How Decision Paralysis Affects the Games of Beginners

Lee DavyPosted by Lee Davy, June 29, 2014

How often does your mind go blank when you are put to the test in a game of poker?

When faced with this silence, do you just go with your gut instinct?

What do you do?

And why does this occur?

Amongst the stronghold of Aesop’s fables lies the tale of ‘The Fox and the Cat’. In the tale, the two animals are talking about how

many tricks and dodges they have should danger come calling.


“I have hundreds of ways to escape,” says The Fox.

“I only have one,” says The Cat.

Soon the two animals are facing a pack of hungry hounds. The Cat climbs quickly up a tree to safety, and The Fox freezes, thinks about which option to choose, and gets eaten alive.

In poker parlance, this phenomenon is know as Poker Decision Paralysis, and unless you are a very experienced player, you may well suffer from this during the vital moments in your game.

Here is another example taken from my life.

I am a vegetarian and my wife isn’t. When we go to a restaurant I can order my food within minutes because, unless I am in a vegetarian restaurant, I only have a minimal number of things I can purchase.


My wife, on the other hand, can eat whatever she wants, and yes you’ve guessed it, it takes her bloody ages to try and choose something, and even then, bemoans the fact that she should have chosen something else.

This second example is important because it allows me to explain a method from which you can escape from poker decision paralysis, and I call it understanding your ‘core message’.



In the case of the restaurant my ‘core message’ comes down to a belief.

I don’t eat meat.

Understanding my ‘core message’ allows me to make my decision that much faster than not understanding it.

The problem comes when we are faced with a series of choices, and we cannot differentiate between what is deemed ‘critical’ or merely ‘beneficial.’ In the restaurant case it is ‘critical’ that I don’t eat meat, and understanding this allows me too choose so much quicker than a non-vegetarian who can choose from the whole of the menu.

This lack of awareness of what is important to us, causes us to freeze. We are paralyzed by our inability to prioritize, and this can cause all sorts of issues in business situations, personal situations and even life or death.


So how does this relate to poker?

Here is a hand that I played in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Millionaire Maker to help demonstrate my point.

The blinds are 25/50 and I have around 4,000 in front of me. At this point in the tournament my ‘core message’ is simple.

Play poker and try not to go broke.

There is an early position open, I call in mid-position with pocket tens and there is a call from behind me. The flop is [8h] [3c] [2h] and the original raiser bets 225, I call and the third player in the hand folds.

The turn is the [7d] and once again my opponent bets. He makes it 525 and I call. The final card is the [Kd], he bets 875 and I think for quite some time before making the call. He shows a pair of sixes and my hand is good.

At each point in the hand I was faced with a series of choices, and importantly I knew what they were going to be before the pre-flop raiser had even made a play, because he only has a number of finite options to make.

This allows me to make a number of decisions ahead of time, and by keeping sight of my ‘core message’ I can make my decisions fairly quickly, and with a minimum amount of fuss.


The only time I slowed down was at the river. I needed to see what the card would be before I made my decision. When I saw the [Kd] I started to go through my options and at this point I started to get caught up with a momentary lapse of poker decision paralysis.

In short, I didn’t know what to do. My mind went blank. I was thinking of nothing. Just staring at the board whilst the time ebbed away. It’s at this moment that the ‘core message’ can get lost, and if it does, disaster can occur.

I remembered my ‘core message’ was to play poker and not go broke. I could fold, call or raise. I quickly discounted the raise option and so I narrowed it down to a call or a fold. I couldn’t go broke in the hand. I pieced together all the information I had at that time, gathered my thoughts, and made the call.

It’s important to note that the ‘core message’ should change during the game.



In the same tournament I went down to just 15bb. My “core message’ was to shove or fold. When the action folded around to me I knew what I was going to do because of my “core message’. This means there was no poker decision paralysis for me during the times I was in shove or fold mode.

This is one of the reasons why mathematics also plays a vital role in poker, and those players who have a good understanding of it, carry with them a greater edge.

In spots where a player is suffering from poker decision paralysis they can simply turn to the math to make their decision for them. This removes the need to thin slice the situation and take the gut-feeling option, which can sometimes be skewed when suffering from poker decision paralysis.

I will leave you with four important points to remember.



1. Core Message

Always remember what your ‘core message’ is in a given spot. Remember, that it should change depending on the dynamic of the game you are in.


2. Evaluate

Always evaluate the spots where you suffered from poker decision paralysis. There will be a reason that you froze, and it will be a leak in your game. Speak to people who are more advanced than you to find out why you couldn’t act quicker.


3. Take Your Time

If you do suffer from poker decision paralysis the worst thing you can do is panic and make a rash decision. Understand that you have momentarily lost the plot, drop your ego and take your time to regain your senses.


4. No Regrets

Living a life of regrets is the surest way to solidify your poker decision paralysis. Be at peace with your decisions and this in turn will allow you to be more confident when making them in the future. This poker decision making part of your body is like a muscle and needs to grow. It won’t do that if you are constantly regretting the mistakes that you have made.



Lee DavyLee Davy is a professional life coach who helps people with their addictions at In his spare time he is a writer and poker enthusiast.




Further Reading:  

Titan Poker Benefits
Get Amazing Benefits by Signing Up

Poker and the Bible

texas hold'em

Texas Hold'em Poker Guide

poker better than sex

Why Poker Is Better than Sex


Previous articles by Lee Davy:

How to Take Charge of Your Poker Resistance

What Online Poker Can Teach You about Self-Esteem

This Kid Called Lonely

The Real Life Ups and Downs of a Professional Poker Player


Dear visitors,

Titan Poker does not accept players from your region.

Please contact our customer service team at support [at] titanpoker [dot] com for more information.

Best regards,

Titan Poker