"Take Risks: If you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise. Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Mental Game of Poker - Book Review

The Mental Game of Poker (TMGP)

I am not a good book reviewer so pardon me, but I felt a need to recommend this book to my friends and whomever (poker players or even traders) that are reading this blog. After picking up this book and going through to the 4th chapter, Jared Tendler has become my new hero.

Jared Tendler is not a poker player. He was a mental game coach for golf. Typically, this fact is enough to have most of us thinking "hey what does he know about poker to advise us?", even me. But I picked it up because after flipping and reading all those poker strategy books I have always been telling my girlfriend, "For the past 1.5 years in poker I am just losing 9 out of 10 days and reloading my bankroll!" It is that sad and its true, just click on my blog label: Poker and you will know my sad past. I pick it up because I have enough and I know there is something wrong underlying that is within me. I know positioning, playing range, pot-odds, calculate bet-sizes etc. than my friends but they are still winning players than me.

Jared Tendler (JT) has studied the game of poker and then coach top professionals, and after reading reviews I decided to give it a try.. in his book he wrote an excellent analogy: "A mechanic working on a race car doesn't need to be world-class driver to understand how to prepare a car to win. He needs to have a deep understanding of what the driver needs, the conditions the car will race in, and how the car works, and he must be able to diagnose and fix problems quickly."

You can get hardcopy or even eBook format in his official website. As I am living out of U.S. of course eBooks are good enough for me.

And enough of my stories lets get to the book. A typical "Conventional Poker Psychology" (what he calls it, such as deep breath, take breaks, meditation etc.) often helps to a point, which he regarded as short-term fixes, but not a long-term resolutions. In the TMGP he drills into the underlying problem of "Mental Game Fishes" and advise you. Even a solid winning poker player is a mental game fish if he has (a list of) thinking habits which are flawed.

The book covers 4 central areas of every poker player's mental game: Tilt, Fear, Motivation and Confidence. Before reading any new book, I suggest you approach it with an open-mind (not thinking that you-know-it-all).

The Adult Learning Model (ALM) which was mentioned is a theory of a process in which all of us learn. It breaks down into 4 levels of our learning model, which he uses throughout the book to explain to us some things which affect us at which level (for example, if you go on tilt your mind will shut down what you are learning in the Conscious Competence, and will only be left using skills from Unconscious Competence level).

Another powerful concept is the "Inchworm". It explains when poker players play their Best-game at times and trying to improve their best. But like an inchworm (it moves by stretching its body straight, anchors the front part, lifts up the back end, anchor the back part, then stretches its body straight to take a step forward) our game progresses like that. We need to fix our weakness (the back part), before we can move forward to learn our best (front part) to the next level. In short, improvement happens from two sides.

In between the chapters, there are also short sections on Client's Story. Where they tell stories about what they did in the past before approaching JT on their mental game. What they experienced in the past was something I can truly relate and its funny.

Here is one of the best chapter IMO, Emotions. Here in this chapter, JT breaks down technically how our emotions affect our thinking, that causes tilt. For example, it you hold A5 and flop the nut straight with 2-3-4. A fish all-in you and hit a runner-runner flush in the river. You may go "FUCKING IDIOTIC FISH DAMN!!"..... like I did. Your emotion has risen to a point which it basically malfunction your analytic mind (the higher brain functions such as thinking, planning, awareness etc). So if emotion is overactive, it shuts down the higher brain functions. That is one of the reason why tilt costs you more money.

To resolve, TMGP has advices on 'injecting logic', not only at the table (because that will be too late). You have to work on your brain muscle away from the table to fix this in the long-term. Strategies for this resolution are also covered intensively in the chapter on Strategy.

In the Tilt chapter, it also break down the common types of tilt poker players encounter and fixes. I can easily circle 5 out 7 tilts I am infected with.

In the Fear chapter, it explains player playing out of fear, like after losing sessions they may stop playing what is their usual profitable style, because they lost their trust due to fear (of beats or outdrawn etc). Sections such as Fear of Success and Fear of Mistakes are also covered.

The chapter on Motivation is also detailed on laziness, procrastination etc. which result in absence of learning and stop focusing on the process but only result every single time. What I can relate is Hopeless, when losing 9 out of 10 sessions is no joke. I even stop playing for a month at a point of time. These are covered, and to help it, the next chapter (which is a surprise to me) is to fix the problem of Hopeless.

Confidence. What I am surprise is that, even too much confidence can be harmful. Maybe because I never felt that way. Overconfidence leads to thinking you can play many hands and thinking you can beat the game for example you were simply running good and you began playing many too many hands which are out of your usual range. This chapter includes teaching you how to develop a stable confidence.

The Appendix includes a questionnaire that is supposed to help you identify and recognise your mental game problem.

I have not mastered the book obviously, but I am beginning to see progress in my game. Getting rivered by opponent who has only 1-3 outer in the past definitely tilt me to the point that I will lose more (spewing stacks), I never win after getting tilted in the past. Although it does not mean I definitely will win even if my mental game is good, but for the firstime I see myself getting beats and slowly grinding my way back.

Here are my progress for the past weeks.. it may not seem excellent to you, but it is a result good enough for me based on my past.

Cash Games.


One reason for my tourney is that I began moving down stakes to try and beat the game a bit to rebuild my confidence. I proceeded up after that and won a few. Yesterday me and my buddy played a 45 Home Game tourney league (past 3 games my chip never even reach $3,000), I cashed out 4th and he cashed out 3rd.

This may be a period of running good and I may experience bad runs but what is important is to learn to "inject" the logic of variance into our game. I am trying my best now and love to see my progress.

Conclusion? This book does not have any poker strategy in it. But before you need any strategy, you need to master yourself. If you have tilt problem (I believe all poker players do), it is good enough you get this book. After countless poker books on my shelf, I must say this is one of the best and highly recommended book!!



My post was fed into our twitter @blacknbottle and we got a Retweet from the author Jared Tendler @jaredtendler himself! 


Trader32 said...

Hi Black, I am no poker player but good write up. Glad it seems to be helping.

FX said...

Thank you very much Black for mentioning this book. It explains many things that are not covered in any trading related book. I'm reading it right now and love it. If you have any similar book please mention it.

Black said...

Thanks T32 & FX!

Its really imteresting to know whats going on in us when we learn to trade/poker and doing it with emotions. We know we need to do it like a mechanic robot but I now realised what harm it'd been causing me when emotions kicks in and trying to fix it.

Hope it helps to you too! :)

FoodieFC said...

wa got retweet!!!

By the way midas going up.

Black said...

yeah thats a good news bro!

Johnny said...

You said you're not a good book reviewer but you did a good job. It's a really hard way until you manage to get your 'poker face' just right and try to fight all those emotions when you bluff. What can I say? You made me want to read the whole book.

Black said...

Thank you Johnny. This book is definitely worth the read!

Oliver Drend said...

Thank you for sharing this article. I love it. Keep on writing this type of great stuff. objedi

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