Poker Strategy

Unnecessary Poker Things

Unnecessary Poker Things

How many things have you already done today that really didn’t need to be done? How many emotional reactions have you had this week that added no value to your life? How many self-defeating thought patterns have you heard echo inside your head recently?

When taking honest inventory of our daily experience, we quickly see just how accurate the Stoic philosopher Seneca was in writing: Until we begin to go without them, we don’t realize how unnecessary many things truly are.

Perhaps he was speaking more literally – that you don’t need a donkey to get to the market (or whatever unnecessary things were 2000 years ago when Seneca lived) – but the advice carries much heavier weight when directed at our emotional and mental processes.

How many “things” that do not serve us do we allow to infect our minds each day? How many of those make their way to the poker table with us? How many unnecessary things do we allow to add friction to the infinitely challenging process of not going broke?

3 Unnecessary Poker Things
Negative Self-Talk

On a short enough timeline, everybody is a loser in poker.

I’m going to lose. You’re going to lose. We’re all going to lose.

What we can’t lose — what we can’t allow ourselves to lose — is the belief that, regardless of the many forces at play, ultimately we hold the power to succeed in the thing we are most passionate about. There is no challenge we can’t overcome, no hardship we can’t learn from. Anybody saying otherwise, our own mind included, must be aggressively denied the opportunity to exert its influence over our self-belief. 

“For those who have conquered the mind, it is their friend. For those who have failed to do so, the mind works like an enemy.”


Speaking of the enemy mind…

If I run into a wall 100 times, who is responsible for my pain? Me? Or the wall?

And if I get tilted every time I play, who is at fault for losing my money?

The reality is that tilt shouldn’t even be an issue because it’s predictable – it shows up in more or less the same way each time: A pain point is triggered – taking a bad beat, busting on the bubble, feeling embarrassed by a questionable play – and a surge of unpleasant emotion surges through the mind and body. Players inexperienced in emotional regulation allow that surge to set off a whole host of self-destructive behaviors. Chasing losses, moving up in limits, trying to win every pot.

However, a player experienced in the art of non-reactivity, brings awareness to the familiar process of tilt. He or she studies it, finds patterns that continuously present themselves and makes the choice to stop running into walls. They make a plan to counter or redirect the natural course of events during a period of tilt and keep themselves safe from the harm that will inevitably come if they remain unchanged in their ways.

  • What are the earliest signs of tilt that I notice in myself?
  • What will my immediate actions be upon detecting them during play?
  • What will I do if those immediate actions fail?
  • What emotional, physical or psychological action of mine will signal that it is immediately time to quit, no matter what the (tilted) mind says?

Tilt shouldn’t be an issue – because it’s predictable.

Added Gamble

Poker is a game that holds infinite gamble – an endless string of hands heavily influenced by luck, randomness, chance. Those who have mastered survival in a game designed to punish a lack of discipline understand that inside the game is exactly where the gamble should stay. Gamble must be not be permitted to spill out of the game and seep into life.

We risk more than we can afford to lose.

We must not put ourselves, nor our loved one in jeopardy in the name of the game.

The game doesn’t want it. It wants us to keep playing. To get better. To funnel passion

into excellence.


No added gamble — no unnecessary things — required.



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