Understanding Impulses when Facing Anxiety in No-Limit Hold’em

The most popular form of poker today by far is Texas hold’em played with no-limit betting. There are many ardent players who have played the game on PokerQQ and really enjoyed the whole experience. No-limit betting can be found in all types of poker games, but in Texas hold’em particularly the ability to put all of your chips in at any time can create a lot of stress and anxiety. When this stress and anxiety combines with the sense of entitlement we get from playing against bad players, the results can be disastrous.

Here’s one example. Suppose you have a very passive player who limps in with a lot of various holdings and calls a lot post-flop. This player limps in early position, you raise in middle position with the Ace of spades and the King of spades, and it folds around to our opponent in early position who calls your raise. The flop then comes the Queen of spades, the Four of spades, and the Eight of clubs, giving you two overcards, the nut flush draw, a backdoor nut-straight draw, and the best Ace high possible.

Your opponent checks and you make a bet of almost the size of the pot since you are actually ahead of a lot of one-pair type hands that call, as well as flush draws that may call. Against a number of other hands you are basically a coin-flip, but it’s to your advantage to raise to build a pot since you will be in position and have a larger advantage later in the hand the larger the pot becomes.

Your opponent then goes all-in for about ten times your flop bet, and you have enough left in your stack to call the entire raise. This is an interesting psychological moment. Your opponent would almost never do this without two pair or better, which you are so far behind (despite your otherwise excellent holding) that you can’t call his huge overbet all-in. However, when your opponent goes all-in here, it can trigger feelings that are similar to a minor anxiety attack.

In this moment, you grasp for something to try to make sense of the situation because of the panic his bet induces. What you will probably try to grasp onto is the fact that your hand was looking pretty good when the flop came. This causes you to be optimistic and often impulsively call without going through the normal thought process of deciding if calling the bet is a profitable proposition or not.

The anxiety created in this moment initiates what’s known as the fight or flight mechanism, which is what causes you to just grasp for something and completely bypass your normal analysis. If you were to slow down, take a deep breath and lower your emotional level, you would be able to re-enter a rational state of mind and effectively turn off the fight or flight mechanism. So whenever you’re playing no-limit Texas hold’em, or the no-limit betting variation of any poker game, remember to keep an eye on your emotional level constantly, and if you start to feel anxious, take a deep breath and calm down before you make any big decisions.