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 email@example.com
I'm going crazy here. I play tight-aggressive poker like I'm supposed to all night long only to see all of my money get sucked away by idiot donkeys online. They draw out on me on the River all of the time. –Part of an email sent by Chris M.
I often compare lucky poker fish to be something like roller coaster junkies. Summertime is almost here. Inevitably, hordes of teenagers and families will soon be converging on amusements parks across the country to experience the thrills. The ritual is pretty much the same no matter which park you visit. The day begins by paying too much to park, followed up by paying too much for an admission ticket, and then paying too much for food and drinks as the day drags on. We look past these costs, though, in order to experience the rush of the rides. In reality, though, we spend an extreme minority of our amusement park day on the rides. Instead, most of our time is spent toiling in the maze-like lines as we await our turn. The biggest queue lines are always at the most popular attractions: the monstrous and speedy roller coasters that get our adrenaline really pumping. The money spent and the waiting time is all mentally justified in those fleeting few moments of excitement. We leave at the end of the day tired, but satisfied that our investment was worth it. In short, we had a good time.
This roller coaster mentality is exactly what is driving a huge proportion of poker players out there. Log onto any online poker room and you will instantly see what I mean. There are players on every table who are simply there to experience the rush. They over bet an all-in bluff from terrible position. They call bets with one-outer draws. They are in it for the thrill. They may lose money over time. They may invest a bunch of time in poker and never improve. But just like those of us who leave the amusement park satisfied with the day, a thrill-junkie poker player is OK with the long-term negatives in light of their short-term excitements!
You have to believe in yourself and in poker statistics in your quest. Playing good poker does not assure you a winning experience every session. Instead, it assures you a winning experience in the long-term, overall. Control yourself, your emotions, and you will outlast those terrible suck-outs on the River to make yourself a nice profit. Take advantage of those roller-coaster poker players!
I do better when I have stupid side-bets riding on the action. If I have a $5 bet with a buddy on who will last longer in a tournament I usually do better. If I have a bet with a friend that the person who makes the least at a cash game has to be the beer-fetcher, then I usually do better. It is like just the game is not enough anymore. If I don't have an extra bet on it I space out or play dumb poker. Is this a problem? - Emailed by Bobby R.
Counselors often hear individuals ask the fateful question, "Do you think that is a problem?" Generally, those who are asking this question already know that the answer is a resounding 'yes.' If you spend your time and energy worrying if there is a problem, your subconscious certainly knowing there is work to do. Your main issue seems to be that a silly added side bet helps you to focus and, ultimately, play better. Although professional poker players are certainly known to toss out wild prop bets as they play, they do not need those side bets to spark their play and their focus. I see no harm in these bets between friends, but I find fault in that your play seems to improve when they exist. It signals that you can not effectively self-motivate. Instead, you need a friend or other external motivator to get your energy enacted. Poker is an individualized sport. There is no coach assigned to give rousing pre-game speeches to get you "up" for a game. There are no teammates that provide the pathway for you to follow. Instead, you have to look inward at all times for your own confidence, energy, internal drive, and your overall play. You wrote, "It is like just the game is not enough anymore." That statement really rings alarm bells in my ears. It is time to reevaluate yourself and your game. If you must, take a short break from the game to get your mind straight and your heart back into the game. Poker is purely psychological in nature, and your personal poker psychology is way off the mark right now.
Keep those questions coming!! Carlisle14@hotmil.com
Ed Note: Paradise Poker have fantastic tournament action. We suggest you give them a try.