Poker is a game that is loved by many, but only a few people can master it. It is a game of chance, strategy and most of all, psychology. Joining the table without proper mental preparation means you have lost the game before the cards are even dealt. Poker is a game for those with a strong mind, not for the faint of heart.
Many aspects of the game, like variance and bad beats, can have adverse effects on your poker psychology. On the other hand, things like luck or winning a virtual poker tournament can positively impact your state of mind. Variance in poker means there are things that are not under your control. Though you can get your chips before the flop with A-A, but it does not guarantee you will win.
What sets best poker players apart?
What sets apart the best players from most poker players was the psychological habits involved in the game. Because I said psychology, don’t be terrified or think about leaving. You will learn how to use your mind to transform yourself from a losing to a winning poker professional player. If you are prepared for the unavoidable swings as well as steel your psychology, your game will undoubtedly benefit. Below are some of the psychological factors you must keep in mind when it comes to improving your poker psychology.
Opponent modeling in Poker:
Matt Damon’s character in the film Rounders says this about poker, “If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker.” This is vital for opponent modeling. In poker, opponent modeling is a two-pronged psychological ability that allows you to recognize your opponents’ habits, desires and preferred actions as well as evaluate the expected cards of your opponent's hand. Professional poker players use this skill to exploit their opponents’ flaws. Every type of poker player has weaknesses, whether they are an expert or a newbie. The skilled players can spot the flaws and learn how to play their cards to take advantage of them.
For instance, a proficient player is playing against a conservative one who only makes safe bets. They will identify that their opponent will fold if he is not certain that his hand can win. Against a risky player who prefers to bluff, the skilled player would be able to employ the sub-optimal hands that he could not use against the other player. So, opponent modeling is the process of determining which tactic to use to best counter your opponent’s style.
If you want to take your game to the highest potential, then you will need total commitment. The key to total commitment is to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish as a player. Do you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve? What level of success do you want to achieve? Are you ready to put in the effort required to get there? As a player, if you don’t have a clear idea of your objective, you must take some time to think about how you can make it happen and where you want to go.
Your commitment to the poker game will improve if you are totally focused on what you want out of the game. The road to gain excellence is always paved with challenges, some of which may appear unbeatable. Even the poker pro players feel this occasionally. How can one deal with unavoidable hard situations? Total commitment! You can figure out what is in your control and choose the steps you can take in order to improve your situation. Take action and keep your objectives in mind at all times.
The single most significant psychological difference between amateurs and experts was that the skilled players were far more mentally disciplined. Beginners players likely chase their losses and involve themselves in unnecessary risks with their hands. This is called sunk cost fallacy, where the player keeps playing because they try hard to win back their lost money, or they don't fold their hand when the cards don’t go their way since they have already put a lot of money into the pot.
Not only does this mental discipline help them make bets, but it also helps them with practicing their game. Self-discipline is necessary throughout the game, from bankroll management to selection of the game, to in-the-moment game decisions. You can easily go bust if you lose it for a second!
The majority of novice players only play a few games at a time. Possibly you might play once or twice a week with your friends or play online poker free whenever you feel like. However, the skillful players play the game regularly. So, self-discipline when it comes to practicing, betting, and playing logically is a big psychological advantage of the professional poker player.
Self-confidence is essential for success in any aspect of life, whether it is personal or professional. The game of poker is the same way. Many people who play poker on the internet overlook the importance of self-confidence when trying to get better in the game. Self-confidence is simply an understanding that a player knows what they are doing in the game and that their actions are appropriate on the basis of the situation. As you can imagine, it is difficult to perform at the table if you lack self-confidence and feel insecure. It is important to have the right amount of confidence, neither too much nor too little, in order to get great results.
When playing in poker cash games or tournaments, self-confidence is essential when dealing with the broad range of players at the table. If you lack confidence in your poker expertise, you might play too tight and get exploited by your opponents. Having assurance in your skills will help you modify different moves from your opponents and help you acquire more chips. This player’s psychology is usually ignored by the beginner players.
A player who is self-confident in the game might be intimidating. They play fearlessly, and your opponents pick up on this fact. This makes some of your opponents wary of playing against confident players, giving them a psychological advantage over them. So, as you become more skillful in the poker game, you will discover that self-confidence in their skill can be the most valuable tool in their poker arsenal.
When playing poker, many players feel that they are on a roller-coaster performance, where they are at the top of the game and the next moment at the bottom. Proficient players know that there is a lot of variance in poker and that it is a long haul game. Being able to deal with the ups and downs of the game mentally is a great characteristic of a poker player. All seasoned players show something known as mental toughness. To simply put, mental toughness is the skill to perform best in any circumstance.
Mental toughness is crucial when you are dealing with issues, adversity, obstacles, or failure in your personal life or at the table. This helps you play more consistently no matter what obstacles may emerge at the table or elsewhere. It is not something with which one is born. Instead, it is something you can develop. By practicing the game in real-time, one can develop the traits like focus, determination, calm under pressure, self-confidence, emotionally control, etc. To be mentally tough takes a significant amount of mental training and effort on your part. Once you know that your greatest competitor is you, you can start the process of ultimately building your mental toughness.
Final thoughts on the psychology of poker
The best poker players use the above mentioned psychological habits to improve their gameplay and win big. To become a great player, it is essential to master these aspects. Now as you are aware of the technical things, why don’t you put that into practice. You can start the psychological side of the game in your practice session on the Gamentio platform and play free poker online to improve your gameplay. What are you waiting for? Download the free app NOW!