College Rounder: When Life Becomes a Bad-beat, Step Away from the Table
By Derek Carson
I know what you're thinking. Another guy preaching about the addiction of gambling. Wrong! You see, it's about the big picture. Addiction is only a possible outcome. It's about that unnecessary extra baggage you bring to the card table. It's when that bad run of cards seems to last longer. It's why you lose more hands than usual. This article is about when you mix the pressures of home with the pressures of poker.
This problem can even hinder the pros from playing to the best of their ability. Does Stu Unger ring a bell? He was considered by most to be the greatest no-limit hold'em player of all time. To Unger poker was never a gamble, but his life was. He was very reckless with money and abused drugs. He died at age 42, alone and broke, never fully realizing his highest potential, although he already has won the WSOP 3 times. Who knows how many times he could have become World Champion again. To be a disciplined poker player one cannot be troubled by external conflicts. In life we learn from our mistakes. I hope you can learn from mine.
You may be asking yourself, what does my personal life have to do with my performance in poker? O.k., I'll humor you for a moment. Poker is psychological. Good players recognize weakness. Although you might have mastered your poker-face, you can't effectively hide your reactions to wining or losing a pot. The more frustrated you become, the more they attack. The frustration multiplies. You become tensed, stressed, nervous, and scared. You start making poor decisions, chasing cards, and second-guessing yourself. Your attitude changes from mellow to being openly aggressive and disrespectful towards other players. All it takes is a wound, and then they go for the kill. If you do win you're not really winning, you're just temporarily avoiding disaster. Remember when poker used to be fun? Reality hits. Afterwards you realize your problem is worse off than when you first sat down at the table.
What outside problems? Not all external conflicts are necessarily financial. However, money can be the root of all evil. Good players play within their means. They bring money they're willing to lose to the table, and not next months rent money. If you find yourself thinking - just one more hand, that's all I need - then yes, you have a problem. This is called gambling. I am a firm believer that when played with discipline and proper decision-making, poker is not a gamble. Don't cash-in your paycheck in desperation to double it. If you have bills to pay or mouths to feed don't even dream about sitting down.
Besides money there are many other troubling issues that can prevent you from focusing on the game. You might be experiencing problems with home, school or work. Maybe you're battling with alcohol or drugs. It's not healthy to bring a losing attitude from something like a break-up, lay-off or a failed test to the table. When you do lose those incredible hands, the pain will only hurt that much more.
How can you cure this problem? Make things right. Take care of your obligations, and work out your problems. I know that some advise moving to the lower stake tables, but you should avoid poker completely until you're clear-headed. Poker, like school, demands full attention if you ever want to develop as a solid player. Don't let your lifestyle affect poker, and don't let poker affect your lifestyle. Stop yourself before the real trouble starts.
At school, my teachers like it when I conclude a paper with a quote. Chances are that whatever you've said has been said better by someone in the past. And when writing about poker, Lou Krieger always says it best - "When the cards have evened out in the long run, the true measure of any player's skill is the quality of decisions he made. Make better decisions and you'll win money… It's that simple."
Comments? Please post them in our Poker Forum.