The psychology of a winning poker player has very little to do with tricks and ploys. It’s not about bluffing or developing new ways to deceive the opponents. It is mainly about practice, concentration, discipline and mental preparation. Successful musicians carry on practicing continuously for years to come after they learned to play the instrument. Good chess players do not stand a chance in the game without concentration. Mental preparation for athletes is just as important as physical training. Poker is a game of skill not luck; otherwise some players would not be consistently winning and other consistently loosing.
Ask yourself a question, why do I play poker? Do I play because I enjoy the challenge? Do I play to win money? Am I a masochist and I love loosing and giving my money away to other players? Do I play to get an occasional high from stealing a pot? Those are very serious questions, if you are a serious poker player. Players who take poker seriously and are consistent winners usually follow the basic rules below to stay on track with their winnings.
1. Winners look for advantage in every game. Such advantage can come from position, superior skill, weaker players at the table, increased concentration and numerous other factors. If you find yourself at the table where you do not have an advantage it is time to find another table. Remember the famous words of Amarillo Slim “Look around the table. If you don’t see a sucker, get up, because you’re the sucker.”
2. Winners are always in control. Patience, focus and self control area always the key factors to success. If you control yourself you will get up and leave the table when you are tired and avoid unnecessary loses. If you are disciplined you will fold a marginal hand and let a lucky inferior player win that pot. You will also realize and accept if the game is too tough for you and leave it before it is too late.
3. Winners are realistic. The whole gambling industry is built on denial. Every day people go to casinos and deceive themselves in hopes to win the massive jackpot if they just play long enough. Poker is the game where good players can actually win by being realistic. Self delusion will bring nothing but losses. Every game you play ask yourself a question: “Am I being realistic about this hand, this draw, the winning odds or this level of the table?” Every time you allow yourself indulgence of self delusion you will loose.
4. Winners concentrate on the game. It does not matter whether you are still in the pot or not if you want to win you have to be fully alert and take everything that goes around you in. Observe the table all the time, study you opponents, take notes who is loose and who is tight, who is timid and who is aggressive who bluffs too much and who never bluffs. In online poker rooms the software usually offers a convenient tool to take such and use them in the future games.
5. Winners articulate their actions, mentally. Don’t be a looser and never explain the whole table why you made the call or what a great hand you folded, not only it is very bad manners in poker, you also give valuable information away to the other players. However before every action you should mentally say to yourself “I fold, bet, call, raise or check because …” This way you will be making decisions and not just following your instincts.
6. Winners learn from their mistakes and take responsibility for them. Everyone makes mistakes but what separates a winner from a looser is the winner analyses the mistake and looks into the reasons it was made to learn from experience. Winners don’t blame other players, luck, dealer, poker room, bad weather or horoscope. If you are a winning poker player you are the only person responsible for making the mistake the buck stops there.
7. Winners take poker as business. When you play poker there must be no personal feeling between you and the opponent. You can not let feeling rule the game; it does not matter if you play against a girl you fancy or recovering from the last bad beat. To be a winning player you can’t afford to indulge yourself with emotions and satisfy your lust, ego or revenge. Winning players take professional approach and work on winning the money.
8. Winners never stop learning. Just like musicians never stop practicing winning poker players carry on improving their knowledge and strive to get more information about poker strategy, physiology and tactics. They study their own play, the play of their opponents and continuously analyse the research to improve their game. There are unlimited resources available for you in the poker books, in online poker reviews and articles and there are plenty of poker blogs around to improve your game.
The winning factors above are true for all types of poker games; it does not matter if you play poker online or in a casino, in live ring games or in online poker tournaments. It also does not matter if you are beginner and just started to build your bankroll in online poker freerolls or if you have been playing poker years, you can improve you results and become a winning poker player through practice, concentration, discipline and mental preparation. It may be tough but the buck stops on You.