Emotions at the Table
For many players, playing poker is an emotional experience. When one wins, there is a feeling of elation and a natural high. One feels on top of the world, like an Olympic Champion. This is great, but the reverse is also possible. When the eventual losing session happens, some players will feel depressed. Poker can be an emotional roller coaster. It is how one handles these situations that differentiates the winning player from the losing player.
Here is how a losing player would handle a losing session:
- Go on tilt. This means playing a lot more hands than the player knows is best and playing them very aggressively. There are different levels of tilt. It's more obvious to witness a player going on tilt at the blackjack table than at the poker table. We've all seen it, and many of us probably have experienced it too. When one is losing, one all of a sudden gets the idea to bet it all to try to win it all back in one hand. Without the advantage of counting at the blackjack table, these players will all of a sudden put out a $200 bet on the next hand even though they have been playing $25 bets. This attitude is clearly not a good idea at the poker table and may cause a player to play hands that have negative expectation even if the player knows how to play better than that. It may mean as little as calling raises a touch too liberally in the big blind, to open-raising with J5s in the cutoff, to three betting pre-Flop with ATo against an early position raise from a good player. It's important to handle one's own emotions and not adjust negatively due to a losing session.
- Being upset at the dealer. Some players don't go on tilt, but instead they blame all their problems on the dealer. Calling the dealer names, throwing cards hard into the muck, throwing cards at the dealer, stuff like that. It can become ugly, and it is something we should all refrain from. The dealers are just there to make a living. As for cheating dealers, the casino cameras generally catch everything, and the casinos have even more incentive than you to assure everything is on the up and up. For the most part, angry players that get upset at the dealer are not even accusing them of cheating, they are simply accusing the dealer of treating them poorly by not putting the right card on the board. Obviously this is just ridiculous, but in the heat of the battle, it may be difficult for some players to handle themselves. Not only is it important for every player to try to control their own emotions, but also for other players to protect the dealer if it gets too far. This may mean standing up to the other player or calling a floorperson. No one likes to play when there are angry players at the table, in the long run, and it could drive some recreational players away from the game. This is bad for the game, which means it is bad for the wallets of the good players.
- Being upset at a lucky player. Even worse than blaming the dealer is when a player who gets a bad beat starts to rag on the player that gave him the bad beat. The supposed good player starts telling the bad player how bad a player he actually is. Of course, this is horrible for the game, as we would all like the worse players to stay in the game for as long as possible. No one wants the bad players to get an education, and that is what some of the good players try to do by demeaning the bad players. Sometimes it is useful to take the good player aside and simply let him know how you feel in a non-confrontational way with statements such as "Hey, I know he really gave you a bad beat, but you know he'll give it back to you in the long run, don't scare him away, please!"
Here is how a winning player would handle a losing session:
- Analyze what went wrong. It is important to think about what went wrong. Maybe you did not make a mistake and the cards just landed the way they did. Maybe you lost due to random bad luck or maybe you lost because you made some mistakes. It is important to think about what happened to see if you actually made a mistake and can correct those mistakes in future sessions or if it was something that was completely uncontrollable.
- Learn from your mistakes. The times that a player learns the most is when they lose. After a winning session, it is very easy to walk away happy and feeling complacent, thinking that everything went just as planned. With all the positive thoughts, it is difficult to even think back to see what mistakes you made at the table that day. It is when you have a losing session that your mind starts to think about the mistakes you made. This is a great exercise, as you will learn from these mistakes and learn not to make the same mistakes in the future. The winning players use their losing sessions as a stepping stone to future winning sessions by learning from their mistakes.
- Learn from the volatility of the game. Limit Hold'em is a volatile game. It is possible that a very good player may expect to make $30 per hour in a $20/$40 game, but on any given hour, they would not be surprised to win or lose $400. On the worst days, a string of six bad hours may mean a $2000 loss for even the best players. Of course, the winning players will see more good days than bad, but the bad days are inevitable. If Limit Hold'em was a game of only skill and no luck or randomness, then it would be a game more like chess rather than poker. In chess, the grandmasters of the game do not have the opportunity to win money from the novices and the bad players. Even stubborn chess players would not be willing to bet against a grandmaster, as they know they have no chance. In poker, everyone has a chance in the short run, but not everyone has a chance in the long run. The short run is easy to see, that is what we bring to the cashier's cage to cash out at the end of the session. But the long run is difficult for many to see, especially the bad players. Without this luck factor and without the bad players having their share of winning sessions, poker would not be profitable at all, and there would not be any opportunities for the winning players. The good players will learn from the volatility of the game and try to chalk it up as "one of those days," and move on to the next day.
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Plainly affection is an emotion, but it's likewise much more than that. Among the key choices you face in each encounter is the choice to draw close or avoid. You are able to attempt to connect with individuals, or you are able to retreat from them. You are able to absorb yourself in your day's work, or you are able to dillydally. You may approach any individual, place, or thing with the aim to connect, or you may stay distant.
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