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Poker and Emotion


According to me, this section has been slightly under stressed in the online poker literature. While it is true that basically correct play is the key in one's poker success, I cannot overstress the extent to which innumerable competent players destroy their results by acting emotions during their play. Now, as a psychologist I would never recommend that you neglect the feelings. Psychotherapists apply the great deal of energy helping patients to recognize and verbalize their feelings. However, if you act on feelings like frustration, anxiety, and helplessness at the poker table, you will pay for it.

Here are some ideas to help you avoid this. For many of you, setting things straightforward in this area may provide to be the single significant factor in turning your results upside down.

I am not trying to look as deeply as possible at the problem of emotion in poker. As recommended in some of the essays, looked from the psychological point of view, these efforts have roots deep in the unconscious, largely untouchable outside the walls of a skilled therapist's office. Moreover, for those whose problems with tilt are not too serious, this ideas will definitely help you.

How Am I Doing? Who Cares?

Moving Beyond Excess Focus on Fluctuations

As said before, poker is two facet complicated game. If you play well you will win over a long period of time. During that long run, however, you cannot avoid the fluctuations that arise with the game. You should suffer predictable amount of money if you are to play and win. Paradoxically one could even argue that, as a winning player, you should invite your losses; for they reflect the balance of luck and skill which must be present to allow weaker players to win frequently for the games to flourish. A mate says," Fluctuations are your friends," but some players are able to feel to invite their downswings and most make too much of their upswings.

Further, most of the players are consistently and extremely focus on how are doing right now. This is what their main strategy is when they play. This leads them to reach flawless conclusion about themselves and their play. What they fail to appreciate is that when they focus on their fluctuations in evaluating how they are playing, they are simply wasting time with the incorrect data which particularly matters.

"I've Been Winning. Would You Like Lessons?"

The flawless conclusion I am saying to involve a player's reaction to his short-term results in isolation, as if they reflect his skill level. We have seen the average or bad players who happen to play hot for a while and take us it to mean that he is playing extremely well. Maybe he talks about his "great play," expecting some huge hourly rate or may be he moves up to the higher limits. Of course, in any way he loses back all his winnings as his results, given more time, do reflect his skill level. To make it a bit complex, this player's downswing is likely to be overstated by what the upswings does to his play. For a player who does not keep in the routine self examination relating to his play - most players - doing well highlights his common mistakes. That is, his winning despite poor play gives a reward for his mistakes. This is so as long as he makes the mistake of assuming that his wining means he is playing well, and that he can continue winning by playing in the same manner.

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The conclusion here can be dangerously convincing for a player who lacks adequate knowledge of gambling guide theory and probability. For to some extent he is winning because of how he is playing. Let's take an example. He may play as many as hands but if he happens to have continuous run of good fate with his poor hands they will win him a lot of money - in the short term. Although he is costing his money every time he plays a poor hand, the cost will not be obvious to him during his fortunate times.

Only in the long run is it necessary to exhibit itself. When he has such a winning times he can precisely say "I never could have won as much during this recent period had I not played all those hands." Therefore, he will continue to play the same hands in the long period, finally thinking why he has lost so much when he was doing so well for a time. The main attraction is his focus on a red herring - his short term fluctuations. It takes him to reach the wrong conclusion about his play.

While very less intellectual players are likely to form this wrong conclusion, those more educated in the game do not have faulty thinking. It is common for good players who have incredibly winning times to start, maybe little, to expect that he will continue to win with much comfort. Again it is leading to a wrong analysis. Apparently, he may start slyly to overplay some hands, to draw little thin, to play few hands that his better judgment would force to fold. It may be well after his good fate has turned around that he identifies where he is playing badly. By realizing that it can cost him tremendously, but a good player who insists at improving his game will finally learn to beat avoid this trap. He can maintain his play proper only by possessing experience irrespective of what his play had been.

Unfavorable fluctuations can lead to the wrong conclusion. As a result of an inevitable losing streak a good player may conclude that he is not much skilled at all. Because he is running badly, he thinks that no matter what he does he merely can't win. But this experience can provoke a feeling of helplessness which reduces his sense of confidence in his abilities. He concludes that maybe he will not knew how to play, maybe because he is doing many things wrong without realizing it. If he has in fact been playing well, the mistake is the one of associating his skill level with his short term results. The result might be a weakening in his play as emotion, instead a reason, begins to underestimate his decisions.

Like winning and losing streaks can cause wrong conclusion, swings also can do the same during the session. Here the conclusion is less well balanced. A player does not think, "I'm winning more now, so I must be an excellent player." Instead he feels good as evidenced by his blossom or increased his talkativeness. Some players do appear to act as though an upswing is a well deserved reflection of their great play. It is good to see a bad player adjusting his superiority after catching good cards and running over his rivals for a little while.

However, a downswing can easily bring down a player's mood. This aspect is very common, that it seems there is rarely a player exempted to it. It is one basic way of going on "tilt" but it is an illogical reaction which happens seldom and with less intensity, if a player is not diverted by the wrong analysis.

What is the correct analysis? They are the specifics to his hands in poker play. By thinking on why he has played hands in specific ways and estimating the correctness of his play, independent of any short term results, he will be in a position to reach correct conclusions about how is playing.

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