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High emotions in poker

Poker players have to learn how to deal with the emotional highs and lows of the game.  Online poker clips don’t often show players dealing with their emotions.  Thus how we handle our emotions is one of the hidden aspects of poker.

Poker Can Teach us How to Stay Calm in Many Situations

We have to maintain control of our emotions in every facet of life.  Parents have to “let go” as their children grow up but letting go releases powerful emotions.  Medical personnel deal with emotions all the time.  Most television medical series deal primarily with doctors’, nurses’, and patients’ emotions.

Police and firefighters obviously have high risk and emotionally charged professions.

Even though poker is “just a game” doesn’t mean that there aren’t emotional moments.  In fact, there are many such moments.  Some players use poker online as way of learning to deal with the emotional side of poker in relative anonymity.  Others plunge directly into live poker and learn firsthand the effects emotions can have on players.

Deep Breathing

Yoga masters have been teaching people how to enhance health and overall well-being through deep breathing techniques.  It may be difficult to practice deep breathing in a live poker venue but it is very easy to practice when you’re playing poker online.

Deep breathing done properly brings large supplies of oxygen to the brain and to all of the body’s cells.  For many players, doing a deep breathing routine just before starting a poker session can have beneficial effects.  Many players also find that their emotions come down to Earth if they do a similar deep breathing routine after finishing a session.

Once again, it takes time to develop good breathing techniques but that is simply one part of developing the highest level of expertise that you can in poker.

It takes time to become a good poker player so it ought not be a problem to understand that learning deep breathing also takes time.


This is similar to deep breathing as it incorporates breathing exercises but meditation goes further.  This is a holistic method of relaxing mind and body in such a way that the individual can deal more efficiently with daily events. 

Meditation is rooted in the Eastern understanding that mind and body are inseparable parts of the same reality.   This is a difficult concept for people in the West to grasp.  We are so deeply set within the Aristotelean system of separating mind and body that we find it very hard to impossible to put the parts together again.

By practicing meditation before and after a session, we slowly train ourselves to relax as one indivisible being.

We bet that you didn’t realize that a discussion about poker could become so philosophical!  The fact is that the challenges that poker brings are similar in many ways to the challenges in everyday life.

Taking Long Walks

Many people walk as exercise.  Walking also releases chemicals that make us feel good emotionally.  We often talk about taking breaks from poker.  This is similar to the advice office workers hear all the time: to get up from the desk, stretch, and walk around.

As important as it is to study the development of every hand, not just the hands you’re in, it’s also important to get up and walk around.  Even if you walk for just a few minutes, you’ll find yourself becoming relaxed.  It is this sense of repose that might allow you to see a hand more clearly and to make the right decision under stress.

Stop When You’re Tired

This is similar to the advice to walk but it goes further.  When you’re tired, you need to rest.  You might need to rest for s long time.  When that happens, you need to end a session.  Sometimes we do things in a normal online poker session that we can’t do in a tournament.

If you think that you will eventually enter tournaments, you need to learn to play well when you’re tired.  Ironically, learning to play when you’re tired also involves recognizing that you’re tired.  When you are a new poker player, the best action you can take when you’re tired is to stop.  It is similar to exercise.  At first you do very little.  Day by day, your body gets stronger and you can exercise longer and harder.

Dealing with fatigue is a major aspect of dealing with emotion.  You need to learn how to extend a session even though you know that you are getting tired.   Stopping is an important aspect of learning how to extend a session.

Become a Wise Investor

The money you put in a poker pot is functionally the same as the money you use to buy financial assets in the stock or bond markets.  Any investment involves putting some money down today in the hope of having more money later.  Many investors fret their investments every day.  They have emotional highs when the asset goes up in value and emotional lows when it falls in value.

Staying in a pot is the same except that the long-term resolution of the investment is a mere few minutes, not months or years.  Asset investors who are struggling with the emotional side of investing often get the advice to start out small.  Even if they can afford to invest thousands, it might make more sense to invest hundreds.  Dealing with the emotional highs and lows of investing takes time.  So, new investors often are told to go slow.

Similarly, if it is emotionally too difficult to play in what for you are high stakes games, then you should start out in low stakes games.  Keep in mind, the game is the same but you’ll feel a lot more at ease if you have less at risk.  Slowly, as your self-confidence grows, you’ll be as comfortable in a higher stakes game as you were at the start in low stakes games.

Many Opinions

As with every aspect of life, dealing with emotions brings out many charlatans.  We cannot tell you which relaxation method is best for you and which will simply take your money and give you back nothing in return.  As with the advice on starting out in low stakes games, we recommend that you invest in any emotions-calming technique at little to zero financial risk.  Methods that promise great results often deliver very poor results.

The bottom line is that there are many ways to learn to keep your emotions in check.  These methods can help us in all areas of life including poker.