Have you stomped in a mud puddle lately?

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Do you remember stomping in mud puddles? Wasn’t that one of the best times of your childhood? Well, life can’t be serious all of the time and we often let the stress of poker get to us. We get caught up in the numbers and forget to relax and remember how fun playing our game can be.

It’s not the end of the world if you lose, get knocked out of an event or lose a small amount of your bankroll, but some take it pretty hard, which leads to some incorrect conclusions. You can’t let the game become an obstacle to your enjoyment; otherwise you’ll question everything from your play to your ability.

Remember when you took a few chances near the bubble instead of sitting tight hoping to slip into the money?
Remember not being satisfied with fifth and gambling with your chips to put yourself in position to win?

Those were exhilarating times, carefree, willing to risk more. It was fun to mix it up, to stray from the “tight-aggressive” image you have spent years trying to perfect and project. That’s when the game meant more to me and I think to you.

Enjoy it, embrace it and let others fall into the trap of becoming so serious that they can’t relax. You can be at peace if you allow yourself the luxury to realize it’s only a game, a game you can only play to the best of your ability.

You have to accept the outcomes of your decisions. Need more guidance? Seek it. Need more experience? Log more hours. Need a break? Take it.

Seek out a few mud puddles. Maybe drop down to a lower limit or tournament and try to have more fun, take a few risks and interact with opponents on all sorts of social and poker levels. Take a deep breath, loosen up your game and prepare to have fun. Try some of those trickier moves that everybody always seems to pull against you. An occasional bluff in the right spots can reap big rewards.

You’ll be surprised at the new image you’ll be projecting and how you can tactically change speeds that will garner you more pots.

Let’s not allow ourselves to become so mindless that we forget about the competitive nature of playing poker and how it was when we experienced a triumph when facing a sure defeat, as well as preventing a complete collapse because we felt the collar around our necks squeezing from the pressure we put on ourselves. It doesn’t have to seem like work to be work.

— Al Spath is a poker author and instructor. He can be reached at alspath@alspath.com.