Focus on winning

Competitive poker is such a mentally draining strategic battle; it’s easy to lose sight of your primary objective. In your quest to outplay your opponents, secondary goals often overtake your attention. Winning no longer matters; instead you seek morale victories and justifications for losing. It is crucial for those who care about winning to avoid sabotaging their results. If you play to win, don’t forget the winning part! Avoid focusing on:

  • Proving your worthiness
  • The worthiness of your opponent
  • What others might think of a specific play you are about to make
  • How others would play your current hand
  • How unlucky you are about to get
  • What excuses you will make for losing if you bust out in the current hand

Many things happen at the poker table that sidetracks your focus. Opponents distract you with trash talk, downswings promote self-doubt and bad beats ignite tilt. Here are a few pointers to help you through those times when you feel your focus slipping.

  • Tighten up your play: Keeping things tight and simple should help reduce the severe blunders that can result from lack of focus. Keep this in mind while you work on bringing your focus back to winning.
  • Tune out your opponents: Ignore the table chatter while you try to get yourself back on track.
  • Walk away for a minute: When you feel like your focus is straying; take a break. Sometimes it’s best to get blinded out for an orbit or two versus playing through your funk.
  • Relax: Pressure can cause even the best players to tilt. Remind yourself that you cannot control the cards. Empower yourself by focusing solely on what you can control and ignore everything else.


It is naive to think that you can maximize your win rate while focusing on anything else but playing your “A game”. Take inventory of your focus during your poker session. When you notice signs of your focus wandering towards anything else than playing your best, make sure to simplify things, ignore needless distraction and walk away from the table for a while. Not only will this help you maximize your wins, it will also help you enjoy your time at the poker table that much more.

Jeff McIntyre
Jeff has been playing poker seriously for over 8 years. Growing up playing sports and other games of skill he always obsessed about the intricate details that determined the winner of any given competition. A key organizer of a 40+ monthly poker league with his friends, Jeff prides himself from getting the most out of the game of poker. He strongly feels that poker players can enjoy the strategic and competitive elements of poker while still enjoying the social benefits of the game.
Jeff McIntyre

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Jeff McIntyre
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