How to Control Your Emotions While Playing Poker

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Emotions. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Controlling your emotions while playing poker often works in your favour, although pulling off a poker face is not always as easy as it appears.

The poker face is a known phenomenon, and while controlling your emotions while playing poker is not always the easiest thing to master, it can make all the difference to your success. Keeping a straight face irrespective of the hand you’ve been dealt could determine the amount of prize money you win. Conversely, losing your cool could spell disaster.

Giving away that you have a perfect hand, or contrarywise, that you have a hopeless one, would brandish you as an amateur and prevent you from reaching your full potential.

Why is it Important to Control Your Emotions While Playing Poker?

The more stressed you feel, and the irater you become, the less you focus on the game and the more silly mistakes you’re likely to make. This leads to a negative cycle of becoming more peeved, losing even more focus, etc.

So, how do you control your emotions effectively while playing poker? Here are some top tips:

Take Breaks

It always makes sense to stroll around the floor when you lose a hand. Physically taking a break from the table helps to give you a better perspective and lets you take several deep breaths to get your blood flowing and refresh your mind. Even if you don’t lose a hand, it still is a great idea to take regular breaks.

Stay Hydrated

It may sound obvious, but staying hydrated at the poker table works wonders when it comes to keeping your mind focused. If you drink a lot of booze, there’s a good chance you’ll end up playing rashly and lose too much money. On the other side, drinking energy drinks or coffee could make you fade out by the end of the night. Drinking water regularly is the best way to maintain focus and keep a clear head.

Breathe Deeply

It can be hard to remain calm and reason when things go wrong. The only way you can make it work is to practice mindfulness, deep-breathing techniques, and meditation when you’re not at the table. You have to make these your second nature so they come automatically when you play. Starting to practice mindfulness for the first time when you’ve just lost a poker hand probably isn’t going to work!

Discuss your Issues

A problem shared is a problem halved. So, if you’re livid about your latest loss, it’s crucial to discuss the situation with your friends. They might have heard you talk about poker a million times before, but that’s what friends are for. Take a break from the table, step away, and talk to your buddies mid-game about how everything seems to be going wrong. Who knows, they might be able to offer you some great advice.

Expectations and Acceptance

One of the biggest problems in poker that often leads to emotional outbursts is the difference between expectations and reality. If you have a good hand and expect to win, but then things don’t go as you planned, you’d naturally be angrier than if you started off with a terrible hand. That’s because you expected a better outcome.

While it’s natural to feel angry in this situation, it’s essential to try and accept that there is always a possible chance of losing, and nothing you do could change it. Being honest about your emotions is helpful because this could help you identify the triggers for your reactions and prevent the anger next time.

Get Professional Help

Sometimes, the best way to handle problems is to go straight to the top. One way to address your emotions while playing poker effectively is to consult a coach or a mentor who could assist you in controlling your feelings. While this is probably a realistic option for professional players, it is worth considering if you gamble a lot or play for high stakes.

A coach can analyse upsetting hands with you and enhance your self-awareness about why you found them so troubling. Knowing things that trigger your negative emotions can enable you to find ways of neutralising these before they throw you off the edge during an important game.