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4: Win By Being Great at Losing

You don’t start punting with losing money in mind, but soon you realize it’s an inherent part of the game, like an expense on your business. No business has a 100% profit margin, so the question isn’t will you lose. Of course you will. The question is whether you can you minimize your losses, and not fall into the trap of making unnecessary mistakes that can end up causing you to lose more money.

Losing is going to happen, but for many punters it costs them more money than it has to – by chasing losses, making drastic changes to a successful strategy, or turning off their strategy entirely. Whether it’s fear, anger, loss of confidence, laziness, or any of the other ways punters can handle losing poorly, if you want to be successful long term, you need to get better at this important skill.

To be a great punter you need to be a great loser. That may sound strange, so hear me out. I don’t want you to lose, nor am I suggesting that you feel good about losing money. But losing is part of punting and you need to develop the skill to handle losses the right way, like the greats in any profession or sport. The best of the best excel at handling losses. Michael Jordan actually has a fantastic commercial highlighting how much losing is connected to his success.

It’s ok to have trouble handling losing. Many punters do. To build the skill, you first need to understand why losing is hard for you. Then you can train yourself to see losing from a new perspective.

When Losing Causes Anger

Getting angry when you lose seems justified. Most people, punters included, have trouble losing without getting angry. While that may be common, don't let it justify allowing your anger to get the better of you. That’s the real problem isn’t it – not that you get angry, but that your anger leads to mistakes that cost you money.

So why do you hate losing? Is it the feeling? Losing often feels terrible, can go on for a while, and even affects other aspects of your life, making you feel less successful in other areas too. Is it that you’re overly competitive? Being fiercely competitive is a trait shared by many successful punters, but is a problem when your drive to win isn’t matched with an ability to take a loss. Is it the money? Making money is ultimately how you’re measured and it makes sense why you’d hate losing it. You also may be worried about losing money you need for your life, which is why it's critical that you’re only wagering money you can afford to lose.

Regardless, if you truly hate to lose, you certainly don’t want to be the cause of it!

When Losing Causes Fear

The threat of losing is always there and that makes some of you uneasy to even leave your strategy running. You could be doing quite well and yet, in the background, you’re on edge, nervous and thinking too much. Not a recipe for good decision making. You may size down or turn your strategy off randomly, and then throw caution out the window once you’ve stayed down or out for too long.

So why does losing affect you so much? Much like anger, it could be the feeling or the utility of the money. But it also could be that losing feels like a mistake, like there’s something wrong that you need to fix. Or losing could unleash a wave of self-doubt and criticism that feels like you’re beating yourself up. Perhaps losing feels like failure – as absurd as that may sound, you’ll be happy to know that a lot of people think losing means they’ve failed.

Lastly, you might fear more losses are coming and start thinking about the worst case scenario. This is a flaw I like to call “shitty psychic,” because you’re not thinking about the future in a practical way, you're thinking that what you imagine could happen is an actual prediction of what’s going to happen.

Look closely for the reasons behind your fear. Correcting those misperceptions are key to handling losses.

When Losing Causes a Loss of Confidence

Losing confidence when you’re losing money makes some sense. Your strategy is supposed to make money and when it’s not, it’s easy to lose confidence in it. But that can also lead to a loss in confidence in yourself, after all it is your strategy and if it’s losing, that reflects poorly on you.

Like anger and fear, confidence is an emotion. Not everyone thinks of it that way, but it’s critical that you do. Emotions can change on a dime, especially with a change in perspective. Imagine knowing that your losses were entirely due to variance. That knowledge would instantly give you your confidence back. Thus, the A to C-game Analysis I mentioned in the previous article can help you here. It gives you a way to measure your performance or decision-making in a non-monetary way. That’s especially important in the short-term to ensure your confidence is reflective of accurate information about your performance, not just recent results.

Ideally a drop in confidence would be an indication that your strategy does need adjusting, and the A to C-game Analysis can help make that happen.

When Losing Causes Laziness

If losing doesn’t create any of the aforementioned emotions, it could take out your discipline. Laziness, boredom, distractions, avoidance or procrastination are the most common culprits when losses mount. Do you fall victim to this silent killer of productivity? If so, correcting it may be more simple than you think.

Discipline and a good work ethic are keys to sustaining a winning strategy, or even creating one. The first step to becoming more disciplined in the face of losing is to acknowledge that your success is entirely on you. You’re the only one responsible for your goals, decisions, time, and work ethic. If you rely on external things like winning and losing, make excuses, or hope someone else or some event will drive your success, you’ll never reach the level of discipline you aspire to.

Push yourself to be more disciplined at these times and it will make you more disciplined in general. The process is simple: In the moments when you have the option to succumb to the weaknesses in your discipline, push yourself to do better. Building discipline is like building muscle, push hard and then give yourself a break.

At the end of the day losing will never be as much fun as winning…but, many of my clients have learned to have fun challenging themselves to handle losing better, and in doing so have a lot of fun losing less money than they did before.

Jared Tendler, MS is a mental game coach for world champion poker players, PGA Tour players, sports bettors and financial traders from 45 countries. He is the author of three highly acclaimed books, The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2 and his newest book The Mental Game of Trading. Find out more about Jared’s work at: