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Bless the Beats

It’s never easy to shrug off a losing session. We’ve all taken our share of beats, both good (if there is such a thing) and bad. Sometimes, they can affect us so deeply that they permanently alter the way we play.

But, even in the midst of these trying ordeals, there are lessons to be learned. Each hand we lose becomes a teaching opportunity, and the careful student of the game will gather up these bits of knowledge like so many invisible chips. Here now are some of the best ways I’ve found to recover from a rough stretch at the tables.

Stop – Drop the ‘Roll

Get away from the game. If you’re having a terrible session, especially one with the potential to wipe out your bankroll, then there is nothing to be gained by remaining at the tables. That vain hope that rises up, that urge to “get back even”, can only hurt you. If you enter a game with the quick-double-up mindset, you’ll instantly be halfway toward losing your money. While it may work some of the time, more often than not you’ll be flushing your entire bankroll. Calm down, give yourself some distance, and come back when you’ve regained your mental equilibrium.

Lessons Learned

Think back over the hand. Did you make the correct play? Was your timing right? If they answer is yes, then you can relax. While the loss may still sting, you can be secure in the knowledge that you made the right call, knowing that correct play will prevail more often than not. If, however, you made an ill-advised bet or refused to read the danger signs, then you have no one to blame but yourself. But rather than mentally punishing yourself, take your poor play as an opportunity to learn. File the results of the hand away in the back of your mind, and rummage through them next time you’re faced with a questionable situation. Use your beats to build knowledge, rather than letting them inflict scars upon your game.

Shut Up

Don’t tell bad beat stories. Plain and simple. No one wants to hear it, and no one really cares. Poker is a game of math. There are a limited number of cards dealt out on a rigid, structured basis. This means that, no matter how terrible you think your loss just was, hundreds of thousands of players have taken it before. The only question is, will you be one of the chosen few who shrugs it off, or will you become a member of the clamoring, whining masses? Remember – you want your opponents to play poorly against you. More often than not, you’ll emerge on top.

Check Your Attitude

After enduring my first losing session in a week, I was feeling despondent about the entire situation. I knew I had to write this column, but found myself wanting to not so much as think about poker. However, after a little soul searching, I realized the source of my poor play which led to my losing session. The cause, to my eye, has everything to do with attitude. I sat down at my computer today with a chip on my shoulder, having felt sorry for myself since waking up to a bad-news phone call. The entire last few days had been something of a mess, and I wasn’t thinking clearly when I decided to play. Know this: Poker is not a cathartic experience. Your bad mood will get no worse by sitting down at the felt. If your mind is troubled, your game will suffer.

Get Back on the Horse

You didn’t get this far by quitting. If you lost your entire bankroll, then take a break before starting over. If you still have some funds left, don’t go rushing into a game with your entire remainder in tow. Play some low-limit, and put yourself back through the boot-camp basics. Half of the struggle toward becoming a winning player is learning how to deal with defeat. Get back on the horse, and never lose site of the goal.

Take these lessons to heart, and you’ll be back to winning form in no time. Don’t let your frustration drag you down. Stay smart, renew your focus, and get back into the game.

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