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The Poker Counselor's Corner (3)

The Poker Counselor's Corner (3) 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

Hey Counselor! I've had my poker night with my old high school pals and workmates for over ten years now. It's a one time per month game, and it is an absolute blast! After all of these years, my wife has finally sparked an interest in poker due to the WSOP and WPT on ESPN and the Travel Channel. I thought it would be cool and all, but she now wants in on my regular monthly game. I don't want to be a bad guy, but I kinda don't want her to be at the game. It just wouldn't feel right to have her there. - Bob T. from Delaware, submitted via email

You are wise to ask for help and think this through before jumping into this conversation. It sounds like your poker night with friends is more about those friendships than the actual cards. You hope that your wife can understand that her being at poker might feel as awkward as you attending her shopping outings with her best friends. It is clear that you know that approaching this subject in a hasty manner could lead to trouble in the form of hurt-feelings, arguments, and overall tension. I always tell clients to work backwards when facing difficult or touchy situations such as this. In other words, first picture what the ideal outcome would be and what it would look like. In this circumstance, you are probably hoping that the outcome will be a wife-free poker night with her being satisfied (not upset or offended) despite being excluded. That outcome might also involve a different poker adventure for you and the wife. Next, picture the conversation itself in an ideal manner. This might look like a civil conservation where she is working to see your perspectives. Your challenge is to find a way to convey yourself so that she does not get defensive or overly emotional. You have to make it clear that is not your intention to simply exclude her — it is actually about your need to have some time with your buddies. You should work to find a way to include her into your poker life in other ways, such as hosting a couple's poker night. Finally, envision the start of this conversation. How are you going to kick-start the topic and guide it towards your goal? Be prepared to set a comforting tone with your voice and demeanor. Express yourself honestly. Simple honesty should help you carry the conversation through. With the plan in mind, you should be able to enjoy your raucous home game with the buddies AND some poker time with the wife. Unlike poker, this could be a win-win for all!

I hate when we color-up chips during tourneys. I seem to play differently afterward, and I think it is because my mind is telling me I have less chips. Last game I had more than a whole rack of white chips. As soon as they were colored-up to a few green chips, my game just froze-up. What is going on? - Pete from N. Carolina

You are experiencing the amazing power of the human mind. Unfortunately, many times this power is incorrect, making us less successful! Comfort and confidence are keys at the poker table. If you display any weakness, you are sure to be a target. In poker, many of us hold our level of comfort directly with our chip stack. A large stack in front of us is like our own personal fortress, giving us an internal boost of bravado and security. When that stack visually is depleted (even by a simple cashing-in of smaller chips for larger denominations), the mind can get overwhelmed by the loss of that temporary power. Here is a basic in the psychology of this game - do not measure yourself or your ability based on your chips. Are the great professionals that you watch on television ever questioning their ability if they are on a short-stack? I'd say not, as they continue to believe in themselves (and believe they can win) until their last chip is lost. You are relying on a stack of chips to shield a wavering sense of confidence. When you believe in yourself, you will have no problem coloring-up at anytime.

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