Poker Mindset - Overcoming your instincts

"It is impossible to understand the power of civilisation without giving up our instincts." - Sigmund Freud  

There are many different games in which we need to apply the poker mindset. It is natural that we make mistakes in the areas we encounter.One reason why weak players make many mistakes at the poker table is that many decisions in poker require responsibility or intense thinking, and these decisions are very different from the ones they need to make in their daily lives. In fact, many people who want to play poker have to go against their instincts.

To understand poker, we need to identify those areas where we need to adopt a slightly different mindset to achieve a better result.

Actions and reactions

It is human nature to look for a connection between actions and their results (reactions). Trying to find this connection is where man begins to learn. These connections can be very small and as obvious as a pin pricking a balloon and causing it to explode. Or it can be the result of an action that has taken place, say you catch someone in a lie, so you will trust that person less in the future. One of the keys to human development is to find and assimilate as many of these relationships as possible. Everything we do every day is based on previously understood actions and the reactions they cause.

One great advantage of observing these reactions is that we can change things in response to them. If your action doesn't get the reaction you want, then you can try a different action next time and see if the reaction is different. For example, if you pass a football to a friend and they don't manage to stop it, then the next time you will pass the ball more weakly. This may cause a different reaction and it may happen that you swing the ball too weakly and it doesn't reach your friend, so the next time you try again, etc.

When all these things come into play in poker, finding the link between action and reaction (or in this case, between decision and result) can be much more difficult. Every action taken can have a wide range of outcomes, some favourable and some unfavourable. All this makes the learning process much more difficult. Applying the same learning methodology to poker as to kicking a ball can cause many problems for learning.

Some poker scenarios can be solved mathematically. For example, in limit holdem it is very easy to prove that it is almost always correct to call a single bet with a flush purchase on the flop. Many situations are much harder to solve mathematically, such as it is better to fold, call or raise with 66 from middle position. There are many other influencing factors in this situation. In these places you can learn from those more experienced or simply from trial and error.

The problem with learning from trial and error is that if we choose an action and get a negative result, we will instinctively change the action to get a better result. You have to be careful, because a good decision can lead to a negative result and a bad decision can lead to a positive result. For example, we raise pre-flop with AA and lose a big stack of chips when the opponent catches a set. Or, let's say we call a pre-flop raise with K-9 and beat the opponent's A-K when the cards are K-9-6. These are just a few examples, but the principle is the same for most decisions you make at the poker table.

Just because you are a winning player doesn't mean you play well. Conversely, losing doesn't mean you're playing badly.

This is very important for a poker player to understand. Otherwise, you can stop making bad decisions in the game and continue to make them, which will have a short-term benefit. In such cases, the player with AA will play too cautiously the next time, while the player with K-9 will reformulate his opinion and find it OK to call with K-9.

Successful performance by sunday million
Source of material:
The Poker Mindset: Essential Attitudes for Poker Success