The Poker Counselor's Corner (11)
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, speaking engagements, or ask your question to "the Poker Counselor" at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been playing online poker seriously for two years now. Last year I made about $15k and this year I am on track to pass that figure. Well, I was on track. The last three weeks have been appalling. Whenever I play on PS or UB I have my money in 90% with the best hand. I have been losing so frequently and to utter rubbish that my belief in my winning is shot. It is unreal how I can get beat day after day by under pairs, runner-runner flushes and gut shot straights. My pocket pairs always get cracked by the Ax and my AKs get cracked by the pocket pair.
I guess it is time to stop playing for a while but logic tells me that I would want my money all in any time against the type of player I'm encountering. Do I stop playing and wait for a 'change of luck' or do I soldier on? I am not of the camp that believes online poker is rigged but some days I can well see how people think it is. How long should I take a break for or should I just keep my blood boiling on this losing streak? - Submitted by Redhead through Pokernews.com [/B]
Players often mistakenly assume that tilt is a temporary phenomenon. We think that a bad beat will cause us to play recklessly for the next few hands due to the anger over the poor fortunes. After a few hands, we suppose that the emotions will dissipate to allow for more focused play to re- emerge. I label this temporary tilt as "minor tilt," as it is indeed a short-lived negative emotional reaction. What you are experiencing is a full blown case of "major tilt." Your emotional whirlwind has become so encompassing that you question everything: your ability, your motivations, and poker itself. While this major tilt takes hold of your poker life, it creeps into all aspects of your life and feels like a heavy weight to bear. It is within this more severe emotional state that poker players are most personally challenged. In short, these are the kinds of times that ruin would-be formidable poker players.
Overcoming major tilt is no easy proposition. Battling any severe emotional reaction is best accomplished through cognitive restructuring (adjusting the thinking that drives the emotions). Even as a professional Counselor, I am battling emotions that I know I should be able to out-think. After a nasty car accident which caused me to be taken by ambulance to the hospital, I now find it continually uncomfortable to drive past the location of the accident. Although I can label and understand the post traumatic symptomology, and I know quite well how to cognitively restructure, it is still a tough exercise. Your continual bad beats hold some similarities to my car wreck. In some ways, the continual unexpected disappointments at the table have combined to produce traumatic symptoms. You allude to your efforts to mentally work through your sticking points when you mention your "logic" leading you to re-think the situation. You are on the right track, but you have a very long way to go.
I am not a big advocate for avoiding play while tilting. I find that unaddressed emotionality will only boil just beneath the surface, and will quickly resurface when the next bad beat arises. In other words, if you just walk away from the game for a week or two to calm down, you are very susceptible to break down at the next sign of bad luck. Instead of avoiding tilt, I encourage players to endeavor to overcome it. Great players always seem to find a way to do so, and you can as well as you work towards greatness. Face the demons and beat them. Drop down a level or two to find a comfortable buy-in with a comfortable structure. Be sure not to set yourself up for failure - do not EXPECT to take a series of bad beats. The anticipation can only amplify the effects, if it happens. Instead, relish each hand that you happen to win. Pat yourself on the back for each tough lay-down that you are able to muster. In essence, you are attempting to gather your confidence while re-establishing your trust in the game. Your track record (with 15 thousand in profits) displays that you have the makings of a great player. Prove it to yourself by overcoming these dark days of bad beats and bad runs.
I read that online players who call a raise very quickly are usually on a draw. So, I re-raised the guy and ran right into a monster hand. I got busted out of the tournament because I thought I had picked-up an online tell. -Posted at a chat forum by Ashby.
Oops. Chalk it up to experience, Ashby. Remember, live and online tells are not 100% accurate. Instead, they are simply one piece of the puzzle of information to take into account when making a decision. You have to remember that many players are reading the same books of tells and instructional articles that you are. Thus, many out there are intentionally giving off common "reverse tells." Successful use of misinformation can bring some players steady profits. Never allow a tell alone to drive your actions. Make sure that you take your time to evaluate everything that has lead up to that moment of action to make the wisest step.
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