Roland GTX

We often hear that having the right mindset is essential to being a successful poker player. I believe this to be true both for recreational players and Red Spade pros alike. But what is the right mindset and how does it actually impact your game?

Will having the right mindset improve your luck?

Nice river - LOL, but it clearly didn’t happen because I had a positive mental attitude. No, you can’t control luck, you can’t control the cards you are dealt, and you can’t control how the board runs out. However, with the right mindset, you can control how you react in these situations.

Consider the unfortunate villain. What was his mindset after losing with quads? Did this hand set him on complete monkey tilt, or did he have the mental fortitude to just move on to the next hand? Having the right mindset will not only help you regroup when you are on tilt, but will help you stop tilting in the first place. Just like in the Matrix:

Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
Morpheus: No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you that when you're ready, you won't have to.

Will having the right mindset improve your skill level?

No, it won’t affect that either. There is no magic pill to improve your poker abilities. Being a consistent winner is not easy. If you are motivated to improve your skills, then you need to put in the time and effort working on your game. For example, make use of the resources here as PSO, learn from the trainers, and be honest with yourself. However, having the right mindset will allow you to get the most out of your abilities. In other words, it will allow you to get into the zone and play at your full potential - your A-game.

What good is having the right mindset?

Your mindset strongly affects your decision-making process!  And as Sklansky’s Fundamental Theorem states, “poker is a game of decision-making in the face of incomplete information”. In poker there are few “always do  X when Y” situations. Usually the best choice depends on the information available and our evaluation of the situation. Not having the right mindset will lead to misinterpretations and bad decisions.

If you are on monkey tilt, you may recognize the best decision, but still decide to do something else. If you are playing scared, you may be too passive. If you are angry, too aggressive. If you are not fully focused, such as playing too many tables, watching TV, tired or bored, then you may be overlooking important information which again leads to poor decisions, missed opportunities and a lower rate of profit.

Have fun at the tables!

Perhaps you just play poker because it is fun? Well, these points are aimed at you, too. Having the right mindset helps ensure that you are consistently have fun while playing rather than being frustrated. What makes poker fun depends on what motivates you. Sometimes it may mean outrageous bluffs with 72o (shout out to effsea). Sometimes it may mean playing in big tourneys. Personally, I thrive on noticing improvements in my game and proving to myself that I can “beat” a particular level.

I’m a halfway decent poker player and can beat the microstakes. Nonetheless, I’ve lost the majority of the 10K+ tourneys I’ve played. I’ve lost the majority of my million+ cash hands, too. Yet, I still have fun while playing because I accept that losing, often with the best hand, is an inherent part of poker. It doesn’t frustrate me. Rather than focusing on individual results, I focus on improving my skills and making the best decisions possible as often as possible. Do that and the results will take care of themselves. I do make an effort to lose small pots and win big ones though.

So, a good mindset leads to good decisions. How do we get it?

The aim of this blog, was to convince you of the importance of having the right mindset. To sum things up, having the right mindset will improve your mood and improve your play by enabling you to spend less time on tilt and more time in the zone. Moreover, your mindset is something you can learn to understand and control. 

How do we learn these skills? Well, you just took the first step in the right direction by reading this blog. You are now aware of its importance.  I made a forum post a few years back with some practical advice that may help you inch forward even further.

However, if you are serious about getting the right mindset, then I strongly suggest getting Jared Tendler’s two volume The Mental Game of Poker. You won’t find a better resource.

Let me end with one small piece of wisdom. Having the right mindset is important in all facets of life, not just poker....  

Roland GTX

PS: I submitted this blog as an entry into PSO’s Poker Blog Championship 2014. Be sure to read the many great entries, and be sure to vote for your favorite whether it be mine or someone else’s!