Well in this cloudy/rainy HK day I suddenly felt the urge to be a little emo and philosophical. I want to write about my mindset in poker and in life in general hopefully this will help remind me of how I have overcome these hurdles before and put me in a better place psychologically to overcome this cloud hanging over my head.
As I wrote in my last blog post, I am neck deep in the worst downswing of my life in poker although usually poker beats and downswings don't have a great affect on my day to day life although it seems to have found a way to seep through this time. Coupled with a few work and general life issues along with very little sleep I am finding it harder to come out of this week smiling than in my previous experiences of a similar nature.
Getting Emotional in Poker
I learnt through my part-time poker career that being a bad loser is going to cost me money over the long run. Much more than the instant gratification of berating my fish opponent when he 2 outs me, or throwing a fit and causing the fish to quit the session or be uncomfortable playing in the same game as me next time. Trust me, I have kicked and screamed at many an opponent when I first started out playing in live games and over time I realised two things:
1. The outcome will not change no matter how insulting I am to my opponent. This is a realisation that needs to register in a poker player's head. The hand has been dealt and the outcome is final. By acting like a baby I only damage my table image as well as scaring the fish into either locking up his winnings and quitting or playing tighter than he otherwise would be for the remainder of the session. It is not my goal to make my opponents play better vs me or not play me at all, this alone should be enough reason to swallow my pride. Just say "nice hand" and move on to the next one.
2. Damaged mindset. One of the key components of being a good (and profitable) poker player is the ability to always think logically, to use reasoning and deduction to whilst making decisions and to remove our egos from the equation of each action. We need to be emotionally detached from the hands we play and make sound decisions only. This is easier said than done. If I am feeling anger or sadness after being delivered a beat it typically means I am not in the right headspace to play my best game. It is an indicator that I should quit the session. Although I must admit, I rarely follow this rule and I should adhere to it more religiously.
Personally, I like to think that I have developed a higher "tilt" tolerance over the years but it does creep up on me from time to time (e.g. over the past week or so it has reared its ugly head). I never take my own advice of quitting though even when I am 100% certain it is affecting my play. This is also one of the reasons why I know I cannot play poker professionally.
As any gambler worth their salt will tell you. There are times when you are stuck at the baccarat/black jack table for an obscene amount there is this feeling that "If only I double up twice I can be back to even". The most degenerate of us will trick our minds by using the most ludicrous justifications to keep us at the table and gambling. Even with money that we may not be able to afford to lose (yes I have been there, on multiple occasions).
I think losing an obscene amount of money at a young age 18-28 (I have been busto to robusto and back again more times than I can count, sporadically throughout this period) has in some ways been a blessing. It has definitely made me a better poker player and a better person in general. I have learnt to control my emotions better over time and it has contributed to me being much more level headed overall. I have quit playing baccarat since my last foray 2 years ago and will not do so until I have reached a certain level of financial status that I am happy with.
During my time at the tables I have convinced myself to lay $100K bets at the baccarat table to get even for the night, and the justifications I used make me laugh out loud even now as I am writing this. They were absolutely ridiculous. Whether winning or losing there are ways you can trick your mind into doing things it would not normally do given common-sense was still in play.
Perspective is a powerful thing. It can turn a terrible situation or occurrence into something positive and inspiring. Or it can turn something wonderful into something absolutely horrible. I think having control and a positive perspective on things is crucial to gaining success at poker and at life. Where some people see dire situations others see opportunity. The mindset one has will affect the actions that follow, which in turn creates a ripple effect that can lead to more positive/negative outcomes depending on which side you're leaning on.
If a person bad beats me and I lose a huge pot, I tend to think of it as the Sklansky/Galfond bucks I won. If he is always drawing to 2 outs I will eventually win enough money to retire. I admit that this ability to see the positive side of things which I thought I had mastered has been shaken over the past couple months but I am beginning to get back onto the horse, once my mind is right I will deserve to win the money. As long as I am getting it in good all the time I have nothing to worry about.