’m the first one to be swearing at the screen when I’ve just been sucked out on but I’ve quickly learned to put it behind me and look to the next hand or tournament.

Overcoming Tilt and Your State of Mind.

Poker Tilt is the term used by poker players to describe when you have let your emotions get the better of you and let it affect the poker decisions you make in subsequent hands, resulting in you making plays that you would not normally have made. As you can guess this usually ends in sometimes quite comical disaster.

Some other things that have nothing to do with poker can affect your game and even put you on tilt before the game has started. These factors you have direct control over and can eliminate so as to not affect your game. If you’ve had a fight with your wife/husband, if you’ve had a bad day at work, if you have a headache or are feeling under the weather you should not be looking to start playing a poker tournament.

These are just a few of the many non poker factors that can have an influence on how you play. I think to play consistently well over a period of time you have to play with what I call a good ‘poker mindset’ going in. I think this gives you a better opportunity to win.

Have you ever gone on tilt? I don’t think there is a person I’ve talked to that hasn’t at one time or another. There are a number of things that may happen that make you go on tilt, and some even have to do with poker! Let me explain.

I hate getting sucked out on. I hate hitting trips after a rainbow flop (all different suits), I bet and there is a raise all in. I call and a weak player hits runner runner cards (two cards on the trot) for a flush. I HATE it but it is something you just have to take because it happens from time to time. That’s poker and that’s what makes it such an interesting game to play. You can make all the correct plays and still lose occasionally!

Learning to Control your Emotion in Poker tournaments.

I think the best way to deal with the anger and frustration one feels from time to time is to analyse what has just happened and look at the plays you made.

Walk through the hand again in your head and ask yourself, did I make good decisions there and my opponent just sucked out?  If the answer is yes then put it behind you because you did nothing wrong and its your opponent who needed the luck to win.

That’s why there are percentages for any given hand to win. Even a hand that’s favoured 90% of the time will lose 10% of the time. So you must hang on to that belief that you made the correct move and just got unlucky. Then you have to put it behind you and move on.

Thinking about your long term results will put this one suck out into perspective. If you made a good decision then in the long term if you played that hand over and over again you will emerge the victor. The point I am trying to make is that you have to be able to take an unlucky hand and move on because next time things will probably be different.

If the answer to your hand replay question was no, then that’s great, there is something you can learn from it. Decide retrospectively how you could of played that hand / tournament better and make sure you learn from it, so the next time a similar situation comes your way you can avoid making the same mistake again.  Constantly be thinking about improving your game and you will have less time to steam or tilt.

You must find a way to control your emotions after a bad beat otherwise you could lose a lot of money and turn it into a disastrous day in the office. Focus on your long term results and not just one hand.

That B*******d’s targeting me!!!

Do you ever have an opponent that seem’s to be targeting you?  He always raises your blinds.  He’s always calling or re-raising your raises

It’s not uncommon at a poker table and can be for a number of reasons, maybe he has misread your play and singled you out as weak, maybe he’s jealous that you have a better looking wife than him, who knows and frankly the reason doesn’t matter.

Again you must control your emotions, don’t get mad because this has presented exactly what we want, an opportunity to exploit.

Don’t just play back at him because he’s stolen your blind or he check/raised you.  Wait for your opportunity to pull him in.  As a matter of fact if he feels he can steal your blinds or re-raise you and get you to fold, then let him, make him think he is in control and all high and mighty. Then when the right opportunity presents itself and you have a premium hand or have hit the flop you can take him to the cleaners. By controlling your emotion and wait for your opportunity to exploit this flaw in his game then you have both made him pay and considerably increased your chances of doing well in the tournament.

Poker is a game of fundamentals.

Players take those fundamentals and play different styles.  Some win, some don’t, but everyone plays a little differently.

I also see a lot of players berate other players in the chat box for ‘playing the wrong way’?  It always makes me laugh because there is no right way!

If a person makes a bad call and sucks out on you don’t start on him in the chat box letting the whole table see your emotions taking over you. I can guarantee that any good player at the table has a little smile come over their face whenever they see this and a note will be taken saying “Tilt” and a great big target will be put on your head.

Actually you should do the exact opposite.  Say “good hand” in the chat box. Encourage that player to play badly again. The next time you come up against this player he may play another weak hand or make another weak play and you will take advantage of that.  Make a note of it on his player notes and use it the next time you encounter him in a tournament.  Remember, those types of players are the reason players like us can make money!

Your state of mind is very important when sitting down to play a Tournament

As said above many things in the world around you can effect your mindset before playing a tournament. To me the trick is if those factors affect you too much perhaps a break from poker for that evening is in order. Maybe a longer brake is in order, only you know for sure.

Something else I try to do is to sit in front of the computer 10 minutes before the tournament I signed up for starts and close my eyes and just think of how I’m going to start this tournament, what strategy will I use, making good decisions and so forth. Just get into a ‘poker mindset’.

Its like a little quiet time before the tournament gets going. This is the mental part of the game. Look at any sports stars. I’ve seen interview after interview where the athlete says “much of what I do is mental, if I believe I can win I’m half way there”.

Anything you can do to increase your chances of making good decisions at the poker table is worth while doing. Different players do different things to prepare for a tournament. Figure out what your ‘thing’ is and do it. Having a good poker mindset going into a tournament gives you a better opportunity to make those good decisions therefore increasing your chances to win. If you can come up with a good way to avoid going on tilt and eliminate outside distractions then you have achieved a good ‘poker state of mind’!

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