Mastering your mental game is a foundational step that every poker player needs to take in order to become a winning player. This, of course, is more than just a one and done occurrence—preventing tilt, staying focused, and working through difficult situations is an ongoing journey.
If you can master your mind, you will become a better poker player. The problem, however, is that most people have a misconception about how to strengthen their mind. They believe that solving puzzles, such as a poker game, is what it takes to build that strength.
The truth is, however, that mental discipline requires difficult exercises. It’s the mental equivalent to weight-lifting. Meditation may be difficult but setting aside the time to sit in a chair, stare at a blank wall, and count your breaths is worth it. At the end of the day, you’ll win more poker chips.
In-Game Mental Game
It’s inevitable. You’re going to find yourself dealing with losses or facing card death. While we can’t control these situations, we can always control how we react to them. By forming better reactions, we’ll then set ourselves up for success going forward.
Maintain focus on the game by getting into the habit of sitting up straight, taking a mindful breath, and scanning the stacks before entering a hand. Don’t wait until you’re flustered to maintain your mental game. Instead of waiting for your mental game to break, conduct regular check-ins to keep it running. You don’t wait for your car’s engine to overheat before you change the oil. Do the same for your head.
Pay attention to what’s going on at the table and within yourself. Once you’ve cultivated that awareness, you’ve already gone most of the way towards mastering your in-game mental game.
A Holistic Approach
Mental game, however, goes beyond the poker table. We can start by developing a warm-up routine to calibrate our state of mind. Before you sit down to play, spend a few minutes in silence, focusing on your breath, and steadying yourself. This balancing act will help you to achieve the fortitude you need to stay strong in-game.
It’s also important to remember gratitude. It’s hard to stay grateful when nothing seems to be going right, but the key is to just be grateful that you have to opportunity to play this awesome game. Poker is a lot of fun. Just be happy that you have the time and means to play it.
By putting yourself in an overall positive state of mind, you’ll have an easier time staying grounded when you’re in game. That means you’ll make better decisions and win more chips!