Think like a winner: Mental strength
Originally written for PKR’s Raise your game,
The next step in my campaign against our inner demons, by Sofia Lövgren
I know a poker player who knows everything about the latest poker strategies. I’ve seen him outplay the toughest opponents and I’ve heard his brilliant hand analysis. I’ve seen him grow his bankroll quicker in one day than most of us could do in a month. There’s only one small problem – it only takes a couple of bad beats and he goes totally mad. He throws the mouse into the wall, screams at his girlfriend, kicks his poor dog and that’s only the beginning. He will then enter a high stakes table and lose the whole months profit in thirty minutes.
Is this guy a good poker player? My answer is clearly no. He is a huge talent but still not a long term winner. To be a winner, you must be able to combine poker skills with the right mental strength.
Don’t be a boiled frog
If a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is gradually heated, it will not be aware of the threat until it’s too late and it will be cooked to death. This could also happen to a poker player.
Confidence is vital but complacency is lethal, so never stop reviewing your game. Otherwise you will slowly get worse as a player, blaming thousands of different reasons for the shrinking profits. Then suddenly one day you realize that you’ve turned from a winning poker player into a boiled frog.
Am I really playing good poker? Can I muck a hand when I know I’m probably beat? Do I value bet thin when I should? What about 4-betting more? Instead of wasting mental energy being upset about running below EV, you should focus on these kinds of questions.
An honest analysis of your game through Hold’em Manager or similar software will give you information about leaks before it’s too late and your bankroll and confidence are gone. Don’t forget, alone is not strong! It’s so much tougher to dig yourself out of the hole on your own. You have to involve other people you trust. Lessons with a poker coach could be quite expensive but probably extremely profitable. I’ve learned more from two hours of professional review of my game than I normally do in months. Do it! Just contact the poker player whose game you admire and ask for two hours of coaching.
A race car without brakes will soon end up in flames, which is what tilt control is about, but obviously the gas pedal also plays a role in winning a race.
Would you say “everyone can’t win – someone has to come last. Maybe I should take that spot”? No. If you want to be a winner you have to think like a winner and be willing to step out of your comfort zone every day and challenge yourself. If you get the chance to do something different or even scary, don’t run away, try it and you will learn something new. Did you know that if you are right handed and decide to only use your left hand for some time, it will positively influence your brain and intelligence! Try to implement something new in your poker game every week, like 4-betting light more frequently, even if it costs you money in the short term. Challenging yourself is necessary and it’s bound to hurt.
Set tough but achievable short term goals. Celebrate when you meet them; make sure it’s with somebody who isn’t jealous. It makes you feel good and will give you loads of positive winning energy and an extra boost to continue the success. That’s why you should look for excuses to celebrate. And you deserve it!
The Nike concept – Just do it!
You have to realize that others don’t really care – at all – about your great potential or what you say you will deliver tomorrow. The only thing that matters is what you do now. Stop talking and start doing! No excuses, and don’t decide to start tomorrow – start now!
Miss part 1? Watch out for the final part in this series next week, when I talk tilt!