Is this you?

No, I don't mean are you the captain of the star ship Enterprise. I mean are you the kind of person who finds yourself getting excited by hitting big hands and feeling crushed when you lose? Or in short, do you get emotional at the tables?

If the answer is yes you are not alone. I think most of us, at least sometimes, get emotionally invested in the game and especially in the results. And I think in many cases that's one of the big attractions of poker, the excitement of the swings, the highs and.. well ok, maybe not the lows but you get what I'm saying. However the poker environment is an ever increasing competative place and it's getting harder to stay ahead of the curve. We're all always looking to improve and find any edge we can get and one of the main things we inevitably try to work on is our mental game and getting control of our emotions. But is that really a good thing? Is there no place for emotion?

We all know the downsides of getting tilted at the tables. We rage and lose control, lose focus. Some of us swear, some of shout, some of us even smash keyboards and break mice! And all this leads to making bad decisions, playing worse and losing money. It's not particularly good for our health either to be so stressed out. Even when things are going well it's not always such a great thing to be jumping with joy. When we get carried away by a good run of cards we start to feel invincible and put ourselves at unnecessary risk. Even over long term upswings we might think we're untouchable and neglect to work on our game. As the kids would say, not GTO!

So what's the answer? Many successful players would preach stoicism. For those that don't know the term, stoicism is a school of philosophy founded in ancient Greece around the 3rd century BC.. but enough of the history lesson. The Stoics taught that destructive emotions came from errors in judgement and basically people who were morally and intellectually perfect wouldn't suffer from these emotions. These errors in judgement in poker terms are us worrying about the things we have no control over. The hands we're dealt, the board runout, how our opponents play etc. And for us to concern ourselves with these things is a waste of energy and results in these destructive emotions; tilt, over-confidence and so on and we react as I stated above. I happen to agree with this school of thought, that being stoic leads to better play, but it does leave one problem. Even if we can learn to be stoic, which is by no means an easy process, where do we get that excitement that keeps us invested?

Of course we can always look at our long term results and get excited by them. Maybe winning a tourney at some point, our end of month/year profits and seeing how well we've done. But day to day that's not really going to be enough for some to keep us passionate about the game and make us want to play. But what I find most satisfaction in is when I make a good play or an epic fold. Like this simple 2NL hand, not a huge pot by any standards but I was thrilled just to have played it well.

It's awesome, even if I ultimately lose the game, if I outplay my opponents. I get really pumped when I correctly fold a full house or call with Jack high and take down the pot. And if I'm playing bad, sure I can tilt, but it's the bad play that leads to tilt and not the other way round and I just leave the game. It's a healthy mindset but still one with joy and disappointment attatched.

So is there a place for emotion in poker? I say yes.. you just have to be careful what you're getting emotional about.



This is an entry to PSO's Poker Blog Championship 2014. Be sure to check out the other entries and vote for your favourite!