Finding the Right Game and the Right Mindset by Ben Roberts

For me, poker is a game that is meant to be played joyfully, and the path to playing the game joyfully begins with finding the game that’s right for you and entering it in the right frame of mind.

If you’re going to be an emotional prisoner when it comes to your wins and losses, you won’t play at your best. You need to play with patience, joy and a certain amount of indifference towards winning and losing. You need to be cool, calm, collected and happy. It’s not about your skill level – that’s something you can improve on continuously. It’s about how you feel, as this affects the moves you make more than your skill or playing style.

Once you’ve attained the right mindset, you can proceed to finding the right game. I believe in watching a game for a while before you enter it. This gives you an advantage over your opponents because you can pick up on their tendencies. If you observe the way they play, you can adjust accordingly before they’ve had a chance to adjust to you.

This ties in directly to the concept of playing with joy, because experiencing different games and different opponents is what I think makes the game of poker so wonderful. Every time I wake up in my hotel room, ready to start a new day at the World Series of Poker, I’m excited. I know it is going to be different from the game I had yesterday—and different from every game I’ve ever had, really.

Another beautiful element of the game that I really appreciate is the way it provides me with fresh stimulation. Many people are under the mistaken impression that once you get used to playing the game, it becomes monotonous. This kind of attitude comes from people who are not true poker players. True poker players appreciate the diversity, the changes and the differences from day to day.

Ultimately, finding the right game comes down to finding the highest stakes at which you will be consistently successful. If you’re a beginning player who’s becoming a winning player, you’ll want to step outside your comfort zone and move up in stakes since that’s the only way to increase your earnings. It’s fairly self-explanatory that the higher the games you play, the more you will win; but that’s only if the players you are up against are worse than you. Remember, there’s not much point in being the 9th best player in the world if you only play against the top eight.

Once you’ve found your game, just remember that whenever you’re feeling good, you should go with the flow and play on, and whenever you’re not, you should stop. Either way, you must keep an even temper. When things go right for you, it’s great. When things don’t go right for you, as long as you did your best and you made your best decisions, you can still feel happy about your game. Take your losses gracefully. When you can take your losses well – when your losses and wins have the same meaning to you – then you have the chance to become a great player as opposed to just a good one. Poker is supposed to be a journey of joy, and anything that is a departure from that, is off your path.

Ben Roberts