Remember, poker is supposed to be fun

November 20, 2012  

Are you having fun playing poker? I’ve run into more players lately who are too caught up in playing, nervous about making the right decisions and playing at stakes above what they can afford. If this is you, and you’re nervous about the financial effect of making a play you really feel is right, or you’re hanging on to min-cash a tournament, then it’s time to have a look in the mirror and assess.

If winning or losing a pot in a cash game has an extreme effect on you, or if you’re afraid of making a play on the bubble of a tournament because it means so much to you, then you’re playing above your head and above your bankroll. You can’t play poker with this kind of pressure and expect to succeed. Most pros have been in your shoes; I know I have. I’ve been through runs where I just couldn’t seem to even bag chips in any of the tournaments during a given series, much less cash. It takes a toll on your mind-set and the pressure builds from tournament to tournament.

Many people then try to immediately jump in cash games to try to make that money back. This is a crazy cycle you can fall into where you end up having no chance to succeed.

What you need to do is to take time and objectively reflect on your results and actions. Are you consistently taking your time to make correct decisions or are you consistently gambling to try to make something happen and reverse your fortune? Most likely you need to take the time to really think a lot about all of the hands you have been playing. So many players think they’re just running bad and that others are just running good, yet the fact is, others are staying focused on making good decisions. If you’re making good decisions on a regular basis then you’ll achieve more success.

I’ve heard players talk about how they “run better” in nightly tournaments, or other ones that don’t have the pressure of winning a huge prize. What’s really happening is they have developed their skills to a level where they’re better than their average opponent in that particular tournament and they’re also not as worried about making as big of a mistake. Their investment is not as big and the potential prize isn’t life-changing. The result of this is they’re able to relax, maintain the proper focus and play their game, outplaying inferior opponents.

Poker is not a game of luck. You don’t just run well in certain games and tournaments. If you practice good game and tournament selection, then you effectively become “the house” and you’ll have an advantage day after day, resulting in more deep runs, more money and more confidence. This makes the game more fun.

Be honest and objective with yourself about your abilities and your edge, or lack thereof vs. your average opponent. If you do this, you’ll set yourself up for success and you may feel like you’re “running better,” but you’re actually playing better and opponents have worse chance of beating you. Decide to Win!

— Lee Childs is the founder and lead instructor at Inside the Minds. For information about his group training sessions and personal coaching, visit inside-the-minds.com.