Mental health and online poker tournaments

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Mark | Poker Articles, Poker Tournament

If you’ve been following my “I hate bad beats” page on Facebook lately, you’ll know that I have been suffering a (in my mind) pretty serious onslaught of suck-outs in December. Here’s a short summary:

  • Tournament bust-out: PokerStars 20$ 20000$ guranteed. I raise preflop with AK. Table donk reraises, I push and he calls with K4 off suit. Flop 567, turn 2, river 4.
  • Tournament bust-out: AA vs 99 and 55, turn was a 9
  • SNG bust-out: AA vs KK, QQ vs 77
  • Tournament bust-out: Nut flush on turn loses to full house on river
  • SNG bust-out: KK vs QJ, AA vs KJ, QQ vs 44
  • Tournament bust-out: AA vs KK, AQ vs A3, AA vs 99 and KJ, AQ vs A5

Almost all of the bust-outs above have been all in preflop hands, where I got my money in as a favorite. I think the list above covers about 80-90% of the tournaments and roughly 40% of the SNGs I have played in December. Usually my reaction to suck-outs depend on how many I experience during an evening of poker. The more suck-outs, the faster my mental health deteriorates.

Yesterday, when I busted out late in three tournaments with AA vs KK, AQ vs A3 and AA vs 99 and KJ, I was really angry. I punched the table with my fist and molested a water bottle. It took me about half an hour to calm down again. As I went to bed, I contemplated why I even bother playing poker tournaments. Play well for 4 hours and then bust out as favorite. Where’s the attraction?

As you will know if you’ve other articles on this blog, I have several times announced long term breaks from poker, and never been able to live up to them for more than a week at a time. This is actually very unlike my normal behavior. I once stopped eating candy and cakes for 3 years, just to see if I could do it. And I could…

I think I keep on playing due to a combination on stubbornness (I want those final tables and believe I have the skills to reach them) and a lack of better things to due, when I have time to kill. Today is no different. Despite my mental meltdown yesterday, here I am playing poker once again.

I know many of you will look at my list of suck-outs and think “what’s he whining about, that’s a normal day for me at the tables?”. The rational part of my brain is also very much aware of the fact that poker is all about probability. AA loses to a smaller pair 1 out of 5 times and so on. The problem is, I don’t think rationally when I bust out as favorite. I get emotional. Anger fills me. I feel robbed. I feel like the biggest injustice has just been done towards me. I feel like I will never make it to a final table again. I feel like there is no point in being skilled….it’s all about luck.

So here are my questions to you tournament players out there:

  • How do you deal with tournament suck-outs?
  • How do you maintain your mental health when you are on a losing streak?
  • How do you avoid feeling a sense of despair when time and time again, many hours of tournament play are lost to suck-outs?
  • How do you convince yourself that you are on the right track, and it’s only a matter of time before those final tables start appearing?

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5 Comments to Mental health and online poker tournaments

Mark
December 26, 2009

YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH….I finally won a poker tournament this year. 410 player 6$ buyin tournament on Party Poker.
Man do I deserve it!
.-= Mark´s last blog ..Mental health and online poker tournaments =-.

alynn
December 26, 2009

How do you deal with tournament suck-outs?
I don’t know Mark :D I became angry…
How do you maintain your mental health when you are on a losing streak?
Ffs.When start losing I’m not stopping until my bankroll reach 0$…This summer I had 80$ on Merge Network.Played some freerolls and tourneys.I played well and managed to reach this bankroll.I enter on a table 0,25$/0,50$ blinds with 25$.Eah first 20-25 hands nothing ( I had A 6 , A 7 hands like this but I don’t like to play this hands ).Finally I get A K off ( I think on Merge A K is not a good gand ) my opponent had J J…The pot was 5$ pre-flop…The flop comes down A K T…Woohoo :) 2 pair…The mofo went all-in…Guess what he hit ? J or Q ? Haha…Turn J and river Q…He had me with both hands after we went all-in after the flop…And then I became angry and played some fwcked hands like A 7 , K 4…Oh well :D
How do you avoid feeling a sense of despair when time and time again, many hours of tournament play are lost to suck-outs?
I call these players who don’t know poker gogo-donkeys :)
How do you convince yourself that you are on the right track, and it’s only a matter of time before those final tables start appearing?
Mark look what is my opinion.For example you have 1200$ in your poker account.You play every day in a tourney with 60$ buy-in…This means you have 20 entries in this tourneys…From this 20 entries I think you have to cash in at least 4-5 times ! So if you have a bankroll with what to play you can play because if you’re a good poker player in the end you will win something.

HAPPY NEW YEAR,MARK !
Your friend ,
Alin

Mark
December 26, 2009

Thanks for your comments m8 and a happy New Year to you too.
Due to the high variance in tournaments I would actually recommend people to have 100x the buyin in their bankroll.
Mind you I do not play with a bankroll when it comes to tournaments.
I deposit some $$ every weekend and hope for the best:-)

Mitchell Cogert
January 5, 2010

Mark:

My thoughts on a very important topic!

1. How do you deal with tournament suck-outs?

At first I get angry. But I never show it at a tournament.
Second, it depends at what stage of the event this happens. If it is early on, I always feel like I can recoup the lost. If it is later on, I will make an adjustment on how to play given my chip stack. If it knocks me out, well so be it. But, in all these cases, I think about how/if I could have played this hand better and what other hands I could have played better/differently and had enough chips to get past this one bad beat.

# How do you maintain your mental health when you are on a losing streak?

If I take a bad beat (and still in the game), I will play the next hand dealt, but after that hand I will get up and walk away. It may only be for a minute or two, but must regain my composure, or I will knock myself out.

# How do you avoid feeling a sense of despair when time and time again, many hours of tournament play are lost to suck-outs?

I believe that I get bad beats more often when my mental approach is not a positive one. It is difficult to explain but it is vital for me to have a positive feeling when I sit down and play. If I start to waver from this feeling, I will again, get up and try to focus on the positive and not the dread or nonsense that just happened to me at the poker table.

# How do you convince yourself that you are on the right track, and it’s only a matter of time before those final tables start appearing?

My advice–think through your game again. The only reason you take a bad beat is because you are waiting to play only when you are ahead in a hand. That is not going to happen often enough to win a tournament.

Look at fixing your leaks, get out of your comfort zone, and be willing to risk all your chips against opponents who are not willing to do the same.

It’s not easy. If it were, I’d be playing heads-up at the final table of every tournament against Phil Hellmuth:-)

I hope this helps.

Mitchell
.-= Mitchell Cogert´s last blog ..Top 10 Poker Hands of the Decade =-.

Mark
January 6, 2010

Once again thanks for your great comments Mitchell

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