Stop Being So Hard On Yourself

We only humans, girl, we make mistakes To make it up, I'll do whatever it take I love you like a fat kid love cake You know my style, I say anything to make you smile

[50 Cent - 21 Questions]

I'm going to be honest with you. I never dreamt that I would be using a 50 Cent lyric to emphasise today's point, but I believe that these four lines can help us in our pursuit to focus on the positives and get rid of the negatives. Stick with me, especially if you already think I'm crazy!

Tournament poker is brutal and unforgiving. You can play incredibly well and suffer one bad beat or cooler and it's GG (good game). But you can also make some dumbass move that was never going to work in a million years and go out in a blaze of hot mess. I very rarely suffer from tilt from bad beats or coolers. They're part and parcel of the game and out of my control. What used to really tilt me was when I made a ridiculous play and I kicked myself for making it. Maybe some of you are recognising similar traits in your own mental game.

Once you've mastered remaining calm through things out of your control it's time to focus on not being so hard on yourself when you make mistakes. Several students of mine have recently been too hard on themselves calling themselves stupid or an idiot. Here's some things that I hope might help:

Be realistic

We're all human and we all make mistakes at the table. The key thing is to make sure we use these mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow. What exactly went wrong? How did I end up on the river facing a check-raise and no plan? Why did I jam T9s over a MP open when the guy hasn't played a hand in two hours? How did I forget to pack any snacks for the game and now I'm really hungry? Figuring these things out afterwards can help you make better decisions in the future.

Make every day a school day

When things go wrong at the table, you can beat yourself up or you can get excited that it's another opportunity to learn something. Become a life-long learner and embrace the mistakes. Do whatever it takes to work out how you could do better next time. Have a plan if you face a river check-raise. Think through your opponent's range before pulling the trigger. Pack some snacks in your bag before you head off to the casino.

Adopt a constructive feedback attitude

Be brutally honest with yourself and write down some helpful and constructive feedback that you believe someone in a similar situation would benefit from. Don't be harsh and self-critical, but accept that sometimes you need a big kick up the butt to get things moving in the right direction.

Reward yourself

When we're in school we are praised and rewarded when we do well and we're punished when we do something wrong. As adults we often don't praise or reward ourselves or each other enough and I think that's really bizarre. Who doesn't like a high five or a piece of chocolate when they've done something well? And yet most of us are quick to focus on the things that go wrong while never praising ourselves (or others) when things go well. Make a point today of rewarding yourself for something that you did well. Buy yourself a cake. I love studying poker like a fat kid loves cake.


Try different things to see what works for you and suits your style. Do/say anything to make you smile. OK, I'll admit that I struggled a little bit to get that final line into this post, but you get the idea. Try things out and enjoy the process.

If you managed to get to this point in the article I would like to give you a high five for getting through all of the 50 Cent rap lyric references. If you never want to hear a rap reference in an article again then please let me know. If you loved it, then let me know too!

Good luck at the tables... and off them!

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