How to Keep Your Emotions in Check When Playing Poker


Poker is a card game of skill and strategy, where you aim to form the highest-ranking hand at the end of each betting round. This will win the pot, which consists of all bets placed by all players. A good poker player must be able to read his or her opponents and adjust their playstyle accordingly. This can include studying the players for physical tells, but it also involves understanding how their actions may affect the outcome of the hand.

One of the biggest obstacles that many new players face is learning to keep their emotions in check at the table. The divide between break-even beginner players and big-time winners is often much smaller than they think, and it has a lot to do with starting to view the game in a more cold, detached, mathematical and logical way than you currently do. Emotional and superstitious players almost always lose or struggle to make a profit.

A strong poker bankroll is an essential part of the equation, but you also need to learn to control your money at the table. It is a bad idea to sit down at a table with more money than you can afford to lose, and you should never be afraid to fold when you have a poor hand. Keeping your bankroll in check is the best way to prevent you from losing your shirt and give yourself a chance to learn from your mistakes.

It’s one thing to get sucked out by some crazy, mathematically unlikely final card; it’s quite another to dig your own grave and make the situation worse for yourself. People who play poker for a living know this all too well, and they have no sympathy for those who fall victim to a maddeningly unlucky run. It’s all too common to see people who have lost a big pot conclude that the game must be rigged, or write long rants in the chat box about how unfair life is, instead of making the minor adjustments they need to regain control and improve their results.

Learning to play poker efficiently takes time and patience, but it’s well worth the effort. To begin with, it’s a good idea to stick to small stakes games, which will allow you to preserve your bankroll until you’re ready to move on to bigger tables and higher profits. Taking the time to study hands and talk them through with friends or coaches can help you get ahead of the curve.

A good poker player must be able to calculate his or her outs, which are the cards that can give you the winning hand. For example, if you have JT on a flop that reads Q92, you have 15 outs because you can make a flush or straight by adding more of the same suit. You must be able to recognize what types of hands your opponents have when you’re playing in late position, and use that knowledge to adjust your own play style.