The Mental Game of Poker

Do you understand why you tilt? Why you are fearful? Why you lose confidence? Check out the break-down of the mental game of poker by Jared Tendler. Jared, according to his website, »coaches over 400 poker players, including some of the best in the world«. You may or may not be skeptical of mental coaches, but in any case you do not have to spend a lot of money to gain from their insights. Jared posted a 2-part video series, build around the concepts in his books, and you can check out the videos below.

Jared has a psychology background, and he definitely understands some things about how the human mind works, and he probably understands them better than your average poker player, so you might get a few of those »aha« moments watching his videos.

For example, one of the mental game myths, as he calls them, is the thinking that emotions happen for irrational reasons. In other words, people oversimplify and dismiss the reasons behind their emotional reactions, and thereby block their understanding of them. The premise here is, that by figuring out the reasons behind your emotional reaction to, say, a bad beat, or an aggressive opponent, you will be in a better position to understand and ultimately change your reactions. Know thyself, as the Delfi commandment goes, and – the truth shall set you free, brother.

 If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.

Sun Tsu

If you get angry or frustrated playing against an aggressive opponent (and I know many players do, as I have seen it and heard it just about a million time in coachings), there is a reason for it – and it’s not your aggressive opponent. It’s your (flawed) understanding of the game. In particular, you have beliefs about the game, that are now being met with reality which is opposing those beliefs. 

Jared would tell you – if you look inside yourself, and understand what is driving your reaction, you might find a reason that looks something like this: You do not feel comfortable in this situation, because you do not know how to deal with this type of player. That’s obvious, right? What is not so obvious, is why can’t you deal with a player that is obviously a fish, albeit an aggressive one. You should be able to beat this guy, right? And you might feel and say to yourself that he is an idiot, yet you can’t get the best out of him. And you get titled. We’ve all been there. »How can I not beat this stupid idiot?!«

Well, if you can handle the truth – because you are not good enough, obviously. There can be no other reason (of course, you may say to yourself, that you are just unlucky, if you wish). And the anger comes out of the fact that you think that you are better than you really are. You thought you are better than this guy, an obvious donkey. But you can’t beat him. So you get angry about it. Reality doesn’t conform with your ideas about reality, and that makes you upset. It’s not the fact you can’t beat this guy, it’s the fact that you thought you are able to beat him, but you’re not. And you can’t take that.

Of course the rabbit hole goes much deeper than that, and you are free to explore it on your own. Jared’s videos are a good start, and you might get some understanding into how you really think about poker, whether you agree with him or not. So, take some time, and check out the videos below.






I’ve often heard it said in the BPC, that success at the tables is hugely (if not mostly) reliant upon your mental attitude and composure. Poker is not rocket-science; it can be, if you want it to be, but to win good money, that is not necessary at all. Most people play so bad, that you just have to stay focused and do the simple moves over and over again, and you will win, a lot. Like our most successful students often say: I couldn’t believe this shit would work, but I did it anyway – and it worked!

I recently wrote about Goodfake and his explosion after the BPC Dubrovnik seminar. A similar thing happened to Steezy. 3 days of listening to how to develop the right attitude and take action to support it, had an immediate and amazing effect. And to some level or another, it happens to all of our winners – or they had the right attitude from the start already. You need a strong mind in this game. And whatever you can do to develop the right attitude, you should take advantage of.

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