Emotion makes the difference between a good player and a professional one.

by Mircea N. Stoian

One of the essential conditions, which turns a regular poker player into an exceptional poker player is not to be emotional, or to know how to master their emotions and to control their gestures.

Professional players are not mere very fine psychologists , but they also have very good knowledge of non-verbal behavior. The accidental player, who plays for entertainment, in order to see whether chance is his ally or not, plays with passion, emotion and thinking about the gain.

The professional player knows that, most of the times, you shouldn’t only rely on calculations, but also on what we call intuition. Intuition is the sum of all attributes related to knowledge, whether we talk about logical, emotional or non-verbal knowledge and plays an important role in establishing the difference between a professional and an amateur in almost all fields of activity.

Nonverbal knowledge, or, better said, the semiotics of gestures, is an integrant part of what we can name the essential structure of communication. Eye movements are made involuntarily, the hand that has a little tremor the moment it chooses the cards, or rolls the dice, the eyes with dilating pupils when they see a good card, and the possibility of a win, are all clear and transparent signs that a professional player reads on those he plays with.

In the future issues I’ll try to explain those elements of gestures semantics, elements making the difference between emotional players and those in control of the weapons they have for facing their opponent and their control means.

Emotions are most often manifested through small gestures, which get out of control and show clear signs concerning the way the player has, or doesn’t have, luck on his side, especially in group games, such as poker.

Deciphering nonverbal signs is essential to knowing which way your game partner will go and, it’s not by chance that most of the professional players wear black glasses and move so very slowly, the information quantity they reveal being extremely reduced.

From a physiological point of view, emotions are totally controlled by a part of the brain also called the reptilian brain. The tiny gland located near the medulla, called the amygdala is responsible for everything that we call involuntary reflexes. Even the most experienced poker players communicate information through micro-signals, which are involuntary gestures having to do with human behavior in general, and have no connection whatsoever with the player’s personality or emotional state.

The more habits and predictable general systems a player has, the less chances for him to remain victorious at the poker table.

Poker is a complex game and it involves not only an almost perfect knowledge of the occurrence mechanisms, but also a lot of knowledge on psychology and human behavior in general. Poker is, by its very nature, a confrontation between clever minds, alive spirits and powerful personalities. This is why poker has become not just a game, but a true confrontation in the arena.

Starting the next issue, I’ll write in detail about the way the body, face, eyes, lips, hands and other body parts, generating micro-signals, can give information on the player’s mental state and thus on the cards he has. I’ll discuss poker more specifically, because it is the game that has to do with psychology and nonverbal semantics the most. (To be continued)

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