Psychological Reaction to Folding a Huge Winner

BakuninBakunin Red Chipper Posts: 19
edited January 2017 in Live Poker Hands
I'd like to start this post by saying that I know that my reaction to this was illogical and nonsensical. The fact that I know this intellectually yet became upset anyway is the part that is disturbing to me, as I had thought that I had my emotional reactions under control.

I'm playing 2-5 NLHE at a Socal Indian casino, under the gun with K :spade J :diamond and $650 behind. An easy fold, as the table is full of guys who call raises and get really sticky, and I didn't want to be in EP with KJo with three or four callers behind me.

The flop comes out A :spade Q :spade J :spade. Turn 10 :diamond, river 10 :spade. I had been hoping against hope that the 10 :spade didn't fall as I didn't want to see the straight flush materialize after I folded.

Two players got all in on the river, one with a baby flush and one with a boat.

As I said, I fully understand that this should not upset me. I made the right play at the time I acted and I should feel damn good about myself. But I felt my blood boil and an extreme anger completely take over my brain... All I had to do was limp in for five bucks and I could have taken down over $1,000 with a royal flush... Grrrrr.... Just reliving it is making me angry.

The funny thing is, I don't have this reaction to bad beats any more. I usually stay steady emotionally all night, regardless of what happens. I booked a win for the night (not that that should matter either) and I have been running pretty good most of the year so far. I am not superstitious and it makes me laugh when people ask for a setup or blame the dealer for bad luck. I fully understand how completely irrational my reaction was, but there it was. I had to get up, go home, and crack open a bottle of Bushmills just to get my head straight. Thankfully no one cut me off while I was driving home or I might be in prison right now. (Just kidding. Sort of.)

Do any of you ever have inexplicable emotional reactions to things like this? If so, is there anything you do besides going home and self medicating?

Many thanks to anyone who read through this rambling nonsense and many more to anyone who has a solution for me.



  • persuadeopersuadeo Red Chipper, Table Captain Posts: 4,238 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I think what's happening is you wanted something easy to go your way, and all you had to do is flick in a bad call or inadvisable open. If you are a winning regular, you know how tough the game can be. However, you need to focus on how bad of a play that would be, and thank yourself for being a good poker player.

    That straight flush was not for you.

    And this is not just empty advice; I have folded what would have been straight flushes twice this year, in spots that were even less marginal than yours. So feel better.
  • Christian SotoChristian Soto RCP Coach Posts: 2,195 ✭✭✭✭
    Hey bud,

    Focus on this: Poker is a game of decisions. The player who makes the most correct decisions wins.

    Nothing else matter, not even the money. Folding KJo in that spot is the correct play.

    Hope this helps. :)
  • BakuninBakunin Red Chipper Posts: 19
    Persuadeo, did you keep playing that same night on those two occasions? It bothers me that I wasn't able to, but at least I had the sense to realize I was off balance and leave instead of blowing off my stack and then rebuying, as I probably would have done a few years ago.

    That is a good psychological response that you suggest - that straight flush was not for me. For every time I pick up a grand in a fluke spot like that, I'd lose two or three more over time by playing trouble hands from EP. Another way I try to reframe events like this in my mind is by telling myself, that is one reason WHY I am a winning player over the last couple of years - other people blow off cash playing badly after an event like this, and I don't. Not any more.

    Christian, I thought I understood that, but I guess I need to understand it at an even deeper level than I do right now, or I wouldn't be making idiotic posts like this. I suppose we never finish working on our mental game, just as we never finish working on our technical skills. There is always room for improvement...
  • Eager StudentEager Student Red Chipper Posts: 66
    Hi Bakunin,

    There are a few books that may help you with this issue.

    Elements of Poker by Tommy Angelo
    The Poker Mindset by Matthew Hilger
    Positive Poker: by Jonathan Little and Dr. Tricia Cardner
    The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler

    Try to treat each poker session as a learning session. If your goal is learning and you concentrate on learning, then your session was successful regardless of whether you win or lose. Results don't matter only making the correct decisions really matter.

    Hope this helps,
    Eager Student
  • Christian SotoChristian Soto RCP Coach Posts: 2,195 ✭✭✭✭
    @Bakunin and @Eager Student,

    Good material suggestions posted! I'll piggy back on what @Eager Student said and suggest Elliot Roe, who has some cool hypnotherapy material strictly for poker tilt and poker mindset. :-)
  • BakuninBakunin Red Chipper Posts: 19
    Thanks for the recommendations. I have read Elements of Poker, The Poker Mindset, and Mental Game. Elements of Poker especially helped me - I need to reread it. I often think about Angelo's saying that walking away is easy, it is the getting up out of your chair that is the hard part. In fact, that is what now prompts me to get up and go home when I recognize that I'm not thinking straight, which I'm sure has saved me a ton of money over the past few years. I hadn't heard of Positive Poker - I'm going to head over to Amazon right now and order it. Thanks for the recommendation.

    I'm usually a very calm person and people who know me often comment on how calm I stay in the face of anything - until they see me on one of the rare occasions that I get upset and they see my irrational side come out to play. I've been skeptical of poker hypnosis, but maybe that's what I need. I quit smoking though hypnosis a decade ago so I know there is something to it. I probably need psychotherapy but my paranoia issues prevent me from trusting psychotherapists. Ha ha. I'm going to try it out and I'll report back after using it for a while.

    This is an awesome forum - thanks for the suggestions. The average IQ seems much higher here than other forums I have participated in. :D
  • Christian SotoChristian Soto RCP Coach Posts: 2,195 ✭✭✭✭

    Haha. Thanks for the the IQ compliment. Keep us posted on what you pick up from the book, or any progress you make. :-)
  • persuadeopersuadeo Red Chipper, Table Captain Posts: 4,238 ✭✭✭✭✭
    @bakunin, to answer your question, I did continue playing. I was irritated, of course, and it lingered in my mind until I had to focus on whatever the next interesting spot was.

    I would suggest you had other things going on in your life or mind that gave you such an extreme reaction.

    In general, I only get truly upset when I make fundamental errors, such as this week, when I paid off a fish at my table, imagining a scenario where she was on a strong move with a draw on the turn and representing another hand; this sort of thing can send me into a spiral if I am not on top of my emotional control, because I have essentially betrayed my own game and my knowledge about her, which is vexing because so much effort is wasted. Folding KJ in your spot is just a normal function of your approach to poker and not a strategic error, obviously, so if I had been the player folding, I don't think I would be too upset.
  • evpropevprop Red Chipper Posts: 62 ✭✭
    When re reading your books, write down the big things that resonate with you and keep them handy to muse through when you feel like it.

    Be sure to write them down though, writing is the best form for retaining information I believe.
  • DrTriciaDrTricia RCP Coach Posts: 190 ✭✭

    I'm the author of Positive Poker (along with Jonathan Little). From a psychological point of view, I think it would be interesting to revisit what you were saying to yourself when this happened. We often believe that an event makes us unhappy (tilty, depressed, angry - whatever) but in all actuality it's our beliefs that drives our emotional reactions. You may have been telling yourself, "I'm so stupid for not making that call" or "look at what an idiot I am" or a myriad of other things. Whatever as running through your mind led to an emotional reaction. It's likely you ruminated on whatever your thoughts were about this and you couldn't detach. Learning how to distinguish helpful thoughts from unhelpful ones is key to emotional control (there are others but this is pretty important).

    I'll be covering info like this in upcoming videos.

    Couple of things to think about. What would you have said to a friend who brought this to you? We would often never say things to a friend that we would say to ourselves.

    Second, and this is for everyone really, if you don't talk to yourself, then your self will talk to you. this means getting control of our inner self-talk is critical to our success and happiness.

    Hope this offers some insight!

  • ChipTraderChipTrader Red Chipper Posts: 178
    Dude you suck !!!! lol No seriously ... guess what ? Your human so stop trying to hide or mask your emotions they are never going away and all the psych books in the world wont make them go away !

    All you can do is enjoy the pain and bitch about it for a few days and let it defuse on its own over time. Then repeat the stuff you read in the psych books because there all true but useless at changing you into a non mortal. :)
  • scourrgescourrge Red Chipper Posts: 3
    I think you already answered your own question a few times in the OP.

    The truth is, you're right about it being irrational. The fact that you can say "this emotion I felt was irrational," proves that you have a solid intellectual grasp on variance and decision-making roles in poker. But that doesn't mean it's 100% ingrained. I didn't read every post all the way through, but I saw someone reference Tendler, and I will too. Tendler talks about different levels of learning:

    1. Unconscious incompetence (don't know that you don't know things)
    2. Conscious incompetence (know that you don't know things)
    3. Conscious competence (know things, but only when you are focused)
    4. Unconscious competence (know things without trying)

    In your given example, there are a few skills or knowledge bases that could be not quite at level 4 (but are clearly at level 3 and change). Here are some possibilities:

    - Folding KJo UTG is correct: I'm guessing it's not really this one, since you were very confident in the play itself
    - Results-orientedness is bad: I'm guessing it's more this one. You might know consciously that focusing on results is not the key in poker. And you know consciously that in this spot, the result shouldn't affect the validity of the play. But you did get upset, which implies you might have to do a little more work in getting over being results-oriented.

    Nothing to be ashamed of, by the way. I don't think there are very many people who aren't results-oriented at least SOME of the time... Every once in a while, we're going to get that kind of visceral reaction to a result. The fact that we reign it in and learn from the experience is the key.
  • BakuninBakunin Red Chipper Posts: 19
    Thanks for all of the replies, there is a lot of great insights posted in this thread. If a friend came to me with this story, I would say: "You need to learn to laugh at randomness, that kind of thing will happen to everyone if you play long enough, and if you can laugh it off and not let it alter your play, that is one way that you gain against some of your opponents - some of them will tilt off a bunch of chips when that happens or start playing stupidly. If you don't, this is one of your edges."

    "Enjoying the pain" is also good advice. Especially when it is done over some Bushmills.

    scourgge makes a good point too - if I understood variance at as deep a level as I thought I did (rather than just understanding it intellectually) this shouldn't have bothered me. I suppose that being aware of irrational reactions, and especially being aware that they are irrational, is the most important part. It is the irrationality that we are blind to that hurts us the most.

Leave a Comment

BoldItalicStrikethroughOrdered listUnordered list
Align leftAlign centerAlign rightToggle HTML viewToggle full pageToggle lights
Drop image/file