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A POKER PLAYER IN THERAPY

In the preceding essays I defined “tilt ” as any adverse impact of emotion on one’s play. The ideas offered should help many players who apply them seriously to avoid or counteract the poker emotional reactions that we call “going on tilt.”This can mean a substantial improvement in their long term profits from poker.

For some though my advice, or that of anyone else, will be insufficient to remedy their problems with tilt. As one trained in clinical psychology poker, I will say that in some cases the only remedy I am aware of would come from addressing the tilt problem in psychotherapy.

The reason other avenues fail (if the tilt problem is server or persistent enough ) is that the emotional reactions we call “tilt ” often involve elements hidden from consciousness. Without putting some time into one or another of a few different kinds of therapy, it is a almost impossible to develop real insight into or to active any resolution of these unconscious Factors.

Though such a solution to a tilt problem may sound extreme, it is actually quite cost effective when you consider the likely savings (from reducing tilt), especially for a serious, middle or higher limit player. Even the less serious. “garden variety” tilt of typical players involves emotional factors which tend to remain hidden in everyday life outside the walls of the therapist ’s office. Thus, briefly putting on my psychologist ’s hat, I would like to suggest that we are all creatures of emotion.  Emotions influence a great deal of our behavior. Difficulties arise, when we are unaware of the true cause of an emotional reaction.

For example, you can become anxious about something without really knowing why. Similarly, psychotherapists frequently see patients who are depressed, but don ’t know why.(Of course there is the “experience versus chemistry” debate, I’ll keep this simple.) Their task is, in large part , to help these patients come to a deep understanding and appreciation of the experiences that ultimately led to a depressive reaction. In poker dictionary, when a player poker experiences a sizable downswing or perhaps a very “bad beat, ” which might even be compounded by his opponent needling him afterward, it is not surprising that this player might react with feelings of anger, a desire to seek revenge, even various palpable bodily feelings and a noticeable interference by emotions with cognition.

If you experience this, the real question is, “Why are you really angry?” To answer this question you almost have to have spent a couple of years or so in one of a few kinds of psychotherapy. You have to have repeatedly experienced the process of looking beneath the surface emotion to determine what other (deeper, if you will) emotions and cognition ’s are fueling the feelings of which you are aware (e.g., the anger and desire for revenge).Once you have gained an understanding of what ’s going on under the surface, the troublesome emotion tends to dissipate. You regain your objectivity. Though it is probably not necessary for large numbers of players to enter therapy to deal with their tilt problems,I thought it might be some value to try to illustrate something of the sorts of unconscious emotional elements that may underlie tilt by giving just a glimpse at how they might emerge in therapy. Such factors are present even for very “normal” players. It is just that they lack the intensity, or perhaps the precise quality which plagues the more seriously tilt-prone player.

To try to illustrate this I will use a very brief fictitious interchange that could conceivably take place between a therapist and patient in a session in which the patient has complained of going on tilt in a recent poker session. He had taken a “bad beat” and had been laughed at by his opponent afterward. (Note that the patient in this example would be one who has been in therapy for some time, and so is relatively efficient at getting in touch with feelings and verbalizing them. Nevertheless, it is much more condensed than is typical in real life.

It is intended as well to represent a relatively “normal” person.  In writing it I had in mind the kinds of internal difficulties with which many typical players might wrestle.)

Patient:  Yeah, it was bad enough to lose that much in the hand, but when he sat there and giggled I really got angry.

Therapist:  I can hear I your voice that you’re still furious.

Patient:  That jerk; I could have K….

Therapist:  You could have killed him.

Patient:  Yeah.  I really wanted to.  So I tried to really get him back a few hands later, but it just backfired.  He had a real poker reading hand and I overplayed mine.  God, I was just so mad.

Therapist: I think you felt more than just mad.  How did you feel when he started giggling?

Patient:  Well, angry, but him…

On Tilt: Part I

On Tilt: Part II – The Professional Attitude / Subtle Losses of Judgment: Part I
 Subtle Losses of Judgment: Part II / A Poker Player in Therapy /  / A Poker Player in Therapy 1

 
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