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The mental side of poker

    • stijepo1
      Joined: 31.10.2009 Posts: 19
      First I'd like to apologize cause my written english is not so good.

      I've been playing poker seriously for two years and I think my A game from the start was pretty good. Ofcourse it got better and better with time, but I think I had the oportunity to be a winning player back then if somebody told me all the things I'll mention in this post.

      So let's begin :

      1. Motivation
      It's crucial. You always have to be fully motivated, eager to crush the limits you're playing. By that I mean work as hard as you can to make the right move every single hand you're playing. If at any moment at the tables you catch yourself looking at the TV or getting distracted by any other things STOP, take a break and when you feel that rush of wanting to play fully concentrated again only then you may continue !

      2. Concentration
      Motivation will help you stay concetrated , but what do I mean when I say concentration ? It means following every move of everyone at the tables and not relaying only on HUD. You'll spot all kind of tells, wheater it's bet sizing or maybe long waiting before making a bet. Lots of people tend not to pay attention after they are dealt some crappy hands. You have to play every hand and try guessing what others might have when you're not involved. In that way you'll pick up a lot of reads and have much easier decisions when you're in the hand against them.

      3. Know when to stop
      For example I had a streak where I won 21 HU sng in a row. I was hungry but didnt want to stop because I thought I was in the zone :) My stomach then started to distract me and sudenly I started not to play my A game. Lost 5 in a row before I got up and went to eat.
      Conclusion : Whenever you catch yourself with something else on your mind get up and leave. It's crucial to do this !
      Let me illustrate you how every single hand you play is of enormous importance. I'll do it in my field which is HU sng.

      You're concidered a good player with ROI 10%+. If you play let's say 100 HU sng a day at the buy in of 21$ your profit with 10% ROI would be 210$. If you lost only 3 out of those 100 because of lack of concentration it changes things dramaticaly. Those 3 would give you 40*3=120$ more in profits, which means you would end up with 330$ in your pocket instead of 210$ what is 57% more !!! And every single one of those 3 tournaments is usally lost in one hand. Which means you simply cannot be distracted at any point while you're playing cause it hurts your bankroll much more than you think !!!

      4. Never play over your bankroll
      It's said a hundred times , and it's one of the crucial things. This is not only to be able to go through variance but it will also not let you go on tilt. I did go over my bankroll couple of times and went broke most of them.

      5. Never tilt
      I'll speak from my perspective. Hands that used to put me on tilt where preflop all ins in which I was the favourite and lost 10 or 15 in a row. Recently I lost 15 out of 17 coinflips ! That really hurts. But instead of feeling sorry for my self I've improved that part of my game (small pocket pairs) and I'm trying to avoid coin all in situations with equal stacks (ofcourse if you're 3:1 in chips you want to go in a coin all in). After all, your tendencies should always be to outplay your opponents. You might disagree but preflop all in with a better hand is usually not in that category (there are exceptions ofcourse).
      I like to say you should always remember that in poker LUCK in the short terms becomes VARIANCE in the long term . And in the long run AA WILL win 82% of the times against KK. Once you've put your money in as a favourite you should forget about the results . You dont even have to see the end of that hand to feel good for doing the right move !!! On the other hand if you've put your money in as a dog you should right away analyze that hand an try not to make the same mistake again. Even if you suck out you should feel pretty bad about the way you played it.
      And if you play in the limits of your bankroll bad beats will hurt even less.

      6. Accept swings as normal things
      You wont be able to go only up with your bankroll every single day, or week maybe even month. You should accept the swings, move up and down the limits to protect your bankroll and concentrate on the hand you're playing that moment. If you look back and think you've played very well and still lost some money, well it happens. Remember if you play hand by hand not thinking about the money but only about the game you'll do well. And your upswings will always be much bigger than downswings, cause variance will level up and your skill will be that edge that puts you on the positive side of profits.

      7. Learn learn learn
      On this site I've found a lot of great articles and videos and I've watched a lot of them more than once. It's interesting how when your skill increases you spot all bunch of new things in the same material. Constant learning is crucial for success !

      I would be really pleased if this post saves someone time and money and helps him in his poker career !

  • 7 replies
    • neil0707
      Joined: 20.09.2010 Posts: 24
      Nice One, thanks for taking the time to post, i have found this a useful little read......... :D . Good Luck......
    • Mulatu
      Joined: 26.07.2010 Posts: 112
      Good post.

      I agree, the most important part of tilt-control is to not worry about the outcome. A few years ago I saw Greg Raymer say in an interview that his goal in tournaments is to "make the right decisions and not sweat the results too much". I think it's crucial to understand that if you want to become a winning player and improve your game.
    • justkyle88
      Joined: 07.05.2008 Posts: 7,613
      Amazing post. I will definitely be copying this and reading it whenever I feel down bout the game. Thanks for your contribution.
    • NightFrostaSS
      Joined: 25.10.2008 Posts: 5,255

      do drugs, take maney
    • stijepo1
      Joined: 31.10.2009 Posts: 19
      I'm glad I could help guys.

      I would like to mention one more thing. It's very important to analyze the hand you lost especially if you lost it as a favourite. Often times there were better ways to play that hand.
      For example I was on the final table of MTT last night and shoved with TT from CO, big blind was deepest stack and snap called with A9o which was a terrible move but still managed to catch an A on the river and I was out.
      At first I though well, what can you do. But after I thought about it I think I could have played it much better and found out that was one of my biggest leaks in the MTT games. Scared shove! I didnt want to be forced to make though decision on the flop, and since the blinds and the antes were quite big (cca 10% of my stack) I just wanted to take that pot preflop. Still if I took that hand to the flop with just a raise preflop I would win it , cause he would never go all the way to the river with A high.

      If you think about the hands you lost on a bad beat and how you've played it very often you'll see lots of other ways to play it better and avoid that beat.

      If you want to be good and successful you want to take as many hands postflop and outplay your opps, not be scared and take your chances in a preflop all ins. Especially if you dont have reads on how lite they will call an all in preflop.

      Preflop the best you can expect is to win 4/5 times, on the flop in other hand they already could be drawing dead and then it's all about your skill to make them pay as much as possible.

      I'm talking here for these borderline situations where you're not shortstacked (all in is the best move) or deepstacked (all in is out of the question)... When you're wondering wheater to push or just raise/call if you belive your good you should always take it to the flop and make your opp sweat.
    • MathhNes
      Joined: 24.08.2009 Posts: 953

      Very very nicely written. Really! I myself been playing poker for a long time and i can only agree to everything you said. You should start as an author :D . Ive copy pasted this into a document and ill read it whenever i feel for it. Thank you very much sir
    • gedwashere91
      Joined: 20.07.2009 Posts: 2,387
      I love reading people's blogs who are like "Yeah I studied poker for 4 hours today I'm so awesome I feel great about my game bla bla bla" and then later "I got tilted when my AA got cracked and blew half my bankroll on a HU SnG"

      Seriously, mental side of poker is SO important. Hours of study to increase your ROI by 1% doesn't mean sh*t if the biggest leak to your ROI is actually tilt.

      Good post :)