Playing poker against other plays, as opposed to playing against a machine or online, is really all about being able to “read” your fellow players to try and work out exactly what they’re holding in their hands. After all, what you have in your hand is only of secondary importance to what the other players have in theirs.It’s why bluffing and maintaining that all-important poker-face are as central to real-world poker as the cards themselves.
The problem with this, though, is that your physiological reactions to any situation are often out of your control. If you’re nervous, you probably will show it – whether by sweating profusely, shaking or even becoming hyperactive. No matter how hard you try, your own body may betray you having an excellent or truly awful hand long before you even get a chance to control it.
Here are a few simple tips to help you gain control.
Have a Drink… But Not Too Much
The reason why casinos offer free drinks has more to do with keeping you there above anything else, but you may as well take advantage of that by having a free whiskey or cocktail to help calm your nerves. You don’t want too much that it affects your judgment and this obviously doesn’t apply to alcoholics or those with any other dependency issues, but if you can control yourself, alcohol can help control your body’s reactions.
If you’re already seeing a therapist for an anxiety disorder you will already have a leg up on this one. Your existing anti-anxiety medication may well help you control how you react to stressful or exciting stimulants. Also, things like practicing calming self talk and most especially breathing exercises can really help you control any sense of nervousness. Just try and make sure that other players don’t notice this as it will give the game away!
Practice Makes Perfect
You can train your body not to react so quickly to feeling nervous by playing a lot of poker. You may start sweating when you get a great hand when you begin playing poker, but after 500 games you’ll probably be pretty tough to face. It’s crucial, then, that when you start out, you play with friends and family for modest amounts of money until you get the hang of it.
Budget, Budget, Budget
This one’s crucial for all sorts of reasons and most simply to avoid going into serious debt for what is simply supposed to be a fun betting game. But if there’s one way to make sure that your nerves will be allowed to overwhelm you, is to start spending more on a hand or an entire night at the table than you responsibly should. Know how much disposable income you have and bet responsibly. Not only is this an excellent tip for any kind of gambling, it will help calm your nerves in the midst of a tense hand of poker.
Poker is supposed to be fun and if you’re getting so nervous that it messes up your game, you’re clearly doing something wrong.