Category Archives: Psych

Being a Predator

I understand that most of you reading this article are not professional poker players. In fact, the percentage of poker players who make their living at the tables is probably less than one percent. Even most people who say they play for a living are not big winners and are either living off savings while they give it a shot or supplementing their income with another job. But even if you aren’t paying your bills with your winnings, you definitely want to win. The problem is that if you win at the tables, someone else has to lose that money. In fact, quite a few people must lose if you are going to make real money, because the rake eats...
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Understanding Memory

You bring only one important tool to the poker table: your brain. To play well, you must understand its strengths and its limitations. I talked a bit about gestalt thinking in my Tilt Control course and mentioned that one side effect of gestalt thinking is that when faced with true randomness, your brain will often make up a pattern to make sense of it. One of the things I don’t believe I mentioned is that these false patterns bear no discernable difference to real patterns to your brain. They are stored in the same area and pulled to the conscious mind in the same manner. For all intents and purposes, they are exactly the same. Obviously, this can cause some...
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A Short Course in Tilt Control

Syllabus Intro What is Tilt? Defining Tilt The Triune Brain Theory Shifting Brains Emotional Distance ABC Psychology Gestalt Thinking Physiological Responses Achieving Emotional Distance Brain Health Final I. Introduction to Tilt Control Welcome to the tilt control course. Before we talk about tilt itself, I’d like to give you a little mental history of me, your instructor. As a poker player with a long history of mental illness, I feel I am uniquely qualified to speak about tilt, its effects, and how to beat it. The empirical studies on brain health, emotional control, relaxed focus and all the other topics we’ll be looking at are all readily available. I will have numbers of books for you to read and websites...
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A Short Course in Tilt Control 2

III. Shifting Brains Your browser does not support the video tag. Please upgrade to a more modern browser. IV. Emotional Distance While tricks for handling tilt like the one in the video you just watched are highly effective, they can occasionally be difficult to implement because you are trying to use the technique while on tilt. As detailed in section II, when your thought processes are in your limbic system, it’s tough to be rational. The idea behind the Fibonacci Technique is that it becomes automatic for you to start the sequence no matter your mental state, and the difficulty of the sequence helps you force your thoughts into your neocortex. But if that fails, you’re on tilt. The best...
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A Short Course in Tilt Control 3

Brain Health In all the talk about staying off tilt, I’ve always felt that brain health has been largely neglected. All the psychological tricks in the world won’t help you if the organ itself is compromised. Use these tips to keep your brain in good condition for full cognitive processing. Hydration — Like the rest of your body, the brain requires fluids. Even mild dehydration causes problems with memory, awareness, and anxiety. So you should drink water as soon as you’re thristy right? Wrong. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re probably experiencing a nearly 10% drop in cognitive function. You need to keep yourself hydrated even if you’re not particularly thirsty at the time. Drink at least 8 oz....
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Creating a False image

Your opponents react, not to what you are, but to what they think you are, and their first impressions have a huge impact on their image of you and the way they process all later information. They will overemphasize information that fits their first impressions and ignore or minimize conflicting data. When you play with a group of strangers, it often pays to create a false first impression. GENERAL PRINCIPLES To have the maximum impact, start with highly visible actions that color everything they will see later. Straddles are very visible, especially if you straddle the first few times you’re in position. Raises, especially check-raises, are much more visible than calls, and checks and folds are almost invisible. If you...
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What’s the Best Game for YOU?

Mason Malmuth was emphatic: “Once you reach a certain level of competence at poker, your most important decision by far is game selection.” 1 If you choose the right games, you will win. If you pick the wrong ones, you will lose. It really is that simple. Despite its extreme importance, relatively little has been written about game selection, and many players don’t know which games are best for them. I’ve italicized “for them,” because game selection is extremely individualistic. The best game for you may be a bad one for me and vice versa. This article will discuss the general principles you should apply when choosing a game, and it ends with several specific questions. Answer them ASAP. Read...
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PREVENTING TILT

Hi Everybody, In my January 31 Chat Session Frosortha from Scotland and Donald from Berkeley said that tilt was a significant problem. Many people feel the same way. So I’ll start with a statement you may dislike: Tilt is rarely the most important emotional control problem. Much more money is lost through less dramatic control failures. Tilt happens infrequently, and it rarely lasts long. Other emotional control problems occur every day or even every hand. The most common and expensive emotional mistakes are playing too many hands and chasing too much. Everybody knows they should be tighter, but make those mistakes for emotional reasons. They cost far more than tilt. Let’s compare poker to health: Which is a more serious...
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