Monday, June 14, 2010

My Mental Attitude/Avoiding Tilt

It's been a while since I did any sort of strategy post so now is as good a time as any. I've done a few posts on emotional control/tilt in the past but it's worthy of another.

I've run into a bunch of people at the WSOP that I play online with and everyone seems to say and ask the same thing which is something like, "Wow, well it's good to see you're human. How to you stay so balanced and controlled when you play?"

The answer likely started a long time ago when I was a kid playing pool for money. People were always trying to shark me. They'd stand in front of the pocket I was shooting at, they'd drop their stick right as I was about to stroke the cueball, they'd pull money out of their pocket when I'd have a couple balls left to win the set. It went on and on, one guy even threw his pool case at me and threatened me saying I had to stop beating him. Every time somebody tried to shark me, I took what they were trying to do and turned it around on them. I said mentally to myself, "There's absolutely no fucking way on earth I'm missing this ball now"(pardon my English). I gave every single ounce of concentration, effort, and energy I could muster into making sure I didn't miss and it was very rare that I did. I didn't care if they were pointing a gun at my head, the only thing that mattered was that the ball went in the pocket.

I've adopted the same attitude with poker. People try to "shark" me at the poker table all the time. They harass me in the chat box, they hit and run me, they time bank down to 1 second with the nuts on the river, etc. etc.. All it does is motivate me to play better. Each and every time somebody does something, I mentally resolve to play to the best of my ability and to devote every ounce of concentration I have to the game.

Similarly with the cards themselves, I look at them as a test. I use the bad beats, the horrific runs of cards, being "owned" by somebody, etc. as motivation to play to the absolute best of my ability. The worse things get, the stronger my resolve gets to play my best and there isn't a chance in hell I'm breaking down and giving in.

Emotional control is the single most important trait for a poker player. It's what separates the good players from the great players. There are at least 25 players I can think of that all play within a fraction of a big bet of each other at limit holdem. Of those 25, there are only 2 or 3 that seem to have complete control of their emotions. Unsurprisingly they're the toughest to beat and the players with the best long term results.

Over the long run we all experience the incredible ups and downs. We all go through days where we lose 100+ big bets, stretches where we lose 3 or 4 hundred big bets, and where everything imaginable goes wrong. The overwhelming majority of players do not handle these stretches well and tilt. When you experience one of those unbelievable bad runs of cards, don't bemoan your luck and feel bad for yourself. Look at it as an opportunity. It's an opportunity to separate yourself from everyone else.


  1. As always, another great post. It's good to read this and see it from your perspective. Definitely something ive been battling.

    I think the major change I made recently is helping a lot with this tho.

    You would think the people that know they are winners over a large sample of hands would be able to take the variance/swings a lot better.

  2. great post thx, it helps me in my actuall situation :)

  3. Amen bro, Those sharks out there should read this post too. This still happens all the time.Happened to me this weekend at a tournament. He beat me, but I came back and drilled him 7-0 on the one loss side. That was the best win of the tourney!!! Great Post.-JG

  4. what does JG stand for in the last post?

  5. Ha, that's great Jeff. I wish I could be there playing, I miss pool. Only another month...