Playing The Mental Game Of Poker – Poker and Anger

KK verses QQ for chip lead right near the final table! Wow doesn’t get much better than this! Flop 225. Turn. 6. River…… QUEEN! Oh that’s a bit of bad luck”… Online pro Whiterabbito sighed as he closes the tourney window. ummm, wtf”?Don’t be like that”. “Throw things around, kick your dog, slam the mouse”!

Well generally I’m not a bad loser and it takes several consecutive beats for me to start feeling my blood boil but I couldn’t believe the almost robotic, relaxed way he took it. The truth is he’s developed an ‘eyes over view’ of playing. It’s not a single tourney, it’s part of a lifelong session where there will be times of luck and bad luck. Sounds too easy? Well here’s a few things to consider before breaking that next mouse

1.  Variance

Frequently used term but often misunderstood, here’s a definition to think about Variance; An instance of diverging.

Diverging indeed! Sometimes my results go in completely different directions! It’s important to get a realistic picture of variance. Imagine an online tournament grinder playing 40 tourneys a day, 6 days a week. He could certainly experience his share of ‘run bad’ for 2 months.

So that means around 2000 tourneys where he’s having a lot of bad luck! Personally I find at least 2 months of every year I go through a ‘run bad’ period. The key thing is to make sure it’s not effecting the way you play.

If it does, you might find you have tilted your bankroll before you even had a chance to experience your next ‘run good’! Which leads to this definition I found -Variance; A difference between what is expected and what actually occurs.

99% of Poker players think they are better than they actually are. If you played Roger Federer in a tennis match you’d quickly realize he can crush you. If you played Phil Ivey, that wouldn’t necessarily be the case. And if you didn’t know it was Phil Ivey, many would just think “who is this jerk getting lucky”!?

That’s because the skills of poker aren’t as obvious as in tennis. Federer has a great forehand, powerful serve, is good in the net and backcourt, he’s fast and powerful.

What make Phil Ivey the best poker player? Hard to describe for many because they don’t actually understand all the skills involved to make a great poker player. Poker includes many ‘invisible skills’. And it seems for some, you may have been living in the Matrix!

Find out more about variance over at with Poker Swings and Variance  and Poker Variance Study.

In addition, TopPokerValue have delved into calculating the bankroll requirements for tournaments here which is a highly recommended read for new players.

2.  Are you in the Matrix

Blinded from the truth? The truth - There’s probably hundreds of skills that you haven’t yet learnt. But you don’t know you haven’t learnt them, because you haven’t even got a clue what they are! Ignorance is bliss! So you continue on your merry way thinking you are totally awesome.

This was me, in 2002, when I won my first poker tournament at Crown Casino Melbourne, I was then convinced that made me 'great player'. I think back now and I was horrendous! And in 5 years I’ll probably look back at my game now and think “wow I made a lot of mistakes back then”!

Accept the truth, you can’t bend spoons with your mind and you know far from everything about poker. Open your mind and keep learning and discovering.

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3.  Personal  Life

Family Issues? Girlfriend Issues? Favorite pet fish hiding in the far corner of the tank? Some people are more sensitive than others and some handle lifestyles stresses poorly. Try to give yourself an honest assessment of the likelihood personal issues might affect your play and tendency to steam or tilt after getting unlucky. Poker can stir up the emotions! The last thing you need is to be playing poker while already in a semi-tilted mode. If that's the case just take a break.

4.  Almost a Rich Superstar!?

Just won the Sunday Millions? Oh and 2nd in the Big $11? “You really are quite a boss”! “Oh that was someone else”? “Sorry to hear that, you’ll have your turn”. Everyone can have luck and cash prizes rain down on them.

And results are not always proportional to skill – Often far from it when considering the short-term. But the truth is often so many come so close to winning life changing money. Just that one river card with 50 players left in the Sunday Millions cost you first place! Luck – That dirty little 4 letter word.

When will you have your share of it? Just like Master Yoda says, “difficult to see, always in motion is the future”. As we spiral through life random events and things we can’t control continually transpire. Just like in poker. So stick to what you can control – Time and skill will avail 99.9% of the time.

Put in the time at the tables and the time studying the game. Keep racking up those small wins, they all add up. And maybe one day, the heavens will open up, the planets will align, and the Poker gods will pay tribute to your devotion to the game!

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