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The Poker Counselor's Corner (49)

The Poker Counselor's Corner (49) 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

A friend of mine has talked to me about working together at the online tables. Since he's away at college, he thinks that we could get away with colluding because we won't look like we live close to each other. I'm starting to get cold feet about the entire thing. - Posted at an online forum by Corona_Kid

For most people, it is much more than a simple fear of getting caught that leads to the hesitation. For all of us who love this game, there is an inherent code of ethics that seeps into our personal mindsets. Most players see cheating as a means to undercut the integrity of this great game as well as their own personal integrity. Along with that, most players do not have a positive emotional reaction to money won via underhanded methods. It all comes down to the basic psychological drive that leads us to play the game. You see, for a vast majority of players poker is not necessarily about the cash that is won or lost. Instead, most of us play poker for the psychological aspects much more than the financial aspects. We play to appease our competitive drive, for instance. Many play in order to enjoy the quest toward personal betterment. Winning should induce pride, an ego-boost, and a rush of positive energy. Winning via colluding or cheating will not produce such psychological outcomes. Instead, cheaters are often shameful of themselves and their methods. Their egos are actually harmed by the winning effort via cheating, causing their sense of self-worth to drop. Ironically, cheaters are often compelled to keep cheating from this reaction. The cheater's mind can not psychologically resolve the battle between the results and the negative emotional reaction. The cheater assumes that winning more money will help to overshadow the self-shame and bruised ego. Thus, the cheater ups the stakes and tries to win more money through more unfair tactics! When this does not psychologically satisfy the cheater, another effort is made to make up the gap via more cheating. This cycle can lead to dangerous outcomes with more and more risky cheat attempts. I know that I've pained a rather bleak picture considering it is just you and a college buddy considering some simple collusion, but I have witnessed such "innocent" beginnings cause negative personal struggle. I strongly advise you to steer clear of testing out the collusion tactics. Instead, focus on improving your game and winning in a pure poker fashion. You are sure to find that even a small profit won via great play feels much more satisfying than a big win achieved via cheating.

I've read your advice about not playing on tilt. I was wondering about your thoughts on playing while sick? I stayed home from work with the flu and played poker online the whole time. I ended up just about even. Do you think it was a mistake to play while being sick? - emailed Jayson S.

First, allow me to address your opening sentence stating that I advise not to play while tilting. The viewpoints that I've expressed are more focused on overcoming tilt, playing through tilt, and doing mental exercises to prevent tilt from ever occurring. Not playing poker at all when tilting can be a difficult proposition, as we are often forced to play due to tournament schedules or our own personal time schedules. I feel that we can all work to overcome tilt at the table. That being said, let me turn to the heart of your question: playing while ill. I suppose that like many aspects of poker, it depends. It boils down to the degree of the sickness, your physical and intellectual state, and the levels that you are playing. If you are honestly sick, it may be wise to drop down a level or two before venturing into a cash game. Consider this a bit of an experiment, testing the waters to see how sharp you can play. I might even log into a lower level game that takes a bit more concentration to read, such as an Omaha Hi/Lo. If you are able to play well at this sort of game, which takes mental focus and poker savvy, then you are probably in good shape to forge into higher limit games and different variants. I might avoid any multi-table tournaments, if possible. Since such a tournament may take a couple of hours to complete, you can really not predict how your illness and fatigue might affect you over that amount of time. A true key is to be sure that your physical illness does not have a negative impact on your emotional or intellectual state. Will you be able to stay patient? Will you be able to stomach a bad beat on the River without spiraling into tilt? In total, I am not opposed to playing when a bit under the weather. Just enter cautiously and play smart by doing steady self-evaluations to be sure your play and focus is acceptable.

Keep those questions coming!!

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