I really do not think that reading poker books or watching coaching videos can prepare you one hundred percent for the mental trauma that professional gambling can throw at you. There are many similarities with regards to poker with many other fields and one such field is in financial trading. This is an area where discipline, preparation, game selection, sound money management and a whole host of other skills and attributes are as important as they are in poker.

But when you study the habits of financial traders then you will hear them say that often trading is a life experience. There are no golden rules to follow to guarantee success, no set plan to mimic and copy. It is only when you are immersed in it day after day and you experience the painful things that are thrown at you (in a financial sense) that you really start to understand what it really means.

You can read books and hear people talk about variance being entirely normal and losses are to be expected until the proverbial cows come home. The stark fact of the matter is that poker is played by human beings and human beings have emotions. I don’t care if it is financial trading, sports betting or poker, the fact of the matter is that there will be days when you are kicked in the teeth and you will lose your cash and you will not have done anything wrong.

We all know that this is going to happen but how many people really truly accept it psychologically? If they did then there would never be any tilt in poker. It is the battle against yourself that is the toughest obstacle in the game. They always say that perfectionists suffer most in life. Well, perfectionists are certainly not suited to financial trading for the simple reason being that they require everything to be perfect before they pull the trigger and risk any money.

Extreme negative variance in my opinion is the single biggest obstacle a poker player has to overcome. In fact, the negative runs do not even have to be all that severe because if they are perceived as severe in the eyes of the individual then they actually are severe!

The problem is that because poker is so interesting as a subject and a game that it attracts a wide range of people. What this means is that it can attract people who are not psychologically suited for the game or their risk profile and attitude to risk is too low.

Once you can accept that the way that you play poker is an extension of your personality then that is a great start. The way that you are as a person, the way that you feel on any given day, the way that you react to loss or adverse events, the way that you conduct yourself in everyday life, the way that you treat money etc., will all have an impact on your poker game.

If you think that poker is simply about playing cards well then you have an awful lot to learn about poker. Some people just seem to have the ideal personality and character for poker. I never did and playing poker was always a constant battle against myself. But the good news is that you are not on your own fighting this battle. If you can really truly keep yourself under control most of the time even in the face of terrible adverse events then you will be a formidable opponent for your enemies.

I once knew a multi-millionaire who would never gamble more than a few dollars whenever they went into a casino. This was despite having the financial capability to wager huge sums. What this shows is that it can be difficult to alter your attitude to risk simply by you having more money. What this also means is that the chances of you ever working yourself up from low-stakes play to high-stakes play are close to zero as there is far more to this process than simply being a good player.

The players who frequent the biggest games in the world are not always the best players. Many of them simply have more financial muscle or they have a cavalier attitude towards money. You simply cannot create a personal risk profile out of thin air. You are what you are and it maybe better for you to accept that from the get go because then and only then will your poker life get a whole lot easier and less stressful.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson is sponsored by Poker Loco and can be seen at ACR Poker

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The Greatest Obstacle in Poker
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