Poker is a game of both luck and skill. That means that there’s always going to be a combination of factors that go into every outcome, some of which you can control and many that you can’t. That’s why, if you want to become a better poker player, you need to learn to focus on what you can control.
Not only is this huge for your mental game, as it helps you work through variance and deal with losses, but it also ties directly into your win-rate. Poker is a game chock-full of complex thought processes, and our brains only have so much bandwidth. We want to optimize our attention by giving the most time to the things that we can influence.
What You Can Control
Let’s start by talking about what’s in our control. First, the most important thing is the amount of time and dedication we give to studying poker. If you want to get better at poker, you need to spend plenty of time away from the table studying common situations and the math that goes into making good decisions. It takes discipline, but it’s fully in your control.
You also have control over game selection. Don’t play bad games. Find a table that you can beat, and then play it a ton.
Some other out-of-game factors are also in your control. You get to decide how to manage your bankroll, such as by not playing games that are too big and will risk too many of your chips. You also get to dictate many of the influences in your life, such as positive or negative influences via social media, and these directly affect your mental state.
Finally, you get to decide your wagers. You choose when to bet and their sizes. This is one of the most fundamental decision points in poker, so you want to devote a lot of mental energy to solving this problem.
What You Can’t Control
The most common thing that people focus on that’s outside of their control is the cards they’re dealt and the cards their opponents have. Sure, you want to think about your ranges, but don’t get caught up lamenting your bad luck when you experience card death or when you get a bad beat.
The cards are random. It’s not important what cards you’re dealt. What makes you a good poker player isn’t getting lucky. It’s how you use your cards.
You also can’t control other people’s behavior. If someone is rude and trying to tilt you off, just ignore them. Or if they’re making crazy plays like betting huge all the time, don’t get mad about it because you can’t ‘play your game.’ Try to adapt and focus on what you can control: your own play.
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