How Emotions Can Destroy Your Poker

“The most important of these skills, and power’s crucial foundation is the ability to master your emotions. An emotional response to a situation is the single greatest barrier to power, a mistake that will cost you a lot more than any temporary satisfaction you might gain by expressing your feelings.”
– Robert Greene

Every poker player knows that some days can be very stressful. This article is a practical guide on how you can overcome the stress, anger and other damaging emotions that may hold you back from playing your best poker.

Anger (and a lot of our emotions) come from holding onto unrealistic expectations.

Let’s say you had an expectation of yourself that you had to consecutively win in your poker sessions. With this type of expectation on yourself, you’re assuming that consecutively winning is going to bring you more advantages than consecutively losing.

With the above expectation, you will also fear consecutively losing because you are assuming that consecutively losing will bring you more disadvantages than consecutively winning.

Now, for whatever reason, let’s say you start consecutively losing. If you’re holding onto the expectation that you should be consecutively winning, you will be angry & stressed because you perceive yourself ‘missing out’ on your positive expectations.

The anger and resentment towards consecutively losing will only perpetuate poor decision making and, ultimately, the losing of more hands.

It’s incredibly wise to be adaptable in your perceptions at this point as a way to get back to making rational decisions.

What if I were to show you that there are two sides to everything and that consecutively losing has benefits?

For example:

When I consecutively lose:
  • I have a greater drive and motivation to continue my poker studies.
  • I extract lessons and learnings from my losses which ultimately help me create a better system.
  • I reach out to my coach/ other poker players to learn from them.
  • I am more grounded and have greater accountability to stick to my game plan and ranges.
  • Ultimately, I may be ‘losing’ hands and money but I am ‘gaining’ lessons, education, accountability, and a drive.


And, there are two sides to consecutively winningConsecutively winning has drawbacks. For example:

When I consecutively win:
  • I go into a state of pride and think I ‘know it’ and act invincible at the table.
  • I make silly ‘errors’ or ‘bad’ bets.
  • I have less of a drive to continue learning and refining my poker plan.
  • I stunt my growth because I think I ‘know it’.
  • Ultimately, you may be ‘gaining’ money but you are also simultaneously ‘missing out’ on the things that are essential for your growth (lessons, accountability, coaching etc).


Find specific examples of the benefits of losing & drawbacks of winning for your own unique situation
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In summary:

If you’re angry, this means you are aware of the disadvantages of consecutively losing and un-aware of the advantages of consecutively losing – make yourself aware of the benefits and advantages of losing. I assure you they will be there.

In this dynamic, you are also comparing your current reality to a fantasy (expectation), assuming that if you were consecutively winning life would be better off. So make yourself aware of the disadvantages of your positive expectations (fantasy) of consecutively winning.

The moment you get grounded and see the advantages of your current reality (losing) and the disadvantages of your positive expectations (winning) you will shed the anger and get grateful for what has happened, as it is. In this state, you will be in the best possible position to just execute, objectively, at the table according to your plan – and make the most money possible.

Pat Bailouni
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