Most poker players have the wrong mindset, and a lot of that self-sabotaging mindset comes from an overestimation of their own abilities. In other words, you probably think you’re a better poker player than you actually are.
This is causing you to play in games where the stakes are too high. You’re probably playing with opponents who are better than you are. And you’re probably too loose with your starting hand requirements because you think you’ll beat the other players with your sophisticated moves in later rounds.
Here are seven ways to develop a new mindset where you become an actual student of the game instead of thinking you’re some kind of expert and it resulting in losses.
Commit Yourself to Reality
This is going to seem off-topic, but it’s not. In my personal life, I came to a situation where I was losing all the time. When I realized that I had a gambling addiction and got into recovery for that addiction, I learned that the inability to distinguish between the true and the false was a symptom.
In other words, to get well, I had to accept the reality about my disease and the world around me. I had to swallow some hard truths about myself and the people around me. The opposite of this acceptance of reality is called “denial,” and it ain’t just a river in Egypt!
Make up your mind, here and now, that you’re going to be brutally honest and realistic about your skills and talents at the poker table and elsewhere. This is the “reality mindset.”
Start Keeping Detailed Records
Every action junkie I know has the same response when I ask them how they did at the casino or at the card table: “I’m about even.”
If that were true every time I heard it, the casinos would have all gone out of business now. And there would be no professional poker players because no one ever loses. They just “break even.”
I’ve been guilty of this myself more times than I can count. There’s an easy cure for this, though. And it’s to start keeping detailed written records. Just by keeping detailed written records, you transform yourself from a hobbyist to someone who’s serious about the game.
And when you have the numbers in front of you in black and white (or red), it’s impossible to live in denial about how good or bad you are. The long-term trends in your records will answer that question for you rapidly.
But don’t fall into the trap of mistaking short-term results for long-term expectations. Any sucker can get lucky in the short run. This is the “measurement mindset.”
DBSRO – Don’t Be So Results-Oriented
I used to play poker with a guy whose nickname was “Lobster.” I don’t know why that was his nickname, but it was. And he used to tell me,
“DBSRO. Don’t be so results-oriented.”
I also read a book not long ago about a journalist who decided to become a poker player. Her mentor explained to her that he didn’t want to waste ANY time discussing bad beats with her. In fact, he wasn’t even that interested in who won or lost the pots.
He wanted to focus on the quality of her decision-making. He insisted that she have a reason for every decision she made at the table.
These are examples of people who think about poker in a process-oriented way rather than a results-oriented way.
Poker is a game of cards, so on any given hand, the results are random. In the long run, though, if you’re making good decisions repeatedly, you should be able to see predictable results.
The trick to getting those predictable results, though, is to stay focused on the process and the decisions leading up to the long run. This is the “process mindset.”
Keep Your Expectations Low
Poker players are the worst in the world in terms of having unrealistic expectations. Most of these expectations are related to thinking that you play better than you do. Some of them also have to do with your expectations about how easy it will be to beat certain games.
The problem with having unrealistic expectations is that they inevitably lead to disappointment. Poker isn’t the lottery, and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because the odds of winning at poker are both in your control and better than the odds of winning the lottery.
It’s bad because if you have unrealistic expectations from poker, you might as well be fantasizing about winning the lottery. And you should know by now how realistic and profitable it is to fantasize about winning the lottery.
If you start to assess your own skills and your opponents’ skills more realistically, you’ll have taken a big step toward keeping your expectations low.
Having low expectations means never being disappointed. This is the “low expectation mindset.”
Feedback Is the Breakfast of Champions
You don’t have to rely on your own estimations of how well you play. You don’t have to rely on that combined with your detailed records either. You have more options than that.
One of those options is to get specific feedback from poker players that you know are capable of providing you with some realistic feedback. It’s much easier for someone who doesn’t have a stake in your failure or success at the table to provide you with objective feedback about what you’re doing well and what you’re doing poorly.
You have multiple channels at your disposal for this. You can spend money on it, but you don’t have to. The cheapest and easiest way to get some objective feedback is to keep some hand histories and post them to a poker forum for some feedback.
Not everyone who provides you feedback in a poker forum will be right. Many of them will, in fact, be wrong.
But you’ll be actively involved in thinking about your hands and the decisions you’ve made. That’s where the real magic happens in poker. This is the “feedback mindset.”
Choose Your Games Carefully
You don’t have to read about poker for long before someone suggests that game selection might be the most important aspect of poker strategy.
But most of the poker players I know don’t give any thought to game selection at all beyond whether they can afford the limits.
It’s not just about choosing games where the other players are weaker than you are. It’s also about choosing games with the right kinds of players. Your goal isn’t just to win; it’s to maximize your return on investment. This includes the investment of your time.
Here’s an Extreme Example:
I have a buddy who plays at an extremely popular play-money poker site. He probably puts in 10 hours a week there, and he stacks chips like nobody’s business. But he’s earning nothing for his efforts, and his skills aren’t improving the way they would improve if he were playing for real money. Good game selection doesn’t always mean going down in stakes.
This is the “game selection mindset.”
Winning poker players think and act logically. If you want to win more often at poker, you need to act and think logically, too.
I have a friend who thinks he’s a psychic—really, he does. He claims that his intuitive understanding of the game and the other players gives him an edge. Here’s the thing, though—he’s a lousy poker player. I’ve never seen him go home with a profit. And I’ve been paying attention.
And I suppose that some poker players do succeed with intuition, but I’m convinced that real success at the poker table belongs to the most logical rounders.
This means learning and understanding poker math. It might mean looking at occasional computer simulations. If you play poker online, you should have some kind of hand tracking software in place to inform your game.
You should read books about poker. You’ll never run out of them, by the way. Some of them are better than others, for sure, so start with the poker books from Two Plus Two. They’re the most logical approaches to poker strategy I’ve seen.
And you can easily become a better poker than many of the poker greats of the past just because you’re not required to rely on intuition. You can study more data than they ever dreamed of having access to.
This is the “logic mindset.”
Winning more often at poker begins with the right mindset. If you take the wrong approach to the game, you’ve failed before you’ve even started.
This means learning how to be realistic and logical early in your poker career. It means making decisions based on what’s really going on rather than on your fantasies. We hope you’ve found this helpful.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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