Poker is more than just a card game. Whenever you are dealing with people, you are also dealing with psychological factors. One pro player I know said that poker is a "people game" played with cards.
Your emotions as a player can have a large impact on your results when you play poker. They say that winning can be simple. All you have to do is always play your best game. This is easier said than done for most of us because we can be our own worst enemies at times.
There are several factors that contribute to our own state of mind. Whenever you play you should be well rested, alert and free from worrying about other problems in your life. If you bring these problems to the table with you, it can only interfere with your playing your "A" game.
Playing your best or "A" game means that you are paying attention to aspects of the game at all times. You are aware of what hands the other players are playing. You are concentrating on the reading the board. You know what the pot odds are when you call a bet. You also are playing premium starting hands.
You should also be confident of your own abilities. You don't have to be the best player in the world to win at Texas Hold'em. You just have to be better than the other players at the table. Some players can easily intimidate other players. This can happen if you find yourself over matched or in a ramming jamming game with a bunch of maniac players. You need to be aware of this. If for any reason you don't feel you can play your best game against the opponents at the table or you think you are in over your head, then you should get out and find a different game.
Your game can also be affected by the play at the table. Some nights you will sit for hour after hour folding hand after hand while other players are winning with pure garbage. You will be tempted to start loosening up your standards for starting hands. Don't do it! When you do you are getting away from your best game. If you are losing hand after hand or are suffering bad beats, you could go on tilt.
Going on tilt is the expression used when players become upset and lose control of their emotions. Consequently they make poor decisions and play badly. A player on tilt will play any starting hands and call when they should not. If they have just suffered a bad beat, this could trigger them to go on tilt. They have lost money and are trying to make it back in one or two hands by playing overly aggressive with weak hands. Their play becomes very irrational. Like a child having a temper tantrum, they act out in anger, throwing chips in the pot trying to intimidate the other players. This will usually just lead to more losses.
Sometimes a player will get to the point where they just don't care how much money they have lost. Poker Expert Mike Caro calls this crossing the threshold of pain. A player may be down a few hundred dollars and then figure what the heck does another hundred matter. It will matter a lot the next day to most players.
Players can go on tilt or steam when they direct anger at another player. This particular opponent may have beaten them out of a hand and they are now on a vendetta to get that person. They will raise and re-raise in hopes of beating this player and getting their money back. This usually will backfire.
Players on tilt present a profitable situation for those at the table with a cool head. Oftentimes you will make money from one of these players. They will be throwing money around and it is up to you to catch it. Some may argue that it's wrong to kick someone when they're down, but a player on tilt is fair game in a casino poker game. Just make sure it is not you.
Controlling Your Emotions
In his book, Shut Up and Deal, Jessie May says, "Poker is a combination of luck and skill. People think mastering the skill part is hard, but they're wrong. The trick to poker is mastering the luck."
It is critical that you learn to keep your emotions in check when you play. Every player is going to suffer bad beats and losing hands. It's the luck of the draw and bad players do get lucky at times. It is the player who can remain calm in the face of adversity who will be the ultimate winner in the long run. All the poker experts advise learning how to play tilt-free poker. Most of the time, it is more than one incident that will set a player off. I think most of us know when we start to feel our emotions building up.
There are several things you can do when you feel you are on the verge of losing control. The first thing to do is take a deep breath. Breathing gets more oxygen to the brain and will help clear up your thinking. It is the first thing you are taught if you have ever tried any form of meditation or deep relaxation exercises. It is very simple and can be done right at the poker table without being too noticeable.
If deep breathing does not help sooth you, get up and leave the table for a few minutes. Take a walk to the rest room. If the walk does not calm you down, try washing your face and hands. A little cool water will help cool off your hot temper.
After taking a break, if you find that you are still not in control of your emotions then you have no choice but to leave the game. If the cause of your aggravation is one particular player, then you can switch tables if that is possible. If not, quit playing altogether. It is better to call it a night than to risk going on tilt.
Until next time remember:
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