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Mental Game

Posted by Kushraj Garg on 2019-03-08 at 12:42 PM

Hi everyone who’s reading this.

In my first blog I want to dwell a little into how keeping a composed mind in adverse situations serves us better, in the context of poker obviously. This goes hand in hand with having the right table etiquettes; to conduct yourself in a manner that is worthy of a winner and not letting anything what your opponents do, unsettle you, even when you lose.

Online, so often we see a bad beat on the table and what ensues is an escalated exchange of verbal abuse and that rant continues for a while until one of the guys involved realizes the futility of that conversation. It’s an embarrassment not just for those involved but for everyone who’s on the table. Live too, it’s commonplace to see players venting out their frustration on dealers which just reflects your poor character to everyone out there.

One has to realize that when we are playing poker as a game, we are simply dealing with mathematics (percentages of winning/losing) and game theory (opponents’ strategies, either optimal or exploitative).

Probabilities as we know are only going to play out correctly over a close to infinite sample. When a low probability event happens, and it’s possible that it happens over and over again in a short duration (which is what we know as variance); we are often left cursing our opponent for being such a retard to be in that spot and more so if he sucks out on us. I suggest, if anything, one should be feeling great to find himself on such a soft table where opponents are getting money in behind more often. Neither you, nor your opponent can control what happens once the money is in the middle; so you’re better off doing your best till that moment, by keeping a level head.

Everyone knows that to maximise your winnings, you should be looking to play more pots with the weaker, less experienced players. What a weaker opponent (mathematically or strategically) is doing, is down to their lack of experience in the game or maybe high risk taking tendencies (which is all what they know). Yet a suck-out/bad-beat underwhelms us, affects us and induces a certain tilt which is when we start deviating from our well thought strategies and develop a tendency to risk a little more to win instantly against players that we think were unworthy to win. Taking these spots which we otherwise wouldn’t have, only reduces the margins between us and the inexperienced and doesn’t help us at all. Getting yourself worked up over a bad beat will never help you and letting it out on the table in any form only shows that it’s easy to get under your skin. Remember, these are the players a solid grinder should love to play against. So every time you land yourself in a spot where some less experienced player (aka fish) gets lucky on you, congratulate them knowing inwards that you’ll soon be taking those chips back.

Especially in online MTTs, very often players lose it when they get sucked out in a spot at a critical stage of the tournament. And that tilt can translate to other tables where you’re still doing good. It can dangerously hurt your EV on other tables and you should be careful not to let that happen. One opponent can’t be responsible for screwing up all your tables right? Variance is what knocked you down, variance is what got you tilted. Stop giving yourself the false impression that a specific opponent put you on tilt or is the reason for your overall failure today, so spare him.

Also, sometimes we see an opponent pull off a move that we don’t understand and perceive it as high risk (read gamble). Doesn’t mean it’s stupid or -EV or that it’s not poker and just gambling. Doesn’t mean we switch from our strategies and go into an unknown territory trying to pull off the same, until we have reviewed it and worked on it off the tables and understand why and how it can be profitable.

When you play MTTs, you realize that you are going to be profitable only after grinding out the variance that comes along with playing such big field tournaments. So you needn’t worry yourself of the outcome of one hand or one tournament. Do not confuse the voice of your ego with that of intuition. Our responses should be based solely on historical insights on our opponents and when you’re dealing with stats there is little place for emotions anyway. Variance is what governs this game in the short term and it’s easy to get affected by low probability events happening over and over again. But a good player trains himself to accept that bad beats/tilts are part of this game, absorbs it and snaps out to focus on what lies ahead and gives his best with what remains.

There are a lot of other blogs on mindset and mental health on this site which I would highly advise everyone to read. When you decide to play poker professionally, these are the basics you’ll have to always work on and be aware of throughout your career. Poker is a zero sum game; meaning, for someone to win, someone else has to lose. Sometimes one gets lucky over the other and that’s fine as long as you stick to making profitable plays in the long run. I believe anyone who takes poker seriously would know the right strategies and their percentages at the end of the day, but being able to execute all of that to perfection without flinching in tough spots, without letting the emotions get the better of you, will require a positive and composed mindset and that is what is going to separate the best from the rest.

Until next time. Cheers.

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Kushraj Garg

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