Never Think About Winning or Losing While Playing – Excise the Thought and Play Well!
(by Larry Hodges)
To some, this might be obvious. We’ve all had that experience where you wanted to win so badly that you get nervous, and your whole game fell apart. It might happen for a number of points, or might happen at that one incredibly important point that meant the difference between winning and losing.
The reality is that most who understand this aren’t really applying their thinking on this effectively. It’s not enough to know you shouldn’t think about winning or losing while you play; you have to actually not think about winning or losing when you play.
How do you do this? For many, it means a big change in their thinking. Too often they play with the primary goal of winning, and if that’s your primary goal, then rest assured that when it’s close, and they are on the verge of winning or losing, they will be thinking about winning or losing.
Instead, make it your primary goal to play well. If you do this, then you will maximize your chances of winning, while if you make winning your primary goal, then you will essentially minimize your chances of doing so.
Making it your primary goal to play well doesn’t mean you play dumb. Part of playing well is playing tactically smart. In fact, your sole thinking at the table should be tactical, though only between points. (During a point you have to let your subconscious take over – that’s why you practice, to train it for exactly that, so let it do its job.)
How do you know when you’ve really maximized your playing by not thinking about winning or losing? When you do lose, if your goal was to play well, then there should be a moment of literal surprise when you realize, “Oh, I’ve lost.” If you were thinking about winning or losing, this won’t happen because you will have been completely aware of winning or losing – and that’s exactly the type of thinking that often turns a probable win into a remorseful loss.