As you probably know, being winning poker player is an art which involves skills like mathematics, analythical thinking, discipline,
trickery and many more. If you strive to be the best, you always hear advices like:
“Read poker strategy books”
“Watch pros play, buy their courses”
” Do not Tilt. Be disciplined.
” Have great bankroll management, be patient.
” Just grind 24/7 until you get better and move up in stakes.
While all these are good advices and valid points, these will not work if you do not have well developed Emotional Intelligence. Fancy plays, poker solvers and reading up all the poker strategy articles can get you just so far, if you lack EQ. As many learned it the hard way, in poker EQ>IQ. Why is this?
Many people have the needed skills to be even professionals, but not the right mentality to be winners. After all, you know the favourite subject among poker players right? Yes, bad beats is the correct answer. Most of the poker enthusiasts can swear if they just got that one flip in their favour, or did not have so much coolers when they play, they would be up there with the best. But you know what, the best lose such hands too and they continue to play their game.
Here you probably think, this is another advice on learn to control emotions, never tilt, be calm and so on. On the contrary. Having high emotional intelligence is not hiding emotions or trying to turn off as robot. High EQ means understanding the state of mind you are in and acting appropriate to it.
You can not always be calm. You can not always say, forget it, i am losing fifth poker session in a row but that is ok. Variance right? This is avoiding your real emotions. Some times silent tilt is even more dangerous than the loud one.
The way to include Emotional Intelligence in your poker arsenal is by understanding your state of mind, when you play poker. It is easier said than done, but with practice and right attitude you can improve upon it just like other poker skills.
To start, analyze yourself before and after poker sessions. Doing it during sessions require a little bit more practice, but you will reap the benefits of it in the long term. Look at yourself before starting your session..
Are you nervous, overconfident, zen or playing scared ? Obviously if you start your session playing nervous or scared, you must acknowledge that and try to understand why. If the reason is outside of poker, just quit for the day. If it is because you play high stakes – lower them. If you think this poker room is too tough for you and can not afford to lose your bankroll, change rooms. Say you are playing overconfident. Lower the tempo. Try to take time between your plays and evaluate. Your mind might be clouded and you might think, luck can not stop you on your path to success. Just slow down, really understand that you are in that state of mind and cut 5-10% of the hands you are playing. Or stop going All in on 50/50 hands, just because you won a few flips. When playing arrogant, never forget you might underestimate your opponents or the hands they could have. In cash games this could cost you dearly. Just see what is your version of overconfident player and realise when you go in that mode and try to earn the respect of your opponents, rather disrespect them by underestimating them.
Ofcourse the most common problem in poker is tilt. It comes in so many shape and forms that you might tilt for several different reasons in just one session. First of all everyone tilts. Someone for small period of time and with less damage, others are losing their whole bankroll. Poker players tilt when they get a bad beat, a cooler, can not hit big hand in hours, lose to the same guy, misclick during important hand, lose couple of sessions in a row, get dominated by weak players et cetera . If you are not robot, you are certainly pissed off by these things to
The way to combat these emotions is not by saying – I will not tilt ! I will never tilt ! This is just bottling emotions. The right way to minimize the damage is by admitting you are tilted and the reasons for it. You should be brutally honest too. Only then, you will start your path to recovery.
Believe it or not, you can use tilt as an advantage. When you are tilted, you are angry. And there is no better fuel than anger. Rather than saying : -I lost 3 times by 2 outers i am going All in with this bad hand… Say something along the lines – I am not giving away single chip tonight ! Playing my perfect game is only thing i will do till i call it a day. If i lose so be it, but i will not give single big blind carelessly.
When tilted, people usually see more flops. Playing too much hands and already showing your opponents signs of tilt, can be used to your advantage too. If you see, you are acting tilted, and others recognise that, maybe just continue to give that impression and eventually get paid, because others might think you never have good hand or always bluff, because you are tilted.
If you tilt because you lose to the same guy, do not make it personal. You play against hundreds of players each day, do not make it personal with each and everyone. If you are getting obliterated by lesser player, be glad there are players you will profit from in long term.If you wait too long to catch good hand and this is getting you angry, just lower the stakes and open more tables.
The meanest form of tilt usually is because of bad beats. When this happens, just try your best to come into terms that you probably can not just go back and win all you lost in a heartbeat. It might take really long time. When you are tilting because of that and can not control your emotions, just learn to enjoy small victories. Tell yourself you lost the battle but win the war by winning ton of small pots with the loose aggresive playstyle. Not being maniac about it, loose aggressive play when you are enraged can get other players, who were far from angry, wanting to catch you bluffing. This can result in you value betting huge your strong hands and them paying you off. Tell yourself no matter your position on the table there is always a way to exploit other players, especially when you know how you are perceived now. There is no easier way to win, than when you are being underestimated.
These are just few examples of how to combat bad emotions when playing poker. In many occasions you can turn negatives into positives. Trying to survive during emotional downswings, wil make you mentally tougher which is probably the most important quality good poker players have. Avoiding and hiding emotions can get you only so far, but embracing bad emotions, coming to terms with them and eventually use them as fuel to your poker success is how you will become poker shark. Emotional Intelligence is very complex art, but once mastered, makes poker and life much more easier.