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StrategyPsychology

Concentration

Introduction

In this Article
  • Why is concentration important
  • Concentration in poker
  • How to improve your concentration

The word " concentration" has many meanings. This article is about its psychological meaning: it expresses the human ability to focus on one thing and devote one's entire attention to it. In the ideal case, one "forgets" everything else - they can't visualize anything else and focus solely on the object at hand.

A decision is such a thing. The closer you come to the ideal case, the more quickly you can make a decision. This time advantage becomes clearer the more aspects are incorporated into the decision. Furthermore, you decrease the danger of including aspects that belong to another similar decision or of forgetting an aspect of the decision entirely.

1. Concentration in Poker
The Decision

Every time it's your turn, you must make a decision depending on the situation. Fold? Check? Bet/Raise? The aspects that must be considered are manifold. Information like, „What were the previous betting sequences?", „What kind of player is my opponent?" and „How strong are my cards?" are just a few. After gathering information it must be evaluated to make a mathematically perfect decision.

But what if some information is counterfeit or missing entirely? In Texas Hold'em, this can have a great effect on the decision! This shows more than anything that each piece of information can be more or less important depending on the decision to be made. In the worst case, a single missing piece of information can change our decision entirely and make our action unprofitable.

The mistakes made because of a lack of concentration can be of all different kinds.

As a beginner, banal things like 3-betting pre-flop instead of calling or folding can still happen. Was it just a missed click or a matter of lacking concentration? A4o was surely not AA! Or you play your good hand too passively because you just got slowplayed, which doesn't play any role at all against another opponent in the next hand.

As an advanced player you busy yourself more and more with your own game and say to yourself that you must make more value bets. Unfortunately, when you get to the river you no longer think about how the opponent played his hand and bet with a top pair on a 3-suited board, even though the opponent played a passive check/call-- that is he probably had a draw. Against a LAG or tricky player we would have to call again here-- how unnecessary.

These things happen to pros, too. Just watch Stoxtrader's videos. Stoxtrader makes a "continuation bet" after a missed flop in an unraised pot with two limpers after checking himself. Afterward he's left to ask himself how it even happened that he bet in this case.

Protection from Automation

Automating moves in certain situations saves us a lot of work. It enables us to keep playing even when we aren't really thinking about the situation properly because we're too tired from the day. In most situations we probably make the right decision, insofar as our automation is on a good level. In some individual situations, however, it is not profitable.

In poker, you almost never have the exact same case as before. Having the exact same betting sequences from the same opponents on the same board with the same cards is very improbable. Besides this, our opponents must not have learned from the last time. It won't happen and automation only helps our poker game conditionally. If we are tired or playing 4 tables at once, then automation can help us. If we are in a good state, however, and not working on extreme multitabling, then it causes our winrate to sink. Every situation in poker is different and must always be thought through again!

The learning effect
Beginners and advanced players alike are inclined to automate situations. If we were the aggressor pre-flop then we make a continuation bet on the flop and in part forget about other important things. We bet unimproved into 3 opponents or into a passive calling station without ever thinking about why we're making this bet. It's not only that we make a bad bet, but we don't learn anything from it either. The most effective learning is when you think a situation through and analyze it afterward. Automation does not help with this!
Protection from environmental factors

Maybe it's boring because we aren't playing many hands. So we turn on the TV, listen to music or read a newspaper on the side. The simple fact that we aren't getting information on how our opponents are playing can cause our winrate in the next hand to take a turn for the worse. It doesn't have to be intentional, though. Maybe your better half is watching TV or there's construction right outside your house. With a constant, high level of concentration none of this matters.

Protection from yourself!

a) During play you think about all sorts of things. Much of it probably has nothing to do with poker. Maybe we're having personal problems or we just have a lot to do - and we have to think through all of this. Maybe we're just bored so we think about other things. Like always, we lose information about the game if we do this during poker, and the next time we do play a hand we probably won't concentrate on it because we would rather get back to what we were philosophizing about just before. Many players lose a lot of BB's in the beginning of their sessions and only get on the right track when they notice that they need to strain themselves if they want to get out of the session with a +. This is not only unnecessary, but also vexing if you're always trying to dig your way out of a hole.


b) Tilt. Our opponent gets lucky once again with his 2-outer or he played his hand strangely so that we lost more money than we should have.

We let this bad luck under our skin and forget about everything else. This is also a form of concentration, but not a good one for poker. We want to concentrate singularly on our game and all the information available to us so that this does not happen, or if it does it is rare. Depending on your type the frustration about the opponent this might even lead to doubts about your own game in other situations. Here, too, you can learn something instead of becoming unnecessarily frustrated!

The time aspect

The more tables we play the less time we have to make a decision. If we have a lot of concentration and would theoretically still have time to think about other things then we could just increase our table count without lowering our winrate per table! If we normally play 3 tables and practice concentrating, we will probably at some time be able to play 6 tables at once for a clear increase in our winrate.

2. How do I improve my ability to concentrate?
Explaining like a coach
These methods will probably be good for many of you. If you've ever had a coaching or watched a Stoxtrader video, you just have to imagine that you are one of the coaches and you're explaining to your students how to play the hand. Theoretically you can do it with a friend, too. Caution is necessary, however, since in your first sessions you'll be extremely focused on the game, but after doing it a while you'll probably tend to automate some situations and won't really pay attention to your own explanations.
Memory

A simple children's game. But it takes a lot of concentration. Here it's not about improving your short term memory -- though this can also help you in poker - rather you should really concentrate on the game. Now it's also quite possible to play memory online. You just find a friend and start playing. Many people will notice in the first games how they sometimes forget cards they just turned over a second ago, or how they'll just click about wildly without noticing whether they've already seen a card or where it was. In just a few days with this game you can make clear gains in concentration!

Count letters

If nobody's around or we're sitting in some waiting room, we can pick up an article from a newspaper or wherever and practice our concentration. We pick an article and start counting all the a's or e's or k's. It sounds simple but if we try to keep making fewer mistakes and to do it as fast as possible, it will continue getting more difficult. With increasing ability to concentrate you'll improve your speed and you can do more than one article, or maybe even a whole page from the newspaper.

Intellectual power

The better we feel, the better we concentrate. If we're tired, sick or hungry our ability to concentrate will be decreased since it takes energy to do it. If we have no energy we can't concentrate, either. Well-rested, well-fed and healthy are the optimal conditions for concentrating on poker.

3. Final word

Concentration is something that doesn't just help us with poker. In everything we do we can increase our efficacy when thinking. This can also help us in school, when studying, or at work. Nowadays we have to take care of a lot of things at the same time. For this reason we tend not to concentrate on any one thing, and in this way we lose the ability to concentrate. But there are many methods to relearn it and if you don't like the techniques mentioned above, pick one out from the internet or a book!

 

Comments (9)

#1 mouse89, 06 Oct 08 14:31

thanks

#2 Harold1, 01 Dec 08 19:45

good article I'll be back to read this one again

#3 SadisticNature, 02 Jan 09 23:06

Think fast.. how many A's are there in this article (including lower case) :P

#4 TheDaniel, 08 Jul 09 10:23

Well, there are 611 a's and 856 e's in this article. Only 74 k's though. Counting both upper case and lower case letters.<br /> <br /> How many a, e and k's are there in this comment? ;)

#5 TheDaniel, 08 Jul 09 10:28

Also would like to thank the author for a great article! <br /> Maybe I should've marked my previous comment as a spoiler...

#6 theboydave, 23 Jul 09 16:40

can be easy to lose concentration good idea to train it.

#7 Hahaownedlolz, 30 Sep 09 16:30

Going to try some of these :P I dont really play worse when im tired unless im really tired same goes with hungry.<br /> <br /> <br /> I think explaining like a coach is good. when i feel like im making many bad decisions i start talking out load. Saying the hand i have, what i do fold/bet/etc. Go through the hand, look at how the player has played before and how he has played the hand and then make a decision. I always make alot better decisions if i do that, and see its rather obvious he had a big hand or not.

#8 RazvanDan, 26 Sep 10 11:55

I have minutes of bad cards,I think to read a newspaper cause it would take time to get a nice hand,after that pocket acesno one checks or raises and i bet 3 BB,no one calls(shit),then another 5 minutes with bad cards,then ace king I bet other reraises I reraise and he calls.Not a good flop but I must make my continuation bet and he calls,the turn another stab at the pot he calls.The river no flush or straight draws I bet again all in he calls and he shows jack four so making a pair of fours and beating me,this way I lose my concentracion and get angry,now my lack of concentration brings me a bad mood and I lose,so concentration is gained in time and is an continuous exercise.

#9 svendeucer, 08 Apr 11 02:20

damn fail daniel i only counted the a's and k's and forget the e's ,dun got rivered