For the last year I've been trying hard to improve my online cash games. I'd always played cash games before I got into tournaments, but when I started having tournament success I stopped playing them for a while. When I got back to them I kind of felt stuck. The things I used to do didn't work anymore. Poker is constantly evolving. Adaptation to those changes will prevent that you get stuck, is not necessarily about watching this or that training site video; reading X or Y strategy forums; discussing hands with friends; all of that is very important of course but in my opinion the main thing should be recognizing at all times that learning is a long way to go. Being real about what you think you know will help you to improve faster, accepting the fact that even when you think you are good, most likely you are not when you compare your level or knowledge, creativity, poker theory, mental strenght, tilt control, against the top players in the world.
It's been a lot of hard work but with a few adjustments here and there I feel like I'm making good progress.
My tilt level has improved dramatically, mainly because I'm more conscious about it. I feel really good about that one because it's not an easy thing to accomplish, after improving in that area I think I can improve in other areas faster now. It simply gives you confidence and a better judgement when analyzing your game and looking for mistakes/leaks.
Something that has helped me a lot with that is non-poker related. For the last few years I've been reading a lot about science in general. It all started when I got very interested in astrophysics; I've been following a few scientists that I admire and learning from them since then- their podcasts or books or science forums. I've even been taking some online classes at coursera.org about neuroscience, physics, math, etc. I think that constantly learning about and through the scientific method has helped my mind to look at poker in a calmer way, in a much more rational way. I think of the math of the poker more now without worrying about results. Results can be calculated across the long term. As long as you're making the right decisions in the short term, it doesn't matter if you get a bad beat or lose against a very low percentage hand. We have all heard that one, but do you really apply it to your game at all times? I mean, yes you probably make (or at least you think you do) the right decision when playing poker, but, will you a 100% accept the fact that whatever happens next is completely out of your control?. Accepting 1. that poker is a game of %s, variance, winning/losing streaks, etc. and 2. that you should be having fun when playing it, will help you realizing if poker is something that you should be doing or not. It´s important to be honest with ourselves about that. If the answer to that question is not a rotund YES maybe you should be doing something that you really enjoy instead.
Playing fewer tables definitely helps tilt control as well. When you're playing a lot of tables, you can't pay as much attention to your decisions. Because of that you may not realize until later that you are making mistakes.
That's what would happen with me. I would review the sessions after I was finished, see the hands I played and the way that I played them, and spot mistakes based on tilt problems, attention level, theory/strategy leaks, etc. It's not that I knew at the time precisely that I was tilting or playing a hand poorly. Yet because I was playing so many tables I would kind of forget what I was doing at each table. Speaking of my mental game, now that I'm playing fewer tables at once I am 100% observant of my emotional state while I'm playing. Yes, I sometimes still feel a small sense of frustration because of a hand that happened or a huge bad beat. The difference now is that being more observant prevents me from reacting badly.
I'm still going to have reactions once in a while - We are all human beings, after all -- but the key is having more in control of that reaction. I don't feel that fear of making tilt-based mistakes anymore. If you happen to be someone that has tilt problems, try to look at something within your life that could give you a bigger perspective about things, it could be anything, just pay attention to details and try new things, after all, poker is just a game, we should rather enjoy it!
Angel Guillen is a member of Team PokerStars Pro