How to Play Online Poker and Not Lose Your Mind

Poker has a simple set of rules that can be learned in under an hour. The challenging part of the game comes later, once you start playing regularly. Bad beats and general frustration are constant in poker, and can send even the stoutest minds into a downward spiral that ends with a series of bad decisions at the tables. Colloquially known as 'tilt', this state of mind has been the bane of many good poker players. Some days at the tables are harder than others, all luck passes, even bad luck, but there are several tips and tricks you can use so you don’t lose your mind in the process.

JUST HAVE FUN WITH IT

Unless you are practising for a professional poker career, you really don't need to make the game a chore. Money may still be at stake, but focus on having fun, and enjoy the game rather than worrying about your wins, losses, hands per hour and poker charts. Poker is a great way to socialize, and one of the best strategy card games at the casino.

You could play every day for the next ten years and still learn something new; the game is continually evolving, and players are always coming up with wild and wonderful strategies. Focus on having fun at the tables, be happy when you win, but learn to enjoy losses and use them as opportunities to get better and improve your skills for next time.

MANAGE YOUR BANKROLL

One of the biggest reasons people lose their calm and end up going on tilt is poker's monetary aspect. Losing is never fun, and if what you lost was supposed to be for something special, or to buy groceries for your dinner, the feelings of stress, anxiety and regret are likely to be even more intense. That's why it's essential to plan out a bankroll before every poker session. Figure out exactly how much you need for food, rent, and other everyday expenses (everything you need for your life), and take your poker bankroll out of the remainder; from any funds you can afford to lose. Suffering a bad beat at the tables is never fun, but at least if you plan out your bankroll, losing at the poker tables won't be a life-altering event, making it much easier to move past it.

KNOW THE SIGNS OF TILT AND HAVE A STRATEGY TO DEAL WITH IT

Tilt is a state every poker player has experienced at some point. It's a gradual process that can be triggered in several ways—a bad beat, after the failure of a bluff, or a long stretch of bad cards. The first sign is usually frustration, followed by nasty comments and undeserved anger at a player for beating you, even though that's the whole point of the game. The final stage is making poor strategic decisions, which result in more frustration and losses. Whatever the cause, understanding tilt, and the signs will help you catch yourself before letting negative emotions rule your decision-making process.

Knowing is half the battle, once you know you're headed for tilt, you can start to implement strategies to calm down. Go for a walk, get a coffee, take a break for a few hands. Everyone will have a different approach to help deal with tilt, and you need to figure out what would work best for you. The last thing you want to do is keep playing on tilt; that rarely ends well.

DON’T PLAY POKER IF YOU’RE ALREADY STRESSED

Had a bad day at work? Stressed out about family issues? Feeling depressed or stressed about life in general? Don't play poker; it's that simple. Poker might be your escape from your woes for a few hours, but it can also make life infinitely more stressful, especially if you start losing. Poker can be a very temperamental game due to variance, and if you are already stressed or angry due to outside factors, you will be far more likely to go on tilt. Avoid playing poker when you are already stressed out or angry; again, it very rarely ends well.

MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS

During the late 1990s, two social scientists, David Dunning and Justin Kruger published *Unskilled and Unaware of It*, which detailed an experiment that found people don't usually know when they lack skills in certain areas. Throughout the research, Dunning and Kruger asked participants to answer a series of general knowledge questions and rank how many they answered correctly.

On average, it was found that people who performed poorly in the tests considered themselves highly intelligent. Participants who rated themselves as average were found to have performed exceptionally well. This cognitive bias known as the Dunning–Kruger Effect comes into play in many different aspects of life, including poker.

Unless you are a poker prodigy or have spent many years perfecting the craft, you will probably lose at the tables, a lot. That's a very real aspect of the game you need to make peace with, the odds of making millions from online poker are slim to none. Only a handful of players ever make it to global superstardom.

For every Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth, there are ten thousand other people who lost their entire bankroll and went home broke. Managing your expectations and having a realistic goal, such as having fun or trying to break even might seem like a defeatist attitude, but will save you from disappointment in the long run.

PACE YOURSELF

Online poker can be a very mentally draining experience, especially if you are playing multiple games for many hours. That's why it can be beneficial to know how many hours you can play while still at your mental and emotional peak, and plan out your poker sessions in advance. Playing tired, or when you aren't at your best will most likely result in mistakes, ones that a well-rested person could have avoided.

DON’T DWELL WHILE STILL PLAYING

Forgetting about a poker loss is easier said than done. Nearly every player with a few years’ experience will have one poker story about a hand that still haunts them. However, this is a bad mindset to get stuck in; dwelling on past hands while still playing is an unnecessary distraction. The best course of action is to move on and keep one hundred percent of your focus on the game. If you lost because of a poor choice, learn from the experience and do better next time, if it was a bad beat, be content that there is nothing you could do.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR CHANCES AND DON’T BE AFRAID

You miss one hundred per cent of the chances you don't take, and this can be a huge source of frustration, especially if you fold the winning hand before the flop. Unless you are very unlucky, you will get the highest-ranked hand at the table a few times during a poker session. The key is knowing when it's time to fold, and when it's time to go for it and not back down. If you've managed your bankroll correctly, losses shouldn't make a big difference in your everyday life. Poker is a game of risk and requires players to take many risks to succeed. You can't be afraid to make the big calls and lose money. Backing down at the first sign of trouble will make it very hard to win at the poker tables and allow your opponents to bully you out of pots.

PLAY TO YOUR SKILL LEVEL

Look for games that match your skill level, if you are only playing poker for fun, don’t buy into a high-stakes game with thousands of dollars on the line. Playing in a game with people who are far above your skill level will only cause you to become frustrated and lose a lot of money. The best-case scenario is to play against other people who aren't as good at poker as you.

BE HAPPY WITH THE SMALL VICTORIES

Playing poker can be a very demoralizing activity, which is why it's important to look for something to be happy about. If you walk away 100 up, take solace in the fact you didn't lose. If you lose your bankroll but figured out a new trick for reading people at the table, or a new strategy you can use to win next time, count that as a win. Getting caught up in how much you think you should be making is a sure-fire way to be disappointed.

WHEN IN DOUBT, WALK AWAY

Sometimes, no matter what you do, the cards don't go your way, everyone calls your bluffs, or you just can't stop losing. This can be incredibly frustrating and is prime territory for going on tilt. Once you get to this stage, the best course of action is to walk away and come back another day. Knowing when the cards aren't going your way and leaving early can be just as important as having a winning strategy. Continuing at the tables when you are frustrated and chasing losses will only make matters far worse.

FOUR QUICK TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR ONLINE POKER SKILLS AND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH AFTER A LOSS

Even if you do everything right at the poker table, you can still lose, which is one of the most frustrating parts of the game. After a big loss, it can be beneficial to go back to basics and build up your confidence again.

1. PLAY LOW-STAKES GAMES

Online poker has a lot of advantages over its live counterpart; it's faster, there are games available at any time of the day, and there are a wide variety of stake levels. Some of the cheaper games won’t cost much to buy in. These smaller-stakes games offer the chance to improve skills and try out new game strategies without the pressure that comes with high-stakes poker. There are also more beginners in the lower levels, a few will be playing very loose and aggressive, but for the most part, they will be timid and tight, perfect for getting up a few quick wins and building back up confidence.

2. TRY TO AVOID MAKING THE SAME MISTAKES

Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Don't keep making the same mistakes. After each game, take time to analyze the hands you lost and figure out if you could have done anything different that would have resulted in a better outcome.

Some players keep notebooks and write down everything that happened during the game and examine where they can improve. There are also plenty of online poker odds calculators that allow you to input cards and the program calculates the odds, making it easier to figure out what the best course of action is in a specific situation. Regardless of what system you decide works for you, once you figure out where you went wrong, you can be better prepared if you get in the same situation again.

3. ONLY PLAY ONE TABLE

Multi-tabling is a very popular way to play poker online, but it also requires a considerable amount of concentration and commitment to achieve good results. Stick to one table for a while, learn to win online poker consistently on one table before you start trying to multi-table.

4. WATCH POKER

Watching poker is the best way to learn the rules, and maybe even pick up a few tricks along the way. It can also be a massive mood booster after a loss that makes you feel bitter toward the game. Rounders is considered one of the best poker movies of all time, and the ending alone is enough to help even the sourest mood. Watching Chris Moneymaker, an unknown poker player, win the 2003 World Series of Poker against a solid field of professionals, inspired a whole new generation of players at the time. It's also another excellent poker moment to watch and get over a bad loss at the tables.

This is a reference article to playing online poker in general. It is for information and entertainment only. It is not related to, nor a reflection of, Global Poker, its products, content, or its games.