If you've read any of my previous articles you'll quickly realize that I'm a big believer in the power of positive thinking at the table. No one said it better than Winston Churchill when he said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” I firmly believe that being an optimist at the table is not only a way to turn a bad set good, but it's the quickest way to improve your game, even if you don't learn one new thing.

Here are some examples of amateur versus professional thought processes:

A guy is whistling his favorite tune while you're shooting the 9 ball, double hill:

An amateur is thinking: Someone is whistling. Shut uuuup! This only happens on my turn! A pro is thinking: Someone is whistling. I am distracted. I will get up and regroup.

Your opponent just lucked a safety:

An amateur is thinking: He leaves me nothing every single time! He's so lucky! A pro is thinking: That was lucky, but I can kick softly 3 rails at this and I have a good chance of playing safe. I could also hit it hard one rail and try to make it. Maybe I should just take the foul and tie something else up...

You're faced with a very tough shot in a critical situation:

An amateur is thinking: I have to make this shot or I will lose. A pro is thinking: This is what I need to do. It's difficult, but I'm going to put the best stroke I can on it. I accept that it may not work out.

You've just had a tough loss:

An amateur is thinking: He got lucky. He sharked me. I'm going to ask him to gamble. A pro is thinking: I had opportunities. I didn't play well.

Something I've realized as a pro, and talking to other pros, is that we are fully aware of the distractions around us, but we usually have the discipline to remove the bad thoughts from our minds, and quickly take positive action instead of dwelling on the negative. This discipline comes from years of playing, and lots of hard work on the mental game. Players that still dwell on the negative and blame others are simply going through a critical phase in the game. The majority of players never navigate their way through it, but the great ones eventually realize that no matter what happens while they're at the table, win or lose, they are the only one to be held accountable.