Background: I've played poker for a living for 7 years and probably ~5M hands during that time, and I've had some live tournament success as well including a 6 fig live MTT score and some smaller wins, I've played like 98% online volume-wise but have always kinda enjoyed live poker more. I'm pretty strictly an MTT player but occasionally play cash both online and live as well. I think I'm about average in social situations, I'm not scared of talking to random people, am not introverted and probably am actually a bit more social than your average poker player.
I'm sure many people suffer from these feelings, but I'd love to hear any solutions besides "you need to play more live poker". Basically, whenever I play live poker regardless of the stakes, I get really anxious on and off. Sometimes I get in the "zone" and I'm completely fine for a couple of hours, and then some hand comes and I snap out and I get shaky.
This seems to happen by far the most often when I have a big hand (but not necessarily a big pot or a big money situation). I played a live 2k some time ago where I had aces on the first level infinite BBs deep (so a spot that's not really going to be that huge for me really) and just upon seeing my hand preflop I became incredibly shaky, my pulse started racing super fast and I couldn't control my breath at all like the worst type of live fish. I think it was pretty obvious to everyone in the room I had a huge hand.
For some reason, whenever I run a big bluff I don't seem to get anywhere near that shaky, I'd say my visible live tell giving range is like 90% strong hands and 10% bluffs. I'd guess for a lot of people the anxiety comes more when they are bluffing, because of the fear of being caught doing something silly, for me it seems to be the opposite but probably the same process in the brains.
I'ts noteworthy that I'm 100% sure that this doesn't have anything to do with the amounts of money involved. It seemed like a logical thing to do to try playing some meaningless stakes so I actually went and logged 20 hours in a local 1/1 game where winning/losing the biggest of pots wouldn't matter to me in the slightest $-wise. And it was exactly the same... I've been in situations with 100k on the line and I was (due to being in the zone I guess) much less shaky than I was in the 1/1 game today having KK and an overpair in a $8 pot.
Today in my "experiment game" playing the live micro cash I tried to follow and listen to my thoughts and feelings really closely when the attacks came and virtually all the time it was the same - I'd get just a tiny bit nervous and maybe have a slightly shaky hands throwing chips into the pot, and then I'd start thinking about "damn I hope it doesn't get worse or they might notice", and then it obviously gets worse, and I'm thinking "oh shit they must see this now, THEY KNOW", and then I can't stop it at all. I also tried taking a really long time with an easy decision trying to let me breath settle, talking to myself in my head like "it's a $35 pot, you know what do with 100% certainty, what the hell are you nervous about?", and I just couldn't stop it at all.
This does seem to be directly related to being in the spotlight in some way, because for example if I have some really tough call situation where my opponent shoves the river and it's for actually a lot of money I don't really get anxious at all. But it's weird because I really don't have any kind of performance anxiety, I could go ahead and give a speech to 1000 people right now without having my heart race more than the next guy.
So, how do people deal with these things? As I write this I'm watching the WSOP ME ft live stream and it makes me want to cry trying to imagine myself in there under all the spotlight. There's been a couple of live poker related videos here at RIO and it'd be cool to hear feedback from people like Chidwick, how did you transform from online grinders to live crushers in this sense?
It's noteworthy that in my home country weed and all prescription meds you could probably get for this in the USA are virtually inaccessible. Are there any herbs or natural remedies or something like that that could possibly help? I recently started meditating and I'm really hoping it'll make a difference, anything else?
All advice is welcome.