Take a poker lesson from others around you

December 18, 2012, Chris  

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. — Carl Jung
I came across the above quote and, of course, it got me thinking about my poker game. One of my biggest pet peeves used to be the lengthy amount of time others often take when weighing a decision. I’m impatient by nature and it used to drive me nuts to wait for an opponent to make a decision about whether to call.

Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether there should be a clock in poker, especially for tournaments.

Anyone who watched the live final table of the main event of the World Series found how tedious watching poker can be.

The point of this article is not to discuss the merits of a clock, but what I learned from my impatience. By nature, I favor action. For instance, I’d much rather play six-handed than 10-handed. Lengthy decisions mean that much less time for a new hand to be dealt to me. But I’ve learned to change my attitude. I take the time to study my opponent, and contemplate how I’ve been playing. I take a minute to look at everyone at the table and see how they’re reacting and contemplate how they’ve been playing, especially vis-à-vis me.

Here’s another example of Jung’s statement: We’ve all had those nights where there seems to be one opponent who has our number. No matter how well we play, he seems to always hit his hand against us. It’s not only irritating, but can be absolutely infuriating. We start to take it personally. We want to beat this guy so badly it can certainly affect our decision-making. That means we’re human and our competitive nature is kicking in.

What I’ve learned from these encounters is I cannot internalize the results. If you play enough poker, you’re going to have your fair share of random encounters where you get the better of an opponent and on another night an opponent may get the best of you. I now detach myself emotionally from the outcomes and focus on my decision-making. I won’t ignore the results.

If an opponent continually beats me, instead of getting riled up thinking how I’m going to beat him, I try to think how he’s playing. Is he getting overly confident against me, which I can exploit later? I channel that innate competitive instinct to strike back into a contemplative constructive analysis of what’s taking place and if there’s an opportunity for me.

Every poker session, you’ll encounter plenty of diverse personalities and player types. How you react, adjust and play (and your ultimate success) is up to you.

— David Apostolico is the author of Tournament Poker and The Art of War. You can contact him at thepokerwriter@aol.com.