The Tsunami

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Check Your Ego at the Door

Poker can be an ego-driven enterprise, as will any setting involving competition, money, glitz, glamor, and the chance to eviscerate and crush one’s foes. Our egos swell when we bluff successfully, and they shrink when our opponents bluff successfully. We feel like kings of the world when opponents make losing calls against us, and we feel like donkeys when we make losing calls. Ego pitfalls are everywhere.

Example of Ego Running the Show

Suppose you’re in a shorthanded game and just crushing it: raise, continuation bet, everyone folds. Next case! Suddenly, a new player arrives, and he starts preempting all your bully behavior and bluff runs. At this point, it’s natural to feel thwarted. Frustration blooms, and you find yourself thinking, “Who the hell does this dickweed think he is? This is my game, not his. I’m gonna show this bitch what’s up!” Next thing you know, you’re making decisions that are purely ego-based. All strategic thought processes have halted and then, well, you’re doomed. Especially since you’re playing shorthanded, where the pace of play amplifies small errors and turns tiny leaks into flash floods.

Avoid Value Judgments

A big part of ego in poker is assigning labels to players. Player A is a donkey. Player B is a fish. Player C is horrible. These labels do nothing to help you while you’re playing. Identifying a player as good or bad doesn’t tell you how to play against that person. All it does is inflate your ego when you’re against an opponent you perceive to be bad, and possibly prompt you to process with unwarranted caution against someone you perceive to be as good. Instead of using ego-based value judgments, shift your thoughts to focus solely on betting patterns and ways you can profitably exploit the game you’re in.

No Ego Ever

To play poker profitably, we must check our egos at the door. Let others take the glory road. Strive to be the emotionless assassin whose only interest is to kill as efficiently as possible. Treat all bets, bluffs, and confrontations as mere points of information: information you can feed back into your game to improve your performance and your results. It will help you detach from ego, and from emotional investments of all kinds, if you stop thinking of outcomes in terms of good and bad. Just think of what’s going on without assigning value judgments because value judgments are bad. And once you leave the tables, continue to leave your ego behind, so you can perform clear-headed post-game analysis away from the tables.


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