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Not Being Present and How it Ruins Your Game

As poker players, we tend to analyze every aspect of our the game, in order to improve it and fix any leaks that can harm our results.

Most players spend a lot of time analyzing hand histories, certain spots or detailed stats, they discuss hands with other players and give advice to each other.

All of these things are great, but sometimes players still can’t achieve the results they want.

Here is the problem. Even though a player has managed to handle all technical aspects of the game properly, he might be missing one key factor – He’s just not present to the moment.

What happens in the head of a player is an unknown territory. We can be unconscious about a lot of the stuff that is going on.

The frustration when playing poker mainly comes from the fact that we think we deserve the reward because we have done everything right. But the truth is, we don’t deserve anything! And we are not paying attention to the fact that we are:

  • Daydreaming while playing – We look to the payout table, imagine what will be if we win that 1st place prize, we start dreaming and fantasizing about it, completely shifting our thoughts away from the action on the table.
  • Asking What if – Thinking about previous events, and not being able to let go of negative emotions and accept them. “What if he had missed that 2 outer”, “What if I got doubled up there, I would be the chip leader now”, What if I had played that hand differently”
  • Not being focused – Getting easily distracted from the game. Opening facebook, or watching videos while playing. Focus is a big sign of being present. If your thoughts are not on your current hand only, you are already screwed.
  • Easily getting angry from things outside our control in poker. e.g. variation.
  • Losing motivations when things don’t go our way.

All of these come as a result of our lost connection with the present moment. We are no longer focusing on the moment but on our emotions or thoughts.

Enjoying the Process

You gotta really love it, cause if you don’t you will go insane, cause this game is not fair!

– Alex “Assassinato” Fitzgerald

This is huge in life in general and 100% required in poker. If you are not enjoying the process, if you are too focused on the outcome, you won’t get far. You just won’t make it, not because you are a bad player or you are less skilled from the guy who is killing it, you won’t make it because your thoughts are not in the right place, commonly knows as – bad mindset. Frustration will always come and your sessions will be always a nightmare if you can’t enjoy the game as it is.

What Can You Do?


This is different for everybody, our mind is conditioned to think in a certain way far before we started dealing with poker. It’s not the game itself that needs to be fixed, the issue is more outside poker.

But you can start taking action toward being more present and catch any unwanted mind activity.

Here’s what you can do…

Try to observe your thoughts and catch them every time they start to wander. Then just cut the unwanted thought and get back to your hand.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a positive emotion that led to that thought or negative one. All thinking outside of what’s happening in your current hand and position at the table or tournament is worthless and it’s stopping you from reaching ultimate results.

Some common spots where we tend to go back to our heads and create some kind of dialogue:

  • We got unlucky and lost when being a big favorite in the hand
  • We made a wrong decision and we think “what if I played it another way”
  • We won a big pot and we now make plans about how we will make a deep run and cash.
  • We lost a big pot and we think how our chances to win the tourney are fucked up now.

And much, much more.

Basically, everything that distracts us from the present moment is something we want to cut. We literally have to block it before it gets in our head and obsess our thoughts.

You will notice how your brain is beginning to gets rewired, you will naturally stop getting these toxic thoughts.

This will result in improving your results and most important, you will feel good no matter what happens in your session.

Have you experienced these moments when the reality looks so harsh that you can’t even go to sleep, because of the insanity in your head.

Well, I had these moments and It felt terrible.

You want to be the player who just doesn’t give a fuck about the outcome and the rundown of things that are outside his control.

That way you won’t get distracted from a big pot you get involved in or big money on a final table. Five or 6 digit score, no problem, I just played my game and I had a hell of a good time while doing it. Guess that is a lot, I will take the money, no big deal.

And loses..who cares, I did my best, I can’t control things outside me.

Poker Meditation

Download the free Seven Minute Tilt Buster MP3 by Elliot Roe.

Playing this record before your sessions will relax your body and mind, boost your focus and get you rid of any thoughts racing in your head.

Also I find very beneficial to practise some kind of physical activity in your day, and before you sit down to play.

I found dancing classes make me feel “empty-headed”, cleaning your room is also a win-win. Find your thing and enjoy your time off the tables.

“Stress is caused by being “here” but wanting to be “there,” or being in the present but wanting to be in the future.” Eckhart Tolle

This quote is from the book The Power of Now, I highly suggest you read it and see how it converts in your poker game.