Act Like You’ve Been There Before

17

During the first level of a $300 buy-in tournament, a guy wins an all-in and celebrates like he just doubled up with four people left in the WSOP Main Event. It seems all too common in poker, and many other competitive activities, for massive overreaction to events that don’t warrant that sort of emotion.

During an episode of PokerRoad Radio a few years back, Gavin Smith made the point that in poker, one person’s good luck is always someone else’s bad luck. Everyone should keep that in mind and be a little bit considerate of their opponents.

He was correct, and the point goes even deeper to doing things that can make you a better player. If your emotions run high on every little swing, how can you ever expect to consistently make well thought-out decisions from a calm and collected state of mind? I was always taught to handle situations like I had been there before, meaning to carry myself with a level of calm and dignity and not act like I had no experience in all-in the situation I found myself in.

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From shooting free throws late in big games to walking out to the pitcher’s mound with a one-run lead in the bottom of the last inning to sitting down to take the SAT exam to my first job interview, the ability to calm myself and not be overwhelmed by emotions has allowed me to perform at a higher level than I would have been able to otherwise.

If my emotions ran as wild as many of the other players I see around the tables, I would have no chance of being successful as a player. How can you focus when you are lambasting your opponent for calling when you thought he should have folded? How can you focus when you are high-fiving strangers and yelling like you just won the lottery when you hit a jack on the river to double through a guy’s aces in the first level of a tournament?

Around poker rooms, it has become all too common for excessive and ridiculous celebrations at inappropriate times. You’ll also see the ever-too-standard willingness to act like Phil Hellmuth and berate opponents at every turn of a card that doesn’t go your way. For some, it is simply a cry for attention. For others, it is a copycat effect of seeing it so often that they come to feel like it is how they are supposed to act in certain situations.

Not only should you act like you have been in a situation before even if you haven’t, in most instances in poker, you have been in a very similar situation many times over. A-K against Q-Q is nothing uncommon. K-K losing to A-K happens all the time.

Controlling your emotions, not crying out for attention at every chance, and handling yourself like an experienced pro will allow you to focus on making good decisions and staying off tilt. In contrast, many of your opponents will do the opposite and set themselves up to go from playing their A-game to spewing chips by letting their emotions run rampant.

If you are at or near the final table of a major buy-in tournament where life-changing money is at stake, some level of emotion is warranted. If you are just starting a $20 home game with 15 of your buddies, jumping out of your chair and running around the couch when you double your starting stack is excessive and unnecessary.

Act like you have been there before and you can get to the high-profile, high-pressure situations more often. At the same time, you will not be overwhelmed by emotion when you get into those not-so-common situations.

Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at PokerRoadCourt@gmail.com.

17 COMMENTS

      • I’m pretty even keel, although I lose my mind and celebrate every time my dog shits outside instead of my living room floor. But, maybe if I stop celebrating his dump I will find myself in the high-profile, high-pressure situations more often.

        On a serious note, good read 🙂

        • I’m pretty even keel, although I lose my mind and celebrate every time my dog shits outside instead of my living room floor. But, maybe if I stop celebrating his dump I will find myself in the high-profile, high-pressure situations more often.

          On a serious note, good read 🙂

          hillarious!

          • dont play much poker anymore but I will def take this advice to heart when it comes to my behavior immediately after having sex with a real live woman

          • The people who act like this are not players. They act irrationally. Accept it and understand because you want non-players in the field. Atleast I do.

          • What warrants a celebration and to what degree that celebration reaches is probably a matter of opinion, and whether that celebration takes them out out of focus or the zone will most def vary from person to person. Asuming that everyone else operates mentally just like Court and his Italic font listed credentials at the bottom of the article is a whole different article about mistakes being made at the poker table. Let people do there thing within the rules of the casino at there table sit back and take it in. The day everyone is so even keeled and focused at the table is the day where you probably don’t have business there anymore Court.

          • What warrants a celebration and to what degree that celebration reaches is probably a matter of opinion, and whether that celebration takes them out out of focus or the zone will most def vary from person to person. Asuming that everyone else operates mentally just like Court and his Italic font listed credentials at the bottom of the article is a whole different article about mistakes being made at the poker table. Let people do there thing within the rules of the casino at there table sit back and take it in. The day everyone is so even keeled and focused at the table is the day where you probably don’t have business there anymore Court.

            Someone’s toes just get trampled on…?

          • when i guy celebrates on me in ridiculous fashion ,i just mental note to crush him i also agree that a 300 buy in shouldnt be downgraded , not every1 has an opportunity to even play this size buy in very often, i wish the local cardrooms ran one ,for this amount ,at least once a week

          • Hahaha I have said exactly that when I see clowns screaming across the room and embarrassing themselves!! Good read.

          • u see million dollar athletes celebrate after a touchdown..god’s sake even a firstdown, a tackle or a freethrow…… give the 300 dollar buyin man a break

          • If I won a big all in pot of course I would celebrate to rub it in your face. Trying to make money at the poker table and take your chips. I know that if I celebrate and get you mad you aren’t going to be on your A game. Everyone has a different approach OP, you can sit there OP and act calm while I give a friend on the rail a high five after I double up in a pot if I choose to. Some people show emotions and some don’t that is just how it is. Poker isn’t a sport OP so your comparisons to free throws and poker isn’t a very good comparison. I have played more mtts then you OP and if I want to celebrate after winning a pot I will and there isn’t much you can do about it.

            I will shake your hand after I bust and say gg but if I want to celebrate I am going to celebrate.

          • I agree with this article. You can be happy that you won a big pot without acting like a douchebag.

          • I’m admittedly overemotional in spots especially if its towards the end of a rough session and if I’m in a downswing. This article makes a very good point that I’ll try to take to heart to at least save the emotion for when it really matters like deep in a bigger buy in or at an ft.

        • Look at Courts face in the picture above, it looks like he is looking at someone excessively celebrating after doubling into him, and pretending like he is not angry but still saying things like you call a 31 bb 3 bet shove when I am utg 2 and havent played a hand in 3 orbits with A10. You wont make the money I guarantee it.

          also…… Could Court write another article possibly outlining the degrees of celebration and when it becomes to much and maybe what is okay, then put it into strategy archives or something.

          • Can’t agree more with SirSwish. Juts because $300 is nothing for you doesn’t mean the same applies to some college kid who is an a casino for the first time in his life or just starting out in poker.

            Also, even if you are talking about experienced players, I don’t think that celebrating suckouts (which I occasionally do online when no one is there to be irritated) will make you play any worse. We have all seen enough players celebrate suckouts in obnoxious manners and yet continue to play perfectly sensible poker. As much as this may not fit into your narrative, loud celebrations do not in any way impede your ability to play poker well. It may come across, as douchey, but that’s a personal choice and its just incorrect to imply that it will harm your poker.