Riding the Wave of Emotional Poker

Cool, calm, and collected. Starting each and every tournament with this frame of mind is a start in the right direction. Sitting down with the right frame of mind is one of the most important parts or getting ready to play competitive tournament poker. Taking steps to not letting your emotions get the best of you when you loss a hand, as well as when you win can save you in tight situations.

Frustration is one of the hardest emotions to understand, control, or overcome. Having the ability to overcome this emotion will make you a better poker player. “On the River?!” or “You called with that?!” or “You check raised me?!” are all examples of quick emotional responses to actions that surprise you negatively during a poker game. Having these reactions affect you and many other. The effect can be long-lasting, to you and your opponents.

Here are some steps you can take to developing control of your emotions:

  • Practice calming yourself down. Develop your own breathing techniques that you are comfortable with that soothe you. I like to keep a picture of my kids with me when I play and when the times get stressful I pull it out and take a little “me time.”
  • Getting familiar with the math involved. Knowing that you’ve got the hand 100% locked up is a rare situation. Going into each situation knowing that even the worst hands in poker have math that proves they can win once in a while is calming.
  • Slowing your actions down. Take time to develop your movements. Find a comfortable way to position yourself during the hands. Make controlled actions. Folding with the same movements. Betting with the same movements. (this is also a way to lower the amount of information you’re giving the other players)
  • Take time to use the math and consider you actions. Always know what the possible hands you can lose to are. If you’re familiar with all the possibilities you have a better chance of not getting caught in a trap, and possible figure out what the player you’re up against actually has. If you are ready for it, there are no surprises and the negative emotions have no room to develop.
  • Ask for help from those closest to you. (Be that a mentor, a coach, a teammate.) These people know your weaknesses. They can help you. Talk through the hands that you’ve lost control of your emotions and find the things that set you off… absorb the information and use it.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away from the table for a hand or two to gather yourself. There’s nothing worse than letting those emotions carry over into the next hand and you’re frustration gets you knocked out… don’t let yourself go on tilt.

To add some contrast here, excitement can also affect the game in the same ways. There’s nothing worse that a player who over celebrates. There are many examples of these situation, we see them every time we turn on televised poker. Everyone knows the names of those players because they’re entertaining to watch. Well all love watch Mike Matusow, and Phil Helmuth because we know we’re going to get a show. But at the same time, they are hard to be at a table with.

When Mike Matusow wins a big pot everybody in the room knows about it. He makes sure of it. If you win a hand against Phil Helmuth he sits and mumbles about it, or berates you for just being in a hand against him. These situations have gotten so bad that they have implemented rules to protect players against it.

The emotional roller coaster you go through in any given poker hand can be taxing. Imagine this, you’re all in pre-flop with A-K against a player whose all in with J-10. You’re ecstatic to start because you’ve gotten all you’re chips in, and you’re ahead! Then the flop comes out J-10-A… He’s flopped 2 pair and you’re way behind. The emotions went from exhilarating to blah… Then the turn comes out and you hit your K! Now you’ve spiked again! you have top 2 pair versus his bottom 2. Then the river gives him the Q for the strait… The inevitable disgust kicks in and you are exhausted… After peaking twice and being drug through the mud twice what’s left in the roller coasters shenanigans…?

The key to all of this is control. Maintain your control throughout you’re event. Find ways to channel the emotions. Don’t let the loses get to you. People get lucky sometimes. You get unlucky sometimes. Don’t over exaggerate the wins… Everyone loses. If you are the guy that exaggerates the win you can guarantee that guy you beat will be there pulling you through the mud on your loses.

Here are a few links to other people who have talked about this:



Please read these and use the information. This will most definitely help you on your road to becoming a better poker player!

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