This is undoubtedly one of the most important skills to learn if you ever want to take poker seriously. It’s very easy to play your best when you’re running good, anyone can do it. But when the cards turn against a player, so many of them sabotage their own chances of success because they let their emotions overcome the calm clarity of playing good poker.
Ego is the enemy of a poker player, but don’t confuse this with confidence. Having faith in your ability is very positive, but feeling like you need to 4 bet a player because you don’t like the fact he’s made you fold the river twice in 30 minutes, that’s not a logical thought process, it’s an emotional one. Inside your own mind you need to explain to yourself the fact that your opponent may be getting good cards, and make sure each action you take is an action you can justify by logical means.
Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re not getting your fair share of luck and it will frustrate you, but our view of what’s fair is often skewed. If you have AA against KK for instance and you win, you don’t feel like you got lucky after the cards were turned over, things simply turned out as they should do 80% of the time. But if we apply some maths to this, we can see that if the pot is $10 and you win it, you’ve won 100% of the pot. You were only entitled to 80% of it. So you have in fact run a little bit above expectancy by winning the pot, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Just remember that at the end of your life, the profit you make from poker will come down to the decisions you made when you were running good, bad, and anywhere in between. Luck evens out on a long enough time line and it’s not in your hands to ever alter that. Your decisions are moulded in your hands, no matter how you feel, whether you’re tired or drunk, or upset. Our performance levels are proven by psychological studies to drop off when we have too much or too little emotion. Learn control your mind so that you are engaged in what’s going on at the table, without letting it ever overwhelm you emotionally.