Saturday nights are often simply called “fight night” in our household. Aside from enjoying the mixed martial arts, it is a good excuse to get together with friends, fire up the grill, and enjoy some local foods (and of course beverages).
During one of those nights, a friend of mine mentioned how she is often blown away by the respect the fighters show each other. They nearly always help each other up at the end of the round or hug and offer congratulations after the fight despite how bruised and bloodied they may be. They are able to set aside their emotions and remain professional.
Her comment was that she didn’t know if she would have the ability to be that gracious. She thought the only way she could fight someone was if she was extremely angry with them. The fighters spend enormous time and energy getting hyped up to physically overpower, submit, or knock out an opponent. How does the loser deal with the disappointment so quickly to be able to accept the offering of an outstretched hand?
At first, I echoed her sentiments. Thinking back to playing basketball or even slo-pitch, where a loss has stung so badly that I have had to force myself to congratulate and shake hands with the other team at games end. This is the same feeling I saw on the faces of the American women’s hockey team after losing the Gold medal to the Canadians during the Olympics.
With a few moments more thought, I realized that poker may be closer to MMA than I had originally considered. So many battles end up in one-on-one situations, whether in tournament or cash game. Managing your emotions in these spots is imperative to be able to stay focused and give yourself the best chance of winning in the long term.
In poker, like MMA, we develop strategies to implement versus different opponents, some are basic strategies for playing unknown players. Some can be quite intricate if we have a history with our opponent. Over the long term, our aim is to be profitable and make the perfect plays, even though in a particular session we may end up facing a loss.
When MMA fighters get punched in the face they usually react one of two ways.They fill up with rage and charge back in swinging wildly, seeking retribution. This sometimes leads to a spectacular knockout, but more often than not, this type of fighter wakes up staring at the referee wondering where they are and what happened. Others react in a more calculated manner, taking a step back, using half a second to regain composure, and then attempt to continue to apply their game plan.
In poker you are going to get punched in the face often. It’s going to come out of nowhere, and it’s going to sting. Losses are frustrating. Of this there is no doubt. Thankfully in poker we don’t have the physical pain to get past when dealing with these situations. However, you still need to decide whether you want to wildly strike back in anger, or stay calm, cool and collected while maintaining your well thought out game plan.
If this sounds like the type of player you want to be, set a goal over the next few months to make sure you are approaching the game as systematically as possible. Try to keep your emotions in check, even when things are at their toughest. While doing this, watch your regular opponents to see who copes poorly emotionally with losing session and how that impacts their game play. You might be surprised how many extra “knockouts” you score by strategically picking off opponents who come charging at you in a rage.