I find myself way too often reminding players at the table and players I’m coaching that they’re grown adults and that they should act accordingly. Life is hard sometimes, and I understand that it can make people angry. Just today I got mad at the 8,000th person this week that doesn’t understand how to drive through a four-way stop properly. Last week I was upset at someone for calling a 3-bet with 5-2 suited.
It seems that stupid people and rude people have a tendency to push our buttons and they’re everywhere. While driving may be the number one hotbed for these types of people (in my opinion), the poker table comes in at a close second. You have people playing a game that have no idea what they’re doing. You also have people playing that love to be annoying and try and do things to make other people upset. I get that they’re doing this because they “think it is a great strategy to tilt people” but frankly I think it’s just obnoxious and bad for the game long term. That’s a subject for another day, though.
The point is that there are going to be a lot of instances at the poker table where your temper is going to be tested. How you choose to respond to these situations will have a dramatic effect on your bottom line profits.
I’m going to approach this issue today in three steps. The first step is going to be understanding why we get mad at the table. Then we’re going to look at how our negative reactions can cost us money in more ways than you’re probably aware of. And finally, I’m going to give you some basic tips to help you change your mindset completely and control your temper at the table.
Understanding Why We Get Mad
We get mad at the poker table for a lot of different reasons. The biggest blanket reason, though, is because we don’t like to lose especially when our money is on the line. There’s a reason we don’t get (that) mad when we lose at Monopoly to our siblings. This is because there usually isn’t money on the line unless you come from a wild family. Yes, some of you reading this may get mad from Monopoly as well, but I can guarantee you get more upset when money is on the line at the poker tables.
Additionally, people get upset for a lot of other reasons. This can include ego (which is part two of this blog series), embarrassment, anger issues, fatigue, or frustration. People also get upset at poker when their opponents make mistakes. This one is so important to pay attention to that I’ve included a dedicated section for it.
Getting Mad When Your Opponent Makes a Mistake
It’s awesome that I went and played in a tournament this morning because I got to experience a lot of this first hand. Yes, the tournament went terribly, and that’s why I’m able to write this blog right now. I picked up some good anecdotes for this blog, though. I saw a ton of people getting upset when they lost a hand to an opponent who did something they thought was stupid.
Two things I want to clarify about these situations first. Was it okay for them to get upset that they lost the hand? Yes. Was what the other players that won the hands did stupid? Yes. Should they have allowed this to make them mad and react? No. This is where the problem lies.
When I lose a hand to a fish that does something dumb, I’m not happy about it. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I get happy when I lose pots. What I am happy about, though, is that I’m playing in games where people are constantly making mistakes. If I were playing in games where no one was making a mistake, that would be an awful and unprofitable game.
The more awful your opponents are, the more awful situations they are going to put themselves in. This means they’re going to call with worse hands and put their money in the middle in situations that make zero sense to you. This means two things for you. One, you’re going to see a lot more suck outs and bad beats than you would playing with a bunch of pros. Two, you’re going to make a lot more money in the long run because they players are that bad.
You’ll see in the later sections why this is the key to changing your mindset and controlling your temper.
How Our Temper Costs Us Money
I wanted to lead off with the most obvious one. When you allow your temper to get the best of you, it makes you upset and clouds your judgment. You start making decisions based on emotion and start neglecting the strategy and tactics you know are smart. The problem is that this can quickly become a downward spiral.
Imagine a player makes you mad and your temper starts to get the best of you. You try and poorly bluff that player in the next hand because you’re mad and end up losing a lot of money. Losing this additional money makes you madder, and you start doing stupider and stupider things. Before you know it, you’ve burnt through all the money you had on the table and all the money you had in your pocket only because you were upset.
Chasing Away the Fish
As I’ve said time and time again (and even once in this blog), poker is profitable because of the bad players. If everyone were the best at the game, there would be no point in ever playing if you were trying to make money. While this should be common sense, I question a lot if it really is because of the way people treat the fish at games when their tempers flare up.
Let’s look at an outside of poker analogy. Imagine a coffee shop owner who gets mad at how his customers decide to order their coffee. If he goes on a rampage and starts berating the customers and screaming at them, what words would we use to describe his behavior? Destructive… moronic… counterproductive… We would call him these words because he’s driving away the very people that he makes money off of.
I’m sure you can already see the connection to poker. When you get mad, and you start berating the fish that are there just to have fun, you take away their fun. This results in them leaving and not wanting to come back. If you do this enough, there will be no bad players left and all the profitability in poker will be lost. It might sound like I’m being a bit of a drama queen, but I assure you this is very real.
No More Invites
I always laugh to myself when people that are berating the fish or getting angry and letting their temper flare look around the table for people to “agree with them”. They are looking for someone else to somehow validate that their childish behavior is correct. Here’s a newsflash for you if you’re someone with a temper problem at the table. No one likes to be around you when you’re acting like that.
Depending on where you’re playing, this will manifest itself in one of two different ways. If you’re playing in a home game, you may not be invited back. People want to enjoy themselves when they’re playing and don’t want to have to worry about you losing your cool. If you’re playing in the casino or poker room, they may ask you not to come back as well. I’m referring to you being kicked out. Casinos and poker rooms won’t tolerate that behavior for very long, and you could quickly find yourself banned from the casino.
It’s really hard to make money at poker when you aren’t even allowed to come to the game.
How to Control Your Temper at the Tables
Okay, so if you’ve made it this far you’re either enjoying the piece (which makes you my favorite person), or you’re someone with a bit of a temper problem that is ready to try and get it under control (which makes me respect you a lot more). I’m going to lay out my thoughts on how to help in a numbered list for ease of understanding.
- Make sure you fully understand all the reasons why your temper is causing problems for you at the table. Once you start to see that it’s costing you money, you’re going to be a lot more motivated to fix the problem. The funny part is the main reason your temper is flaring is that you’re losing money, but then you’re reacting by doing things that lose you even more money. If you can’t understand this, there may be no hope for you.
- Set up some actionable steps to take when you feel your temper starting to flare. It’s ok to get mad as this is a completely normal human emotion. The problem comes in with how you choose to react to that emotion. Slamming the table, screaming at players, throwing cards and chips…yea, these are NOT the ways you want to react.
Figure out what you need to do to cool off and get things under control BEFORE they get out of control. The secret is catching your temper before it elevates to a level where you lose control over it. This might mean immediately leaving the table when you feel yourself getting upset. This might mean reciting some of the above reasons for keeping your cool to yourself over and over again. Heck, it might mean forcing yourself to pull this article out every time and quickly reading through it.
Whatever it is, make sure you have the plan in place before you get to the table and before it’s too late.
- If you have to get even, get even where it counts. I’m talking about hitting them in the wallet. Some of you read the first part of that sentence (I’m talking about hitting them…) and got way too excited. Calm down now. What I am saying is embrace their moronic tendencies and wait them out. They will eventually dump all that money back to the table, and hopefully, you can be the beneficiary. You’ll never get ANY of it back if you get yourself kicked out or upset them and they leave.
It’s sick poetic justice, but I get excited when someone berates a bad player, and the player just says ok and leaves the table with their money. The sad look on the berating player’s face is priceless when they realize their money just walked away and they have no chance to get it back now.
- I always used to think it was cheesy when people would say things like this next tip until I realized how right they were. You need to find ways to relax and decompress away from the table. If you’re living an unhealthy life that’s filled with stress, you’re going to be a ticking time bomb when it comes to your temper. Look into exercising, yoga, meditation, music, hiking, running…literally anything that helps you relax and release your stress.
Don’t show up to the table all wound up and ready to pop. This may take some work to figure out what is best for you but I can guarantee you that it is worth it. It isn’t just worth it for your poker bottom line, but also for your general health and sanity.
Tempers can cost us money at the tables in more ways than one. The problem is that if you’re chasing the fish away with your temper, you’re not just costing yourself money, but you’re costing me money too, and I am not cool with that.
If you’re someone with a temper problem, I really hope you’ve got some new inspiration to get it under control. If you KNOW someone with a temper problem that needs to get it under control at the tables, feel free to passive aggressively forward this article to them. Hopefully, they’ll react positively but if they blow up, just give them that I told you so stare.