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"Patience and Brillance"

by Todd Arnold |  Published: Nov 01, 2005


True success in poker requires the correct mindset. As I will talk about frequently in upcoming articles, psychology is the key to winning. No-limit hold'em, in my opinion, is 90 percent psychology, 10 percent math … and 50 percent hooded sweatshirts. Knowing the psychology or mindset of your opponents, knowing their image, knowing your image, recognizing when it changes and how to use that information to make the correct decisions when facing each opponent – all of these are what make a player great. But, your own psychology is the first and most important thing you must master. Put yourself in the correct frame of mind.

Whether you are playing in a World Poker Tour or World Series of Poker event or playing online on your couch, having a clear mind is necessary. First, when playing online, make sure that you have time to play the whole tournament uninterrupted. If it takes five hours for the tournament to be won, have five hours free and plan to win. It sounds basic, but too many players get into tournaments that they are not prepared to finish. Also, make sure your head is clear. All work, projects, errands, etc., should be done to your satisfaction so your mind won't be roaming. Stay focused and pay attention.

Cope with adverse situations correctly. Bad beats happen. They are part of the game. As sure as you are going to be dealt two holecards, they happen. Expect them rather than be surprised by them. The key in no-limit hold'em tournaments is to accumulate enough chips so that a bad beat doesn't take you out; but I'll talk about that in more detail in future columns. My point here is that you must accept a bad beat and move on. It's just another hand you did not win. I mean, how bad can a beat really be? If the card that beats you is still left in the deck, then it just might be the next card. Don't tell bad-beat stories and don't listen to them. Over time, you will have taken – and given – every possible bad beat, so it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Move on, stay patient, play your game and be disciplined. Never get upset or tilted.

Look at it this way: anyone who is willing to put his chips in the middle, no matter how donkeyish the play seems, deserves to win the pot like anyone else. That's the way it goes. It's a violent game, so laugh it off. I know I just said the same thing in many ways, but if you adopt and believe in this mindset, then you will fare much better than most.

Cope with positive situations correctly. Even when you win a pot or give a bad beat to someone else, do it with class.

Don't gloat and don't rub it in his face. Don't point out how well you played. There's no need. You don't want to become "head-hunted." (Although there are times this can be to your advantage. I'll talk about that in a later column.) Also, you should not become complacent when you have accumulated a large chip stack nor should you begin to waste chips by taking unnecessary risks. Stay focused and be selectively aggressive with your chips.

Have fun. It is important to enjoy what you are doing. As with anything in life, you will do better if you are enjoying it. Don't change who you are just because you are trying to take money from others. If you are a witty, humorous person, then be that way at the table and be aware of how others react to you.

Get over yourself. Keep your ego in check. If you feel you are the best player at the table, then don't just think it or say it, act like it. Pay close attention to the other players and use your observations to extract chips from them. Don't point out bad plays and tell people how they should have played. That shows no class and usually results in less profit. Most likely, one of those "bad" players will take your chips if you let your ego get in the way. Do not defend your blinds or steal others' out of ego alone. Be mindful, not egotistical.

Relax, and be patient and disciplined. Over the course of a tournament, some players can get bored or tired. Don't grow impatient during these times. It's a long tournament and you cannot force a win. You can, however, force a loss, so don't let that happen. Don't let your brain tell you that your K-J is a monster just because it's the best you've seen in an hour. Smile, whistle, sing, get a massage – do whatever it takes to keep alert and patient. Winning a tournament can be and quite often is boring (except that last pot!) as you are not involved in very many pots and there is a lot of downtime.

To summarize, prepare, act and react positively, have fun, be mindful, and relax. You will find yourself at more final tables with the correct personal psychology. I like to say that you need patience and brilliance. Best of luck at the tables.

Todd Arnold is the trainer and co-creator of Visit the site or email Todd at