4 Rules to stay composed at the poker table - Los Angeles Post-ExaminerLos Angeles Post-Examiner

4 Rules to stay composed at the poker table

Poker is a high-pressure game, there is no doubt about it. However, if you are going to make it far in the game, you need to be able to keep cool and composed. So, here are 4 rules to help you achieve Zen level composure while at the poker table.

1 Learn the lingo

This is something that is easy to overlook, but it is really useful to know all the jargon surrounding poker. There are a lot of terms for different phases of play and for the various winning hands. Take a look at this guide to learn your poker lingo.

There are two reasons to know all this stuff:

  • First, if you can talk the talk, other players are more likely to think you can walk the walk. This is going to be important for bluffing players and generally for gaining respect at the table.
  • Second, and perhaps more importantly, if you miss something that is said or have to slow the game down, this can really throw your composure. If you feel like you are holding people up, you might start to rush and make bad decisions. Similarly, feeling like you do not understand what other players are saying can really knock your calm.

2 Don’t let yourself get rushed

Sometimes, players will try to make you play quicker, as a way of undermining your composure. You need to make sure that you are playing the game at your own pace, and that you are making conscious decisions and not just making a call for the sake of making a call. The worst thing you can do is rush into big calls, because you will probably make a rash decision.

The flip side to this is that you also should not dawdle. For one thing, overly slow play really will irritate your fellow players, but also it does not help you to agonize over decisions either. The point is to have a plan and play to that plan, do not get yourself rushed into doing anything else.

3 Be Gracious in Defeat and Humble in Victory

Easier said than done, I know (just ask Toby Maguire). But truthfully this is key to keeping your focus during a game. As tempting as it is to let out a cheer when you successfully call someone’s bluff, it serves you much better to be humble. Similarly, it can be frustrating to have someone luck out and beat you on the river, but again keep that disappointment under wraps.

Of course, doing this helps keep the game pleasant. However, this is not just about politeness, there is a strategic advantage to keeping your emotions tightly bottled during the game. This is about keeping your frame of mind calm and collected, so you continue making the right decisions.

It is also about not letting other players get a window into how you act when you feel a certain way. To be able to bluff effectively, you need to be sure that players cannot read whether or not you feel confident, excited, disappointed or anything else about the hand you have been dealt. The easiest way to do this is to keep a constant, calm exterior. The moment your calmness slips, you give your opponents a window into how you are thinking.

4 Consider Wearing Sunglasses

This one is a little controversial, in fact, some tables will not let you play wearing sunglasses. However, if you can wear sunglasses for a game, you should seriously consider it. The simple reason for this is that controlling your eyes, in particular where you are glancing, is one of the hardest thing to master when it comes to keeping a poker face. So, if you can cover up your eyes, that is one less thing to worry about. If you are wearing sunglasses, you are free to glance around at players and cards without other people knowing. This, in turn, helps you stay composed because you do not have to keep thinking about where you are looking, and focus instead on the game and reading the players around you.


At the end of the day, a lot of staying composed will come down to practice and your own mindset. That said, these four rules should certainly help you keep cool in those high-pressure situations, so you’ll be stacking those chips in no time.

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