All the decisions we make are not purely random but are deeply rooted in our psyche and are dictated by past experiences and our state of mind. Whether we are angry, happy or sad, it all comes down to how neural connections and we can – and should – explore our psyche to better understand what is going on. This can help us understand how decisions are made – by us and others – and help us understand how and why certain scenarios play out the way they do.
The applications for this are broad and not only will it help you in your everyday life, but it can also vastly improve certain aspects, like your Poker game. So, let’s take a deep dive into the world of psychology and how it can be useful to you.
Psychology has whole fields of study dedicated to behavioral psychology, which is the study of the way we make decisions. You might think that everything you do is just your own free will, but a lot of the things you do are at least to some extend predictable.
All the decisions we make fulfill a certain purpose. Some things we go out of fear. Some things we do to fulfill a certain need or desire. Some we just do to be a good person and make us feel better, which is essentially a desire we want to fulfill. The number of factors that go into that process are way to vast and numerous to be known and listed but knowing and understanding a few key factors can help you greatly in understanding these decisions and potentially making a better judgement call.
But once you know your strategy and apply it, making decisions is an absolute mechanical process, right?
Well, no. You are not a robot. The fact that bluffing is a factor in Poker can make the game – or rather your opponent – so much more unpredictable that a machine ever could.
Have you ever seen Daniel Negreanu play? You can sometimes see him raise with 9-5 and push his bluff through all the way until his opponents fold, not being any wiser about being fooled.
There is a reason for the expression “getting into someone’s head” and this does not necessarily have anything to do with strategy. It’s usually a trigger on the emotion of fear of loss and playing with your opponent's emotions.
The use of psychological understanding extends far beyond reading your opponent at the table.
A wise man told me once: The world will move on either way, the only factor you can change is yourself.
Matter of fact is, you can make all the right decisions and still have a bad day. The way you react to that is sometimes more important than the strategy you used.
Have you ever had something like this happening to you? You play on your favorite Online Poker Site, and you flopped the nuts. You raise high and your opponent calls. The turn doesn’t bring a threat, so you shove. Your opponent calls and you reveal your cards. Only a King can save your opponent at this point. And what card does the river bring? Exactly that one King that’s left.
So how do you deal with this situation?
Do you just brush it off as if nothing happened? Are hellbent on winning your money back?
It’s important to not let an event like this destroy your focus completely. If it does, that state is called tilt.
It’s generally in your best interest to deal with the state of tilt as soon as possible. Some people can just take a deep breath and be fine, while other may need to take a few days off. Some feel the strong urge to break something, and more than a few mice have suffered the dire consequences of an unfortunate turn of events.
Another big thing to consider is how quickly you bounce back from events like this. This feature is called resilience.
These aspects of Poker are subjects that are generally implied, but not really talked about.
The features are not necessarily something you are born with. Some people may have an aptitude for them, but if you don’t use and actively practice them, they will not improve.
It is the same concept of going to the gym and training your muscles. The more you train, the easier the exercises become and the heaver the weights you can lift can be. You wouldn’t go to the Gym and expect to lift 200 pounds without any training, would you? But you do expect to be able to easily cope with any unfortunate play the game may throw at you? I hope you see the irony in this.
The beauty about Poker is the fact that you always play against other players. Everyone goes through the same learning process, and everyone has to deal with the same tragedies and pitfalls. That means that every edge you have over each other can make or break your victory.
Many people think that the good strategy is the main thing that matters at this point.
Have you ever tried to teach a beginner Poker?
In movies you often see a protagonist just reading people, telling everyone exactly what cards they have and playing accordingly. While something like this is pure fiction, it does make an important statement: Players can be influenced and the cards they hold don’t always matter as much as their state of mind.
Knowing this, it’s time to begin our journey through the exciting world of the Psychology of Poker.
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