How could I complain about a bad beat when I was in Paradise? Alas, that's what I did on my first morning in the Bahamas. I flew down to the islands to cover the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. After a stroll on the beach, I returned to my room and fired up my laptop for a quick session of online poker. That's when I absorbed another vicious outcome at the virtual tables. Aces cracked. Again. Brutally this time, by a Eurodonk from Finland holding Q-J off-suit.
After unleashing a stream of expletives, I sat out for an orbit and stepped out onto my terrace overlooking the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean. A gentle sea breeze reminded me that there's more to life than poker and that I really shouldn't sweat the small stuff. I returned to my game in a much better headspace. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that poker is just a game and that you shouldn't let the outcome of a situation affect your mood for the rest of the day.
I'm the type of person who wears his emotions on his sleeve. If I'm having a great day, everyone around me knows about it. They can see the confidence and exuberance bubbling over. Conversely, when I'm having a bloody awful day, then everyone around me can sense it. That's why it was important for me to control my emotions at the poker tables because I did not want that negativity spilling over into the rest of my life. A friend of mine told me that whenever he posts a losing session, he wakes up the next morning in a foul mood, which affects his family and work life. Initially, he had no idea that was occurring until his wife pointed out his tremendous swings. When he wins, he's in a positive and jovial mood. When he loses? All hell breaks loose.
That's the difficult part about poker. Sometimes you can play like absolute crap and yet still post a monster session or even win a tournament. On the flip side, you can play nearly perfect poker, yet find yourself continuously busting out of tournaments or hammered in cash games by inferior opponents. The most successful players keep their emotions in check. They don't get too giddy when they're on a rush and they don't beat themselves up when they are getting seriously cold decked. They simply go with the flow and adjust accordingly.
Bad beats are not just indigenous to poker. They happen all the time in life. I travel frequently for work and every trip to the airport can be an arduous adventure. It's sort of like playing poker. There are so many variables that you cannot control, such as weather. Some days, I'm taking beat after beat like getting stuck in the slowest moving security line, or experiencing another delayed flight, or getting the unluckiest seat on the plane. In poker, you have to work with the cards you are dealt. Same goes for air travel. You're often stuck with your seat assignment. Sometimes you get lucky but other times you can catch a wave of misfortune such as getting stuck next to a crying baby, a smelly passenger, or the traveling salesman who won't shut up because he insists on telling you his entire life story on your flight from New York to Las Vegas.
You have to let the travel bad beat stories roll off your back, just like at the poker tables. Bad beats happen and some days you're going to get more of them than others. Crying babies. Delayed flights. Aces cracked. It's just another day in the life. Poker is a game. Remind yourself of that, because sometimes I forget and have to step outside to take a glimpse at the real world.
Paul "Dr. Pauly" McGuire is a writer, poker player, and avid traveler from New York City. He's the author of the Tao of Poker blog which can be found at taopoker.blogspot.com. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com.