How Can I Improve My Self Control In Poker?

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Self Contol In Poker

Poker self control.

Self control is something that we all like to think we have mastered, when in actuality our self-discipline in most situations is poor.

We all spend that extra 15 minutes in bed in the morning when we need to get up. We all order that take-away on Friday night when we told ourselves that we wouldn’t. We all spend far too long watching TV when we know that we need to tidy the flat.

A lack of self control in most cases is pretty harmless. We all could do that little bit extra in our everyday lives to get more stuff done, but at least a lack of discipline isn’t going to cost us any money. In poker however, it can and it most certainly will.

The ultimate test of self control in poker.

You’ve made it to the river with your Qc Jd on a board of Jh 7s 6h 4c 3h. You’re first to act, so you check. Your opponent then makes a bet 2/3 the size of the damn pot. What are you going to do?

  • Are you going to call even though you are confident that you have the worst hand?
  • Or are you going to fold and live with the fact that there is an outside chance that you could have had the best hand?

It’s not a fun decision is it?

However, emotions and fun aside, we both know what the right play is here. The question is though, are you the sort of person that will regularly call in spots like these even though you know it’s almost definitely not the right action?

(Don’t worry, you can tell me the truth. I can’t hear you so I’m not going to tell anyone.)

The reason behind lack of self control in poker.

Why do you call that last bet on the river when you almost know for a fact that you have the losing hand?

  1. Because you don't have enough confidence in your judgment as a poker player.
  2. You need to satisfy that lust for answers and complete information.

1) Confidence in your decisions.

If you were always 100% confident in your decisions, you honestly wouldn’t have the slightest concern about folding when you believe you have the worst hand. It’s the uncertainty that causes all the problems.

To improve your confidence you need to improve your game. The more experience you have and the greater your strategical knowledge is, the greater your confidence in the accuracy of your judgements.

If you’ve put your opponent on an accurate range throughout the hand (see the REM process - you will like it), you’ll have a far easier time folding than if you simply made your way to the river on guesswork and hope. The more information you can give yourself the better.

As I said, the more you learn the more confident you will become.

2) Lust for complete information.

You call because you’re dying to get that final piece of the jigsaw.

It's the same reason why you can't wait for next week's episode of your favourite TV show and why you get excited for that final film in the trilogy.

Is Michael ever going to be able to break Lincoln out of prison in Prison Break? What's going to happen now that it turns out that Darth Vader is actually Luke's father? And what the hell was a polar bear doing on the island in Lost?

You want answers and you hate the "not knowing". It's a natural human reaction, but it's something that you're going to need to suppress if you want to stop throwing money away via horrific calls on the river.

“Knowing” is nice, but having more money is better. You’re not going to care about what your opponent might have had a week from now, but you’re not going to be able to hide the fact that you’ve got $20 less than you should have in your bankroll.

How do you improve your self control?

I don't know, I'm not much of a Tony Robbins. However, you have to work out how much becoming a successful, winning poker player means to you. If you want to become a winner more than you want to satisfy your curiosity, you'll find away. Just like if losing weight and staying alive means more to you than eating McDonalds every day.

If you can't find the willpower somewhere inside you then there is nothing this article or anyone can do to help you. If you can't change yourself then it's going to be impossible for someone else to do it for you.

Don't ever feel that you're the only player in the world that feels a slight sting every time you lay down what could have been a winner, because you're not. There will be times where you actually fold the best hand, but that's part and parcel of being a winning player. Get used to it.

Three steps to better self control in poker.

“X number of steps to improvement” seem to be all the rage in self-help guides, so here are mine.

Every time you come face to face with that ugly urge to call and waste good money on the river (or wherever you know you're about to call when you shouldn't), do 3 things:

  1. Man up.
  2. Fold.
  3. Forget about it.

If you still have concerns about your play then by all means revisit the hand in your post-session analysis.

I can guarantee you that you'll find it a lot easier to justify folding in your analysis than you would be able to in the heat of the moment, so don't let that curiosity control how you play poker.

Successful poker players don’t bring their emotions to the table.

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