Most poker players like to think of the mind as an objective and rational computer. But sadly, modern psychology has confirmed that’s not the case.
We are all vulnerable to various cognitive biases and logical fallacies which can cloud the way we perceive and interact with information that we receive from the world around us.
We all have a subjective lens which is colored by our unique personality, background, and emotions, which colors our experiences at the table. When you add this to the fact that poker is rife with losses, variance, and mistakes, you can see how it is likely for the mind to become overrun with irrational thoughts, unhelpful urges and negative emotions.
But, there are ways that we can reduce our irrational thinking and negative emotions and approach the game of poker with calm composure. Let’s have a look at my favorite foundational strategy:
The biggest problem with most poker players is they don’t actually want to win.
They think they want to win, but what they truly want is to play perfectly. They never want to fold and be shown a bluff. They never want to bluff and be caught. They want to feel good about themselves, and they’d feel terrible if any of those things ever happened. They want to sit there, see flops for cheap, and hopefully hit some of them. And they never want to be criticized. They don’t want to be given the side eye if they do something out of line. They want to fit in. They want to feel like a cardplayer.
This is horseshit!
Poor decisions often lead to our greatest challenges in life and at the poker table. Making effective decisions, requires clear thinking strategies and accurate perceptions of the situation. Unfortunately, it’s easy for mental errors to creep in and lead to making a poor choice.
It’s not always easy to make the best decision, but there are things you can do to increase your odds.
“But this teacher says I should do this play in that situation.” “Why did he say that?” I ask. (Sound of crickets)
The above exchange is worrying to me. When I am talking to aspiring poker players, I am struck with an impression:
They want firm answers. They want a poker trainer who they can trust 100%. They want to take his words as gospel. Then, if his strategies do not work, they want to assail him for their lack of success.
Blaming any poker coach for your own failings is misguided, unless you can prove the error of his ways. Remember, no poker coach can control conception to execution. You’re the one who has to go onto the field and play ball. You cannot execute correctly if you’re relying on simple maxims. There are no panaceas in poker.
I spent years of my life traveling for the game. During that time, I played online poker from any surface I could place a laptop. Airport interiors, coffee shops, hostels, cabins in the middle of nowhere…it was all fair game. In many of these spots, a wicker chair was a luxury. I didn’t have much of a choice abroad. Wherever I found a reliable internet connection, I set up shop.
Tournaments are more dynamic than cash games. They force you into a lot of situations you’d never encounter otherwise, so to play them successfully, you need to be flexible. There’s no denying that luck plays a huge role in poker tournaments, but if you can grasp a few key concepts, you won’t be as reliant on the fickle affections of chance.
The 3 Key Ingredients to Winning NLH Poker Tournaments
The greatest thing I ever saw in my life was a boxing match. I was in San Diego, California. I was 12. This was the year 2000. My father had me down there to work on a commercial fishing vessel of his. It was getting redone at the time. It wouldn’t be back on the water for months. I spent the days cleaning up debris from construction, as my father taught me about hard work. To reward me, he’d take me to see different sights at night. My favorite memory from that time was a boxing match my father took me to.
Did you know that suffering from anxiety issues can also affect your attention span? Researchers have recently determined that there is a correlation between these two issues.
In fact, if you have anxiety, then you’re more likely to have coexisting attention disorders. Researchers now believe there is an underlying brain connection that could explain this relationship. In fact, preliminary studies of adolescents reveal that they’re more likely to have both issues together.
Let’s discuss a topic I feel many “professionals” need help with, which is how to treat poker like a profession. One of my favorite quotes that comes up at the beginning of Elliot Roe’s Mental Game podcast is, “If you treat it like an amateur, you should expect amateur results.” This is one of the most applicable quotes to poker that I’ve heard in a long time regarding how many players treat their poker games. They don’t study, they are on their phone the entire session, and they fail to keep accurate records, among many other things. Let’s discuss a few key things that if you are an amateur will help you be more professional while playing, or if you are already a professional, hopefully will help you recognize areas you can improve in professionalism.
Habits are so powerful that it’s not an exaggeration to say that they are the key to success. Your habits determine everything from how much money ends up in your bank account to the size of your waistline. Your habits have the power to determine the quality of your life.
Many people find that breaking bad habits and creating new, more positive ones is a near impossible task. That’s because most people use ineffective habit building strategies. The most common ineffective approach: trying to go cold turkey while relying on willpower to force the necessary changes.
Willpower doesn’t work unless you’re incredibly motivated, and motivation isn’t very reliable. It’s here one moment and gone the next. So, what should you do instead?
You can create new habits more effectively if you avoid the most common mistakes:
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