Your toughest opponent is yourself

June 08, 2018, Brent Philbin  

Poker isn’t just psychological warfare against opponents. Sometimes that battle is with yourself. It’s extremely important you realize this battle exists and learn the correct way to win on both fronts.

It’s likely you’ve experienced both extremes of this situation: being too dejected by a loss to want to go do something fun or being so elated by a win that you go out and do something stupid.

Both of these are part of the losing battle. Always remember that wins and losses are all part of a much longer, much more important game. Don’t neglect friends or hobbies because you’re upset you had a big loss and don’t go blow a bunch of your money at the strip club because you just booked your biggest win.

Similarly, don’t extend a session without a good reason. If your eight hours (or 10 or whatever you’ve chosen) are coming to an end and you’re stuck, don’t extend this session to get even.

The concept of “getting even” should pass through your mind like the desire to punch the old lady that just cut in front of seven people in line at the grocery store.

It’s a somewhat valid thought to have, but giving in to that desire will cause more harm than good, even if it feels great.
This applies to extending a session because you’re winning, too, but the line here is much harder to see. It’s extremely important to extend a session if you’re playing with the kind of bad player that you see once a year (this led to a 40-hour session for me once) but don’t just convince yourself that this situation has come up because of your run-of-the-mill donkey. Like a foodie telling you every meal they’ve had is the best of all time, that title only rarely should be used.

Finally, try to take a good look at yourself from the outside. Examine your poker hands as if you were giving advice on that hand to someone else or examine decisions you make in poker the same way.

Sometimes stepping back and “teaching” yourself can make you discover leaks you didn’t even know you had. I have the luxury writing for this poker magazine, which allows me to talk about leaks in my game from a unique perspective. Pick your battles and win them.

— Brent Philbin is a poker pro who lives in South Florida. You can reach him at Brent.Philbin@gmail.com.