When asked about the variance of poker from a psychological perspective, I often say, “I can handle losing, but I hate it when I make a mistake.”
And I hate when I misread a situation. After all, as a psychologist, I should be pretty good at people reading. Nonetheless, I have discovered a leak.
Often, I think I’m being bluffed when the villain really has the best hand.
This could have to do with my table image: an older man who’s not that concerned about money and plays fairly tight. So I think my table image makes me ripe for a young loose-aggressive player to bluff me.
It could have to do with my day job as a forensic psychologist. I evaluate those in the criminal justice system who may not be fully forthcoming.
OK, I did the first step: self-discovery. I tried to understand myself, how I make decisions, my behavior and want to plug this leak as fast as I can.
I have the skills to avoid tilting when I make this mistake, as I’m pretty good at hiding my feelings and usually save my tilting behavior for the ride home. But I have to plug the leak or I will drip money continually.
I write out my thoughts and set a goal of watching hands I’m not in, trying to determine if someone is bluffing or has the goods.
I watch live and archived poker and try to determine who’s bluffing and in what situation.
I question myself as I’m playing. Am I raising or calling because I think I have the best hand, can push the other person out or think the other person is bluffing? Have I bet so as to give the would-be bluffer the chance to fold?
A good bluff always tells a good story. The problem is having the nuts usually tells a good story, too. The easiest bluffs to pick off are those desperate ones that make no sense. Well, really the easiest to pick off are when I have the nuts. I only can be sure when my river all-in gets called it’s not a bluff.
What else can I do? I can put my opponent on a range of hands and if his range beats me, I need to consider folding.
The keys to plugging a leak:
• Realizing you have a leak and didn’t just have bad luck
• Setting goals to fix the leak
• Work on a viable strategy to fix the leak
• Keep track of the leak.
And, as always, keep your head in the game.
— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.