Right focus

December 31, 2007

Sometimes I think that I play too casually. Partly this is due to the amount of online poker that I have played in the last year. Partly this is due to watching my opponents and seeing their bad plays and knowing that they’ve made a bad play and assuming that I am a better player than they are. Partly this is due to trying to control my emotions and not get too involved in my game so that I make bad/impatient plays.

I notice this sometimes in STTs, when we’re sitting 5 or 6 handed. At that moment a light goes on. If I really want to, if I am patient but appropriately aggressive, if I pay attention and watch how my opponents play beyond just their HUD stats, if I really want to win or at least ITM, I can do it. Often this works out for me, but it’s like I have to shift into another gear of focus, of desire to win. I have to try harder, but without getting inappropriately anxious or tense.

In a lot of physical activities you have to train your body. Some muscles need to be always tense, others, tense to a certain extent, but others need to be loose and relaxed all the time. And some key other other ones need to be relaxed but ready. If these ones are tense it slows their reaction time. These ones may be used often but need to be relaxed when not in use so that they can respond very quickly.

This combination of tense, tense but controlled, relaxed, and relaxed but ready can take years to develop and control. There is an activity of mine that I have been involved with for a very long time. For around 9 years it was my passion and my single most important focus. Nowadays I’m still involved with it but it’s only a hobby but even still I go back and check this combination of muscle situations regularly to make sure I’m not getting into bad habits.

I’ve only been playing poker a year and a half and am still working on developing the equivalent combination of tense/relaxed/ready mental muscles. Finding this balance between relaxed and focused is something that I still need to work on.



  1. i lapse into a casual mode of play,usually at a loose passive table.At such a table there is not much thuinking threw of hands going on.Often there are 3/4 players in a pot at the river.Everybody fearing a suckout.
    I think to stay focused you need to play higher stakes- take longer,to make decisions and to workout your opponents.
    Just wondering whether all your talk about muscles relaxing/tensing etc is about you trying to develope a poker instinct.
    Do you have a good poker instinct?How often due call a big river bet with mediocre hands,putting your opponents on busted draws?And crucially how often are you correct?Does your instinct ever get you to fold a top 2 pair flop,because you think your opponent has trips?
    not critising you,just giving you food for thought.

  2. You’re probably correct; the muscle comparison is akin to some kind of instinct, though I wasn’t trying to draw that direct of a comparison.

    I think you could draw some connection with various elements; always tense muscles could compare with general alertness, whereas always relaxed muscles that interfere if tensed could be compared with emotions that get in the way. And the relaxed but ready? Maybe that’s where controlled aggressiveness comes in to play.

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