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The Poker Counselor's Corner (4)

The Poker Counselor's Corner (4) 0001

Editor's Note: In addition to being a poker enthusiast, gambling columnist, and lecturer, John is a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and practices in his home state of Pennsylvania. He has a Master of Arts degree in Counseling from West Virginia University, and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Lock Haven University. You can arrange for interviews or speaking engagements with "the Poker Counselor" at

I get bored at the table. This is especially true when playing online. I hunger for action and start playing with poor starting hands. It ends up costing me money every time. What should I do? - Taylor from Portland, Oregon

Although it seems every knowledgeable poker player understands that being patient at the table is a key to success, many of us have serious problems implementing patience in a consistent manner. There are several factors at play with this issue. One of the primary problems is our expectations of the game. With the television filled with exciting No-Limit tournaments, which are always carefully edited to show the watcher the biggest bluffs and wildest hands, we expect poker to be an event of nearly non-stop action. Poker veterans will certainly tell you that patient play is a must in the long-run, especially in the limit games. You see, our culture in general has bred us to desire instant gratification. With convenience and immediacy being the norm in daily life, we have troubles shifting our focus and slowing ourselves for a poker game. You should never fall into the trap of thinking that patience is something that you are born with (or not). This narrow view prevents a player from working to the root of this common mental hiccup, and limits the ability in fixing that shortcoming. Like all basic personality traits, some people are indeed naturally more patient than others. With that, though, you can always work to maximize and hone your traits. Patience is best strengthened through concentrated mental efforts. Using basic intra-personal Cognitive Psychology, the key is to carefully think about what is driving your emotions and actions. Beneath your impatient attitude and desire for action are probably basic thoughts which are improper and unhelpful. Combat these thoughts by replacing them with accurate and beneficial "self-talk." I often instruct players to use visual cues to help remind them of this exercise. For instance, I've had some players take in a deep breath each time the button moves past them, evaluating their overall play and patience on the last round. Before long, the button passing in front of them becomes an automatic reminder to stay focused and patient. Other players use similar strategies, such as taking a five minute break at each hour to get re-focused and mentally zoned-in on staying steadfastly patient. Taylor, you've identified the problem. Now it is up to you to be dedicated to fixing it in a timely fashion. You can be patient. Remember that your thoughts are the primary force behind emotions and actions.

can I get other players on tilt? - Question posted by SlimPoker at an online forum

When looking to get others on tilt, you are trying to envoke an emotional reaction from them which will, ultimately, benefit you. Controlled manipulation of another person's thoughts and emotions is a practice of intense, focused poker psychology. One avenue of prompting tilt would cause you to become very unpopular, as it involves being openly rude, obnoxious, and impersonal. Put simply, if you act like a jerk, know-it-all, or bully you are sure to get others anxious to call your raises. If you'd rather not play the role of the table goon, you can get others on tilt in a more subtle and skilled manner. Not only will you enjoy consistent winnings along the way, you will have players beginning to literally fear sitting near you to play. Tilt is not always driven by true anger. Instead, the roots of tilt can be found with other emotions such as frustration, embarrassment, discomfort, or nervousness. After you've identified a player or two who are likely to be susceptible to tilting, use any opportunity to "push their buttons." Basically, you want to place continually, steady pressure upon the target. Do so by raising their blinds when the opportunity arises, as many players find this to be a personal attack on "their" invested chips. Pressure them more by taking time to make decisions when in a pot against them. Even if they've re-raised your steal attempt and you know you are going to fold your junk hand, take plenty of time to make them sweat and feel the pressure. Stare downs do indeed work. If you feel uncomfortable when staring directly into another person's eyes, simply shift your eyes to look instead at the eyebrow. To the person you are looking at, it still seems you are fixed into their eyes. Then, between hands and during down time, occasionally toss glances in his direction. When he notices that you are keeping an eye on him so closely, he will begin to feel uncomfortable and defensive. His mind will be running through many things, but his poker game is not likely to be his main focus. Now that he is off-balance, you should crank-up your efforts and apply more pressure. He will feel like the challenge is too much to back-down from, and will soon call nearly any raise that you throw out. He'll have an uncanny drive to show you that he is the boss, so he's praying to catch you in a total bluff to reassure himself and his own psyche. Take advantage of this by bleeding his chips away when you have good hands. At the end of the day, you will have a reputation started as a sharp player who should be feared.

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