How important is mindset? Consider this: Poker is entirely a mind game. You are competing with your mind against the minds of others. So it only makes sense that maintaining the right state of mind is vitally important.
There are two main components at work here. One is knowledge. This includes things like skill and experience. We will develop your skill as the lessons progress, and you will gain experience by actually playing. The second is equilibrium. This will be the focus of today's lesson.
Most players, even some top players, don't pay attention or work on this part of their game nearly enough. And it is indeed something that you have to work at. There are many qualities that you have to be aware of and possess to become a top player. In this lesson, we will touch on several, to get you started thinking about them. Many of these qualities will be discussed in greater detail in further lessons.
Patience: First of all, poker players are very often much too eager. They came to play, to get involved, to bet, and so on. Thus, they will have a tendency to play too many cards, and in some cases way too many, than is desirable from a profit point of view. And in the hands they do play, they also tend to overplay them, past the point where it makes sense to play on, being too eager to grab a winning pot.
We cannot let ourselves slip into this fault. Our opponents are welcome to play that way; in fact this is probably THE biggest advantage we will have over them. We are going to be more selective than they are in what we play, thus we will be the favorite a lot, and win the most money.
It is fairly easy to be patient when the cards are running well. Of course, there are going to be situations when they're not, and this is going to test us more. We must ensure we resist the temptation toward becoming involved when doing so would be an inferior play, and resolve to maintain our advantages of selectivity through whatever cards may fall our way.
Discipline: This is related to patience, but is a broader and more encompassing quality. In terms of the amount of cards we play, patience would allow a calm and understanding disposition, while discipline would ensure we stick to the plan regardless.
The first thing you need to do is to CHOOSE to succeed. Say it to yourself: "I choose to succeed at poker." Now, tell yourself "I choose to seek the right path to success, and as I discover it, I choose to FOLLOW it to the best of my ability." This is what discipline is.
Often, even very good players know what the right thing to do is, but fail to do it. We cannot let that happen. We must strive to always let our actions reflect our skills.
Emotional Stability: It's pretty easy to become angry, upset, frustrated, and so on. Everyone is familiar with the player "on tilt." This gets its name from tilting a pinball machine, which causes it not to work right anymore, and you lose your money. The same exact thing happens to YOU when you go on tilt.
What happens is your decision making processes suffer as a result of this. Most often, you become too aggressive, which is actually the most dangerous thing to happen, as we will discuss in more detail in later lessons. Or, more rarely, you may become too passive, fearing being beaten again.
When you find yourself slipping into this fault, of course it's important to calm down. This in itself isn't always easy to achieve. The best way to combat this flaw is through understanding. All sorts of things can happen at the poker table. What you want to focus on is the fact that if you've played the hand well, and if you continue to do so in the future, only good results overall will come. Maybe the person beat you with rag cards that only an idiot would play, but he will get his due the next time he tries that.
The real key here is focusing on the quality of your play rather than short-term results. Doing this consistently is what's going to lead you to the promised land.
Impulsiveness: Poker, as we noted, is a game of thinking. When we act impulsively, we don't think enough about what we're doing. It's like driving a car and not watching the road. It makes no sense on poker to act without thinking, no more than it makes no sense to do so in other endeavors.
Especially online, you can develop some bad habits. It's very easily just to click on bet, call, or raise, without doing much or even any thinking about it. And, as you become better, you may either slip into or be tempted to play too much this way. It is always a mistake though.
Instead, be sure to always take your time and think things through properly before acting. Consider all the pertinent information you have at your disposal, consider alternate courses of action, and only act after you've decided your chosen one is the best one.
Lack Of Focus: This is one which is much more of a problem when playing online than in live games. Sitting at home in front of your computer, it's far too easy to be distracted. This is not to say you can't make a lot of money playing poker that way, so in a sense it's more of a preference. But it's a preference that will increase your poker profits.
It's fairly easy to be focused when you're in a hand. but there's a lot of information that can be gathered about your opponents when you're NOT in a hand. Thus, it's profitable to pay attention to what they're doing, and learn about their particular styles and habits. And you can't do that properly unless you're really paying attention.
In later lessons, you will be shown what to look for here as far as gaining important information about your opponents. In the mean time, it's best to get into the habit of watching their play. For now, while doing so, try to figure out what they may have. And when they do show their cards at the end, try to see what you can figure out about how they play. Then you can use this information for your benefit in later hands.
Lack of Confidence: Finally, we'll deal with something that is very important and needs to be paid close attention to. On a winning streak, anyone can be confident. Their skills are working, and working very well in fact. So it's easy to keep playing properly and reaping the rewards of doing so.
It is normal for the cards to even out though and you will experience both good and bad runs of cards. It's how you handle the bad runs that will separate you from the mediocre players though. It is very important not to take these bad runs personally, as a reflection of your skills. This will lead to less than ideal decision making, or even worse, getting away from proper play totally, out of frustration.
If you have the skill to play, those skills need to be used in all circumstances. You must believe in them, and recognize that even perfect play is going to run into the distribution of luck, where you're going to be luckier at some time than others. Stay the course in both lucky and unlucky times, and you will be lucky indeed, the luck that puts a lot of money in your account.