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by Ashley Adams

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Tilt and Flow

In early December, I found myself mired deep into a macabre of a losing streak, stuck over $2K playing online in a two week span playing higher stakes than I normally would. Poker is as fickle as the Northern Lights, but I didn't freak out because I had been playing some of the best poker of my life. I won a tournament and had a couple second place finishes in that span, but even those cashes could not overcome the losses at the cash game tables. It's mind numbing that I'm making great decisions and playing some of the best all-around poker in my career, yet when I open up my bankroll spreadsheet the numbers spell out... L-O-S-E-R.

That's poker. I'm not going to change a thing or tweak my game. I had been minimizing my mistakes and made solid decisions although I've become a victim of the capricious nature of variance. You have to let the game of poker come to you and come through you. Buddhists have preached about letting life flow through you including all of its experiences is really about training your mind to focus on the present moment... the now.

One of the most difficult aspects of poker to overcome is that the flow of the game rarely cooperates to your hands and mental status. The more you try to force the situation and impose your will onto the game, the more frustrated you become. Going card dead or playing against calling stations will often test your patience and focus.

Letting go of the ego is the quickest path towards living in the moment. Suppressing your ego at the poker table is essential. Tiltdom sets in when you are convinced that the strategy which you've worked on and developed after hundreds of thousands of hands and decades of experience is no longer valid and you have to deviate from your game plan in order to achieve success. That includes taking chances that you normally would avoid like chasing gutshots and two outers or playing hands out of position that you would never consider playing. But after losing a few hands or getting bluffed out of a big pot will often make you question the foundation of how you play.

Tilt is a powerful liability that has the potential to corrupt almost every facet of your daily existence such as work-tilt, ex-wife-tilt, or traffic-tilt and proceed to allow anarchy and chaos running rampant through your life. Most of the time, you had no idea how foolish you were acting. Your reality had become tainted by tilt. Not only should you not operate heavy machinery, but you should also not be near large sums of cash that you're ready to donk away at the tables.

Although mathematics and strategy play a tremendous role in success at the tables, so too does psychological temperament. And aside from a book or two, there's very little on the subject matter on how you should be experiencing poker.

That mental grasp is the edge that the best poker pros in the world have over the rest of their peers. Some good players in the world are erratic. And you have to be to play poker. You have to have a reckless streak inside and that "gamble" in you that sets you apart from 99% of the people on this planet.

But from what I've seen covering tournament poker over the last two years is that the most successful poker players over the long term are the ones who have the best temperament. They control their emotions and while their internal chatter might resemble the drunken hotel room scene in Apocalypse Now, their external appearance is stoic and they look unfazed by the bad beats and suckouts.

The best way to endure a losing streak? Play through it.

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