Emotion is the key to becoming a master of poker. When it is seen as the cause of problems during a game, it seems reasonable to try to shut your emotions off. In essence, traditional tactics suggest that extreme emotions like anger and fear are bad, so you must lose them. But they are symptoms, not the cause of poor poker playing. Finding the cause of negative emotions requires going deeper.
Basically, emotion is telegraphing you that something in your game needs work. Emotions that affect your game are created when your approach to poker causes a bad turn of events at the table. So a bad hand causes anger only when a flaw exists within a player’s mental game. Viewing emotion as a symptom, not the problem is the key.
Resolving to adopt the concept of emotion as a symptom keeps all the positive features that emotions add to your game and removes the negatives. When you figure out the underlying cause of negative emotions, such as anger and fear, they disappear. Working on mental game flaws is how you become mentally strong, but few understand how to build mental strength. Many believe mental strength happens simply by taking on a certain mindset, but that is temporary because you’re essentially pretending that underlying flaws don’t exist. You feel confident for a short time, but the flaws are still there, until they resurface and surprise you.
Basically, when your emotions become overactive, your higher brain functions start to shut down. If your emotions are too high, you make poor poker decisions because your brain prevents you from being able to think straight. Your mind goes blank, you miss key information relating to your hand, some information becomes over important, or you fixate on unimportant information.
Unfortunately it’s a hardwired part of our brain. It’s the “fight or flight response” and once you recognize this, it’s easier to gain control of your emotions and therefore improve your mental game. The first step is you must start trying to control your emotions before reaching your emotional threshold, otherwise, you’ll lose. You must watch your emotional self; be constantly self checking. Right now you are at level of “unconscious incompetence” which is defined as a person who doesn’t understand something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. It is reaching the level of unconscious competence which is where something becomes second nature and as a result, the skill can be performed while executing other tasks.