Poker emotions in cash games

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Cory | Poker Articles, Poker Cash Games

Submitted by Cory, this article belongs to the Poker Cash Games series.

Poker is a very emotionally challenging game.  Perhaps more difficult than any other skill required to master on your way to becoming a winning player is control over your emotions.  This could be because a winning player always has to keep two opposite emotions juxtaposed at the forefront of his or her mind.  At any moment you have to be ready to unleash unbridled aggression while in the very next moment after taking a horrible beat, you’ll need to exhibit something like placid serenity.

It no longer seems a mystery why tilt is such a huge part of poker.  The most competitive people are usually the once who want to play and since we know that it is a psychological game of skill we tend to try outwitting people on every street.  When we fail at this the immediate reaction is to try even harder to assert our mental superiority over the table.  Without this competitive killer instinct it is near impossible to become a big winner.

However, alongside that grit and determination has to be an equally strong ability to surrender when you know you’re beat, to let a hand where someone caught a one outer for your whole stack just roll off your back and to continue to be nice to that guy who keeps questioning every play you make on a losing night.

At the first moment I start feeling frustrated at the table I run through a little script with myself.  I ask myself how I’m playing and answer honestly.  If I’m not trying to push too hard, if I’m being as aggressive as I should be in the right spots I’ll continue playing and can feel better knowing that I’ve just taken a time out to evaluate my game.  If I’m doing one of these things sub optimally I’ll ask myself if I can change it during this session.

If my answer is no I get up and leave.  If my answer is yes I stay, but if I notice after I said I’d stop trying to force the action when I shouldn’t be and I still am, I get up and leave.

I have to always be aware of when my level of calm verses aggression is out of balance and immediately fix it or come back tomorrow.  If I’m feeling gun shy and not playing as aggressive as I should, I’m letting my opponents off easy and leaving money on the table which is the same as losing it.  If I’m not being relaxed enough, I’m giving away money in spots I should be folding.  Either way it’s losing money and I need to adjust my frame of mind or leave and wait till my emotions are back in balance.

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