Poker being a thinking game, it’s an absolute must that all conditions are perfect when we sit down to play. And ‘all’ means all, from practical to psychological. The latter aspect, despite being the most important in poker, is also the most neglected.
This article was initially going to be about how factors such as being physically tired can have such a damaging impact on our game and bankroll but, taking this kind of problem to another level, it’s evident that we need to delve deeper into self-introspection in case there are more serious issues to address.
It’s easy to have a poor session during which we were indeed tired or distracted, or before which we’d generally not been 100% psychologically, and then ascribe the negative outcome as just that – a one-off case of poor timing. But what if this wasn’t an individual episode? What if we’ve lost – albeit temporarily – our poker mojo for whatever reason?
It’s vital, even if we don’t immediately recognize that this might be the case, to at least acknowledge the possibility. Otherwise, we’ll continue to fail to notice the problem and subsequently continue down a potentially destructive path.
At YourPokerDream we of course want players to make the most of promotions and rake deals and so on, but not if trying so hard is at the expense of health. Poker, like life, is best approached with balance, and it’s important to us at YPD that players find their own personal circumstances that suit them best. If it turns out that there’s a possibility this is not the case, then the sooner this is recognized, acknowledged, and, in turn, dealt with, the sooner our players can get back to enjoying this fascinating game.
Look out for the danger signs
If we have been tired during our last session, and we think back to previous sessions over recent weeks (or even months), we might well notice that it’s been an increasingly common occurrence. We might have put it down to external factors that have nothing to do with poker, but apart from the fact that that in itself is a problem that certainly isn’t conducive to achieving optimal results, it could well be directly connected to the game itself.
If we find that the overriding feeling when playing is more dreary and draining than fun and uplifting and positive, then this is a sure sign of our losing our enthusiasm, which is as good a red flag as any that we need to step back and re-focus in whatever way we can. The same goes for studying the game or even thinking about it away from the tables – if that’s no longer something we enjoy or feel enthused and optimistic and constructive about, then we need to rediscover our poker mojo.
Not surprisingly, there are numerous tell-tale signs that the game which should be fun and rewarding on all sorts of levels is in fact a detriment rather than an enhancement to our lives. Note that this is a serious subject even without the financial implications of a genuine burnout.
We don’t need to be literally physically or emotionally exhausted before we accept there’s a problem that requires some kind of assessment. For example, not being able to concentrate properly is a key indicator. While we don’t necessarily expect to be fully focused every second of a session, and to play every hand perfectly, it’s nevertheless imperative that we are in the best psychological and physical state to play. If we’re not thinking straight it’s clearly bad for our game, and soldiering on without admitting there’s an issue not only compounds the problem but runs the risk of it becoming a chronic, long-term malaise that might even be the new, potentially disastrous norm.
Beware being on auto-pilot
This is perhaps one of the most common and simultaneously underestimated problems in online poker. We can almost always group online and so-called bricks & mortar poker together but, importantly, online poker makes it easy for players to drift into an almost robotic way of playing. We often talk about ABC poker in a way that emphasizes not making the game overly complicated, but there’s a distinction to be made here between a style or strategy and allowing ourselves to effectively be detached from the game in a way that leads us to sit for hours playing without a plan or without investing ourselves. How many times do we end a session barely able to remember much of the hands we played, how we arrived at such a short stack in a tournament or, in a Cash game, where our money went. Of course, this happens to us all occasionally, and if we recognize such times it isn’t really a problem, rather a habit that needs ironing out. However, when auto-pilot becomes the default setting it’s another sign that we need to reappraise our whole outlook.
Being tired or not in the right mood and so on occasionally is to be expected, and isn’t anything to worry about. However, it’s imperative to recognise when a negative experience, in however many manifestations, has become the norm. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can address whatever aspect or aspects so that we can get back to enjoying poker. Our poker mojo is a key ingredient to success, so we need to nurture and protect it constantly…