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Quick Blog Dump: Sky Poker, Poker4Heroes, PokerStrategy.com

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The last few days have gotten pretty hectic, which is a good thing, I will hopefully blog more on this later on but if not:

I was once again a guest on Sky Poker last night, and once again had a great laugh. It was a lot more ‘natural’ this time around, once again we got to talk about films and the team were very generous with the amount of time they devoted to plugging The Mental Game of Poker. We also got to analyse some hands played by non other than…..my mum.

She started playing on Sky Poker after my last appearance and has come 2nd in two bounty tournaments in the last week, so we reviewed a few of her hands. Deffo made for some fun TV I think.

Great time had by me and I hope they ask me on again.

I am going to this this weekend and will be giving out some free copies of The Mental Game of Poker as prizes. This really is an exciting event and well done to Cheryl who organised it all, I think this event looks better than any other charity event I have seen in a long time. I am also pushing to get anyone who wins one of the great added prizes to pledge 10% of any winnings in that tournament to the charity also.

This is a really great blog where Jared and James worked through his motivational issues while going for SuperNova Elite. There is a funny part involving a chair which I wont spoil for you.

We were interviewed by PokerStrategy.com and also have some guest articles on their site.

Wow, really don’t like doing these rushed blogs, but we are so busy as the response for the book is really starting to take off. Normal service will be resumed next week.  

Man Doesn't Win Poker Tournament

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Possibly our biggest fan boy so far, Matthew Pitt over at Betfair, has written another blog around our book. This one was pretty personal to me, and recounts a story of my own that appears in The Mental Game of Poker. Basically it was from the moment where working with Jared Tendler probably forever changed my entire outlook on poker, work, and life. Rather than recounting my story, I’ll see what Pitt says about it:

“After reading The Mental Game of Poker a couple of times something really struck a chord with me and that was co-author Barry Carter's story. I won't relay it word for word but he discusses when he first spoke to Jared Tendler and was asked what his image of a winning poker player was and Barry says that the image he thinks of is a poker player sat behind a huge pile of chips, proudly showing off their winning hand having won a major tournament. But the problem was that Barry was not playing in many tournaments so how could he ever become, in his own eyes, a winning poker player.”

“When I read that I was thought they had got into my own mind and were writing about me. I think it is a common problem with poker players who work in the media because most of their time is spent writing about players winning major tournaments and reporting live on the various tours around the world. Behind every poker writer and blogger is a frustrated poker player, trust me on that one.”

It was a huge moment for me when Jared made me realise my own perception of success was skewed. Every Monday for the last 3 or 4 years I find myself reporting on the story ‘Man Wins Poker Tournament’ and as someone who plays the game, but is yet to win a live tournament (a proper one, not a £10 rebuy), it did really quietly and sneakily distort my view of success and my own game. I barely ever play tournaments, I prefer short sessions and thus SNGs and cash games, but the textbook image of success for me was always the image of a man holding two cards up at the end of a tournament he won.

So I was judging my own success based on a metric that didn’t even register in what I was actually doing, I was getting pissed off at not winning a live tournament even though I wasn’t playing any. Once Jared made me realise how silly this was, it really freed me from poker in a sense. No longer do I subtly beat myself up for not having a ‘1st’ on my Hendon Mob database. I think this not only helped me take extended breaks from poker to pursue other interests (Including writing a book) it also helped me enjoy poker again in the social context it should be enjoyed.

I like Pitt’s other comment of ‘Behind every poker writer and blogger is a frustrated poker player, trust me on that one’. I could not agree more. A journalist in any other walks of life is able to distance themselves from the people they are writing about. I couldn’t write about Wayne Rooney smashing a wonder goal in from 30 yards in the Champions League and beat myself up for not doing the same, but most poker bloggers could very feasibly buy into whatever tournament they are covering. They are also privy to all the good fortune and misplayed hands of the eventual victor, which can skew their perception on whether they could have, and should have, somehow won the tournament themselves (I wrote a blog on it yesterday as it happens). This is not the exclusive domain of poker writers either, anyone who is good friends with successful poker players can feel this strange inverted kind of jealously 

Its Easier to Play Other People's Hands

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Daniel Pink is one of my favourite writers, mainly because he is a journalist with a real enthusiasm for psychology in business, and I am a journalist with an enthusiasm for psychology in poker. He put out a really interesting article last weekend on the Sunday Telegraph last weekend about how people find it easier to solve other people’s problems than their own.

He cited recent research from Evan Polman of New York University and Kyle Emich of Cornell University, where they posed a puzzle to two groups, one group was asked to imagine themselves as the person in the puzzle, the other had to imagine another person the puzzle. The group that imagined someone else beat the first group hands down.

“Polman and Emich build upon existing psychological research showing that when we think of situations or individuals that are distant – in space, time, or social connection – we think of them in the abstract. But when those things are close – near us physically, about to happen, or standing beside us – we think about them concretely.” “Over the years, social scientists have found that abstract thinking leads to greater creativity. That means that if we care about innovation we need to be more abstract and therefore more distant. But in our businesses and our lives, we often do the opposite. We intensify our focus rather than widen our view. We draw closer rather than step back.”

This is something we touch upon in The Mental Game of Poker although nowhere near as much as we did in our original edit, which needed to be trimmed down by a few hundred pages. Basically it is around the subject of how we often know the right answer to how to play a hand when we are analysing it, or watching someone else play it, or are reviewing it for someone else – but in practice, it is much much harder to apply that knowledge, and we often find ourselves making plays we later know were wrong.

Your mind has only so much mental capacity when you are making a decision, and when you are under the pressure and scrutiny of playing the hand yourself, with money on the line, a lot of that mental space is used to deal with the pressure of the hand, rather than focus on the technical aspects of it. Pressure you don’t have when you are relaxing and in study mode.

It has always been a pet peeve of mine when poker players don’t understand this when they are watching hands unfold from the comfort of being a spectator. I hate it when players lay into each other for botching up hands they consider ‘standard’. In particular, it really gets my goat when it is a fellow journalist on the tournament floor slagging off someone who has made it deep into a large tourney. The blogger has the least pressured vantage point in the room and the player the complete opposite; of course the writers are in a great position to know what the player should do.  

Pink suggests in his article that the important lesson is to seek out more outside advice and mentoring. This nicely illustrates why getting poker coaches, or likeminded friends to share hands with, is so incredibly vital to improving as a player. I doubt there are many successful players from the last few years who have not benefited from the objectivity of friends at a similar level to them. Put simply, other people can see parts of your game that you cannot, just like you can see how other people should be playing when you are not under the pressure they are under. 

Five Thirds of a Review of The Mental Game of Poker

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One of the things we say very early in The Mental Game of Poker is not to form too quick an opinion of the book, and to re-read certain sections multiple times. This is not so much a defensive strategy from us, simply because some of the material is radically different to what every other poker book out there suggests, so it may take some getting used to.

So I don’t really know what to make of the following five reviews of the book, which have all been written by people who felt compelled to write about the book while they are only about one third of the way through each (so we have 1 and 2/3s of a review currently from them). Thankfully all the reviews are very positive and I think we can take it as a complement that so many people felt so compelled to discuss the book early.


There are loads more reviews coming through, but I just thought it was interesting that so many people have taken to reviewing it so prematurely.

Check out all three thirds of The Mental Game of Poker. 

Tilt in Poker and Magic The Gathering

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We’ve had quite a lot of interest in the last week from unexpected sources, I say unexpected sources, I always thought there would be interest but from these but not quite so soon. Poker is similar to so many other disciplines, a book like The Mental Game of Poker was bound to have plenty of transferable skills to offer. I am living proof, as I have used what Jared Tendler has taught me to change my eating habits, learn boxing, manage my time better, and even cope with grief.

So recently we have had a few interesting back and forths from people who have bought the book, not just for poker, but also for Sports Betting, Trading, and Magic the Gathering. I must admit the latter I am least familiar with, but I do know it’s a card game that is structurally & strategically similar to poker (albeit with dragons and warlocks and such). They use a 60 card deck, they have draws, and there is a shit load of variance. 

I’d already done a bit of research into these markets, and all of them come up with quite a lot when you combine their name with ‘tilt’ in a search. In fairness, something like tilt exists in any aspect of life, just it is called anger, but I think there is something unique about the ‘tilt’ that we all know in poker that is likely very similar in sports betting/trading/magic the gathering. Although the following video confused the shit out of me, in a strange way the final few seconds were strangely familiar (Thanks to Kar from http://www.manadeprived.com/ for bringing me up to speed on this):


In all four disciplines there is so much out of your control that you can do everything right and still lose, consistently, for long periods. The reason mental game issues are so prevalent in poker is because most people have a hard time accurately distinguishing skill from variance, separating what they did right/wrong and what was out of their control.

Linked to that is the notion of the unknown, incomplete information. No matter how good a poker player you are, or trader, sports bettor, or magic-er (Is that the term?) – you are relying on your ability to fill in gaps in information. The better you are, the more you can fill in with confidence, but combined with variance this can create a great deal of uncertainty, which can lead to other issues. 

I’m looking forward to learning more about how games like Magic the Gathering have parallels with poker. I apologise if referring to it as ‘dragons and warlocks’ is actually offensive to the guys that play it (I don’t want them to club me with their +1 mace after all).


Check out The Mental Game of Poker whether you are a poker player, trader, or 4th level Paladin.  

Poker and Adrenaline

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Another video blog. They are slowly getting better quality production wise, apologies for the sound we have worked out how to get the echo on Jared sorted for the next one. This was once again a reader question and we had the guy on the line this time, he basically wanted to know how if psyching yourself up like an athlete or musician is a good or bad idea for poker.



We picked it because, like the drugs in poker discussion, it is not something that is discussed much, however I see tons of threads where people talk about getting psyched up for poker, what songs people listen to etc. We'll be doing more of these video blogs, so stay tuned to our Twitter where we will be taking suggestions.

Check out The Mental Game of Poker for more mental game advice.

Drugs in Poker

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So it seems Blogger had a major issue on Friday where it deleted everyones posts the previous day, so here once again is the Drugs in Poker video blog we did:




It got some interesting chatter on twitter afterwards, just to clarify, when we talk about prescription drugs we are talking about them when they are being used by someone who doesn't medically need them, ie. someone who is just taking them purely because they think it will help them play better or longer.

We are running another video blog suggestion contest, just suggest a mental game topic for Jared to address (and me to sit quietly in the background and occassionally make a smart alec comment) and the person whose topic gets picked withs a free copy of The Mental Game of Poker. Suggestions on Twitter or Facebook.

Book-et List

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I realised in the space of two days I genuinely ticked two things off a long running bucket list I made when I was about 20. I have always wanted to win a trophy, in anything (this was way before poker), and I got that last weekend on the Sky Poker Tour (albeit a '7th place' trophy, sigh). And I always wanted to write a book, and that finally arrived this week (Obviously I wrote it ages ago but didn't believe it until it arrived).

Now I just need to appear in a film, watch a boxing match at Madison Square Garden, and have a threesome and my list is complete.

Taking a leaf from Gary Vaynerchuk's book the Thank You Economy, I decided to go a little extra for one of the guys who had been a real advocate of the book. Jamie Mortimer has been really supportive about the book on twitter and his blog.

He was one of the first guys to buy the book, and I was amazed that not only does he work at my former workplace before poker, Aviva, and is engaged to a girl I worked with, he also sits next to my old house mate in the office. It is in my hometown of Sheffield and I thought the very least I could do was to hand deliver his copy as a thank you for his support (While he was at work, he didn't dress up to receive it....I think). Its nice to see Social Media in action like this.

Finally, if you are reading this today (Obviously you are reading it today, I mean 12/05/11) check out the EPT Madrid Live Stream on PokerNews. 

Check Out the Mental Game of Poker

Jared Tendler Session with Supernova Elite Chaser James Atkin : Laziness

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I make fun of him most days because I am much bigger than him, but I honestly think James Atkin is one of the nicest, most interesting poker players I know. No pretense, really enthusiastic, a great Dad even though he looks 12, a surprisingly good rapper, and a sick player. I set him up a session with Jared Tendler to try and overcome motivational issues on his way to getting to SuperNova Elite - here it is.

James was on course for SuperNova Elite but Black Friday significantly killed the traffic in his bread and butter games.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


James is a pro SNG player and he has been doing some really interesting research and discussion on the recent PokerStars SNG changes, which are well worth a look if you are into SNGs.

We have lots more advice about poker motivation in The Mental Game of Poker. 

Mental Game of Poker: Press Release

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Well, after five years receiving these things I finally sent out my first ever press release. I wasn't quite prepared for what an arduous task it was, because after a long time working in the industry my journalists/contacts list is near 1000 email addresses. Hopefully it hasn't gone direct to 1000 spam folders:



Jared Tendler Releases 'The Mental Game of Poker'
New book changes the way poker players improve mental game issues like tilt, motivation, confidence, and more 


New York City, United States, May 9, 2011: Mental game coach Jared Tendler announces the release of his much anticipated book, The Mental Game of Poker, designed to help serious players conquer the biggest mental game issues in poker. The Mental Game of Poker promises to revolutionize poker by giving players the best of sports psychology, and the most definitive work on Tilt ever released. 

Tendler, who previously coached pro golfers on the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour, has coached over 170 professional poker players over the past three years. Plus, his training videos and articles have helped countless more eliminate tilt, increase their volume, improve their motivation, and play their A-game consistently. He's also coached eight players to the status of SuperNova Elite, including Dusty 'Leatherass' Schmidt, who introduced him to poker after a chance meeting on the golf course. 

Schmidt explained, "As a former professional golfer, I saw the tremendous benefit sport psychologists had on players on the PGA tour and knew they could be of equal value to poker players. Jared has been an enormous help to my game, and he helped me reach SuperNova Elite. I'm now virtually tilt-free and bring my A-game nearly every time I play. The bottom line: Jared has made me a lot of money. If you don?t think the mental game is important, just think about how much tilt or other issues have cost you over the years."

A former professional golfer himself, Tendler has a master's degree in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor. He explains that poker has desperately needed someone from the sports psychology industry to show them the way:

"The amount of variance in poker makes sport psychology very important to poker players; perhaps more so than competitors in any other game or sport. The realities of poker mean that superior players can consistently lose while playing well; and that can really mess with their mind. As a result, every mental game issue is amplified by the cruelty of running bad." 

The book focuses on four key areas where poker players have mental game leaks: tilt, fear, motivation, and confidence. Throughout the book are stories from clients of Tendler's who have used his methods to conquer their own issues. 

"Poker is tougher than ever, and over the past few years, players have begun to see how much of an edge they can gain by working on the mental side of the game. When a sport becomes as competitive as poker is now, sport psychology is usually the next area people go to create edge."

Tendler continues: "Common advice in poker psychology has been too broad when it comes to issues like tilt; it's seen as something unavoidable and mysterious. The tilt section alone in the Mental Game of Poker might be more comprehensive than all of the other tilt advice out there. I've worked hard to create a straightforward, step-by-step strategy to prevent and even eliminate tilt. Believe it or not, in this book you will learn how tilt can be a good thing."

The Mental Game of Poker: Proven Strategies for Improving Tilt Control, Confidence, Motivation, Coping with Variance, and More is $49.95 and available exclusively at: http://www.mentalgamepoker.com/

About Jared Tendler:
Jared Tendler, M.S., LMHC, was a mental game coach for golfers on the PGA and LPGA tours before becoming the leading mental game expert in poker. He now coaches some of the top players in poker and has coached more than 170 professionals from around the world. Jared's groundbreaking methods have also helped thousands more through his training videos, articles, and forum Q&As. He is a featured coach for DragtheBar.com, and writes monthly instructional articles for WPT Magazine and PokerPro Europe.

Jared earned a master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Northeastern University, and became a licensed mental health counselor prior to becoming a mental game coach in 2005.

He has two popular 'Ask Jared' threads on TwoPlusTwo and CardsChat where poker players can post their mental game issues to him directly. They can also contact him directly at his own forumtwitter, and facebook.  

To see a full list of testimonials, press excerpts, strategy articles, and blogs you can find out more at:http://www.jaredtendlerpoker.com.

What People Are Saying About the Mental Game of Poker:
"This is no psychobabble; this is no man sitting on a leather couch in an ivory tower spewing transcendental waves. Tendler provides real steps and real answers for poker players involved in the day to day struggle who are too often beating themselves." Jesse May

"Any player that hopes to have long-term success with poker needs to have this book in their library. The mental side of poker is huge, and this is a good investment in that direction. For $50 it is a steal." Verneer, Cardrunners Coach. 

"What we have here seems to be advancement on the traditional approaches to the Psychology of Poker espoused by Schoonmaker amongst others." Rich Prew, Blondepoker. 

"I have neck and face ache from sitting nodding and smiling to myself, agreeing with absolutely everything that has been printed in The Mental Game of Poker. This is quite possibly the only poker psychology book you will ever need." Matthew Pitt, Betfair Blog.

"Jared Tendler is a pioneer of the poker mental game. No one else even compares to his fact-based, scientific approach that is backed up by years of study in modern psychology. This book is the first of its kind and should be considered mandatory reading for any poker player." Hunter Bick, DragTheBar CEO

"I honestly believe if you are going to buy a poker book then make it this one. Unlike strategy, this book contains advice that simply isn't out there on forums or training sites and could well be the most important book you ever read." Matt Perry, Bluff Europe Magazine. 

*Ends*
Contact: barry@mentalgamepoker.com +447989720466 for more details or interview requests.

Sky Poker Tour Leeds Final Table

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Tikay insisted on capturing this rarest of sitings.
I haven't played live poker for about 7 or 8 months, mainly for both book and family reasons, but an invite to the Sky Poker Tour in Leeds was more than enough to awake me from my hibernation. I have nothing but good things to say about the tour – the team at Sky are second to none, the atmosphere is always fantastic, and the action is always very loose.

I was in a unique position mentality wise for this tournament, because I brought my fiancee along and we met some old friends beforehand. So I decided very early I would gamble for a big stack, because if I bust out, I got to catch up with some old friends. To make sure I did just that, I necked five pints in quick succession at the table.

I won the very first hand and after that, I reckon I was pretty much the chip leader or thereabouts for the rest of the tournament until the final table. It was a very liberating experience, playing with no fear of busting because I wanted to see my friends, and I was much looser and more aggressive than I can remember ever being. I was playing pretty crazily, but in a measured, considered kind of way.

The second interesting dynamic occured a couple of places off the bubble. My stack had just took a hit, but I was still easily in the top 5 or 6, but I had another dilema. Knowing full well I was gambling from the start, I didnt book a hotel, and I had about one hour to catch the last train home. So even though I was in a position where I probably should sit back, I started pushing every hand. Very liberating feeling again, no fear and the net effect was I was also creating a very good table image, and I accumulated a ton of chips.

The bubble burst, we soon made the final table, and again, I was pretty much the most active player from the get go. I ran really well throughout the entire tournament so I cant really complain about running into a few coolers near the end. The first pot I had AK vs AQ vs AA and lost to both hands, which damaged my stack. Soon after I shoved with AQ, the guy next to me didnt see me enter the pot and announced 'raise' as he was on the button. The dealer declared the raise had to stand, and his 8-6 hit a straight on the river to bust me in 7th place. Not much you can do about that.

Running into Thewy with a hand for the 9th time in a row
But it was great fun as always, especially sharing a final table with Julian Thew. Thewy is such a nice guy he makes you forget he is hoovering up your chips with no remorse, you almost root for him when he is in the pot against you. The event was televised and I did quite a good exit interview after (At least I think I did, I was pretty sozzled by then). The best part was that after years of wanting one, I actually got a genuine trophy, albeit just one for making the final table. I have always vainly wanted a trophy – for anything, not just poker – so that was a nice one to tick off the bucket list.

A great weekend indeed and I may have the live poker bug again, I'm just a bit gutted in my drunkon stupor I completly forgot to plug The Mental Game of Poker on TV.

Why Poker Coaching Sometimes Doesn't Work

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One of the big concepts we discuss in The Mental Game of Poker is the learning process. A lot of mental game issues in poker are caused by people not understanding the nature of learning. Most poker players assume they have mastered certain concepts too early, or try and learn too much at once. Failure is often treated as a sign you should give up trying, rather than a natural and important part of improving.

If you get the book you will see some great advice on how to correct some of these incorrect assumptions. The whole process of writing the book has made me think long and hard about poker coaching. It is big business in the industry, I myself have been coached/sweated by 3 or 4 different coaches, some of them very high profile ones. Knowing what I know now, I realise how important understanding the learning process is for any coach, and from my own experience it is vastly overlooked.

First of all, I will say that one on one coaching is probably the most beneficial way anyone will learn poker (or anything else) – your game is exposed, stripped bare, and critiqued. You also will find a friend and role model if the coach is good. However, if the coach/student does not understand the learning process, it can actually be a frustrating experience.

I once had some sessions with Jay ‘KRANTZ’ Rosenkrantz, a sick sick player, but the difference between us was massive. A big blind for him was a buy-in for me, and he didn’t really cater his teaching style for the level I was at, rather he spoke to me like I was a nosebleed player – it may as well have been a foreign language I was hearing and I actually think the experience may have held me back, rather than helped me. The best coaching I ever had was from a great guy called Stuart ‘Balloo’ Menzies, who actually didn’t play games much bigger than myself, but he understood where I was as a player and coached accordingly.

The biggest single issue I have encountered from poker coaches is they try and teach too much, too soon. They will sweat a session, or study a series of hands, and overwhelm their student with all manner of technical information. Most of us poker students are just as much to blame, because we are just as keen to immerse ourselves in as much higher level literature as we can (I think everyone who has ever purchases a subscription to a poker training site has tried to watch all the videos back to back because of the sheer enthusiasm of having joined).

This is not how the learning process works; it is much more gradual and requires a lot of repetition. When we overload ourselves with information, or our coaches do, it only serves to create frustration when we are not able to execute that information when we are at the tables. Which in turn can lead us to question our ability and feel like a failure, because we don’t realise the learning process is supposed to be like this. (There is also a phenomenon called Decision Paralysis whereby the more information you have in front of you, the harder it is to make a decision and you are more likely to make a bad one, well worth reading up on).

If you are a coach or you have a coach, or even if you are just teaching yourself, it is vital you know that the learning process is much more gradual and you cannot just expect to know something because you have been told it.

Before embarking on coaching, the coach and student should agree between them what the 3 or 4 biggest areas they need to work on are (Whether they are leaks, or developing new skills) and frame the coaching around those issues. If the student’s biggest areas for improvement is 3-betting and playing in multi-way pots, don’t overwhelm them with 4-betting, G Buck calculations, playing the turn and metagame, it is just too much to take in (Obviously these scenarios will come up, and do address them as they do, but keep it simple and mark it as a future topic for discussion).

Don’t move onto something new until the student is proving they have learned the lesson over a large sample. Don’t assume because they showed they understood something in a sweat session they have learned the lesson to the point where it will show up every time. They need to consistently prove it when they are not being watched before it can be considered mastered. If they can prove they have learned something while under extreme pressure, like a big downswing, then you know they have it mastered and are ready to move on to the next lesson.

One on one coaching or discussing hands with friends is definitely the most valuable learning experience in poker, because you not only learn about the game, you learn about yourself. Just make sure everyone involved knows what learning looks like, because you can actually hinder progress if they don’t.

Learn more about Learning in The Mental Game of Poker.


The Mental Game of Poker is Shipping

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Apologies for anyone who pre-ordered the The Mental Game of Poker, for reasons beyond our control we were delayed by 3 or 4 days beyond the projected shipping date. Believe it or not, it was apparently because the printers didn't quite have the right shade of blue for the cover and it came out slightly purple-y instead. Had we known this was the issue right away we would have just sent a Barney the Dinosaur version of the book out.

If you did pre-order the book, Jared & I will be sending something along shortly as a special offer and thank you via email.

Anyway, we are now both going to try out the medium of Video Blogs, just because it seems easier, more compelling, and more engaging. I probably should have shaved beforehand, and my god do we both look tired - that is actually the toll the book has taken on us lately, no joke. The sound quality is pants and it will be better in the future, I will also edit my mug out of it more often next time.

Check Out The Mental Game of Poker


Poker Show With Jesse May

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There is a ton of blog stuff coming its way in the next few days but right now I just wanted to post a link to Jared's interview on a recent Poker Show with Jesse May. Jesse reviews the book and he couldn't say enough about it. Jesse is probably one of the top five industry guys I respect in poker, his knowledge and enthusiasm for the game is unparalleled in my opinion - so for him to like the book so much has really got me excited.

Listen to the Poker Show

Check Out the Mental Game of Poker


Poker, Motivation & Prop Bets

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In the motivation section of The Mental Game of Poker I touch on a subject that is dear to me, prop bets. I have always been a big fan of some of the stories of outrageous proposition bets in poker, in particular, old school road gambler legends like Amarillo Slim (Shame he is a bit, erm, dodgy, in other aspects of his life).

There are some fantastic modern prop bets in the online generation, however, there is a notably different trend among online players, which I call 'Motivational Prop Bets'. Back in the day, a successful proposition gambler would rarely bet unless it was a sure thing (And in some cases, when they have outright cheated). Usually the bet would involve a 'sucker' who would be unaware of a significant edge the gambler had (Look up the legendary Amarillo Slim table tennis bet series to see what I mean).

I call these 'Edge Prop Bets', you only bet when you believe you have an edge that you can run 100 miles/play 100,000 hands a month/eat 30 eggs in an hour etc. That is exactly what a successful gambler should be doing, investing in a perceived edge which will pay off over time. Most successful poker players know all about this.

But the modern trend of 'Motivational Prop Bets' suggests quite the opposite. Check out any popular poker forum and you will likely find a ton of these. Someone will propose that they can play x number of hands in a month, win x amount of money, or lose x amount of weight. Most of the time, rather than proposing these because they believe they can do it, they propose them because they want to do them, but are struggling to motivate themselves.

They have no prior evidence to suggest they will actually succeed, in fact, they have a ton of evidence to support the opposite viewpoint. They don't have enough motivation to lose the weight or play x number of hands for its own sake, so they want to force their interest by putting money on the line.

If someone proposes a bet because they are struggling to motivate themselves to do something they should be doing anyway, particularly if it is way off what they are currently capable of, take it. This is a bet that is destined for failure more often than not.

Motivational problems are not caused by a lack of motivation, rather the focus of your motivation is elsewhere. When someone is struggling to motivate themselves to play more hands, it is actually because they are very motivated to take more time off from playing. If someone is struggling to motivate themselves to lose weight, it is because they are very motivated to eat bad foods and not exercise.

I know that sounds like really fluffy pop psychology but it is true, and most of the time that motivation to eat crap or play less is stronger, much stronger, than the motivation not to lose money in a prop bet. I read a great book called Drive by Daniel Pink recently that confirmed just that. Basically, our ability to perform actually decreases when financial incentives are introduced, even when it is a hobby you would do for free, introducing money makes it feel like work, which makes it a real grind – all of which makes it all the more likely that desire to be lazy will win.


It creates an interesting paradox with poker, because of course it is a game where money is the way to keep score. One thing I have learned from working with Jared Tendler, and also from observing hundreds of players I have interviewed, is that in order to succeed when money is on the line you need to detach yourself from the dollars and concentrate on developing the skill needed to make it for its own sake.

I can support this argument first hand too. After working on the book with Jared Tendler I managed to drop quite a bit of excess weight through plain old eating less and exercising more. I did this by applying his mental game methods by changing my attitude to eating (I was a bit of a binge eater) and learning to box at my gym. Rather than focussing on my weight, I focussed on why I was binge eating, my eating habits, and improving my ability in my new hobby at the gym. I haven't changed the food I eat, I just am learning how to exercise portion control. It has gone really well and I am only keeping half an eye on my weight (In fact my first real dip in progress came when I started weighing myself regularly and made it all about the numbers again, which I quickly changed back again to once a month).

It has been about five months I have lost about 20-22lbs, but more importantly it hasn’t felt like a grind because I have done it for its own sake, not for the sake of losing weight itself, which will hopefully means I am developing the habits that wont see me sling it all back on again.

I actually was offered to turn it into a prop bet at the start of the year with someone who was looking to lose a similar amount of weight, I am glad I turned them down. Doing something because I wanted to is much easier than doing something because I feel I had to. When you see some porker telling you they want odds that they can lose x amount of weight in a month, unless they are Ted Forrest, take them up on it, because deep down they probably don't want to win as much as they claim to.


The Mental Game of Poker and the 'PLO Phase'

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Several people, including Betfair Blogger Yorkypuds, have mentioned to us that they are going to use The Mental Game of Poker as a jumping off point to start a foray into playing PLO. Evidently their hope is that it will provide a solid emotional base to withstand the inevitable swings of the four card version of hold'em.

In principal, that is a great idea, and I like to think that the book can do just that. What I would say, however, is that most players should probably work on major mental game issues within their usual games initially before attempting to test them in uncharted waters. One of the things we strongly stress in the book is that you should work on your biggest leaks first before trying to develop new skills. You really need to work on the issues in your 'C game' before moving towards mastery, otherwise they are just going to show up again (and probably sooner and much worse in a game like PLO).

I think just about every poker player (myself included, several times) has had a 'PLO phase'. It is a bit like the poker equivalent of a mid life crisis, most players I know have attempted a different game when they are frustrated with poker – a change is as good as a rest. The ironic thing about most PLO phases is that often players are frustrated with the variance of hold'em, yet seem to think the way to remedy that is to take up an even swingier version of the game.

Of course not everyone has their PLO Phase because of frustration or variance; some just want a new challenge or see it as potentially very profitable. And for many, it isn't a phase, but the start of their new bread and butter game. Yorkypuds is a keen student of the game so I am sure he is fully aware of the swings about to come his way.

I guess the key thing I want to get across is that if you currently have a problem coping with variance in hold'em, work on that issue first until you know it has improved before taking up PLO for the first time. Variance itself doesn't cause mental game issues, it only amplifies them, so taking up a higher variance form of poker is only going to create more problems. I say this both as someone who has spent the last two years shadowing Jared Tendler, and also someone who has had their fair share of ill advised PLO phases.

Of course the nice flip side of this is that when you do have a really solid ability to cope with variance, you put yourself in an even better position to make money in the high variance games. Jared had a great article about a year ago about how often these highly charged testosterone fuelled games often comes down to the player with the best 'C game' and I think it's very applicable to PLO. 

Crush It

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I enjoyed Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk so much I snap bought his first (none wine) offering, Crush It. If time taken to buy-then-read is anything to go by, clearly I loved it, as I managed to blitz through it in a matter of days.

And love it, I did. Crush It is all about how we live in an age where anyone can turn a hobby or passion into a career. The message is simple enough, find something you love and monetise it. If you are passionate enough about a subject you will be able to find a niche way of blogging/wrtiting/video blogging/podcasting/creating content about that subject, which you can build into something people will pay for.

Step forward social media, which is how you find your audience. Just like in the Thank You Economy, Gary reminds us that social media is really the greatest listening tool in the world – not an opportunity for spammers and old school marketeers to dump links.

It all sounds so simple. Find your passion, produce the best blog site in the world, create a community of followers, wait for the money to roll in. Of course it isn't as simple as that, it requires lots and lots of hard work, which Gary is all too eager to point out again and again. However, he is so passionate and persuasaive that he does fill you with confidence that we all have the power to do it.

This book spoke to me as much, if not perhaps a bit more, than Thank You Economy. I think this is because for the past five years I have turned a passion into a career. I haven't done all the things suggested in Crush It, nor have I necessarily done those things I have done to the best of my ability, but I have seen first hand how liberating having a job you would do for free is. With my first book now available to buy, I think this was a very fortuatous time for me to have discovered Crush It.

It's a brilliant book, and a rare one I may read a second time. I think Thank You Economy is the better book, and one that everyone should read. But Crush It is perhaps my personal favourite of the two, because it really speaks to me as a self employed journalist.

Once again, as good a book as it is, think seeing the man in action does much more than my review ever could.


Mental Game of Poker - Reviews & Article Link Dump

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Pre-sale of The Mental Game of Poker went surprisingly well considering we chose to release the book at the worst time in the history of poker book publishing. One third of the sales were still from the US, which was a good sign, and also kind of a kick in the teeth too when you think of how much better it could have been.

Lots of reviews on their way from the likes of Dr Pauly, Jesse May, Bill Rini, Lee Davy, Bluff Europe, and Matthew Pitt. Until then, I have been keeping Jared busy as his Spin Doctor/Tea Boy. Here are some of his interviews/blog posts/articles/book reviews from the last week or two:

BlondePoker Review

Cardrunners Review

Betfair Blog Review (Not the actual review, Matthew Pitt got so excited he did a '55 pages in' review)

Black Friday Special Interview on Cash Plays Podcast

PokerNews Article on Black Friday Anxiety

How Jared Tendler Coached 8 Players to Supernova Elite

PartyPoker Article

"Should I Buy The Book?" Thread on TwoPlusTwo (We had nothing to do with this, but was really nice to see the response.

The Mental Game of Poker is now available to buy. If you have any questions about it at all, drop me a line.

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