Emotional intelligence, an important skill

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Emotional Intelligence, as a psychological theory, was developed by Peter Salovey and John Mayer: “Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.”

An astute poker player can readily see how this is applicable to the study of poker. It is, however, an area that gets little attention and few players consider it worthy of study. The same folks who study the math, try to learn about tells and reading opponents, reject the study of their emotions and the effect this has on the game.

No one is immune from emotions. We recognize tilt, but that’s where the study usually ends.
I hope some of you take the time to include Emotional Intelligence in your poker learning. This might give you an edge.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your emotions and the emotions of others. It’s generally said to include three skills:

• Emotional awareness.
• Ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks such as thinking and problem-solving.
• Ability to manage emotions, including regulation of your emotions and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person and yourself.

Never live in the past. Did you make a mistake or get sucked out on? That doesn’t matter; learn what you can from the mistake, but don’t dwell on it. If you find yourself fixated, get away from the table and let it pass.

If your emotions rise, especially negative emotions, try to learn how to let them pass. When our emotions are unchecked, we tend to dig in and not let go. There’s always another hand, another session, another tournament. Poker is judged over the long term. Just like luck is a short-term winner, unchecked emotions can be a short-term loser.

Don’t try to play perfectly. You can’t. Poker is interactive and you can’t control the other player; perfection cannot be achieved. Peak performance can.

Hold no grudges at the table. You got beat by not seeing the flush or that the board paired; you got rivered. It happens to us all; let it go. Don’t hold a grudge and play just against that one player. When I see players get into these duels, I can’t wait to get a monster hand and play them both.

Developing your emotional intelligence is an area that will give you an edge at the poker table and help you keep your head in the game.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at editor@anteupmagazine.com.