Reading Notes: The Mental Game of Poker

I recently read the book “The Mental Game of Poker” by Jared Tendler. How I stumbled onto this book and decided to pick is also interesting, but lets skip that part for now.

Here are some of my reading notes and notable learnings from the book.

Some general points

  • Mental training is an integral part of playing poker and it can very easily be translated to everything that requires thinking in general.
  • It should not be so eccentric to view most things that we end up doing as a mental game after all. Be it poker, tennis, business or engineering. Most of the things can draw very strong parallels with a game of poker.
  • Injecting logic is a trick that can be used to stop and recalibrate whenever we find ourselves deviating from the desired behaviour.
  • Injecting logic has two parts:
    1. Identifying the patterns that precedes these behaviours.
    2. Inject logic by reasoning over the very cause of the behaviour.
  • Example:
    Let’s say we are trying to tackle overthinking. The first step would to be to observe the patterns and detect whenever you drift off into overthinking.
    Second, inject logic by asking yourself, what is that you are overthinking, what’s the worst that can happen, why is that so bad, what if it turns out good etc.
  • Idea is to always stay in control, mentally.
  • Poker is a war of perception of skills vs actual skills. Unlike chess, where only actual skills decide the outcome of the game, poker puts no such promises. Perception of your and your opponents skills matter as much as the actual skills.
    This makes poker and its mental game strategies more relevant, than to a game like chess.
  • Season yourself mentally, emotionally and physically and reduce the reliance on luck.

1. Issue of Jealousy:
Ask yourself following questions whenever jealousy starts brewing.

  • What do others have that you wish you had?
  • What would having it mean to you?
  • What more can you be doing that you are not already?
  • What have you achieved that hasn’t been celebrated enough?

2. Hatred to Losing:

  • Define wining
  • Drop the assumption that losing will continue.

3. Preparations before a mental game

  • Reinforce your focus on making good decisions.
  • Inject logic whenever you start drifting towards undesired behaviours.
  • Warm up (more in this later)
  • Performance evaluation.

4. Handling Overconfidence

  • Eliminate lies in your game.
  • Inject logic whenever confidence is rising way too high.
  • Avoid getting caught believing your opponents do not improve.
  • Nobody deserves anything in poker. No one can just show up and expect to win.
  • Actually spend more time working on your game. Analysing and eliminating lies.

5. Evaluating Quality of Play

  • Core knowledge that is solid and is your mastered strength.
  • Bad habits that surfaced during the game which must be fixed.
  • Knowledge in progress of being learned which you tried applying in the game.

6. Fear

  • Your mind races, you can’t stop thinking, constant second guesses.
  • Fear always lingers around the question on uncertainity. Certainity is the antidote to fear.

7. Common Symptoms to Fear

  • Overthinking
  • Not trusting your gut
  • Second guessing
  • Performance anxiety
  • Negative future

8. Strategies to Resolve Fear

  • Writing exercises
  • Playing out the fear:
    – What’s the worst that could happen?
    – Why is that bad?
    – What would you do?
    – How will you feel?
    – What’s the solution?
  • Answer questions:
    – State the uncertain questions and write down answers to them.

9. Fear of Moving Up the Stakes

  • Strengths and weaknesses of players
  • Weakness in your game that are not exposed at your current limit.
  • Few times when you play at a higher level, take it as a reconnaissance mission to gather intelligence.

10. Motivation vs Inspiration

  • Motivation is like a marathon. It’s the long term energy that keeps you working towards your goal.
  • Inspiration is like a sprint.
  • Seek motivation and try to reduce reliance on inspiration.
  • We feel hopeless when we believe there is no way to affect the outcome. It’s logical that you wouldn’t feel motivated.

11. Confidence

  • When confidence is completely tied to results there’s no way to avoid riding the confidence rollercoaster.
  • Aim for a stable confidence.
  • The greatest predictor of long-term success is learning and improving everyday.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: