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Top 10 poker mindset tips

13 Jan 2020

By Tadas Peckaitis
Poker is a tough game. It’s not just a game of math and numbers, as you’ll probably know if you’ve been playing for a while. Just as important as knowing your odds and ranges is how you handle the mental side of the game.

No-Limit Hold’em, as well as many other forms of poker, can be very mentally taxing. You need to be prepared for what’s ahead and know how to recover from what goes down at the tables. To always bring your best game to a session, you need to learn vital techniques to help you stay in control of your emotions.

In this article, I’ll share with you my top 10 mindset tips. If you adopt these and try to stick to them, you’ll inevitably see improvements in your results, but probably in your overall quality of life away from poker, as well.

10. Embrace the variance

I could start the list with any of the tips mentioned in the article, but I feel this one is very important. If you want to play poker seriously, you have to mentally embrace the variance. It’s another part of the game, and you can’t avoid it. You have to accept it and own it.

Losing sessions and even prolonged losing streaks are something every poker player experiences, no matter how good they might be. Realize that variance is a core component of the game, and it will happen, good and bad alike.

9. Never stop learning and developing

The best players out there don’t spend time or energy thinking about bad beats.

The best players out there don’t spend time or energy thinking about bad beats.

The second advice ties into the first one. While you don’t want to dwell too much on a series of bad results, you’ll definitely want to learn from your mistakes. Instead of lamenting bad beats and unavoidable coolers, focus on examining situations where you could have actually changed the outcome.

The best players out there don’t spend time or energy thinking about bad beats. They go through their sessions, looking for their own mistakes instead of looking for excuses. While bad runs do happen to everyone, it is essential to make sure these aren’t influencing your overall strategy.

8. Schedule your playtime in advance

While it’s fine to occasionally jump into session without planning for it, you should generally have a set schedule. This will allow you to organize your time better and mentally get into the zone before sitting down to play.

If you know when your session will start, you’ll be able to take enough time before to prepare for it properly. Clearing your mind of other things and getting physically ready (eating, showering, and whatever else you need to do) will help bring out your best performance.

7. Avoid rushed sessions

Even if you have a schedule, things can pop up unexpectedly in life. Maybe you were planning on starting at 5 p.m. but all of a sudden there is a thing you need to show for at 7 p.m. Some players will try to squeeze in a short session just the same before having to leave. Don’t do this.

If you don’t have enough time to put in a proper session, you’ll be better off skipping it altogether. You can always make up for the lost time by playing some extra hours in your future sessions. Rushing things will likely lead to some non-optimal decisions, and you might be forced to leave just as things start to heat up.

6. Spend time with likeminded people

Life of a poker player can be a lonely one. Even your best friends won’t necessarily understand your hardships as much as they’d like to. They don’t know what EV is, they have no idea about equities, and many of them don’t understand why a two-outer on a river is such a painful thing.

Spending some time hanging with other players to talk strategy and discuss your swings can be great for your overall mental state. Whether it’s live or online, you should have a few people you can talk to about these things. Being able to talk to them and hearing about what they’re going through will help you put things into perspective.

5. Learn to detach from poker

Equally as important as having someone to talk to about poker is being able to completely remove the game from your mind. You can’t spend 24/7 thinking about poker. While it may help you get a better player in a technical sense, this will hurt other aspects of your life.

Take enough time to unwind from every session, do what you need to do to clear your mind, and then move on. You don’t want to spend the remainder of your day thinking about a single bad play or an ugly bad beat. When you’re doing something else, focus on that activity, and put poker completely out of your mind.

This can be very tough for some people, and it’s a skill that takes time to learn. You might try to get some poker coaching to improve in this particular aspect if you’re having problems doing it on your own. One way or the other, it is essential to learn how not to obsess over poker all the time.

4. Take good care of your physical health

Whether you play live or online, poker is an activity that doesn’t involve much actual activity. You’ll be spending a lot of time sitting down, and this isn’t ideal for your physical health. While it may seem this tip doesn’t belong to the mental game scope, feeling good in your own body will definitely help you play better and focus more.

Introducing some sort of exercise plan on a daily basis is a good idea. It doesn’t have to be anything super hard or demanding, as even some light exercises every day will help you feel better and more prepared for long hours of grind.

3. Train your focus

It’s not uncommon for a player to disengage when not involved in a hand, especially after playing for several hours. However, this is not something you want to allow, especially in live games where you don’t have the assistance of various poker tools to help you make your decisions.

As soon as you notice your mind is starting to wander away, force your thoughts back to the game. This is a conscious effort that you need to make. By staying focused at all times, you’ll pick up on a lot of useful information that may come in handy at a later point. Tell yourself you’re there to play poker, and don’t let anything else distract you from your primary goal.

2. Learn to rest

As I’ve already mentioned, many players suffer from not being able to remove themselves from the game. You absolutely need to learn to rest and not be afraid of it. If you need a short break after a particularly hard session or want to gather your energy after playing for several days straight, just do it.

This isn’t a license to slack, of course, but you need your rest. Take some time off and do things you enjoy doing, be it reading books, watching series, or climbing mountains. Spend some time doing what makes you happy and provides you with energy to come back reinvigorated.

1. Work towards your goals

Even if you don’t have a list of goals written down, you should at least have some goals in your head. Try to make these about things you can control, such as making good decisions, not tilting, and putting in certain number of hours.

Having realistic goals to work towards will make your poker journey much more fulfilling. Every time you reach one of your goals, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment. This will motivate you to work even harder moving forward, helping you become the best player you could possibly be!
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