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5 Tips To Shift Your Mindset in Poker and Transform Today’s Losses into Tomorrow’s Victories
“Love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.” — Carol Dweck
In our previous posts (here, here, here, and here), we delved into the three ways of losing at poker and why they should not be considered detrimental, particularly in the grand scheme of things. In this last installment, I’d like to give you five actionable steps you can take to convert losses into wins and cultivate the mindset of a winning poker player:
Embrace the Why: Before you sit down, during play, and after you get up from the poker table, you should constantly remind yourself of the primary reason you play poker in the first place: for the sheer enjoyment of the game. Yes, we all want to make money when we play, but that better not be the primary reason you play. There are many easier ways to make money than grinding on the felt. No, we play poker because it’s fun. It’s our passion. It’s the best game ever invented, and we can’t help getting excited when we post that first ante or blind and the cards are dealt. And yes, even losing during a session can be part of that fun. When you accept this part of poker, you acknowledge its inherent short-term volatility that often lies beyond your control. If you struggle to accept this reality, it might be time to pursue another hobby. However, if you can wholeheartedly embrace it— well, then embrace it! Bad beats, coolers, and mistakes are all frequent occurrences in the game you willingly play. There’s no excuse to get upset about a loss.
Value the Bad Players: Over time, most of your profits in poker will come from less skilled players who make errors. Occasionally, these players will get lucky. Interestingly, it is this perception of poker as a game of luck that entices them to return. As a skilled poker player, this is actually beneficial for you. Remember that if you would rather not play against poor players, then who exactly do you want to play against?
Trust in the Math: Poker is a long-term endeavor. Over time, the number of coolers will even out, and bad beats will eventually translate into profits. If you repeatedly make sound decisions and get your chips in with a statistical advantage, you stand to make substantial gains. Don't fret over the opponent's momentary stroke of luck. I would choose math and the long-run over a player's short-term luck any day. You should too. Embrace opponents who play questionable hands and rely on long-shot odds, as they can and will be a lucrative source of income for you.
Reflect, Don't Dwell: In the words of Rooster Cogburn from the original True Grit, "Looking back is a bad habit." What's done is done. Sure, evaluate if you played the hand correctly. If you didn’t, write it down and learn from it and improve. If you played the hand correctly, remind yourself that individual results hold no significance, regardless of outcome. You are immune to the caprices of short-term luck. Your bankroll is robust enough to weather these sporadic variances. What truly matters, and the sole focus of your play, is making optimal decisions. Strive to make sound choices, period, and then let the chips fall where they may.
Take a Breather: When everything else fails and you feel yourself tilting because of the dumb luck of an unskilled opponent or a big avoidable mistake you just made, take a break. Step away for a round or two. Take a deep breath or go for a walk. Then return to this list and rediscover your inner fortitude. Get back in the game with renewed determination.
The Bottom Line:
Losing a poker hand may not be enjoyable, but understanding that there are only three ways to lose, and that each of them has a silver lining when approached with the right mindset, can provide valuable perspective. Embrace bad beats as evidence of your sound decision-making. Let coolers wash over your psyche as mere fluctuations inherent to the game. And learn from your mistakes so that they don’t happen again. By adopting these three principles, you can transform individual losses into overall victories in the long run.