How to Control Your Ego at the Poker Table

Your ego is your worse enemy when you play online poker.

Your Ego and Online Poker

One crucial skill you need to master as a poker player is how to control your ego. If you let your emotions dictate the actions that you take at the poker table, this is a sure recipe for disaster.

The first question is why do you play poker and why your opponents play poker. Some people say they play to make money, some say they play for the fun. Whatever the answer, there are often additional or hidden psychological reasons for playing online poker.

For some people, it is the gambling aspect that dominates, and the thrill to take big risks and to take down large pots. This can lead to an addiction to the "high" of having a fantastic session winning plenty of money. Or it can be the pleasure gained from bullying and dominating a poker table, feeling like a lion surrounded by lambs.

Hence our ego, subconscious and personality takes a large part in how we play poker. Poker is a very psychological game after all. But if you are playing online poker to make money, you must control your ego; otherwise your ego will cost you a lot of money.

Our ego is an impediment to playing good poker, because it leads to sub-optimal decisions. This is often related to tilt. If you set up a big trap against a fish, play the hand perfectly and lose to a miracle card by the river, your ego will be bruised and you will seek revenge. This leads to bad play.

We all have an ego and we all have streaks of bad luck, but what differentiates the average poker player from the top pros is how they control themselves and their ego. A perfect example of that is Phil Hellmuth.

Phil Hellmuth Ego

The Greatest Poker Players Control Their Ego

This is not to say that Phil Hellmuth (above picture) does not have an ego. On the contrary, he has a huge ego and considers himself the best poker player in the World. This claim is not without foundations, as he is the player with the most WSOP bracelets, eleven.

Phil is also the player with the most cashes at the WSOP, 75. This is an amazing result and the number two player only has 65 cashes. So yes Phil Hellmuth has an ego, but he also has a unique ability to control his ego while playing a poker hand.

Phil Hellmuth makes it a rule to force himself to make big laydowns. Making big laydowns is tough especially for new players as it goes against our ego. This is because when we have a big hand such as a flush for instance, but when the board has paired, we may find all sorts of excuses not to fold. This is due to our ego getting very excited about the hand, unable to bear the thought of folding without a fight.

Other actions that our ego leads us to do are (1) playing cards that should be folded, (2) targeting a specific player for personal revenge, (3) raising and bluffing out of control to show our aggression or (4) berating other players.

Learn to become aware when your ego is playing the hand instead of you. When this happens, either regain control or if this does not work, leave the table for a short while and try to get some fresh air before coming back. Controlling your ego at poker is a skill which needs a lot of practice, so do not get disappointed if it slips in the cracks on occasion.

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