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Mental Poker How to stay focused and why

Article By: RuffPoker.com

In poker the most common reason why people lose money is because they do not have the correct mental state to play a hand. Whether it be failing to realise your opponent’s style, going on tilt, or simply chasing bad calls, your psychological approach to the game of poker will determine your level of success.

Certainly when you move up the levels of poker, and most definitely when you reach big stakes tables and start to play against professionals, you need to play a solid game of mental poker. First and foremost those who are successful do not consider poker to be a game of fun. They don’t use the term ‘sociable’ or ‘entertainment’. Poker is all about the business of making money, as such you can only succeed with a mental approach that is disciplined and level headed, whatever the cards may bring.

The mental side of poker takes time and experience. You have to feel the pain of bad beats and losses, you have to learn to be patient and wait for the right hands against the right kind of opponent. These lessons learned over time must be analyzed if you are to create the right mental approach to your poker play. Don’t be naive and think every hand you lose is down to bad luck or a bad beat. You will have made errors, made poor calls, raised bets unnecessarily, slow played until somebody caught up. After a while you will be able to look back on hands with a rational mind set, learn from the mistakes you’ve made and use them as a positive. You have to take this journey if you are going to learn. Nobody ever plays poker and wins big money right from the get-go. As you play more hands you develop a better mental approach with clearer strategies and a heightened state of rationality.

Poker is a fascinating game because of the psychology involved in winning and losing. It is unique in that you must take as much interest in your opponents cards as with your own. A good mental approach to poker demands that you study the behavior of others and the actions they take. It also demands that you remain tight and aggressive in your own game, never getting too high after a win, never getting too low after a loss. Composure and patience, that is the key.

Complicating matters is the fact that every opponent has different traits and styles. Poker players are tight/loose, passive/aggressive in varying measures. You must study how they react to the pressure of a bet, how often they bluff, what they call with, in order to build an effective mental strategy. Of course, the mental approach to poker is important at a real table. But here you have other factors to consider, body language, communication, etc, whereas within the online poker community everyone is just a caricature on your screen. You cannot look into their eyes or study what they do with their chips when they are in contemplation of the next move. Couple this with the fact that online poker is so fast paced and each player so nondescript you need to pay close attention to what is going on to be effective, hence the mental approach to poker really does come to the fore. Key factors to look out for are a) do people bluff, if so from what position and how much? b) what hands do people call and raise with? c) are they loose/aggressive, tight passive, or tight/aggressive? If they are the latter, think about moving on, this is the kind of player that dictates terms at your table.

The mental approach to poker takes you past the realms of what hands to play and what to fold. It takes you out of a comfort zone of playing sociably or for the quick buzz of a few dollars. Mental poker is the art of understanding human behavior. First, study your own traits and weaknesses, eradicate your errors in judgment and temperament flaws. Only then can you start to appreciate how others may be acting and get a feel for their playing styles. Once you have this solid mental approach, will you begin to see the benefits in your play.