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The Poker Counselor's Corner (21)

The Poker Counselor's Corner (21) 0001

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

In your latest article you said "From my experience, it seems that nobody thinks that they, themselves, deserve a bad beat." I have to say I feel in my case I did need a bad beat. I mean I was an arrogant ass at the table and needed to be put in my place.

I am hypercompetitive, sometimes overly passionate when on the felt. It seems to cause me problems in relationships with the other players and I tend to play "very badly". Actually, I find this trend in my life as well. People normally love me or hate me. I find myself trying to make the ones that hate me love me but in the end its better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you're not.

I have not played a hand for almost a month. It's hard to be stuck on the rail and I really want to get back out there. Can you recommend someplace to play online? My main problem is I'm really a "good hearted guy". From my experience I'm not sure that's a good thing. Can I "honest guy" consistently win at this game? -Emailed by David

Your question is all over the place, David. To be honest, I am not even positive what you are exactly asking me. With that in mind, I'm just going to address a few of the points that I gather from your inquiry and hope that it helps. The first thing that jumps off of the page at me is that your overall confidence is shattered. It seems that you are at a tough place in your life. Perhaps you are relatively young and are trying to establish yourself and your identity. It is clear that you are concerned about keeping up positive relationships with other poker players, you feel that you deserved to take bad beats, and you admit to intentionally changing yourself and your behavior in order to please others. This thought processing follows a similar path to what we therapists see in battered wives and abused children who warp everything in their minds to take blame internally. You've internalized so much negativity and self-loathing that you are going to have a tall task in getting back on track.

Stay away from the poker table until you get your mind and confidence harnessed. Your current emotional state leaves you very susceptible to tilt and poor play. Playing poker now is likely to only make the situation worse. During this poker break, your task is to meet personal success and gain psychological energy. Surround yourself by your true friends - the people that you don't have to act differently around to be accepted. Immerse yourself into things that you enjoy BUT are not competitive in nature, such as cooking, traveling, going to the movies, and playing catch with your dog.

After you have had a sufficient break from the game and are starting to feel better about yourself, read through a book titled "Zen and the Art of Poker: Timeless Secrets to Transform Your Game." This book does not provide too much actual poker instruction. Instead, it helps the reader to understand how to prevent emotions from sabotaging your poker play. A player that I know and admire, Daniel Negreanu, has always understood how his personal life can help or hinder his play. Take his lead and get yourself, your confidence, your mind, and your life in order before taking your next deal.

How do I get over a bad beat? I think about them for days and it really gets to me. -Emailed by Robert B.

The mind can experience mini-impasses whenever a surprising or traumatic event comes our way. The brain tries to process the unexpected event, causing some internal turmoil. Imagine throwing a baseball straight up into the sky. You are absolutely certain that it will come back down to the ground in a few short seconds. If that ball just continues to fly straight up into the air until it disappears into the atmosphere, your brain would go into overdrive. It would be in a state of extreme cognitive dissonance - what you KNOW to be a truth has not occurred. Everything that you know about gravity would be challenged and confused. The same thing happens (on a much less dramatic scale) with each bad beat. You KNEW that your pocket Aces should have beaten your opponent's 7-2 off suit, but two deuces on the flop hit your mind as hard as a baseball that never comes down! Your mind races and replays the events of a bad beat in order to process the events and outcomes. It often helps to use a couple of different techniques to get past the bad beat. First, use a basic visualization technique. Recall the hand as exactly as possible. This time, though, envision yourself catching another Ace on the River in order to win the hand. Focus on the positive emotion that arises when you visualize that pretty Ace. After you've done that, give your mind some different information to focus upon by reading a good book, watching an engrossing TV show or movie, or interacting with a friend. Soon the bad beat will be a distant event that no longer haunts you at every moment.


Ed note: Party Poker have multiple tables available at every limit, 24 hours a day.

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