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How To Deal with Setbacks in Your Poker Games

Home » How To Deal with Setbacks in Your Poker Games

How To Deal with Setbacks in Your Poker Games

A person sitting at a poker table, pushing stacks of red, blue, green, white, and black poker chips forward.

Sometimes, it can feel that you’re getting ahead in online poker, and sometimes, it can feel that you’re getting nowhere at all. You’re crashing out of every online poker tournament; you’re losing money in cash games; every hand you seem to play is a bad beat the list of possible setbacks in poker is endless. It’s a challenging game that demands a great deal of resilience, and sometimes the challenge can seem overwhelming. Don’t be discouraged. That’s just the way it is. Even the greatest poker players of all time have their setbacks. At the same time, there are things you can do to reduce the amount you’re liable to endure. Keep on reading for tips on dealing with poker setbacks.

Have a Poker Strategy

A person sitting at a poker table, with stacks of blue, red, green, white, and black poker chips in front of him.

An old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Nowhere is this more true than in poker. Without a poker strategy, you’re just gambling. Not that there’s a problem with recreational gambling, but if games of chance are your thing, you’re better off playing online casino games. If, on the other hand, you sincerely want to improve, you’re in luck. All it takes to develop a successful strategy for poker is time, commitment, and hard work. Start thinking in ranges rather than trying to play specific hands. Learn the opening ranges for every position. Do research into concepts like expected value (EV) and equity. Learn about using pot odds, implied odds, reverse implied odds, and the stack-to-pot ratio. Understand effective stacks and the difference between deep-stacked and short-stack gambits.

If you’re reading these terms and they mean nothing to you, you’ve identified a problem right away. Your friends from here on out are poker books, videos, online courses, and poker solvers.

Pick the Right Games

Face it: it doesn’t feel good to be crushed by a more advanced player and lose your entire stack of chips. You can feel it in your bankroll, and it hurts. But why are you playing in cash games against opponents with vastly superior skills in the first place? Maybe you’re losing money because you’ve simply been picking the wrong games. As a general rule, the higher the stakes, the more skilled your opponents are likely to be, so consider rolling your ambitions back to the micro-stakes level. Once you’re crushing the micro-stakes, you can consider raising the game. At the same time, consider joining poker tournaments. The only cost is the initial buy-in; sometimes, the laws of variance can work in your favor. There’s nothing quite as satisfying for a beginner player than beating a senior in a tournament, even if it’s down to dumb luck.

Learn To Spot Fish

A fish in poker is the type of player that skilled players love to play with. Why? Because fish are easily parted from their money and put a lot of money into the game. The typical signs of a fish are that they play too many hands, voluntarily putting money into 40 percent of pots or more. They also tend to limp into every pot, call far too often, don’t fold when they should, and fold when they shouldn’t. This pattern of play is easy for skilled players to exploit. If you cannot locate the fish at the table, you’re missing out on chances to make money. “But what if I’m the fish?” That’s an excellent question. If the honest answer is “yes,” you need to find a different game or start working seriously on your strategy. Unless you enjoy being played, that is.

Be Mindful

There’s a lot of talk about mindfulness out there, and to listen to some self-proclaimed experts, you’d swear it’s possible to win more poker games purely through meditation and yoga. But that’s not what mindfulness is really about, at least not when it comes to poker; it’s more about cultivating the poker mindset. This means developing the ability to focus for long periods and make strategically correct decisions without falling prey to emotions. It means having the mental toughness to endure bad beats without tilting. It means constantly reviewing your performance with a cool, critical eye and treating every defeat as a learning opportunity. With the right mental attitude, you’ll be able to recognize and avoid potential setbacks in advance. Prevention is better than cure.

Be Emotionally Intelligent

There’s no denying that the poker mindset doesn’t come naturally to every player. That’s why so many recreational players effectively stay at the gambling level. It’s simply too hard for them to do the work, which is a pity because the benefits typically overflow into other aspects of life; discipline and commitment benefit everyone. 

Then there’s the factor of emotional intelligence in poker, a multi-faceted phenomenon. You have to be honest with yourself about your feelings and inquire why, for example, certain situations put you on tilt. Chances are you’ll learn something important about yourself. Beyond that, emotional intelligence equips you to play the mental game of poker analytical skills are not enough. You must be able to read your opponents, so you know how to respond when they try to bluff and bully you into folding or shoving your chips at just the wrong time. At the same time, emotional intelligence can help you learn how to represent hand strength and project the right image, which are abilities you need if you want to bluff.

Be Financially Intelligent

A person sitting at a poker table, holding playing cards, with stacks of red, white, blue, green, and black poker chips in front of him.

One of the most significant setbacks online poker players can experience is total bankroll depletion, otherwise known as financial ruin. This is when you run out of cash to play with, so you either have to stop playing altogether, take a break while you top up your bankroll, take a loan (inadvisable), or sell off your possessions (extremely inadvisable). Financial ruin is a situation you want to avoid altogether, and the way to prevent it is to practice financial intelligence. This simply amounts to following the principles of responsible gambling when you play poker online. These include setting loss limits and having win targets. Some poker players have no financial goals at all they play for the sake of playing and bleed money as a result. Don’t be like them.

Take Care of Your Health

A lot of the time, negative gaming experiences are simply the cumulative impact of poor health choices. Poker is a stressful game, and poor health makes it more stressful. It’s difficult to be at the peak of your mental game if you’re eating the wrong food and not getting enough exercise, so try to keep a healthy balance. If you need inspiration, look at Daniel Negreanu. With over $39 million in winnings, this poker legend makes time for gym workouts in the middle of the day and has a goal of 100,000 steps per week. Then there’s Phil Hellmuth, winner of 17 World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets. The “Poker Brat” follows a ketogenic diet and works out regularly to keep the weight off and stay fit.

Play Poker Online at BetMGM

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Raise your poker performance with lifestyle and gaming hacks. Find out how poker strategy and emotional intelligence can turn setbacks into opportunities.