Poker players need patience, young grasshopper



I didn’t come here to fold; I came to play. … This is boring; the pros play lots of hands, why shouldn’t I? … Folding is cowardice and is for wimps; I ain’t no nit. … I’ve been playing this tournament for six hours, haven’t caught a hand. I’m card dead; I’ll just go all-in next time I get anything. … I never get a hand.

If you just want to have fun, love the gamble and the adrenaline and don’t mind losing then forget patience and discipline. But if you don’t like losing and part of your pleasure is winning you will need patience and discipline.

If you read last month’s column you know why you play poker (purpose). Now we move on to some of the other more important aspects of the game.

Who would have thought patience would become controversial? But poker is changing. Loose, aggressive players look impatient. The key word there is “look.” The better ones are patient and disciplined, but they have a wider range of hands, are willing to take more risk and put more money at stake. But when I interviewed a range of successful players they all thought patience and discipline were essential. Is the future of poker “rush poker” or a more patient way of playing? Don’t be fooled. All good players are patient and have discipline. Styles change.

How you handle patience and discipline will define your style of play.

Poker is transforming. The advice used to be you had to be patient and wait for the right hand and the right opportunity. The advice used to be don’t play so many hands. Many successful and more aggressive players are turning this advice upside down. How often do we see pros (especially Internet pros) not playing a patient game?

Patience might better be viewed as discipline and situational. Patience really might be a product of control. Controlling your play to meet the situation: patience in play, patience in practice and patience in preparation. So, if you buy the idea that patience and discipline are important here are some tips:

• Visualization helps; get into a relaxed state of mind.
• Picture yourself at the table feeling rushed, impatient and edgy.
• Feel yourself performing impatiently.
• Relax by breathing; transform the impatient play to a relaxed state, one where you begin to feel peaceful and in the zone. Feel yourself playing naturally and at your peak, in a state of relaxed activation.

At the table if you lose discipline and become impatient, breath through it and repeat an affirmation. Affirmationis a declaration that something istrue. You have to develop a patience affirmation and use it when you get impatient. Here are some from poker players: Patience is power; I love to fold: I am patient and disciplined and can’t be bullied into playing badly.

Concentration is the welcomed side product of patience and discipline. Mental preparation is a complex process that incorporates all aspects of self-preparation. Getting yourself ready, learning the game, learning the math, learning how to read other players; these are life-long endeavors.

You can use the basics of psychological preparation to work toward peak performance. One of the reasons I love poker is, it’s such a personal and mental skill game. It’s a microcosm of our world in so many ways. In poker, you have to have discipline, be patient, take the right opportunities, be aggressive but not reckless, know when to take a chance, know when to bluff and know when you’re beat. These are not only good poker skills, but good life skills as well.

So preparing for a poker session is the culmination of how to prepare for any competitive event. And the most important thing: Keep your head in the game!

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. His column will give insight on how to achieve peak performance using poker psychology. Email questions for him at

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine