I'm pretty well versed in poker now. If I concentrate I can slowly make a bit of money and feel I'm better than the average player in my current stakes.

Unfortunately I have this problem where occassionally I make a decision based on impulse and it'll cost me a lot. For example I'll be in a hand with one other person and they'll obviously be strong, I won't hit my draw or whatever and I'll just bluff the river. As soon as I lose I kick myself because it was obviously a mistake, I just lost my patience or concentration or whatever. These mistakes are nearly always to do with bluffing at the wrong time and they always take me back to square one in terms of bank roll.

Do any of you guys suffer from similar problems and are there ways of maintaining concentration and patience and stopping this from happening?

  • During the hand, are you aware that you're making a mistake and just following through because of the impulse, or are you oblivious to it and only realize afterwards that it was wrong? I ask because simply being able to recognize the problem in real-time is one of the keys to fixing it. Dec 21, 2015 at 19:30
  • I'll realize I'm doing it but end up just saying "**** it* by the river and usually go all-in in the hope of scaring them off the pot and getting my chips back. It often happens when I'm playing someone I consider a donk, have a good hand pre-flop but hit nothing on in the board. It's worse if I've invested a lot already by the river.
    – Varrick
    Dec 21, 2015 at 19:35
  • One easy to forget step: Kick yourself just as hard when you realize you did it, but it worked. Dec 23, 2015 at 22:39

4 Answers 4


I agree generally with the other answers, but I just wanted to point out that I think your post looks a lot like the specific type of tilt known as "entitlement tilt."

  1. You start your post with a description of how well you know the game and how you make money at it.
  2. Your description of the problem hands sounds to me like you (subconsciously) feel your superior knowledge of the game versus your opponent's should enable you to win an arbitrary pot, so you are more inclined to push money in, even when other factors suggest you shouldn't.

Jared Tendler's books on the mental game get good reviews. This graphic also enumerates different types of tilt and has a few tips from him, including entitlement tilt tips:


  • That sounds pretty spot on!
    – Varrick
    Dec 21, 2015 at 22:22
  • I think we all suffer from all of these at some point or another! Dec 21, 2015 at 22:23
  • I think the main problem is impatience in general, I might start playing mtt's with a higher payout to encourage me to remain patient for a higher payout. I don't really get a kick out of poker unless I earn say $50+ dollars in a single payout. I've been cheap recently and been playing freeroll tournaments with loads of idiots and low payout.
    – Varrick
    Dec 21, 2015 at 22:32

There are ways of maintaining concentration sure, but what works for me might not work for you. You will have to find your own method.

For me I listen to music when I play. I find that it stops myself from getting bored and maintains my concentration. The main thing is I don't get bored so I don't mind folding in these situations you've described. I don't listen to it so loudly where I can't hear what's being said at the table, just some background noise.

I also bring a little notebook with me when I play live. If I feel myself getting bored or impatient I take a break and scribble down some interesting hands or situations that have happened so far. I know it might sound a little silly but even having a little note in that notebook that reminds you to slow down and be patient might help.

You'll have to find what works for you. If music isn't your thing how about you try the following:

  1. Before you act take a deep breath and count to a number, 5, 10, whatever you think is enough time to think it through.
  2. Learn to manage your emotions, try your best not to get to attached. Don't think of the money your playing with as $,€ or £, think of it as a buy-in. If you don't associate the real world value of your buy-in you'll make better decisions and shouldn't act impatiently.
  3. Force yourself to slow down. Don't go to the extreme where you're taking a minute to open pre-flop or anything, but again like part 1, give yourself time to think.
  4. Remind yourself impatience loses you money every so often in a session.
  5. If you find yourself getting impatient, get up have a break or quit playing if the break didn't help.
  • It is something you'll just have to work on, but as they say patience is a virtue. It can be tough and sometimes you will get impatient but you can improve on it for sure. Wish you all the best with it :)
    – Grinch91
    Dec 21, 2015 at 13:25

This sounds like a classic example of tilt. Being able to control oneself in these situations is often the only the difference between a consistently winning poker player and a losing one. For example, imagine that on average you make about 5 big blinds of profit per hour spent playing. Tilting away 20 big blinds once every 4 hours would wipe out all that work; and I'm guessing that 20 big blinds is on the low end for these mistakes.

You've heard the old adage that a penny saved is a penny earned--well that's just as true at the poker table as anywhere. I used to have the same problem, but it really helped me to look at it this way: you can either "give" the other player your chips or you can save the chips for yourself--when you keep them, you've effectively "profited" by making the right choice. If it's 20 big blinds that you almost bluffed with, then you now have 20 big blinds you otherwise wouldn't have had. Saving money is making money and you should mentally reward yourself for being able to do that.

I know it doesn't feel good to have had the potential for a big hand and then having to give it up, or to have put in a bunch of chips only to have to fold the hand, but you have to stay in the moment. The chips you've put in are gone, regardless, so make the right decision given the moment that you're now in. Instead of looking at a fold as "losing", think about whether or not you played the hand well. Long-terms winners are better at "losing" hands, if that makes sense.

Grinch91 has some great tips for how to stay calm and be patient and you should experiment with any other habits that keep you in a balanced mood. It's all mental. One positive side effect of working on this aspect of your game (that I've found for myself at least) is that when you learn to be patient, to make the right decision given the moment, and develop the ability to override a tendency to be impulsive from emotion, those skills can also translate positively to other non-poker areas of your life.


Considering your question and comment the problems happened before the river.

It was not A as in one costly mistake - it was series of mistakes. If you are kicking yourself for A mistake then you are kicking yourself for the wrong reasons.

... have a good hand pre-flop but hit nothing on the board. It's worse if I've invested a lot already by the river

Why are you even in the river? Especially in the river with a lot invested. You have not hit the flop. You invest money at the flop and turn. Now you have a big pot at the river. You really think a donk is going to come off a big pot when they have shown strength?

If you don't hit the flop and someone shows strength then get away. A donk can by playing a range of hands and you did not hit. At that point there is very little in the pot. If you popped it pre flop and they called and then even more reason to get away if you don't hit. What you did was risk a lot of money to win a little with a low chance of success.

A good hand (overs) that does not hit by the river is the worse possible bluff. Donk hit a marginal flop and no scare cards come up so you bluff (a big pot) in desperation. If a scare card comes up that does not hit you then even more reason not to shove. A scare card only works if you set them up for it and you did not set them up.

Two overs with no possible straight or flush should not even be in a big pot at the river. Those are pots you want to keep small. If you hit an over you are not as likely get a big payout. You only want to build a big pot when you either have a monster or can hit a monster against a stack that may pay you off.

If you are isolated on a donk in position then the time to take a stab at it is the flop. Don't take donks to the river for a bluff - they are emotionally and financially committed by then (kind of sounds like you). If you are not isolated in position then again why are in the river with a big pot? Even then why a shove? A pot size bet is equally (in)effective.

A bluff is only effective if your opponent can put you on a better hand. Based on your question and comments you did not go through any of that thought process. It was not a bluff - it was a donation.

If you got stacked by a donk then you are not better than the average player at the table. That is not how you play a donk. Isolate, steal small pots without putting your stack at risk, and then take their stack with a monster.

  • Yes, I usually play like that initially but slowly run out of patience. If you play fair or fold, people will surely notice that and start to take advantage of it? "If you don't hit the flop and someone shows strength then get away". I guess until you've got a read on them as overly aggressive? Thanks for your answer, has highlighted some things I'm being complacent about.
    – Varrick
    Dec 24, 2015 at 18:30
  • @Varrick You are still using "patience" as an excuse. If you make every play for reason and think every play through to the river then patience takes care of itself. Your read was donk not overly aggressive - you play them differently. Even if this was a good aggressive player your play was wrong. You are not at the level to intentionally mix up your play.
    – paparazzo
    Dec 24, 2015 at 19:14

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