Every poker player knows that it’s hard to be emotionally unattached when playing. Even losing a little pot can take us from clear thinking and calm to angry and clouded. There are many ways to take on this issue. Lots of us have turned to mental game coaching or meditation or some more outrageous things like snapping a rubber band against our wrist the remind us to be present. But while working on our overall mental game is important, sometimes we overlook the little things we can do.
Sometimes I’ll be watching my friend play poker online, or coaching someone, and I’ll find that I have all the answers. I give great advice, make good reads, and I find that if I were to play with the same objectivity and clear thinking that I display when coaching, I would be a millionaire. Then I start playing, whether it’s live or online, and I find that I don’t feel the same way I do when watching someone else play. What’s the problem?
One quality that I have that is both a blessing and a curse is that I can become completely engrossed in a task. If I’m reading something interesting, you could yell in my ear and I wouldn’t hear you. My girlfriend could take off her shirt while I’m adding a backup running back with potential to my 3rd fantasy team and I probably won’t notice. And when I’m playing poker, absolutely nothing is going to disturb me. The blessing of this is that I am extremely focused, but the curse is that I become very emotionally involved while playing. I’m very much in my head while involved in a hand and that means my thinking becomes clouded when I’m experiencing emotion.
This is a big issue that is hard to fix, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do little things to help. One thing I’ve realized is that my physical self will affect my mental self. When most players play poker, they are leaning into the table with their hands on their chips, a posture that is literally throwing them into the action. I used to do this too, but one day I was at a final table with hole card cams and a high rail, and it became very hard to lean in and touch my cards and chips. Instead of leaning in, I put my hands on the rail and sat up straight, and it felt much better.
What I realized was, if I didn’t physically lean into the table, and sat up straight almost pulling myself away from the table, my mind felt more like an objective observer. There was something about physically putting myself away from the table that mentally also took me away from the table. I felt like I was coaching a friend, and I felt like I played a lot better. And my posture was better too.
I still get emotionally engrossed in the action sometimes, that’s just me being me. But I find it’s easier to get back to the objective mental state I would like to be in when I sit at the table in this way. Sometimes doing little things can go long way.
Do you have any little tricks that you do that help you at the table or online? Tweet them to me @maxjsteinberg on twitter. I’d love to hear from you.
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