It’s a poker matter of body over mind



No-limit hold’em is an incredibly nuanced imperfect game. Novices often think bluffing is a much larger part of the game than it is. Experienced players know there are many facets and bluffing is only one component. Yet, bluffing is a component and a profitable one if used judiciously.

As anyone who has played the game knows, there’s a huge philosophical and psychological aspect to it. You have to be constantly aware of what’s going on at the table and you often end up in mental tug-of-wars with opponents. It’s a game of aggression where your wits and guts are your weapons of choice. No one would mistake poker for a physical contest.

However, in this article, I want you to look at things a little differently. That is, how can your physicality enhance your mental approach? Let’s start with a simple question. Have you been in a situation where you just knew your opponent was weak and all it would have taken was a decent-sized bet to win the hand yet you couldn’t pull the trigger? It’s OK if you have. We all have. It takes a lot of mental fortitude to make a naked bluff.

So, here is where the physical comes into play. Next time you play, be on the lookout for a situation where you’re fairly certain a bluff will work. Rather than talk yourself into it. Let your hands and chips be your weapons of choice. Free your mind. Totally divorce your mind from the equation. Force yourself to grab an appropriate amount of chips and place them in the pot. You don’t have to splash or make a grand display. Just grab some chips, count them out and place them across the line. Whatever happens next, happens.

Whether you win or lose, I think you will find it liberating. In either case, you will have crossed a significant psychological hurdle. Don’t worry about the result. Be proud of the accomplishment. If you win, you’ll receive positive reinforcement making it easier for the mind to make the decision the next time. If you lose, you’ll see then it wasn’t so bad. You lost a pot taking a stab at it. That’s poker and you employed a new weapon that didn’t pan out this time. Either way, you’ll ultimately come out ahead in the long run as your body will have forced the mind out of its comfort zone.

— David Apostolico is the author of Tournament Poker and The Art of War. You can contact him at

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine