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When Playing Poker Sometimes You Just Have to Gamble to be a Winner

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One of the biggest problems with regards to poker is the level of variance that exists within the game. I had a terrible tilt problem some years ago but at the very heart of tilt is one key factor. In nearly all cases tilt is caused by losses at the table.

You could say that it is caused by other factors not being in harmony within your day to day life. However if you arrive at a table and immediately win money then I don’t think that anyone would tilt.

While a negative frame of mind may increase the negative fluctuations after bad beats and outdraws, ultimately it is financial loss that triggers destructive behaviour at the poker table.

Now we have to get to the bottom of why this is the case and I mentioned that there is one factor above all others that causes this. In my opinion tilt is caused by trying to exert total control where there can be no total control. Whatever you do in poker, however well you play, however badly your opponents play and however much you work on your game……the bottom line is that you will still incur losses.

You could be the tightest player at the table and only get all in with the best hand but you cannot possibly have any control over the arrival of further board cards.

If you could control these things then the game would be crooked. Because it isn’t crooked then you cannot possibly control the outcome of the hands. All you can do is control how well you play and nothing more.

So because there is so much that we cannot control in a poker game then our results in the super short term are actually almost like gambling. It is a bit like roulette where you are playing as the house. There are 18 red numbers and 18 black numbers on a single zero wheel along with zero of course.

Any player that bets red or black will lose half their wager should zero arrive. This house edge is small but taken over a large sample size is more than enough to guarantee a profit. Whatever the casino does, it cannot control the outcome of the spins or where the players place their bets or for how much.

So we can say exactly the same thing in so much that there is an awful lot that the casino cannot control despite having an undisputed edge.

This is why as an ex-croupier I have worked countless shifts where the casino has lost money. I have even known losing weeks and even losing months. However I have never known a losing quarter of a losing year. This is purely because of the much larger sample size where the results start to approach the actual EV. As a poker player that strives to become a successful player then you need two things to happen.

Firstly you need to develop a poker game that gives you an edge and then you need to accept that in the super short term at least that you are only one step removed from actual out and out gambling. Once you accept this then losses cannot harm you because you have already mentally accepted them before the session. Different players have different mind-sets when it comes to playing poker and accepting losses.

Whatever mental crutch you choose to use is up to you. For example you try having a stop loss limit of say $200 if you play NL50. If you say to yourself that you are going to spend a $200 budget today and quit once you reach that limit then losses become easier.

You could even ask yourself how many times you have spent $200 in a day on evenings out or buying clothes etc and rationalise it that way.
It is when you think of $200 as a “loss” that problems occur.

When you buy something for $200 then you can physically see the item what you have bought or in the case of a meal out the actual food and drink. However if you want to “buy” something in a poker game then it has to be something more abstract.

If you leave the table minus $200 then you need to tell yourself that you bought something for that money in the same way that you would have done had you gone into town and bought some new clothes.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player who plays online at 888poker.

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