Part 1 of this series focused on the difference between basic decisions and difficult decisions; in Part 2 of this series I discussed the ability to make adjustments; and in this, the series finale, I will now go over the third factor in what I feel goes into making a good poker player. The final installment of this series will focus on perhaps the most difficult aspect of playing professional poker, Mental Toughness.
Mental toughness is a fairly ambiguous term when it comes to poker, which is both good and bad. It’s good because it applies to many different aspects of poker, and what makes it bad is the way players can misapply the use of the word, and delude themselves into thinking they are mentally tough.
So how does mental toughness apply to poker? Here is a look at three different areas where a player has to be mentally tough:
The most obvious application of mental toughness to poker is tilt control. Players who can avoid tilt, or deal with it the best, will have a huge edge at the tables. Players who are in control of their emotions (not emotionless, just in control) will be in the best possible frame of mind to make clear, logical decisions.
If you want to know who is winning money playing poker just pay attention to how they deal with the bad times. The players throwing cards, berating their opponents and dealers, and mumbling to themselves are likely just as mad at their mediocre results as they are mad at their current “bad luck”.
Being Self Critical
When I think of someone who is mentally tough I think of someone who can handle criticism and is confident enough in their skills and potential ability to be self-critical. Criticism starts from within, and if you think you have nothing to improve upon than you are never going to improve as a poker player, and if you’re not improving as a poker player than you are not going to keep up with the people who are.
The final aspect of mental toughness has to do with work ethic. Do you have the work ethic to put in the time at the tables and away from the tables improving upon your game? Are you going to do things the right way or try to take shortcuts? All of these things are signs of mental toughness, and signs of a good poker player.
If you keep your emotions in check; are self-critical of your own strengths and weaknesses; and are willing to put in the work, chances are you are going to be a winning player… So long as you also make the right choices when you are faced with a tough decision (the 90/10 Rule) and make the necessary adjustments while you play poker!
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