The game of poker is warfare of an unusual type. You battle it out with chips and cards instead of armaments and physical strength, using conflicting information to make the best decisions possible. Some players come to the felt with a major part of their arsenal muted; they lack the psychological support to allow them to attack poker properly.
While many people talk about the mathematics, strategy, knowledge of opponents, and heart that it takes to play poker competently, most do not acknowledge that you need to have the psychological abilities to be at the maximum of your abilities. One of those psychological factors is having what I call “The Complete Circle.”
The Complete Circle is made up of three components: support from family, support from knowledgeable poker friends, and non-poker interests. If you have only one or two parts of this circle, you are not reaching your full potential.
The first part, support from family, is perhaps the most critical part of building The Complete Circle. For some in the poker world, they face ridicule and sometimes outright dislike from family members regarding their pursuit into the world of poker. It can be parents, a spouse, or any significant other who, if they do not agree with what you are doing, can cause you to have apprehension at the tables.
For example, look at many of the popular Asian players in the game today. In the Asian culture, gambling is looked at as the bottom of the barrel when it comes to society and can have an effect on the particular person’s game. You can read the stories of many of these Asian players that admit that they lied to their parents about their poker pursuits. It wasn’t until they rectified this situation and received the blessing of their parents that they were able to fully extend their skills at the tables.
When it comes to spouses or significant others, that can be even trickier. A partner, through repeated arguments about the money and time involved in the game, can induce a player to not be at their best. You probably have seen this in action at the felt… a player moves from the table to take a cell phone call, has their significant other badger them about when they will be home or a bill that could be paid with the chips sitting on the table, comes back, and they return on significant tilt.
It is critical to poker success to have your significant other firmly behind you in your chosen hobby or occupation. Why do you think most poker players have significant others that are involved in some way, either recreationally or professionally, with the game? It is not only a situation of “birds of a feather,” but it is also has basis in a firm understanding and support.
The second part of The Complete Circle, support from knowledgeable poker friends, is good for the growth of your game. Instead of ruminating about particular issues such as bad beats, the play of particular hands, or alternative strategies in the recesses of your own mind, having several poker playing compatriots to bounce these questions off of can expand not only your knowledge of the game, but also give you a fresh insight. These friends can come from a multitude of areas. Poker forums, for example, allow players to build a network of confidants.
The final part of The Complete Circle is non-poker interests. Do you truly believe that a radio DJ, after playing music for several hours a day, goes home and does the same? Do you think a mechanic, after grinding over vehicles for a living, goes home and works on his car? The ability to step away from what is a focal point of your life is important to keeping a fulfilling life.
While it is important to have a passion for the game of poker, it is also important to have outside interests that can release your mind from that pursuit. The change of pace is critical to recharging the batteries and perhaps even re-feeding that passion that is important to success. Having anything be a 24/7 pursuit not only leads to burnout, but it also stunts the ability to make adjustments to your mindset and skills to become better.
By having The Complete Circle filled, you will have made a substantive stride towards success at the tables. It will clear your mind, allowing you to focus on the tasks at hand, and will relieve outside pressures that can distract you from your pursuit at the tables. It is a segment of the psychology of poker that you can change to improve your game immediately.