Timing, aggression and strategy are all important tools in
any pro poker player’s arsenal. However, the most important skill a player can
learn is emotional control. Bad beats
are an unavoidable part of the game. The more a player can maintain his emotional equilibrium, the more successful that player will be in the long run.
Here are some methods to avoid going “on tilt” after a bad beat.
Bad beats are your friends
Experienced players understand that the only thing certain at the poker table is uncertainty. Lower pairs crack aces, straights get run over by a runner-runner flush, and a full house can lose to a lucky straight flush. These players also understand that bad beats are statistical anomalies. It’s not that they don’t happen or aren’t’ supposed to happen. In fact, they happen just as often as they should over the course of thousands of hands.
A bad beat may tempt some players into playing bad hands in disadvantageous positions. Players must also understand that a strong hand will hold up much more often and that bad beats are rare occurrences. The best way to play after a bad beat is to tighten up and play for the long term, rather than chasing unfortunate losses. Smart poker players let the flow of the game determine their playing style. A single bad beat should not force a player into changing their style and making bad decisions.
Don’t hate, congratulate
Bad beats are typically the result of bad players making bad decisions and catching a lucky card. Some veteran players may be tempted to rant at the lucky dog and tell him everything he did wrong. Too often, these players arm their opponents with the ammunition they need to make better decisions. Instead of showing off their knowledge of the game, the players should encourage their opponents into making more bad decisions. Players should remember that their opponents’ mistakes are the biggest source of their own profits, so complimenting a bad player on his luck will win more pots than lecturing him on his failures.
Read other players
Another way to avoid tilting is to take yourself out of the hand entirely. Instead, watch the players in the hand as if you were watching a TV broadcast of the event. A few hands’ worth of observation and patience can net a big gain later in the session if you can pick up on betting patterns, facial expressions and vocal inflections that give away the strength of an opponent’s hand.
Take a walk
When all else fails, you can take a walk away from the table for a few hands. If the session is a cash game, a few minutes away from the table can save a large chunk of change. If the game is a tournament, players may not have that luxury, but should try any way possible to step away from the table and gather their thoughts.
Expert players understand that decisions based on logic and observation will always be more profitable than those made from fear and anger. Players who play while “steaming” will soon find nothing left in their bankrolls but vapor.