Getting A Good Grasp On The Mental Side Of Poker

Guide To Winning Poker (6)

  • In order to be mentally prepared, you need to set out a clear set of goals
  • Frustration at the poker table is a formidable enemy which must be conquered
  • The way to accomplish this is through understanding of what is really going on

The Mental Side Of Poker Is More Important Than Most Players Realize

The mental side of poker can have a huge impact on the degree of poker success that you have, so I felt that it was important to do a segment on it early on in the process, before we start talking about matters related to actually playing the game. Even many of the world’s best poker players struggle with this aspect of the game, and there is a lot of material written about it around. I’ve read pretty much all of it though and haven’t found anyone who really deals with it as well as it needs to be dealt with.

Regardless of how new or experienced you are, you will find the following advice very helpful, but at the same time you need to realize that mastering the mental side of poker isn’t just like flicking a switch and going from struggling with it to being able to handle it perfectly, just as you can’t go from playing poker badly to playing very well at the drop of a hat either. Both require following a sound strategy, along with effort and dedication, and with all the pieces in place you will find yourself progressing steadily and surely toward your desired end of achieving a mastery of this part of the game.

Make Sure Your Expectations Are Realistic

The first step along this path is to set reasonable expectations for your development. Taking $50 and turning it into $50,000 in the first year, becoming a professional player with only a bit of experience, winning the main event at the World Series Of Poker as an amateur, even being profitable starting out, are all unrealistic and will just lead to disappointment. In fact, having outcome directed goals like this of any sort is a bad idea. Goals need to be directed toward the things we can control, but what most people to is take something they can’t control and try to will it into happening.

For instance, I can say that my goal is to make a certain amount of money playing poker this month. Poker earnings naturally fluctuate quite a bit though, due to luck and other factors beyond your control. So who the heck knows how much this will end up being, I sure don’t, and I’d have to be psychic to know. So what I do instead is look at what I need to do in order to be successful and to grow my poker business and then focus on those things. Then, I will end up influencing whatever amount of profit this ends up being in a positive way.

Make Your Poker Goals Specific As Well

The next thing is to ensure that your expectations are both realistic and specific. You need to realize that you are going to have to be pretty patient with things and don’t want to shoot for the moon here when it’s not going to happen. Now having such desires is fine, for instance if you want to play poker for a living at some point down the road, but you can’t confuse desires with goals. The goals are what you are going to have to set in order to accomplish this, things that you actually do rather than things that happen to you.

What will propel you to achieve these goals are the virtues of dedication and perseverance, and this will affect how well you achieve your goals and desires much more than anything else. It’s certainly good to keep your eye on the prize though so to speak, and see each day as a positive step toward achieving your poker dreams provided that you are dedicated enough to seeing it happen. The realization of the amount of time and effort that will be required is the other piece of the puzzle, and it’s important to think of the process as many successful small steps in succession toward it, and to feel rewarded as you achieve each one.

One Of Your Main Goals Needs To Be To Avoid Frustration

The enemy of all this is frustration, so once again, if your goals are directed at your own actions, which you can control, and you measure your progress by way of how well you are progressing with these tasks, then you will be far less frustrated than if you are shooting for things which aren’t realistic and don’t entirely depend on your own actions. What you’re after here instead is to always be reflecting on what you can do in order to achieve your goals, and always measure yourself by how well you perform these tasks.

If you feel that things aren’t going as well as you had hoped, then you may need to adjust your hopes to more realistic ones, while at the same time seeking out methods which may accelerate your progress and ensure that you’re doing what you can to achieve what you want. Becoming frustrated is always a negative process, where you become angry with your state of affairs, and it’s always much better to direct this toward more positive ends, which is easier to do than you may think, as long as you choose this path and not take the easy way out and just shake your fist and upset yourself needlessly.

Another potential pitfall is when there is a real difference between your expectations of progress and the amount of effort that you are willing to put forth to achieve them. This creates another rift and leads to frustration and anger. These emotions are actually symptoms of something being amiss and aren’t natural components of playing the game. They are a clear sign that something needs to be changed. Even the best of us have this happen from time to time and it’s like a thermometer taking your body temperature and telling you that it’s too high. So you need to look into whatever is causing this and through seeking to understand, you will put yourself in a position to best deal with it. Most psychologists will give you ways to cope, although that usually involves looking to run away from the problem. What we need to do instead is to look to face it head on, and look for a cure rather than something that just masks the symptoms.

The Solution Here Is To Deepen Your Understanding

The common element in all successful approaches to overcoming frustration is to always look to focus on the big picture. For instance, if you know that a given strategy is sound, based upon your current knowledge of the game, then you need to stick with it until you learn a better approach, and not be quick to abandon it when a few hands end up having it appear to not be yielding the results you expect. In this case that’s too small of a sample to be judging the thing on, and you need many more hands than that to even have an idea of what’s really going on. A lot of players actually learn the game this way, taking outcomes that aren’t statistically significant and building their strategy around that. That’s a foolish way to play of course and what you need to do is to go with strategies that make sense unless proven otherwise, and proven means in the long run.

It’s unbelievable in fact how many players, even very experienced ones, let themselves get upset and end up playing poorly by focusing too much on short term outcomes. You might have pocket aces preflop for instance against a much weaker hand, get all in, and lose. This is no reason at all to get upset. If you are a 2 to 1 favorite for instance, in 3 instances, you will win 2 and show a profit overall. However in 1 of the 3 instances on average you will lose, by definition, and it should be obvious that it would be pretty foolish to get angry when this happens. Some players even carry their rant to the point where they are looking to school the bad player when he makes a bad decision but ends up winning the hand anyway, which just adds to the stupidity of the matter. As entitled as you may have felt to win the hand, you’re never any more entitled than the odds dictate, and we also know mathematically that sometimes this 1 in 3 can happen more often than this in the short run, but it makes no sense to become furious when it does.

So once again, the key here is one of seeking to understand all the factors that go into poker results, and focus on what you can control and not what you cannot. In addition to this, you need to choose realistic goals and have the proper patience and dedication to see them through. You also need to be disciplined enough to stick with your plan and only change it when it is warranted. You need to be always seeking for better ways and ideas and always focus on the long run, and if you do all this, you will be putting yourself in the best position to succeed.

In the next section I’ll be introducing you tothe concept of playing not only your own cards but your opponent as welland going over why you need to be doing this right from the outset and not just leaving it for when you are a good enough player.