The importance of being disciplined

Detail of poker cardEven if you have knowledge about strategies and odds, you still lack in a very critical side of the game – the psychological.

The truth is that some players are already in the right region of the psychological sphere then other aren't, and in some cases, will have big difficulties to get there. Unfortunately, some players will perhaps never get to the right region. A rigid statement, but it’s honest. Some other players will be able to get there and if you are one of them the following advice could hopefully get you on the right track.

The reason for this dividing is because abilities that are needed for succeeding in the mental game are to such a high degree united with very complex factors that can’t be excluded from the individual. And it is also an area in which theory and practice not always goes hand in hand.

One of the most irritating conversations I’ve had is with people who lecture me on how I should behave. Most of us know pretty much how we should behave. It is the execution that is the problem, not the absence of knowledge. Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The subject of discipline can’t be enough emphasized in poker. The urgency of being disciplined is just such a big part of the game. For many players, this is the determining factor concerning the result in the long run. You can always make some good results just by practicing your strategic knowledge, but do you have what it takes to play constantly on top of your game?

Sporadic victories don’t count; what counts is your bankroll. If two good days are followed by one disastrous, your bankroll is leaking. You cannot avoid occasional downswings, but you must avoid the tendency that puts you in the direction of disaster.

Tilt - the potential road to disaster

When a player is “on tilt” he is reacting to one or several bad beats in manners that bring negative influences to his game. It’s very hard to avoid getting emotional in the game of poker, not at least in periods when you are constantly unlucky with the cards. It’s natural for people to react upon things they are facing.

But, in poker the ideal behavior is not to act like a typical human being, it would be much better if you were a machine. Of course, it’s problematic becoming a machine; therefore you must learn to control yourself and put your strong emotions in the vault. Being overheated by emotions, means that you are losing control, and losing control will often spoil your game with the risk of losing badly.

How do you get in control over the emotions? A good way is to always rationalize the situation instead of feel it. Always remember that the nature of luck isn’t regular albeit symmetrical in an endless time. Another thing you should be aware of is your selective memory. Studies have shown that we tend to remember bad things easier than good things, a phenomenon known as negativity bias.

Selective memory

Out memory is waste and pretty amazing, but it can’t store data like a computer. Our memory works different. Since it can keep everything, it has to discard – or at least displace – some of the information.

That leaves you with a selective memory what is influenced by subjective factors. When trying to established an overview, we don’t get a statistical chart from the brain but samples of events. And what is more, we cannot trust the samples to be representative.

If you want all the information about your poker hand don’t ask your brain for it, get a tracking software to which you can import you hand history, and voila, you can be assured you get correct figures. (There are commercial programs at the market as PokerTracker and Holdem Manager).

Secondary effects of tilting

If you are letting the quality of your game be reduced because the cards are unfavorable (or that you believe so), another risk is that when you finally get favorable cards you are too disturbed and not able to take advantage of the them.

The conclusion turns out: 1) avoid going on tilt by controlling your emotions with the right thinking; 2) if you nevertheless go on tilt (it will happen), stop playing!

Coldness and heat

It’s usually better to make decisions when you are sober than you are drunk. You can apply this to poker in a transferred sense of coldness and heat. You are “cold” and no-affected before you start playing, but after you have start playing you will get affected in different ways and it generates “heat”.

You should therefore make decisions about how much money and how much time you will use at maximum for the session before you start, and stuck to it. It's vital that you not change your plans when you are affected of things that make you less “sober”.

Don’t ruin your bankroll because you get overheated, it’s such a waste and you will get demoralized.

Written by Oscar Sand

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