Inside the Minds of Poker Pros

Poker pros are champions of a quiet, but considered spirit in the highest of stakes, using a variety of stress-management techniques (including meditation breathing) to regulate their emotions and thereby enhance decision making.

However, they also realise that the obstacles posed by playing poker can be daunting – at least one obvious one being that you’re playing against opponents who are often better than you.

The Ego

Ego is part of human personality that makes us feel special and important and therefore having a healthy ego is vital when playing poker so that we can play fearlessly without tilt. A healthy ego will surely improve your game play too!

Yet the ego of the great poker player can also be an impediment. While ego-driven behaviour can be childish or base, its good sides in poker should not be underestimated.

Ego is often difficult to pinpoint; you might have it if you tend to take things personally, get offended easily, or are particularly proud about your achievements. Your ego might make you think you are a great poker player because in the past you’ve won a lot and haven’t lost that much – when in reality, most of these wins have come as a result of hard work and consistent effort.

The Fear of Losing

You need confidence but should never let pride become part of your play. You need to learn to separate your feelings from your play.

These downswings shatter poker players’ self-narrative characterised by a constant bipedal, unassisted ascent. Instead of climbing, it feels like they are shuffling backward. Not just their financial EV, but player welfare and will to play the game are affected by a downswing.

Determination to improve is what makes the best poker players. It’s great to feel proud that you once ran over the World Series of Poker field and maybe won a few grand, or won a stack of dough from your friends, or whatever else, but never let your ego or complacency stifle your creativity. The only way to leap over mental fences you’ve erected and endure whatever discomfort exists by pushing out of your comfort zone is how we evolve as poker players; the more you do it, the more you learn and grow into the quality player you aspire to be.

The Fear of Being Wrong

Every poker player, everyone from a recreational player who sees a $5 flip as change anyway to a nitty moron playing for his life holding onto every single chip, is scared wrong in some way, shape or form. It’s the most humiliating thing as a card player to admit that another opponent you might feel is better or smarter is in fact correct, but this very thing exists in many, many poker-playing environments, and poker’s phallic machismo forces the player to do almost anything to prevent this from every happening in the first place!

There are a range of such mental game tools and tricks, but the actual proving-ground is that you must force yourself to reframe new realities and drop old habits that hinder your ability to make good decisions. That’s why you need to remain an experimental and self-challenging rebel, and do what makes you uncomfortable regularly or your ev-playing confidence will only grow over the ruins of the walls you build to defend against the dangerous EV plays! When your walls come tumbling down, you will have to walk through them confidently to build new ones!

The Fear of Failure

Poker is also one of the most macho of sports, and fear of losing can be a form of paralysis. To lose is as much an emotional experience as a financial bruise, and hard to accept that eventually someone better than you will beat you.

Tell yourself that failure is inevitable and necessary for growing. Mental framing Toughing it outPractising mental framing or learning a sport or doing any new activity safely will help you gradually grow your ‘failure muscle’.

However well you’re playing, eventually you’re going to run into a completely unique avalanche of variance that tests your skill-set to the max. Learning to shift your mindset at this time takes time and commitment, but anyone can make it in gaming.

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