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What to do when pessimism creeps into your poker play

What to do when pessimism creeps into your poker play

BBZ community member Vivian, who goes by “starviv” in our Discord, had been struggling with her poker play throughout August and September.

“Things started going poorly when life stuff–such as cost of living increases and family needs–intensified,” she tells us.

Starviv, who works in retail, began playing online poker more seriously during the pandemic and has enjoyed several four-figure scores since then. She loves studying poker, both on BBZ Poker and chatting with friends, and currently plays around 200-300 tournaments a month, on average.

But the weights on her shoulders in real life began impacting starviv’s mental game on the tables.

“I wasn’t as confident playing anymore,” she says. “I was getting nervous and felt disappointment in both myself and my poker sessions.”

Even the biggest poker players go through this.

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Lex Veldhuis has been at the top of the poker world for more than a decade and knows all too well about how ferocious variance in tournaments can be. Still, when things are going poorly, he feels it. He’s stated several times on his Twitch stream–one of the biggest in poker–that it’s so much harder to stream and feel motivated to play during a downswing.

Starviv was certainly feeling the strain. “I felt tired and fatigued during sessions which led to being increasingly distracted while playing.”

She also lost her passion and curiosity for studying poker, which had previously been strong.

“I always found enjoyment in finding and solving a problem,” she says. But that had all gone during this downswing. “I knew I needed to change something when I realized my pessimism in life had leaked into my enjoyment of poker.”

So what did starviv do to counter the bad run?

“I started playing fewer tables in my sessions which reduced my total daily buy-ins and my average buy-in (ABI),” she says. “I also relaxed more outside of poker with other activities such as gaming and reading, and made sure not to slack on exercise, even when it was hot outside.”

But perhaps most importantly, starviv found a way to reinvigorate her love of studying.

“I made sure to continue studying, both on my own and with friends,” she says. “Frank really helped a lot.”

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That’s Frank Hamel, BBZ Poker’s Performance Coach. He gives regular seminars to our Daily Seminar students to help them with their mental game.

“He really helped reframe my mindset,” says starviv. “One of the things he teaches is paying attention to the different physical states as they relate to our mental states and emotions. For instance, if you’re feeling restless or agitated it might show in your body first. Relaxing by doing breathing exercises can really help.

“His sessions also help with staying focused through a streak of losing sessions, or worse, a downswing. His seminars help me to focus on the present moment and current hand/decision rather than the bankroll implications.”

One particular session with a student named Chris really hit home with starviv.

“Chris addressed some important topics that were also relevant to me,” she says. “One was that he created an online schedule and game plan for his Sunday sessions, to control his table count. He talked about his fears of the unknown, noting that some of his fear was based on the assumption that his plans wouldn’t change.”

In other words, Chris felt fear that he would never adjust to his new situation. That if his bankroll took a big hit, he’d continue playing the same amount of games and the same buy-ins, hoping that something different would happen, but lacking the confidence to make it so.

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To reduce the fear, he simply had to adjust.

“It’s OK to lower or raise your ABI/volume as needed,” says starviv. “Chris now defines success as following his game plan and making correct decisions, one hand a time.”

Doing the same has certainly helped starviv. She’s managed to turn things around and recently enjoyed her biggest ever score, “by a mile”, winning $5,850 for a runner-up finish in the $10.50 buy-in Sunday Squeeze on ACR.

To anyone reading this who’s going through a tough stretch at the poker tables, starviv says: “Just stay curious about the game and monitor your energy levels you can play while feeling your best.”

Join the BBZ Community today and sign up to our Discord.

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