Psychology — the poker how to

May 5th, 2009 — General, Psychology

full-cup-8820084About a year ago I started slacking off. I thought I could just auto-pilot my way to profit, and I was right, I could, but not without consequences.

My winrate started going downhill because I wasn’t keeping up with what was going on at the poker table.

I wasn’t paying attention to my opponents and I wasn’t REALLY studying the game.

Sure, I was getting coaching and watching poker videos at deucescracked, but I wasn’t really paying attention or even caring.

And that’s when I hit a pretty bad downswing and it has taken me awhile to get back on track. I lost focus and started to focus on the money more than the strategic aspect of the game.

It’s funny because it happens in cycles. I have soon been playing poker full-time for five years, and I can only laugh at myself because I go through the same cycles over and over.

I play well and I win a bunch of gold, then I’m like “this is so easy, I’m going to play more tables and own people even more.”

After that I usually hit a downswing and I am oblivious to why it has happened. Cards do matter, but often enough my play has deteriorated and I have no one but myself to blame.

I then whine to everyone I know about how unlucky I am and how I am the unluckiest guy in the world and why me. I consider doing animal sacrifices for the poker gods, but always decide against it.

That’s usually how the cycle goes for me. The animal sacrifice thing is usually rock bottom for me, and that is when I get a coach and slap myself in the face.

Lessons Learned

1 – Don’t play 8 tables and think you can play ABC poker and own people.

2 – DON’T whine to your friends, because it is a waste of energy and your friends will want to do bad things to you.

3 – Pay attention while you play and really THINK about every decision.

4 – Try to figure out your opponents thought process. If they show a weirdly played hand, think about why they’re playing it that way. What is their reasoning? Can you learn anything about them that you can later use to crush their soul?

5 – Do other stuff! Don’t take poker so seriously, poker has variance and you’ll get destroyed by poker if you take it too seriously. Get a hobby, girlfriend, dog, meditate or whatever you want.

Photo taken by Craig Dennis.

I’m Still Alive & Playing The Hold’ems!

April 4th, 2009 — General, Psychology

It’s been a long time, haven’t had the urge to blog lately. I haven’t been doing much, going to aikido and jujutsu. Basically doing the same old stuff, I’ve also been working on a website of mine, I don’t know why but I really like playing with websites.

It’s almost like The Sims but in real life where the website is the theme park, wee. I am not entirely satisfied with my poker website ( It’s about 1½ years since I first put it up and my lack of writing skills really shine through. Live and learn I guess.

I started trying the Sedona Method and having some interesting results so far with it. It’s basically a “method” of releasing emotions which comes in handy at the poker table for me. I’ve been able to stay tiltless longer, so the results so far are promising. I’ll let you guys know if I still like it after a month.

How To: Spot And Adjust To A Tilting Opponent

February 1st, 2008 — General, Hand Analysis, Psychology

I like to observe a few things about my opponent as I play:

  • Is there a consistent fold/check/bet speed?
  • Is s/he saying anything in chat?
  • What is my opponents “comfort zone?”

Especially in HU, it can be easy to recognize a consistent speed at which your opponent acts, usually a couple seconds for each decision.

A player on tilt, however, may start making decisions incredibly quickly – calling or betting near-instantly for multiple hands in a row.

Sometimes chat is a dead giveaway. If you see lots of cursing, “OMG I CANT BELIEVE YOU HIT THAT,” etc in chat, keep your eyes out for erratic play. This can be faked of course, but it is often accurate.

What Is “Comfort Zone?”

Comfort Zone is how I describe a players “normal” habits of play. Does he like to limp alot preflop, or does he like to raise?

Usually when a player gets out of his or her CZ it’s for a reason. If Mr.Limpy min-checkraises the turn for the first time in 200 hands, he’s probably got a big hand.

However, sometimes it is drastic and consistent…all of a sudden Mr. Limpy starts raising every hand preflop. Or, Mr.Tight starts calling you down with mid pair.

What has happened? The player has told himself something about you, perhaps “He’s crazy! I wont stand for it any more!” or “I’m not going to get run over any longer, now I’m going to win some pots!”

Regardless, he’s gotten out of his comfort zone and is now playing erratically and irrationally.

Now is the time to adapt.

Adapting To A Tilter

Now once you are quite sure your opponent is actually tilting – he’s gone from limping and calling to uttering a non-stop stream of obscenities into chat, and raising every hand – now is the time to adjust.

So, we want to encourage whatever he’s doing wrong. If he’s raising and betting, lets let him do that. Call KQ-type hands preflop, and let him hang himself with bluffs if you flop top pair.

Note that a tilting player may stop tilting if he wins a good size pot, so it’s important to play a bit tight, and let him win tiny pots until you have a hand to make your move with, like TP or a decent 2nd pr.

If he’s started calling you down light, or calling bets very fast without thinking, it’s time to run a fake bluff.

2/4 NL HU, 100bb eff

Hero raises 33 from the button/SB to $12, Tilter calls in the BB.
Our opponent has started calling bets very fast, and seems to have told himself that Hero is crazy.

Flop: 3QTr ($24)
Jackpot flop, now it’s time to get some value.

BB checks, Hero bets $20, BB instacalls.

turn: 2o ($64)

BB checks, Hero bets $60, BB instacalls.

At this point, the super-fast-calls usually mean he has either a made hand that he’s decided to “call my bluff” with, or he has a strong draw like JK. The draw is folding the river UI, so we can ignore it and go for value from made hands.

River: 2o ($184)

BB checks, Hero goes All-In for $308, BB instacalls with Q7o.

BB in this hand clearly only beats a bluff, but he has convinced himself so thoroughly that Hero is crazy that he is willing to put his whole stack in to try and beat a bluff.

Ordinarily this might not be the most optimal way to extract value, but if you can spot changes in your opponents play you will see new areas for profit.

The Trick To Balancing Poker And The Holidays (Or Life In General)

December 24th, 2007 — General, Psychology

First off, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The holiday season is incredibly busy, and at times it can be quite difficult to balance poker with all the other facets of holiday life.

It’s important to budget time to make sure you get some hours in during this busy season.

However, there are many other things that are more important.

There’s More To Life Than Poker

The beautiful thing about online poker is that it’s there 24/7. Because of that flexibility, it’s important to make time for the big things in life, like family, friends, and the events and people that you love.

Don’t miss out on going ice skating(or swimming, depending on where you live icon_smile-9370363 ) with your friends, or spending quality time with family.
These things are more important than poker!

While earning income from poker seems important, the games will be there, and they will be great, after the holidays are over.

Don’t lose sight of why we work so hard to improve and make money at this game – it’s to give us the freedom to spend our time as we please.

So, enjoy the holidays, and have fun.

See you at the tables in January!

How To Win More And Lose Less

November 21st, 2007 — General, Poker Tips, Psychology

Sounds good, right?

The biggest winrate-killer in poker is simple – TILT.

However, it is within each player’s power to control tilt. It takes discipline, and self-awareness, but to be successful one must master tilt.

It is very do-able with a couple strategies:

Prepare before Playing.

This is simple – make sure you are well-rested and well-fed before playing. There’s nothing that tilts me faster than being tired or hungry.

Don’t Play When Emotionally Agitated.

Did you just have a fight with your girlfriend?

Did your cat run away?

Are you sobbing because your favorite person got voted off the island?

Don’t sit down and play when upset, poker requires calm concentration.

Know Thyself

It is critical to know your own symptoms of tilt. They differ from person to person – some examples are:

  • Whining about bad beats, either in chat or on IM or to a friend
  • Feelings of frustration or despair about lost money
  • Feelings of anger or thoughts of revenge towards a specific player
  • Impatience, the desire to win money back right now
  • Making decisions based on emotional wants rather than logical reasons

Which leads us to….

Take Breaks

If any of these tilt symptoms show up, it is time for a break to cool off.
Take a walk, get some water, grab a sandwich, check your email, whatever. Give yourself a chance to calm down so you can return to the game clear-headed.

Also, marathon sessions can be dangerous, as one’s ability to focus dwindles as sessions get longer. Taking a break every hour or two helps tremendously.

Last but not least…

Stay Hydrated

The brain needs water to function properly, and many people drink caffeinated beverages like soda or coffee which actually dehydrate the body further.
Grab a glass of water, stay hydrated, and stay focused.

With a little practice and effort, these tips will help any player cut down on their tilting.

Less tilting = less losing, and more winning!