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Resiliency in Poker

ResilienceAll things being equal, how you handle setbacks when you play will be one of the biggest factors in your long-term success. Yet, the amount of time most people will spend reading about strategy far outweighs what they will spend on becoming emotionally strong. The key to being an emotionally tough player is resilience.

Good play is a result of bouncing back in the face of the pain that poker can inflict. A bad beat can be a source of great frustration, even anger for any poker player. Having your aces miraculously busted by 2-6 off suit will make anyone’s head spin.

However, bad play tends to result from carrying that frustration forward to the next hand. Then, the next. Eventually, if the feelings have not been resolved, a poor decision is in your future. You’ve been there before. Every poker player has.

Resilience, or the ability to bounce back from an obstacle, happens in two ways. First, it occurs organically over time. This resembles the time perspective. Secondly, a return to form can result from conscious intervention. This method is the skill perspective.

Time or trick?

The most important part of resilience in poker, particularly playing online, is to understand if you have the skills to recover when you hit an obstacle or you need to take time to recover organically. If you don’t have tricks (i.e., skills) for resiliency, you will need to take time in the form of breaks or time away. If you don’t need time, you may already have some good skills for resiliency. Here are two important ones:

Keeping perspective

A philosophical skill, having a firm understanding that bad beats happen and the best decisions don’t always turn out puts you on firm ground to withstand any hardship. Bad beats cannot be avoided. Expect them. Realizing this sets you up to be emotionally resilient right from the start.

Energy management

Think about the last time you played really well. Were you excited on the inside or calm? Somewhere in between? Understand the feel you need to be playing at your best. When your energy goes too high, do something to bring it back. Too low? Have something to crank it up. It starts with being aware of your sweet spot.

If you need time to recover because your bounce-back skills are raw and undeveloped, take it. If a session has turned into emotional warfare, step back from the table. Go for a walk. Get some coffee. Take a shower. Quit for the day or longer. Let time heal you.

But don’t just jump back in. Reflect a little first. Examine your energy and be honest with this question: Am I ready to play my best? If the answer is no, take more time. Your bankroll will thank you. If you feel fresh and unemotional, that’s the sign you are looking for.

Keep following OddNPots for more tips and strategies to help you enhance your resiliency. In the meantime, we are always curious about you. What do you do to keep yourself emotionally level at the tables? Are you a “trick” or “time” person?

Kelly Doell, PhD is a mental performance consultant. Learn more about his work and the inner game of performing at www.KellyDoell.com

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  • Ivan Y

    If I had a few bad (cash game) sessions, I usually need a day or two to re-group. Worst thing you can do is continue to chase your losses and play when you are running/playing bad.

  • Alex

    Nice article. I notice many players are often on “auto mode” and don’t question if they are playing badly and just concerned about their own little bubble which can only lead to potentially greater losses.This is all great advice and thanks for sharing.

  • keulniss

    Yeah, excellent article. At this moment, I have to admit, I’m a “time” person and am working on the “trick” part. In fact, I’m on a mini-break right now lol. However, I realize that I may never acquire the skills to be a “trick” person, and that is OK. What I’d also like to add (even though it’s likely obvious), is that the stakes/bankroll ratio is a huge component in this.

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