I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of people talk about not letting the past affect your future decisions, but realistically, this is going to happen quite a bit. You take a bad beat, get frustrated, and then get involved in the very next pot, when you should have been “insta-mucking” your hand to begin with.
Some of us are much better about controlling our emotions and ego at the table, but most of us, no matter how good we are at this, could make dramatic improvements in learning how to re-center ourselves, and be FULLY in the moment. The reality is, the day’s events, the current bad beat you took, the horrible fight you had with your partner, the cat you ran over on the way to the casino, are all going to affect every decision you make at the table. And, as you should fully understand, playing your most profitable poker has to do with making the BEST decision possible as consistently as possible over a long period of time.
So, consequently, your current state of mind when you sit down at the table is a crucial factor in determining how successful you can really be at poker. This is poker at an even higher level; this is the game you’ll be playing against yourself your entire life. It should make a lot of sense then that not only do you have to learn how to play against an array of different personality types on the felt, but you have to learn how to play against your ego, while balancing your emotional state.
There are really two important concepts to getting yourself in an ideal state where you can be fully present in the moment:
- Determining your current state of mind, and how recent past events may be affecting you, and
- Letting go of all of those past events, and focusing in with laser-like precision at only the current decision at hand. I recommend that you create a personal “ritual” for yourself before
you decide to play a game of poker. You don’t have to light candles, burn incense, and chant to the holy mother cow. It’s just a matter of creating a repetitive set of actions that will prepare your mind to let go of the past, and focus on the current task at hand. It can be as simple as saying one sentence to yourself, such as, “I’m ready to play poker, so I’m going to let everything else go, center myself, and focus my mind to play the best poker I can play.” Something that simple can make a HUGE difference in every session you play.
If you’ve noticed one thing about professional sports, you should be able to notice who the truly great players are in any individual sport. They are deemed great, not only because they perform extremely well, but also because they can do this very consistently. A lot of professional athletes talk about “being in the bubble,” where there’s no crowd, no winning, no losing, but instead just the pure action they are doing. Meaning there is no weight put into whether they score a goal, make that basket, or catch that improbable throw for a touchdown. It’s “merely” the action and only the action.
This is the second part of being in the moment. If you’re involved in a pot in poker, and you begin to think about winning the hand, losing the hand, losing the money that’s already in the pot, then you’ve already begun to lose the hand. Don’t worry about what you invested into the pot in the PAST, don’t concern yourself with victory, focus in and analyze all of the available information, and make the best decision possible. The more consistently you can do this, the more your poker bankroll is going to grow.
Being a good quitter (Tilt)
Poker is one of the few things you’ll do where you want to proudly boast that you’re one of the best quitters. You may not think of it as an important skill, but it’s extremely important to have the self awareness to recognize tilt has set in, and the self control to walk away and wait for another day. If you recognize any of the following about yourself, then you should take note, and look to take a break or call it a day:
- Feeling a bit warm or hot. They don’t call it steaming for nothing, and when tilt sets in like this, you will notice a rise in your body temperature and suddenly feel much warmer.
- You are berating someone else’s “bad” play. If you need to tell someone else how badly they played a situation, your head isn’t properly in the game. You want others to not play well, so there’s no reason to instruct them how to play better.
- You find yourself looking for excuses to get into a pot. Usually starts with a hand you wouldn’t normally play pre-flop, and if you spot this, then take note.
- You are folding in spots where you normally think you should be calling so that you can preserve your winnings for your current session. It’s a sure sign of “winners tilt” and it’s an indicator you’re not going to be making the most profitable decisions anymore.
- You are calling too much and losing in spots where it’s pretty clear you should have folded. Another sign that you’ve lost your ability to properly reason through a situation. This usually happens when you perceive you’re behind for a session and need to win back some of your “lost” money.
- The first step in getting a grip on tilt is recognizing it. If you don’t
have the self awareness to know you’re starting to tilt or are in full blown tilt, then you’re not going to be able to quit and end it. The second step is setting up some kind of talking down process for yourself. Using something to the effect of reminding yourself that you are here to play your “A” game, and be the best poker player you can be. Talking to yourself and reminding yourself of this goal can help you take a step back and become a little more objective. Use any strategy that you can employ that will help take you out of your current emotional state. Some strategies you can use to pull yourself out of a tilting emotional state:
- Remind yourself that your goal is to play your “A” game.
- Have a chip or some kind of card holder that has a saying that can remind you to get into your best state of mind possible.
- Sit out, take a bathroom break, and cool yourself down. If you have any doubt about your emotional state, don’t return to the game.
- Remind yourself that poker is a lifelong game, one session or evening isn’t going to determine any particular outcome.
- Write a favorite quote or saying that will bring you to a good state on a sticky note and keep it on your monitor, your hand, or a piece of paper you can pull out and read.
- Have a picture of your wife/girlfriend and/or children to remind you that you also want to play for them.
- It will likely take some practice, but try a few different strategies until
you find something that works best for you that you can go to when you need to. If you try one thing and it doesn’t work, try another. If you can’t get yourself to properly quit, then you may want to speak to a psychologist, or someone who specializes in gambling related psychology. Whatever you do though, don’t ignore it and pretend like it will eventually get better, because it most likely won’t. Be proactive and seek some solutions.