Poker – whether online or in person, amateur or professional – saw a resurgence in 2020. According to a recent survey online poker operator PokerStars saw a 27% boost in revenues as they welcomed an “unprecedented increase” in sign-ups and players to their platform. Additionally, Winning Poker Network (WPN) tournaments reported an uptick in entrants, even forcing WPN to extend their tournaments to accommodate more players. World Series of Poker face-to-face events are also back this year, as well as other poker tournaments packed with live action.
Amidst all this excitement, you might be itching to sign up for your first event or take your online poker skills to a real table. Before you do, it’s worth evaluating if your mental game is up to the test. So, here are three tips on poker psychology you should know and apply:
Keep calm under pressure – don’t go on tilt
Not being able to control your emotions in poker is a massive disadvantage. If you are unsure or afraid of an outcome and show it, your opponents will definitely pick up on your obvious tells. What’s worse, you might end up playing on a tilt – a state of mental or emotional confusion that results in poor moves.
Resolving tilt works on and off the table. During a match, pro poker player Jackie Glazer has a few tricks up her sleeve. First, she says to consider your posture. Are you slouching? If so, you may be getting in the way of your confidence over your hand and ability to turn things around. Poor posture also makes it harder to breathe properly, which Glazier says is another useful strategy for resetting when you’re faced with high-pressured situations. Try to sit upright and take long deep breaths to keep yourself calm under pressure. Getting enough oxygen to your brain will help you think and decide with more clarity.
After your plays, Poker.org suggests going through rounds of self-reflection to improve your game. This can also help you identify what triggers your tilt, such as a bad beat or a loud opponent. If you can develop self-awareness, you can stop yourself from tilting and excel in poker.
Take accountability for your plays
Players who make excuses for their losses never make it far in the world of poker. They blame misfortune, table banter for distracting them, or their lack of experience. They may be right about that last part as inexperienced poker players often don’t take responsibility for the outcome of their plays.
Even if you were dealt with a bad hand, you can still win with the right combination of skills – these include analysis, observation, and timing. These skills are built with experience. You need to keep putting in your 10,000 hours of practise to become the kind of poker player who can bluff their way out of a bad hand. If you don’t acknowledge that you have holes in your game, you will never improve.
Keep your eye on the ball
Alex Phillips claims that when you feel like quitting, it’s worth remembering why you started to help motivate you. Maybe you started playing poker just to have fun? And maybe you started playing more often so that you could get good enough to win a tournament? Thinking about your initial goals, even in the middle of a game, can help you stay focused and help your ability to plan for the long-term.
If you take your eye off the ball, you might miss a few important details and lose an important hand. For instance, TheSpruceCrafts.com explains that one way to improve in the game is to look at what your opponents are doing. Check their chip stack, when they fold and play, their posture and some of the mannerisms. If they raise the stakes after a big loss, they may be tilting, thus signifying that they and are in a vulnerable position. If you catch on to a player’s tells, you can take that opportunity to get one over on them and force them into a corner.
Whether your goal is to have a little fun or to win a tournament you signed up for, you need to check if you are psychologically prepared for it. Three ways to keep your poker wits sharp are to keep your emotions in-check, avoid making excuses, and stay focused.
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