Books like "The Poker Mindset" and "Your Worst Poker Enemy" might help.
Book Review: “The Poker Mindset”
Ian Taylor and Matthew Hilger have co authored a book that provides the reader with an ideal source document to better explain the complex mental side of poker. The meat of the text (for this reader), is when they dive into subjects such as tilt, bankroll, downswings and getting into the mind of your opponents.
With the authors’ permission, I’d like to provide an example of how they describe the underlying attitudes or “stages” associated with handling a bad beat:
“To further illustrate the difference between the stages, let’s look at a limit hand example from the point of view of a representative player we will call Rick.
Rick is dealt Ad Kh in middle position. He open raises, the player on the button re-raises, and the big blind calls, as does Rick.
The flop is Ac Kd 8s. The big blind checks, as does Rick. The button bets, the big blind calls, and Rick check-raises. Both opponents call.
The turn is a 9c. The big blind checks, Rick bets, the button folds, and the big blind calls.
The river is a 6c. The big blind now bets, Rick calls, and his opponent shows 7d 5d for a backdoor straight.
How will Rick respond to this hand? It all depends on what stage he is at.
Stage 1 – I can’t believe it! What was he thinking about calling all those bets? He had nothing the entire hand and lucked out. What an idiot! This always happens to me, it’s so unfair! I’m going to do my best to get back at him and win my chips back.
Stage 2 – What a bad beat! Losing an eleven big bet pot to a suckout like that really hurts. How can you win at this game when players call down with garbage and then hit? I know in the long term he will lose all his money, but I really needed that pot. That has put me in a real hole!
Stage 3 – Ouch! Oh well, that’s poker I suppose. If he keeps playing like that, I will take his money in the long term, so I just have to be patient. I’ll make sure I remember that he is a calling station and play accordingly. I wonder if there was any way of winning that pot had I played differently.
Stage 4 - Okay, I now know that the guy on the big blind will call down with pretty much anything, so I will take that into account from now on. I wonder what the button had. Maybe he had JJ or TT. It’s worth knowing that he will make a continuation bet in that situation. Maybe I should have bet out on the flop in the hope that the button would have raised? That might have driven the big blind out, although I’m not sure I want to drive him out if he’s willing to pay off all those bets with such a weak hand.
As you can see, Rick has two advantages when he is at stage 3 or 4. First, he accepts the result of the hand and so is less likely to go on tilt, and second, he is using his time more productively to think about the things that really matter. These are two good reasons why every player should want to move beyond the lower stages to reach these levels of thinking.”
After blogging this excerpt at www.pokerschoolonline.com
, I asked the members if they would like to share their view on which stage they could relate to themselves and here is a sampling:
• “I'm usually in Stage 3 most of the time, sometimes in stage 4, although if I have been playing a while, and particularly in several tourneys at once, I go on tilt more easily.”
• “We can know all the math and all of the angles, but learning how to control our emotions and going to the tables prepared takes a lot of practice and discipline.”
• “Definitely stage 1, I try to reach stage 3 which I do for most of the time, then some outrageous things happen and I fall down to one. I still got work to do, so does everyone else, even if they think not.”
• “I am usually stage 3, I do say a mental ouch or something a bit more colorful but I don't let a bad beat affect my play though I will often pretend it has put me on tilt to get more action on my big hands.”
As you can see, just this excerpt fueled a bevy of responses and interaction between members which lead to more curiosity and critical discovery.
The Taylor/Hilger book allows the reader to see a situation from many angles; including angles that most beginners are unaware exist. The advice is sound, rationale, and on point. If you are going to add a new book to your poker library, pick up a copy of “The Poker Mindset”
and consider it another piece of the puzzle found.
Are You Your Worst Poker Enemy?
Your Worst Poker Enemy by Dr. Alan Schoonmaker, PhD, tackles issues associated with logical thinking as it relates to the psychological impact of playing poker. Dr. Schoonmaker replicates the rollercoaster ride poker players experience by addressing such subjects as head games, varying emotions, irrational thinking, and sometimes even exaggerated masculinity (machismo) which players endure on a daily or regular basis both online and live.
This author is quick to point out: “I’m not a poker expert. I’m a psychologist who plays for moderate stakes and writes about poker psychology. I rarely give advice about playing specific cards because many people can do it better.” To this end he stays true to his word and provides the reader, insights, which include, recommendations on how to deal with emotional instability and suggestions on logical thinking while in stressful situations (can seem like every hand) during play.
He has the ability to “remind” you of the exact emotion a player feels when handling a tough beat or when there is significant damage to his bankroll and there is the instant awakening: “This is me he is talking about; I’d better reread that page again.”
Dr. Schoonmaker takes the readers attention into the much feared conditions of: running bad, anger, arrogance, paranoia, tilt, losing streaks, aggravations, denial and not knowing when to quit. His ability to recreate the “conditions” that each of us face at one time or another is uncanny and makes us want to read more on how to combat these obstacles to “winning poker.”
There were a few passages in particular that rang so true to me by my own observations at PSO (PokerSchoolOnline.com) and other poker internet sites as well as live play. Specifically, “If you listen, a few dummies will tell you exactly how to beat them.”
The Dr. illustrates with these examples:
• “I’m not aggressive. I won’t raise unless I’m almost certain I’ve got a winner.”
• “I’ll always bet on the flop if I’m last and nobody has bet.”
• “I’ll call all the way with anything, if a pot is big enough, but I’m not willing to make loose calls for small pots.”
• “I never check-raise because I believe in betting my own hands.”
The last chapter primarily concentrates on the degree of seriousness to which a player should take poker and I found his observations and recommendations to be spot-on. In particular, not allowing poker playing to take over your life, setting your priorities, questioning if you are doing yourself harm with over-indulgence, making sure you are playing “within your means and in the right comfort zone,” and finally, deciding on options to diversify and balance your life.
After reading Your Worst Poker Enemy, a member at PSO offered this statement:
“This is a must read. In fact it is an excellent book for anybody whether they play poker or not. Mastering the mental game is something everybody can use whether you are competing at Poker, in sports, at other games or trying to advance in your job. If you are honest with yourself after reading this book you will gain a better understanding of yourself and why we do things that are counterproductive. This will lead you into playing your “A” game more consistently and give you an understanding of why your opponents are playing the way they do. I would strongly suggest this book to anybody who finds themselves in a competitive situation. (Tulio Braz, aka Sabbath).
Recommended reading of Dr. Schoonmaker’s book is not only essential for you to compliment your experience and table skills, it should be mandatory for all players who display the emotional instability to perform and sustain excellence associated with playing at the top of their game. My library of poker books
is hardly complete; however, with the addition of “Your Worst Poker Enemy,”
I have enriched my mind as well as my book shelf collection.