The Mental Game of Poker

From the author of the two best-selling books on the subject, The Mental Game of Poker 1 and 2, we bring you an exclusive, all new, step by step guide on the Mental Game of Poker.


Poker is not a physical game. Even if you’re a player who eats well and works out, the reasons you do are less about poker’s physical demands and more about the mental ones. That’s one of the reasons poker is such a great game, almost anyone can be a great player. That’s not the case in sports like football where the speed, strength and coordination required to play at the highest level means that only a tiny fraction of those who play the game will ever be more



I’ve said the phrase “the right amount of energy” several times already and it’s about time I tell you what that actually means. For the answer we can turn to science, since this is a well-researched concept. The graphic below is called the Yerkes-Dodson Law, and it shows the relationship between energy and performance. Starting from the bottom left where your energy level is low, you’ll see that your performance is also low. Think about times when you were tired, unmotivated or bored—you didn’t play very well. That’s because you were lacking the energy needed to fuel your mind. On the flip side, the bottom right, your performance is equally poor because your energy level is so intense that it causes the mind to malfunction. Like an electrical circuit that overheats and shuts down, the mind can’t function properly when you’re overexcited, tilted, or fearful. At the top of the curve is that ideal balance, call it the Goldilocks of energy— not too much and not too more



Nobody starts playing poker wanting to lose, but soon you realize it’s inevitable. Of all the skill games, I have yet to discover one where players whohave a significant edge over their regular competition lose as frequently as they do in poker.This is especiallytrue in live tournaments where it’s feasible for an elite player to never win a major event because thereare simply not enough of more



What sets poker apart from other games is variance. Poker is a game of luck and skill where the best players win in the long run, but regularly lose to worse players in the short term. When you think about games you played prior to poker, unless something crazy happened like a ref missing an obvious call, itwas easy to know who was better. The better player or team is the one that wins. But in poker it’s not that simple. Variance hides the truth and gives false feedback about a player’s more



Saying you are lazy is paradoxically a lazy thing to do.It’s an excusenot to work on your motivational issue. You’re basically claiming that it’s a permanent part of your character,“this is just how I am,” so there’s nothing you can do to fix it.But laziness isn’t a character trait,you’ve simply learned to do what’s easy or comfortable instead of doing what’s necessary to reach your more



While most of you would probably scoff at the idea of playing poker while drunk, many of you are playing in a way that is just as bad: distracted. Never in poker has it been so easy to be distracted, especially as an online player. You can be distracted by table chat, a phone call, the web, videos, a text message, email, another game, Skype, social media and the list goes on. What’s most disturbing is that so many players are oblivious to the cost of their lack of more




In the last chapter I discussed how focus is your tool for gathering the data you need to make quality decisions at the poker table. But what if you don’t have room in your mind to holdit? Have you ever studied so hard or played so long that you reach a point where you simply can’t retain new information? Your head gets so full,things stop making sense. Not only is your brain overwhelmed, you have a hard time concentrating, miss key pieces of information and feel mentally exhausted like your head is in a fog. Eventually, you take a break to give your mind a chance to digest so that your ability to thinkclearly more



You are guaranteed to make bad decisions. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Every poker player makes them, even the best players in the world. They are inevitable. Perfect poker isn’t possible over large samples.That means mistakes are constantly being made, yet players often have a distaste for them. Rather than viewing mistakes as a natural part of the game—like losing and variance—they beat themselves up, get pissed off and cause their game to drop further. By focusing on the fact that they made a mistake, rather than understanding what caused it, they unknowingly increase the chance of making more more



Trust your instincts. Follow your heart. Be yourself.Go with your gut. There is a growing trend in society recently to dish out advice that essentially says, doing what feels right, is right. The same idea carries over to poker when players are given advice to “trust their gut,” because your gut always knows the best play. The gut is even glorified by feel players such as Phil Ivey, who seem to have such strong instincts they’re like Luke Skywalker using the power of the force. Plus, there has probably been a time when you didn’t listen to your gut and you paid the price. It’s brutal to know you had the right play in your mind, so you tell yourself you’ll never go against your gut again. Of course, eventually you go against it and say the same thing. Frankly it’s a good thing that you don’t always trust your gut—it is not perfect and to use it right, you need a good more



When you look around social media, the hands poker players tend to share the most are the ones that players call a “soul read.” These are the epic lay downs or hero calls that we attribute to some sort of sixth sense, rather than a logically deduced decision. Nine high like a boss, calling a river shove with king high or the big fold in Rounders. These are hands which make your opponent and everyone else say, “how did you know that?” more



The last three chapters have focused on different aspects of decision making. Now I want to put it all together and show you how to work on your decision making like a golfer would work on their golf swing. Decisions are at the core of how poker players compete. You can’t play poker without making them, and variance aside, your results are based on how your decisions stack up against your opponents. The decisions you make are the culmination of all the work you put into the game and can be broken into two parts that work more



One of the great things about online poker is that it’s always open for business. But that doesn’t mean you have a limitless amount of energy to always play. In the second chapter, I talked about how to find that ideal level of energy. This chapter will help you sustain it longer.Having greater mental endurance or stamina comes in handy when you’re trying to make more money without moving up in stakes or need to handle the late stages of a big multi-table tournament like the [NAME OF 888 TOURNEY] that attracts thousands of players. Plus, that extra endurance helps you perform well in high pressure situations, like a big final table, because they are incredibly more



In the last several years I’ve noticed a trend among the clients that came to me for coaching. They are typically players who read The Mental Game of Poker for help with tilt, fear, motivation and confidence, but didn’t improve as much as they wanted. The book helped decrease the frequency and intensity of their Mistake Tilt, for example, but they still tilt more than they want more



I am proud that most of the material in my first book, The Mental Game of Poker, holds up six years after it was published. However, there is one thing I would change. I should have made a bigger deal of the Mental Hand History, my primary tool for helping players find the underlying cause of their tilt, fear, motivation or confidence problems. I chose the name because I wanted to encourage players to approach mental game improvement in the same structured and logical way they were already doing when solving technical mistakes. Today, clients regularly send me their Mental Hand History to review, just as they send a poker hand history to their technical more



In one of the most famous scenes in the movie The Matrix, Neo downloads the ability to do Kung Fu and immediately gets into a badass fight with his mentor Morpheus. Many people enjoyed the scene for the sheer spectacle of it, but the idea that Neo could instantly download these skills is what really captured the imagination. The scene re presented a common wish that skills could be acquired instantly, which is ironic since it took the actors months to train for the more