How to Stay Cool at the Poker Table

Poker is a game of skill above all else, but not all skill comes from a direct ability to calculate the odds or read an opponent. A big part of being a successful player, either online or in person, is born from a person's ability to roll with the punches. The best players need to be able to stay relaxed, whether winning or losing, regardless of how long they have been at the table.

Look at making the following ideas a cornerstone of your gameplay. These are all concepts which the best will need to internalize, regardless of who they are and where they come from.

Building Endurance

Despite being a game which requires its players to remain largely sedentary, playing poker is a task which required immense stamina. Playing poker for 30 minutes is no problem for most players, but when a game goes for hours then even the best can find themselves slipping.

Endurance, as it relates to poker, isnít just physical, it is also highly mental. Being a successful player means being able to manage your energy output. You need to be able to understand what counts as downtime to make the most of it. Similarly, you need to be able to instantly recognize when your full attention is needed, so you can face a challenge openly.

There is no magic way to build up endurance in this area, though there are ways which can ensure your gradual improvement. The first is the simple act of practice. If a poker game or tournament you wish to compete in can regularly take hours then that is what you need to practice for. Try playing poker a few times in friendlier games first to get the hang of this, and to acclimate to what is required.

Donít assume that being good for an hour means you will be able to perform for four hours. Just as this would be a mistake in running, it would be a mistake in poker.

"Walking exercise" (CC BY 2.0 by bluesbby

Caption: Walking helps keep mind and body strong, for longer play sessions

Speaking of running, one of the best ways to improve general endurance is by raising your own physical fitness levels. Being fit will enable you to operate at peak condition for longer, and with less stress. This doesnít need to be too intensive at first either, simple 20-minute walks can help build up the basis which you need.

Understand that Losses Will Come

No matter the player, no matter how many tournaments they have won, losses are going to happen. In the middle of a hot streak or after a frustrating losing experience, this is an inevitability of the game which a player needs to understand.

The mark of a truly great player isn't just in how much they win but is also in how well they are able to deal with loss.

As with any other facet of poker, there is no quick and easy way to beat the feeling of anger or despair which comes from unexpected disappointment, but there are ways to better manage this feeling. Understanding on the mental level that this is an inevitability will help but, as with endurance, the best teacher is experience.

When you lose, be aware of how you lost. Remember the feeling of how you lost, and remember that this is not a failure, but rather an opportunity for you to rise above. Suffering a loss and then overcoming it is not only a great feeling of personal triumph, but can also help damage the will of your competitors.

Remember that youíre playing the game, the game isnít playing you.

Mind the Players, not Just the Game

For many players, the most difficult part of poker is the other players. Whether online or in person, other people can be distracting, annoying, or frustrating to bet against.

This can be through someone slow rolling, for example. This term can have different meanings, but the general idea is that a player will take a long pause before showing a winning or unbeatable hand. Considered extremely poor etiquette, this is especially difficult to combat in online poker, and so online players need to be all the warier.

Just as with losses, the best bet for dealing with this issue is to understand that you will come against it eventually, and by accepting this beforehand you can mitigate frustration levels. Many forms of online poker will let you see your opponentís names before buying in, which means it is possible to avoid players who continually show this tendency.

Something to keep in mind is that while some of this might be unintentional bad habits, there will be plenty of players out there who adopt such behavior as part of their mental game. This can be well within the accepted bounds of competitive poker, but other times it can manifest as borderline harassment.

Again, practice is the best method of dealing with this issue, as in internalizing the fact that by not getting roped into their behavior you are, in effect, beating them at their own game.

Stay Fuelled Up

Getting engrossed in an intense poker game is natural, but you need to be able to keep your energy levels up if you wish to perform to your best capacity and not lose your cool. Protein and carbohydrates are good ideas here. In fact, there was a food popularized in 1762 for this exact purpose by John Montagu, better known as the 4th Earl of Sandwich.

"MAX炭火吐司-南京總店20" (CC BY-S.A. 2.0 by 羽諾

Caption: Walking helps keep mind and body strong, for longer play sessions

Water also plays a big part here, as dehydration combined with low energy levels is a sure-fire recipe for failure. Players should also avoid drugs and alcohol, for their effects of dulling mental acuity.

Building Effective Habits

Being cool at the poker table means keeping in mind all of the above points, and sticking with them long enough that they become second nature. Remember that no poker champions were born overnight, with many taking years or even decades of experience before they reached their peak.

Keeping attention, having the fuel to stay alert, and not letting the inevitabilities of the game drag you down are all enormously important components of a successful poker player. Remember this going in, examine your behavior after each game, and determine your weak points, and youíll massively increase your odds of future success.