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As a poker player, you no doubt pride yourself on your ability to solve problems and make good decisions based on solid reasoning.
That's why you're a poker player, right?
You are a great analytical thinker and often enjoy using numbers and data to further improve your decision making capabilities.
That's all well and good, but what if I told you that most poker players (yourself included), were overlooking a key ingredient to making great decisions at the poker tables?
In the same way master chefs use just the right amount of salt to enhance the taste of a dish, you need to use just the right amount of this ingredient if you want to maximise your edge at the poker tables.
So what is this key ingredient that is going to revolutionise your poker game?
Today we'll call it "your emotional state".
You're probably thinking, "wait a minute, surely that can't be it!"
You're a super logical poker player and you're always able to keep your emotions in check, right?
Well it turns out that emotions aren't something that we "keep in check" with our logical reasoning, and in fact emotions are the key driving force behind all of our decisions.
A revolution in the science of emotion has emerged in the last few decades, with the potential to create a paradigm shift in thinking about how we make decisions.
The research reveals that emotions constitute powerful, pervasive, and predictable drivers of decision making in almost every situation.
So much so, that if you took away the emotional centres of our brain , we would not be able to make "rational" decisions at all.
Although emotions may influence decisions through multiple mechanisms, considerable evidence reveals that effects occur via changes in (a) content of thought, (b) depth of thought, and (c) content of implicit goals.
So how does this impact you as a poker player?
And most importantly, how can you use this knowledge to your benefit to make better decisions at the poker tables?
I'm glad you asked.
First of all, it's important to become aware of the fact that your emotional state is constantly changing, almost from moment to moment.
For example, when you start your poker session you might be feeling calm and focused, ready to play your A-game.
Yet just 20 minutes later after a string of bad beats, you might find yourself feeling frustrated or even angry at how the session is going.
Small events can have a big effect on your emotional state, especially if you are not checking in with yourself regularly.
Next, you should create your own profile of what emotional states you experience most often and how they impact your performance.
For example, a simple profile could look like this:
Zone 1: Low energy, bored, distracted or tired (Performance impact: missing spots)
Zone 2: Heightened energy, angry, frustrated, anxious or annoyed (Performance impact: too aggressive)
Zone 3: Calm, relaxed or present (Performance impact: making good decisions)
Zone 4: Excited, intuitive, curious or in the flow (Performance impact: making great decisions)
As you can probably guess, you want to spend most of your time in Zones 3 and 4 and avoid going into Zones 1 and 2 in this example.
Which brings us to the next step, have clear action steps to take when you notice you are in a compromised emotional state.
Let's say you have drifted into Zone 1 and are feeling bored or low energy. Now you need to do something to snap you out of the state, which will often involve moving your body and getting your heart rate elevated.
20 push ups or 50 jumping jacks could do just the trick.
When you've drifted into Zone 2 and are feeling frustrated for example, you now want to do something that will lower your physiological arousal.
This could involve consciously slowing down your breathing, taking a break to clear your mind or simply giving the mind something else to focus on.
When you start to become aware of the different emotional states that you experience often, you can experiment with different approaches until you find what works for you.
Which brings us to the final step, take a break from the tables when you have noticed your emotional state is compromised and you haven't been able to positively alter it.
So many good poker players ruin their profits by continuing to play when their negative emotional state is severely impacting their decision making.
So here is a summary of the action items you need to take:
#1: Become aware of the fact that your emotional state is constantly changing.
#2: Create your own profile of what emotional states you experience most often and how they impact your performance.
#3: Develop a tool kit you can use when you notice you are in a compromised emotional state.
#4: Get out of there and take a break when your attempts to improve your emotional state are not working.
Although it appears simple, this really is the key ingredient to making the best possible decisions at the poker tables.
So make sure you spend some time on applying these concepts until you have mastered them.
I look forward to hearing.
Your mindset and performance coach,
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