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Poker strategy essays

New Player Dos and Don'ts: Avoiding Emotional Play

By Martin Fromage

If you’re around a Texas Holdem table long enough, it’s only a matter of time before you see someone going 'on tilt'. It can mean a lot of things, but essentially it comes down to a player not being able to control their emotions and then letting that emotion affect their decision making. Usually, it turns out for the worst. The more you play, the more you’ll realize just how critical it is and how often the worst case scenario becomes a reality. There’s definitely more to Texas Holdem than knowing that a flush beats a straight, or what blinds are. If it were that easy, everyone would win an equal amount of the time. So, as you go forward, take a few of the following recommendations about emotional play to heart:

Don’t: Play with ego
Good players love to see a big ego sit down at the table. They’ll goad them into making bad calls and outrageous bluffs and it will be easy to take their money. If you feel you have to go to war every single hand, you have no business coming to the poker table. And know that if you do, you’ll find yourself relieved of your bankroll very quickly. Playing good poker involves backing down. A lot. And picking your spots to be aggressive.

Do: Figure out how to calm down
Even if you come to the table with your emotions in check and the chip gone from your shoulder, it won’t take long for a bad beat or a run of bad luck for the chip to start creeping back up. So you’ll need to figure out quickly how to push the reset button and get back to where you were in the first place. Maybe a quick walk around the casino helps get you back on track. Remind yourself what your goals are. Learn to do whatever you need to get back to focused poker. And if your relaxation methods aren’t working, go home. Come back another day.

Don’t: Let opponents get to you
Whatever it is that’s upsetting you, don’t let your opponents know abou it. You folded the best hand, or tipped someone off and lost some action… whatever it is, a savvy opponent will see you’re upset about it and use it to their advantage. They’ll needle you into even more bad, emotional plays. Shake it off, and keep playing your best game. Don’t let them see you’ve been knocked off track. If you do, they’ll roll right over you.

Do: Constantly monitor your emotions
It doesn’t matter how many Texas Holdem strategy books you’ve read, how much online poker practice you have logged, or how well you understand poker strategy: A half hour of 'steaming' can ruin hours of solid play. To be successful at poker, you constantly have to assess your emotional state. Taking a bad beat and trying to show that opponent what a terrible player they are will ruin you. Playing a little poker to blow off some steam will also likely get you in the same boat.

Learn to identify when you’re playing with any agenda other than winning money with correct play. When you are, fix it. Fast!


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