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The Poker Counselor's Corner (30)

The Poker Counselor's Corner (30) 0001

Editor's Note: In addition to being a poker enthusiast, gambling columnist, and lecturer, John is a National Certified Counselor (NCC). 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

I'm tired of listening to my buddy's bad beat stories. How do I get him to shut up about them already? - Posted by Dominic at an online forum

Bad beat stories are like a nasty infection in poker. No matter how we treat it, it seems to fester and grow. It can even be passed onto others, as one poker bad beat story can often lead to others chiming in with their tales of turmoil. Getting someone to stop their storytelling is a tall task. If they are really a good buddy, I can't imagine this one can be too difficult to work on. Lend them an ear once in a while if they took a really tough beat. There is a bit of psychological catharsis in telling people about the toughest that we encounter. It is the same principle that keeps us mental health counselors in business. Talking about emotions and difficult circumstances helps us mentally move past the situation. If you have a nasty car accident or are attacked by a mugger, you may need professional counseling. If a fish catches his one outer on the river to crack your pocket Aces with his 2-7 off-suit, you might at least need a caring friend to hear you complain.

If his bad beat stories become too much of a bore on a consistent basis, just address the situation. Tell him that you're tired of having every one of your conversations revolve around the topic of "the one that got away". Tell him that you can only stomach one bad beat story per month, so he might as well make it a great one! That way he can still vent if he takes an especially bad beat in a tough spot with big $$ on the line, but you don't have to hear about an ugly loss in a meaningless free roll tournament online. Perhaps you could implement the "bad bet story penalty" that some home games have begun to make popular. Basically, anyone who breaks into a bad beat story is required to add an extra buck or two to the prize pool, or has to toss an extra chip into the pot in play! Before I end this question, let me tell you about the terrible beat I took last night on Party Poker. I had pocket Kings on the button and this guy moves all-in with ... ahhhh, never mind.

What's with Hellmuth? How can this guy win tournaments with his terrible attitude, always tilting, and always steaming? I don't get it. I don't get him. -Posted by Camera_Guy at an online forum

I've had chances to interact with Phil Hellmuth away from the cameras. When the media is not watching, Phil's positive characteristics shine through. He is an extremely intelligent guy. He is very competitive. He is as driven as anyone I know to dominate. Winning is not his goal, domination is. He knows poker as well as anyone on the planet, as his 9 WSOP bracelets, WPT final table appearances, and wins at major events such as the National Head's Up Championship might display.

Phil is indeed arrogant and opinionated. He also craves the spotlight. He is not afraid of letting his emotions show when angry or disappointed. That combines to make him a great subject to film and highlight on televised poker. Even without a camera in eyeshot, Phil can indeed be susceptible to tilting. He is an emotional guy and truly expects to win every time he sits down to play. If that does not occur, his emotions can indeed swirl. With his years of big-time experience, though, Phil is very adept at playing through his emotions. He almost uses his anger and frustration as a motivator. It helps him to get even more determined and focused. His arrogance translates into confidence, as well. Phil is so confident that he always trusts his reads, allowing for him to make tough lay-downs of strong hands if his gut tells him to be cautious.

Don't let the television producers lead your total opinion of Phil Hellmuth, Jr. He is much more in control of himself and his emotions than his outbursts might have us believe. Phil can quickly rebound from his emotions, and channel them into a helpful motivator. Overall, he is incredibly skilled. We should all expect him to continue to be a force in poker for years to come.


Ed note: Phil Hellmuth plays, chats, and makes Jopkes at Ultimate Bet

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