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Self-Management as a Poker Player

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In this article

  • Bad beats and downswings
  • Remaining focused in bad times
  • Patience is a virtue
In addition to possessing strategical and technical know-how, you must keep yourself under control when playing poker. Poker is a struggle against yourself as well! Dangers and temptations to stray from the right path lurk everywhere.

Here we will show you some typical traps and provide you with the tools to maintain your consistency. Many beginners don't appreciate the value of such articles, since you get few concrete tips on how to play your hand.

I want to make it clear that the psychological side of poker is one where most people fail. Even the old pros who have been at it for years make these financially costly mistakes, despite their great knowledge of poker. All examples below are related to Fixed Limit.

The Bad Beat Problem

Bad beat is an expression for the following phenomenon: you play a qualitatively high value hand, maybe hit the flop or already had a high pair when you got there, only to be overtaken by a low value hand. Your defeat on a bad beat occurs despite the poor play of your opponent.

Do not let painful experiences divert you from the right path!

You raise with AK, your opponent calls it cold (2 bets at once) with A6s. The flop is A62 rainbow (three suited).

You have every reason to assume that you are ahead but you are doomed to lose the hand against 2 pair. The pre-flop call from the opponent was catastrophically bad.

This kind of thing will make you want to tear your hair out. Losing is bad enough, but it's even worse against a lucky idiot. If several bad beats happen in a row it's a true test of grit.

This can lead you to be irrational: You no longer trust yourself to raise with good hands. "I'll be overtaken on the way to the river again, so I won't put as much money in."

This is a mistake. You miss making the most of your strong hands this way and allow weak hands to stay in and profit.

Rule: Don't lecture or harass your opponents (customers)!

Some try to point out an opponent's weak plays or even to insult them.

This is not unthinkable but it is absurd. You may call your opponent a beginner or a bad player but in doing so, you show that you, too, can make rookie mistakes.

Lecturing your opponent has several consequences:

1. Your opponent gets smarter, and more dangerous.
2. Your opponent, who only came to play a few casual hands, is provoked into putting more ambition or concentration into the game.

Insulting them is worse. First, it's not nice. Second, it's dumb. The bad players are the customers of the serious poker player. Insulting your own customers is not a sign of intelligence. The just-for-fun player will often leave the table if insults take the fun out of it for him.

Rule: Always focus on long term. Think of the big picture!

It is important to have the insight to see that the bad players will give you more money on their unjustified calls than they will take from you on bad beats.

You want these players at the table and you want them to play just as they do. So don't get bent out of shape if they hit something once in a while.

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Comments (48)

#1 Joshpoker, 09 Mar 08 09:50

great document

#2 dallievas, 11 Apr 08 10:42

Ten Ten Commandments of poker player

#3 chilitiger, 05 Aug 08 12:19

This is the best article for a poker player who wants to be a real
pro :-) !

#4 gizziade, 18 Sep 08 17:50

very informative, clear to understand.

#5 flamedragontim, 22 Sep 08 22:46

These 'tilt series' are really helping my game. Thanks a lot

#6 flamedragontim, 22 Sep 08 22:47

I meant the tilt articles ; )

#7 mouse89, 06 Oct 08 14:27


#8 the182guy, 04 Jan 09 19:56

Very good article, everyone should read this, even intermediate players. I have been playing for about 2 years on and off and I find this article very interesting.

Two points which are very good:

1. It's one big session!
This is a problem I have... if I finish a session losing then I feel a bit depressed about it, it stays with me all day. Even though I am in profit overall. So I will consider this more!

2. If you've never folded a winner you're playing far too loose!
Another good point, you will end up folding winners, and if the player shows you his inferior hand it hurts a lot, next time this happens I will consider this statement!


#9 STR82ACE, 28 Feb 09 15:17

This article is too hidden. For the content it teaches, it should be on the home page. Its an excellent article and should be the driving focus of all players, new and experienced. Well done!!

#10 monkey0nfire, 10 May 09 11:19

this article definetly sheds light on a far better way to appproach poker psychologically, props to the writer!

#11 Skeldon87, 28 May 09 12:29

strong article may help me a little.

#12 theboydave, 22 Jul 09 17:45

nice article the ten virtues in particular.

#13 pootsman, 20 Oct 09 13:51

i'll print it out and put it on a wall, just in case.:p

#14 Hahaownedlolz, 30 Nov 09 08:07

love the psychology articles.. best articles on pokerstrategy :D

#15 kcoverz, 27 Dec 09 18:05

Great work! Thanks for the article.

#16 1z2x3y, 05 Feb 10 13:54

I adore the brilliant insight on practicing reading your opponents hands by looking at what you had held or do hold.
Never thought about this before
I.E. by considering what you had or have,you can count that out :-)
Thumbs up

#17 Trbst, 21 Feb 10 19:09


I have a question about the short (and even long-) term downswings, and was hoping the author can help me out.

You say we should determine a stop-loss limit (-50 BB per se) to limit losses and generally cut down while on downswing.

Well, I consider myself to be pretty balanced when it comes to that. I've been involved in lots of discussions about cards and bad beats and I always tell people one and the same thing - it happens so deal with it :)

So, for the sake of this argument lets assume downswing doesn't affect my play or state of mind. If that is the case, should I just go ahead following my SSS when in downswing, or should I stop playing just so that "my luck refreshes" or whatever ?

Thanks in Advance,

#18 mancamanca, 26 Apr 10 17:52


#19 Alficor1, 25 Jun 10 12:17

Actually i think that it's good to bluff a lot. Because when you have a monster, people ussually will not give you a credit for a big hand and pay you off. Today i had quad treys and got two players all in, just because i was bluffing the table a lot.
Nevertheless, a great article.

#20 VBZg, 16 Jul 10 06:11

Articles, like this, put me back on track when i'm losing my head, and give me coolness of mind. Very very nice article, should be ABC for every new and old one player. Its easy to lose track in this "one big sesion". GREAT STUFF

#21 pogodon, 08 Aug 10 20:13

poker poker poker i need more and moreof these kinda articles great articles if i lear one thing even i got to learn that if im losing some night i dont got to try win it back that nigyt i can wait for tomoro :)

#22 dblenik, 11 Aug 10 11:36

Very good article. Great insights.

#23 27twoseven, 22 Nov 10 21:42

nice article - I know the pessimist problem!

#24 foolboydesire, 05 Dec 10 12:59

Great article, many thanks to the author.

I'm interested in those books, anybody here read them? comments appreciated :)

#25 Salivanth, 02 Jan 11 13:40

Trbst, if you really do play the same when you're losing, it might be a good idea to set your stop-loss limit higher, but not remove it. After all, you might just be up against really strong opponents, and should leave the table, and luck has nothing to do with it.

#26 johnylasvegas1, 01 Mar 11 23:22

does anyone know where i can watch the episodes tilt?

#27 naujokaz, 25 Mar 11 17:39

Very grateful for these articles!

#28 belayd, 28 Mar 11 19:13

Good article, although it's oddly structured, with only one subheading to nearly every heading.

I am missing 7 of the 10 poker virtues but am in the process of acquiring all seven. Hopefully, over time, poker will improve my life by teaching me things I need to put into practice in all areas.

#29 svendeucer, 06 Apr 11 20:42

thanks for this article , i'm reverberating with the bits on managing downswings (since i'm in one) so decided to bone up on some more philosophy type articles and lo and behold this being exactly what you reccomend.

#30 svendeucer, 06 Apr 11 20:50

bummer i was going to call my new blog zen and the art of poker but it has been taken (shoulda known), so i might use the humble monks guide to better living through poker

#31 svendeucer, 06 Apr 11 20:52

oh and just to add the sklansky quote of "one big session" reminds me of the dali quote of "working on the same painting all my life":) cheers kids

#32 Demetrijus, 08 Apr 11 18:08

Very good article , worth the read!

#33 FatSunny, 24 May 11 11:33

Well done very informative keep seeing Slansky being quoted gonna have to look into him seems clever man!!

#34 ExpertsLV, 07 Jun 11 11:23

One of the best psychology articles, i have read so far.Very informative, thanks!

#35 GambleTM, 13 Jun 11 20:38

very good article! :)

#36 Pouserly2, 12 Aug 11 09:05

Very good article , worth the read!

#37 Gunn56, 16 Aug 11 11:44

great quote for sure gonna check into those poker books down the road in my career

#38 Huckebein, 17 Aug 11 14:22

Thanks for your feedback! Waiting for more :)

#39 almighty19, 02 Oct 11 08:45

This article really helped me to find my emotional leaks and to solve them ...
I can really say that this is one of the best articles i've read in here . THANKS :}

#40 sharpred, 02 Oct 11 14:19

Wtf lucky idiot?

#41 churchilland, 04 Nov 11 16:16

Fantastic article helped me to spot my weak points again, thank you !

#42 UTGDog, 21 Nov 11 20:08

FatSunny...might I recommend you pick up some of David Sklansky's books. I recently finished his updated poker strategy book "Tournament Poker for Advanced players : Expanded Edition" which has some newer and updated emphasis on Texas Hold'em. Really a great book which I find a lot of material you will read online comes from this book. Just about every strategy book out there touches on the importance of LONG TERM SUCCESS. To put it simply, always trust your instincts, couple it with your knowledge, and always choose the decision which is most profitable 'over a lifetime of playing poker'.

#43 Apelsiins09, 02 Jan 12 23:31


#44 Resilence, 19 Jul 12 13:12

So far this is the best article I've read, don't knoe exactly why, but maybe I just needed exactly this... Thx PS <3

Now to live by it ;)

#45 arcnagett, 20 Mar 13 23:04

This was another of the very helpful articles i've read here, gratz to the author once again!

#46 ferrari1f, 23 Dec 13 09:46


#47 JoMidas, 21 Jul 14 17:44

I agree with STR82ACE. This article is way too important to see only at bronze. I consider this and most of these psychology articles very basic concepts that must be fully analyzed and internalized before even sitting at a table. Excellent article!

#48 mirth, 10 Apr 15 14:20

this is a great article. already wrote down some important points to keep in mind.

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