Poker players shoot themselves in the foot by focusing on the wrong things. Recently, I was on a poker radio show and did a LIVE poker coaching session for a poker player I did not know.

My only requirements when the radio host picks a volunteer are that the poker player wants coaching and is willing to talk about the problem on air. This is how the coaching went.

American poker player JD has been playing poker for about four years and plays most days online. Four months after Poker’s Black Friday and the shut down of the three largest poker sites in the U.S., JD continues playing daily on smaller sites.

JD has a home based business, gets up about an hour before the rest of the family, and plays a $3.30 to $22.00 NL Hold’em Sit-n-Go. Most often in the lower buy-in range. JD keeps good records and cashes more than 50% of the time.

After focusing on JD’s strengths, which were a nice balance of patience and selective aggression, we turned to challenges.

DB: “What are your challenges at the poker table?”

JD: “I just cannot win with pocket kings.”

DB: “How do you know?”

JD: “I can show you three and a half years of screen shots of when I lost with pocket kings!”

DB: “How many screen shots do you have of you wining with pocket kings?”

There was a dead silence on the other end of the line followed by flat response.

JD: “I don’t have any.”

DB: “Do you believe you have ever won with pocket kings?”

JD: “Yes.”

Our brain records everything that happens to us, however, we have selective playback. Our mind plays tricks on us because it tends to recall emotionally charged memories, particularly negative ones easier than neutral or even joyful ones.

JD was doing what most poker players do… focusing on what did not work rather than what was working. We do it in our lives as well as at the poker table.

When I became a poker journalist in 1998, one of my primary motivations was to have access to the winning poker minds. I wanted to get inside their heads. What mindset separated consistent winners from the losers?

The top three characteristics of a winning poker mindset:

  • Ability to focus on wins rather than losses
  • Willingness to get away from a losing hand sooner than later
  • Learn the lessons inside a loss then letting it go

As human beings, we tend to disregard our wins because the emotions associated with our wins have less energy than the tilt we generate from losses. Our wins become throwaways.

The fact is that we have an astonishing ability to control our minds and our mindset at the poker table. The key is that we must pay attention to our thoughts and the emotions that accompany those thoughts.

Losses keep us up at night… if we let them.

Until next time, remember my motto:

“If you can’t raise, don’t call.”

Donna Blevins
Poker Mindset Coach &
Dean of Poker Mindset Academy

© 2011 Donna Blevins

Editor’s Note: Donna Blevins is a professional poker player and Poker Mindset Coach, who helps people get out of their own way and stop sabotaging their lives. For a sneak peak of Donna’s upcoming book Poker Mirrors Life, go to Poker Mindset Coach

2 thoughts to “What Poker Hands Do You Remember? by Donna Blevins

  • Lois Bedgood

    Please send me your e/mail, I lost it and a lady I met today would like to talk to you about poker.
    Thanks lois

  • Edwin Paul Baker

    The mind is capable of huge trickey, NLP is a formal method. David Blaine glamorises the power.

    I like to play 2-7, It’s a marker in my head. 9/10 people don’t play these hands. If I hit one in three I tend to hit bigger pots.

    I feel more confident with 2-7 than AA, better memories of better payoffs, I guess.

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