Threshold of Misery

Mike Caro is credited with popularizing the phrase "threshold of misery" (as it applies to poker). It refers to the point in a losing poker session where additional losses no longer cause additional emotional pain.

For example, let's say a fairly big daily loss for you is $800, but it usually happens 2 or 3 times a month and even though it's disappointing, you're pretty much unphased by it when it happens, because you're used to it. And being a winning player, you know you'll recover from it and eventually push your career poker profits to new heights once again.

But one day, things seem to be going particularly badly and you find yourself down $1200. You foolishly keep playing and before long you find yourself stuck an amazing $2100, but you can't seem to make yourself quit playing.

You convince yourself that you're a winning player, and every hour you spend playing is making you money. At this point, you've already passed your threshold of misery, meaning any additional losses do not cause any additional emotional pain. All you feel is a terrible numbness. The only thing that matters now is getting that money back. And you don't want to wait for tomorrow. You want it back now!

It should be obvious that you can't possibly be playing your A-game at this point. You probably haven't been playing your A-game for the last $1000 of losses.

NOTE: A lot of the money that you make playing poker is from opponents that are in this situation. They are stuck and chasing losses. Maybe they've been up for 24 hours straight and they can't make themselves quit. Don't let this be you.

Once your day turns into a big losing day, always stop. When I'm losing (but not yet for a big loss), I like to stop and review hands in SNG Wizard to hopefully assure myself that I was playing well and was merely having bad luck. If I am satisfied I was playing well, it gives me the confidence in my decisons I need to jump right back in and quickly get back into A-game mode.

But if my hand review reveals a lot of actual errors in my judgment, I'll take a longer break before playing again. Maybe I was tilted from earlier losses and it caused me make a bunch of bad pushes or bad calls. In this case, a few hours away from poker will reboot my fragile human brain, and I'll be ready to play my A-game again.

Once my losses for the day start getting big, I'm out of there. When I come back the next day, I'm no longer down $800. It's a fresh start. Most importantly I waited until I was capable of playing my A-game again. Yesterday, I was not capable of it once I lost all that money.

So don't try to rationalize a reason to keep playing when the losses start to get big. Don't ever pass your threshold of misery. Take the rest of the day off. You're no longer a winning player, and continuing to play will just cost you more money.

Always focus on quality before quantity and never settle for less. Athletes don't have this same luxury like poker players do. Sporting events are scheduled in advance, so sometimes players have to play when they are sick or injured or overtrained or distracted.

You, as a poker player, always have the option to wait until you're at 100% - until everything is perfect.

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