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‘The Course’ Skill #7 ‘Emotional Numbing’ #32


Sky Matsuhashi

on February 13, 2016

Emotional numbing in poker is super important: don't let the emotional lows destroy your bankroll nor the highs kill your profits.

Download and listen to this episode as you follow along below.


‘Emotional Numbing' | Podcast #32

Podcast Mission

My mission for today is to show you how to work on preventing emotional swings from negatively affecting your game at the tables.

7 Step Process for getting the most from Skill #7: ‘Emotional Numbing'


  • Title: Skill #7. Emotional Numbing; The title alone tells us we are working on our emotional game here. No math, no stats, no complicated hand ranging, just the mental game.
  • 23 pages long
  • Headers:
    • The Pitfalls of Running Good
    • The Pitfalls of Running Bad
    • Measuring Success
    • Final Thoughts

Set a Goal

Now that we have a basic understanding of the chapter, we want to read productively and effectively.  To do this, I’ve devised 3 questions, and finding the answers to these is our goal while reading.

  • What skills can I learn from this chapter? We’ll learn how to handle the emotional swings that come from playing poker, which will definitely help to improve our play at the tables.
  • Why are these skills important or relevant to my game? The mental aspects of poker are very important to our overall performance and to our longevity in poker.
  • How can I implement these skills in my game? Let’s read and find out how we can control our emotions at the tables.


Another great chapter.  No technical poker stuff at all, just all mental game.  To get the most out of this chapter you’ve got to read it for yourself.  I recommend picking-up up this book as there’s too much for me to unpack for you in this one episode.

One thing that Ed Miller said that I’d like to focus on for the rest of the show is:

  • Once you’re playing consistently at the $2/5 level or higher, you absolutely have to find a way to deal with the game’s emotional ups and downs. You need to find a way to numb yourself emotionally to a lot of the day-to-day noise in your results.

Great point.  Poker has its ups and downs, and they can often swing back and forth day-to-day.  Many of us, and of course I include myself in this, allow the swings to affect us too much.  I know that for myself tilt used to be a huge part of my game, and I’ve worked hard to get this under control.  I still work on tilt before, during and after every session I play.

Summarize and Analyze

  • Finding a way to deal with the emotional ups and downs will improve our play at the tables in every session we play.

Understanding when our emotions run high is the first step to controlling them.  The more you understand, the better position you’ll be in to stop these emotions from ruining a session or ruining your bankroll or the profits you’ve made.

So let’s get to work and analyze our game on an emotional level.  Answer the following questions and keep the sheet for future use (in tonight's poker session).

What is the cause of negative emotions while you play? >> Bad beats, losing to certain opp’s, a mistake, getting drawn out on

What is your history with this? >> Knowing the history of your negative emotions helps you to realize how damaging these are to your game and to your bankroll.  What are the terrible things that have happened b/c of negative emotions and tilt?

What are the first effects of negative emotions taking over? >> As you’re playing, you need to recognize when things are starting to get out of control… hands clenched into fists, yelling at the screen, your body suddenly slumps into your chair, mouse throwing, are you barely breathing, does your face get all red and hot

How does it escalate and when do you decide to finally quit a session? >> What do these initial effects lead into if you don’t quit playing and your tilt gets worse?  Clenched fists start pounding on the disk, you’re banging your mouse as you move it around on the mouse pad, maybe you throw things across the room.

What C-game effects do these emotions have? >> So how does your skill or technical game change while tilting?  Knowing this gives you concrete ways to counter your natural instinct when going on tilt.  For example, when I get beat in a hand by a fish sucking out on my AA’s, I can start to get really vengeful and try to play more pots than I should against that same player to try and win my money back.  So now that I know how this tilt affects my game, I can focus on not allowing my game to change in this way.  This becomes a thing that I can focus on correcting while I’m suffering these emotions.  So, I might still be in some emotional turmoil, but at least I’m recognizing its effects on my game and I’m working to keep my game on point.

What are some logic statements that can help you deal with emotional turmoil at the tables? >> Logic statements help you think through a problem as you’re facing it.  In the case of my problem of getting vengeful, a logic statement I use is, “Revenge is irrational, use your anger to spur you to play better.”  I say a logic statement to myself in every warm-up and it’s close at hand while I’m playing so I can refer to it as necessary.  So, write down a logic statement to help you think through whatever negative emotion you’ve been writing about so far.

Take Action

Now for the most important part in this whole process – taking action on what we’ve learned.

Use this piece of paper in your next session.  You’ll use it in your warm-up, while you play and during your cool down.  For more info on warm-ups and cool-downs, listen to episode 5.

As you play, be aware of your emotions and at the first sign of some inner turmoil, whip out this paper, read your logic statement and the effects of these emotions on your technical game and prepare yourself to fight it.  This is an internal struggle with yourself, and I know that you’ve got it in you to get past it.

At the end of your session, add any details about your emotions to this sheet of paper.  Maybe you experienced nothing, and that’s great.  Or maybe your emotions manifested themselves in a new way or your technical game changed in some other way than expected.  Add these to the sheet so you can be better prepared for it next time.

At the end of your session, answer the following Q’s:

  • How do I feel about the session played?
  • How did I like employing the skills learned?
  • Do I think this skill has some value and does it merit further review before fully integrating it into my repertoire?


When it comes to working on your mental game, you don’t need to wait until the next day, and in fact working on it just after your session is key.  Like already mentioned, add details to the sheet your working on and assess how your emotions effected your session.

Rinse, Repeat, Review

Now that you’ve taken action and made this initial assessment, it’s time to take action again in another session and work on controlling our emotions.  Just repeat steps 5-7 here for as long as it takes until you feel this emotional state is under control.

A really important aspect to the mental game is that it’s ever changing.  You can suffer from revenge tilt one month, then once fixed maybe a new tilt like entitlement tilt will emerge.  Now you can go through the same steps you just took to fix any new emotional swings you encounter.


Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Do everything I just discussed for your next few sessions.  Pick one mental game issue you’ve got, and put everything you can towards getting past it.  Answer all the questions, refer to the sheet in your warm-up, keep it in front of you as you play, and say your own logic statements to get you through any emotional swings.  This can only strengthen your game.

Purchase your own copy of ‘The Course'.

And you may as well get ‘The Mental Game of Poker', too.

Check out the rest of the episodes in this 11-part series:

  1. How to Learn from Poker Strategy Books
  2. Play a Simple and Effective Preflop Strategy | Skill #1
  3. Don't Pay People Off | Skill #2
  4. Assess Your Hand Value | Skill #3
  5. Barreling | Skill #4
  6. Evaluating Board Texture | Skill #5
  7. Making LIVE Reads | Skill #6
  8. Emotional Numbing | Skill #7
  9. Exploiting Aggression | Skill #8
  10. Playing Deep | Skill #9
  11. Taking on the Pros | Skill #10


Sky Matsuhashi

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