Mental Game of Poker Excerpt - Inch Worm

One of the most popular concepts from The Mental Game of Poker is something Jared devised called 'Inch Worm'. I must say, this helped my game and understanding of how learning works massively too, and I have managed to apply it to so many other things in life.

So here is the excerpt, not sure if it necessarily will be as revealing on its own without all the other material alongside it, but hopefully it will help.

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PokerStrategy.com Column - The Fear of Failure

First appeared on PokerStrategy.com

I read a really good book recently called Adapt by Tim Harford. He is an Economist discussing how failure is a necessary part of success. The book cites various instances where people have used previous failures to ultimately lead to success in their lives, and others where a zero tolerance approach to failure has led to the downfall of people and businesses.

This got me thinking about poker. There are very few games or careers out there where you have to deal with failure as much as you do with poker. You can do everything right and still lose consistently for thousands upon thousands of hands. In fact my mother could realistically beat Phil Ivey heads-up for a sustained period of time if the cards fell her way (Which is ultimately the greatest and most profitable part of poker).

Even the best players
lose on a regular basis
Despite how much failure we are exposed to, I am not sure that most of us learn from it as much as we should. You only need to see how badly a lot of us can deal with a bad beat or a downswing to demonstrate that. Sometimes it can really affect your mood away from the table, other times it can greatly affect the way we play at the table, in the form of tilt.

I am fortunate to have worked intensively on a book on this very topic with mental game expert and PokerStrategy coach {communitylink=JaredTendler+level}. What I learned from the experience is that players who deal with failure badly usually have an underlying flaw in their approach to the game that causes them to act that way. This is stuff like having overly high expectations and not understanding the nature of variance.

One of the key points in Adapt is that we do not build failure enough into our game plan from the start, that too often we start a plan of action with very little room for error. Harford suggests success is much more likely when you build an environment where it is safe to fail, where one mistake will not lead to complete annihilation.

The most obvious way in which this is evident in poker is when players ignore the rules of bankroll management. On paper, bankroll management is the easiest thing in the world, in practice even the best players routinely ignore it. It is almost certain that if you play long enough, at some point you will go on a 20, 50, or even 100 buy-in (Depending on what you play) downswings no matter how well you play.

This is no secret, the information is widely documented and most of us know first hand what its like, but playing without the bankroll to sustain these swings is still the downfall of many players.

Harford also suggests that the most successful businesses thrive because of a constant trial & error approach to their development. I am reminded of a fantastic quote by Thomas Edison which sums this up perfectly:

"If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward". Thomas Edison.

You would think that with such a prolific rate of failure in poker, that this is an ideology most of us would buy into. That if we do not win money after a session, we are at least provided with an opportunity to improve.

But many of us have a much more absolute view of wins and losses. The ironic thing about poker is that the very thing which creates such a high ratio of failure, is also the thing that prevents us from learning from it - variance. It is very hard to accurately assess how well you played in any single session because variance played a huge part, so most of us fill in the gaps however we choose to.

Usually that is this way: If we win, we played well, if we lost, we ran bad.

Thankfully if you are reading this, the chances are you are working hard on your own game and less likely to fall into this category, but it is still very important to be aware of it. The best players I have witnessed in my years as a poker journalist are the ones that, even to this day with all their success, still work on their game as enthusiastically as we all did from the start.

Conversely, there are those players who believed they had nothing left to learn when the online age came about, or when the games got tough after the 'glory days'. These are the players who have found themselves getting left behind and struggling to beat the modern game (I'd love to be writing this as someone who didn't make these mistakes, but I'm afraid I am one of the guys who stopped working on his game during the glory days and is playing now catchup).

Perhaps the most important lesson, and one which we are coming round to unfortunately now it may be too late, is having a plan B. Black Friday and the ensuing Full Tilt drama has exposed that many of us were completely unprepared for a major disaster. Players in America are currently in limbo with their main source of income unavailable to them, and players worldwide have their money stuck on Full Tilt in the same situation.

These are not the only instances of adversity for poker players of course, there have been superusers, bots, scams, collusion, cheating scandals, armed robberies, and much more.

If we have learned anything since Black Friday, then surely it is to no longer put your eggs in one basket. Do not put all your money in the same poker account, in fact do not keep all your poker money in just in poker accounts full stop.

The same goes with your time, it seems pretty ridiculous to devote your life to just playing poker when there is so much uncertainty in the industry the world over. Whether it's an education, another career, or just another hobby, it just makes sense to have a broader range of interests beyond poker.

It goes against just about every instinct you may have, but learning to expect failure and make the most of it is probably one of the most underestimated skills in the game. Not many of us plan for failure in poker, but all of us have to face it.

As this is a certainty, perhaps the only thing we can do is build ourselves an environment where failure is never final, and there is always something we can learn from it.

"If you want to succeed, double your failure rate." Thomas J. Watson

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PokerStrategy.com Column - AGCC, You Failed Again

First appeared on PokerStrategy.com

Back in September I wrote a column entitled AGCC, You Failed, where I tore into the AGCC for regulating by report, rather than by audit. I argued that they should share some responsibility for what happened with Full Tilt Poker, and many others have agreed with me since.

I had hoped that would be my final word on the AGCC, but alas, the more they find themselves under the microscope, the more inept they are looking,

Yesterday's news that the AGCC had incorrectly reported the amount seized by the DOJ by $172m was yet another blow to their credibility. On September 29 they reported that $331m was seized by the DOJ in total, but Subject Poker reported yesterday the figure was closer to $159m.

In the AGCC's correction yesterday, they stated:

"The underlying evidence in the hearing clearly demonstrated that $331 million was the total of funds unavailable to Full Tilt, of which DOJ seizures formed only a part. The mis‐statement is thus not of significance in the Commission’s assessment of the matter."

False Hope For the Players

To say this mis-statement is not of significance is an insult to anyone who has got money stuck on FTP. It may have not been of significance to the decision to revoke FTP's license, but it created an incredible false hope that the DOJ had seized more money than was currently owed to the players, when in reality the amount seized is just over half the outstanding player balances of $300 million.

I am lucky enough not to have a massive amount of money on FTP, but do I know exactly what it is like to be owed a significant chunk of money that looks unlikely to ever be repaid. You feel helpless, frustrated, and humiliated. This gets exacerbated whenever you get a false sense of hope, only to have the rug pulled from under your feet.

It is not the error itself which I find so unforgeable - that is just incompetence - it is the way in which it has been dismissed as irrelevant.

Subject Poker, who have been one of the few heroes in this whole scandal, have apparently been trying to contact the AGCC for two weeks to question them about this discrepancy, but were completely ignored. For a regulator to ignore such an important error, and then to dismiss it as insignificant, once again highlights how the AGCC has buried their head in the sands throughout this whole affair.

Lack of Due Diligence

They passively regulated their licensees by report, blindly hoping that what they would get back would be accurate. They completely ignore Subject Poker's attempts to discuss their error, despite the fact they clearly stated they would be taking it to press. Then they finally acknowledge the error, but claim it was not of significance.

The AGCC need to realise that their action, or inaction, is having a profound impact on how the Full Tilt scandal is playing out. They are not footnotes in the story of how Full Tilt cheated players out of millions, they are one of the villains, aiding and abetting Full Tilt with a lack of due diligence.

Related News:

AGCC Falsely Reported DOJ Seizures
Tony G To Take Legal Action Against AGCC, Claims They Knew About FTP's Problems
AGCC To Hold Review After Full Tilt Scandal
Full Tilt Poker: What Has Happened Lately?
Daily Rewind: AGCC Interview
AGCC Statement Addressing Full Tilt Players
Barry Carter: AGCC, You Failed

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PokerStrategy.com Column - Still Sceptical About The International Stadium Poker Tour

Laurent Tapie
First appeared on PokerStrategy.com

When I first heard about the proposed $30 million guaranteed International Stadium Poker Tour (ISPT), I doubted whether it was real. Then last week, PokerStrategy confirmed in an exclusive interview with Laurent Tapie that it was indeed going ahead.

Sadly, I am still as sceptical as I was before.

I hate negativity, and I love stories of people proving doubters wrong in the face of massive adversity, but regrettably, I have to be one of the many who points their finger and doubts. If I am wrong, I will be delighted to be one of the footnotes in history who were made to look foolish, because this could be great for poker, but I just cannot see this event happening the way it’s currently planned out.

To recap, the ISPT is going to take place at Wembley Arena in September 2012, over five days. It will start with 20,000 to 30,000 players in the stadium seats playing shootout poker on electronic pads. When the field is reduced to 3,000 players, play will recommence live on the pitch, all the way up to the final table. The prize pool is said to be guaranteed at $30 million.

Bad Timing

My first concern is largely around the climate the ISPT is being created in. Not only is online poker currently in the biggest decline since its inception, the people behind the tour are currently embroiled in the biggest scandal the game has ever seen.

Now of course, they were not in any way to blame for what previously happened at Full Tilt, and are currently looking like being the potential knight in shining armour about to rescue the players.

But until that happens, are the poker public going to get behind this event? It seems very premature to announce such an event when a significantly more important deal for the poker economy is yet to take place?

The Tapies may want to keep Full Tilt and the ISPT entirely separate, but the poker community is inevitably going to associate one with the other. Unless they can rescue Full Tilt to the player’s satisfaction, this new enterprise will not be taken seriously.

Then let’s look at the sheer scale of the event. Even though the issue of where to put 3000 tables has been addressed by the use of electronic pads, do we really expect 30,000 players to buy in/satellite in for $1000?

The previous European record is 1765 and in Vegas its 8773. Can we really expect those records to be smashed by such high margins by an unproven event? A brand as reputable as the WSOP has not been able to break the record since 2006 after all.

Questionable Partners

Many of the tickets will be won online, but where? Such an ask needs a big, and I mean huge, room to take on the task of hosting qualifiers, and the only one that comes close is PokerStars. In fact, I don't even think the mighty PokerStars is big enough for such a task right now, nor can I see them getting involved with this.

No other room, or combination of rooms, has a hope of hosting this many qualifiers (especially as we have to assume US players won’t be able to qualify online), especially not a resurrected Full Tilt.

The only real way an online qualification campaign would be viable would be if all the major rooms held qualifiers, like the way in which WSOP satellites are held. That is not beyond the realms of possibility, but this takes me onto my next criticism.

So far all the partners involved have nothing to do with poker. That is never a good sign for me, as most mainstream advertisers wouldn’t touch poker with a 10 foot pole. I'd feel much more comfortable if a big online room or poker brand had been associated with it, but the absence of any poker related partner so far is very worrying - both if some have been approached and said no, or if they were never approached in the first place.

One of the partners is Orange, who are said to be providing the 30,000 tablets and broadband needed to facilitate such an event. Surely that is going to be ridiculously expensive? Whether it’s an existing tablet like an iPad, or a specially made one, when you factor in the broadband and insurance, surely the cost would actually be something close to $1,000 per unit?

I am no expert here, so correct me if I am way off with my figures, but that cost alone will match the prize pool. Even if the cost is closer to $100 per unit, that is effectively the rake accounted for in just one expense, before we even factor in the cost of hiring the Stadium.

Site of the ISPT event: Wembley Stadium in London

That is not the only logistical concern I have for the event. Sitting in the stands of a stadium like Wembley for five days is going to be pretty uncomfortable, especially if it is cold as London often is. I daren't even speculate what would happen if it rained.

Laurent Tapie has told that the prize pool has already been escrowed, which is a good sign. But other than that, there are still a lot of question marks. The date has already changed from May to September, I spoke to the press officer at Wembley who informed me the event is not 100% confirmed yet, and Tapie said in his interview that they still haven’t acquired the necessary gaming licenses to go ahead.

The prize pool may be guaranteed, but this event is far from guaranteed to go ahead.

I hope I am wrong, and at the moment it starts to appear that I am wrong, I will gladly eat humble pie and become the biggest fan of the ISPT, laughing at what a fool I was to ever doubt it. But until then, I just find myself asking too many questions, at a time when poker consumers need more certainty than ever before, to take the event seriously.

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PokerStrategy.com Column - Negreanu Takes A Stand Against The EPT

Daniel Negreanu
Negreanu Speaks His Mind
First published on PokerStrategy.com.

If you are one of the 131095 people who follow Daniel Negreanu on twitter, you may have noticed over the last few days that he has taken a stand against the European Poker Tour because of their policy of penalising the stacks of latecomers to their events.

So if someone has registered in advance but doesn't arrive at the start they get blinded away until they take their seat. If they buy in late, they receive less than the initial starting stack.

Negreanu is not happy about this, and chose to boycott the remainder of the side events at EPT London in protest.

One of my pet peeves in life is lateness (I am usually the first person to greet the dealer), but even more, I hate bad customer service. I can't help but think KidPoker is on to something with his latest protest.

Someone who registers late is after all a customer, and this practice is surely only going to alienate players who arrive late (Or arrived on time and were forced to be alternates).

They paid their rake like everyone else, and in the case of an event like an EPT high roller they paid a lot of rake, and I have never been a fan of any practice that looks like punishment to a paying customer.

My local gym used to fine people £1 for forgetting their membership card, a petty pointless practice which somehow enraged me more than some of the biggest injustices I have suffered. I can see why small things like this can piss poker players off.

Let us not forget also that our target audience, poker players, are among the tardiest consumers in the world. If we are going to start penalising them for being late, we may as well fine people for being drunk in bars.

Critical Decisions

Customer service aside, let us look at the actual impact of a late player arriving with a full stack vs a depleted one. The old adage of 'you cant win a tournament on day 1' is very appropriate here. The stacks are usually deep and 95% of the field is still in attendance during the late registration period. So a few orbits worth of blinds should never really factor into a critical hand decision yet.

Some people will make the argument that arriving four levels late with a full stack is an advantage, because you have already outlasted X number of players without losing a chip. I can only see such an argument applying to a really weird satellite overlay situation with a small field and a lot of guaranteed seats.

When you start a tournament on level 4 with the normal starting stack, you are already at a disadvantage, because you have less than the average stack. Starting late in a tournament actually has an opportunity cost attached to it, the later you start, the bigger the disadvantage. Penalising players further is only really going to put players off late registering in the first place, which is a lose-lose for both the tournament prize pool for the players, and the loss in rake for the organisers.

There is of course the issue that pre-registered players who arrive late have their stack waiting for them, and are thus blinding away from the start, whereas players who register late have their stack brought to the table with them. This could be said to be a disadvantage for those who register in advance but get held up.

This could be solved easily, by simply having the stacks being put into play when the player arrives at the table. This would also surely make it easier for the dealer to do their job beforehand, by not having to manage the stack on the late player's behalf.

I can imagine hundreds of small situations where giving late players a full stack can have an impact, but none of them being more significant for the players or organisers than negatives of latecomers deciding not to play at all.

Standardising The Rules

Is it worth Daniel Negreanu taking a stand against the EPT like this and boycotting the side events? I notice rather sensibly he didn't do this during the main event. There are bigger issues affecting poker right now than blinding off late stacks, that is for certain.

But you cannot fault a man for calling out his sponsor's flagship tour when he thinks they are wrong about something. Especially when you consider the turmoil that is taking place over at Full Tilt Poker, where 99% of the Red Pros have remained silent on monumentally bigger issues.

I happen to agree with him this time, but should we change the rules just because Daniel said they are wrong? Absolutely not. Negreanu has established himself somewhat as the 'Robin Hood' of poker, and regularly finds himself speaking out on issues others in his position would avoid like the plague. He tends to speak his mind about a lot of things, but it doesn't mean he is always right.

But where he does help poker is that, right or wrong, he gets people talking and taking notice. This issue is not the biggest issue to affect poker, but perhaps if it brings a few more of the right people into the larger discussion of standardising the rules of live tournament poker, maybe Kid Poker has done his job.

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PokerStrategy.com Column - The Caesars Cup - Who Are The Favourites, And Who Cares?

Caesars Cup
Hellmuth & ElkY Lead The Way
The Caesars Cup at the WSOPE is billed as the Ryder Cup of poker. It is a heads-up team tournament between five players from Europe and five players from the Americas, where the best in the world are chosen by team captains Phil Hellmuth and Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier.

Of course the big difference between the Caesars Cup and the Ryder Cup is that 99% of the poker playing community do not care one bit about it.

Most players consider it to be nothing more than a made for TV tournament with recognisable names for the casual poker viewers - which is exactly what it is.

But lets pretend it isn't for a while and actually look at the two teams involved.

Team USA – (Captain) Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu and Huck Seed.
Team Europe – (Captain) Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier, Jake Cody (UK), Gus Hansen (Denmark), Dario Minieri (Italy) and Maxim Lykov (Russia).

Phil Hellmuth claims he has gone for experience over youth by picking Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan. I can’t help but think these teams were largely picked by TV producers instead of the Poker Brat himself, because surely even someone as 'old school' as Phil could not have honestly picked this team hoping to win?

Out In the Poker Wilderness

Huck Seed and Negreanu both seem like fair picks, even though ultimately they must have been picked for their marketability first and foremost. I have no problem with Hellmuth as the captain either after his rebirth at the WSOP. But Doyle and Johnny? Other than the TV circuit, they have been pretty much out in the poker wilderness for a long time now.

I am sure that certain no-brainer picks like Tom Dwan & Phil Ivey would simply not have been available for obvious reasons this year, but there is still a wealth of TV friendly US players who are crushing the game who no doubt would have accepted an invitation to play. Jason Mercier, Vanessa Selbst, Ben Lamb, and Eric Seidel all spring to mind as being very noticeable by their absence.

Experience is not an excuse in this day an age, when you consider that most online players overtake their live counterparts in number of hands played. Not only that, they also can trump them in specific experience of the format, given the Caesars Cup is a heads-up event.

Two prime examples of this is Dario Minieri and ElkY, who between them arguably may have played more hands that the remaining 8 participants combined (Dario is a really shrewd pick when you consider his heads-up SNG experience).

Caesars Cup
Team Europe Won in 2009

Team Europe Light Years Ahead

The European team is a much stronger line up in every way, and equally experienced live and online. Every single one of them has at least a bracelet, most have a bracelet and another major title, Cody and ElkY are triple crown winners, and Cody and Hansen have their bracelet in high roller heads-up matches.

All of them are equally experienced in online play, in fact most of them are known to be highly experienced in heads-up variants of online play (Elky came 2nd in the WCOOP heads-up high roller, Hansen plays heads-up cash, Dario is one of the sickest heads-up SNG grinders of all time, and Jake Cody was a heads-up cash player before he shot to stardom).

But as strong a line-up as Europe is, I cannot help but think that the teams were picked by, or at least the draft pool was significantly restricted by, TV producers. Gus is the token 'TV Pro' in the pack, and all five men represent different strong European poker demographics - France, UK, Italy, Russia, and Scandinavia.

I think both team captains, and the TV producers whom I am continually accusing of picking the teams, certainly missed a trick by not including a November Niner on one of the line-ups. The aforementioned Ben Lamb would be been a great addition to the Americas team, particularly because he is racing against Hellmuth in the POY rankings. As this is essentially a WSOP product, it seems like a missed opportunity for reciprocal marketing of both events.

We don't have to enjoy watching televised poker to enjoy the benefits it brings - namely attracting new players to the game. The Caesars Cup is not supposed to appeal to the serious poker players among us, but a few tweaks and it could have done.

Replace Doyle and Johnny with Eric Seidel and either Jason Mercier or Ben Lamb, and you would have not only had an event to appeal to the TV poker audience, you also would have got a match up that would have got more serious poker players talking. It might have even been worthy of a few side bets or a sportsbook opening a market on it.

But who cares anyway? It's just a made for TV poker tournament that doesn't mean anything anyway.

Mental Game of Poker Now Available on Kindle, Nook, EPub & PDF


I’m excited to announce, The Mental Game of Poker is now available in the most popular eBook formats. The price is $34.95, click below to order:
*Note: On Amazon, the book cover is showing up in blue. There’s no error with the actual downloaded Kindle version, just with the website.

Notes on the Conversion

The eBook and the softcover versions are identical, except for some minor formatting adjustments to conform to the standards of each file type. One of these adjustment actually improves the functioning of the book. Throughout the book are references to other sections. Rather than listing a page number, as done in the softcover, you just need to click the italicized name and you’re taken right to it.
I spent a lot of time making sure the eBook version closely matched the look and feel of the softcover. Many eBook conversions are sloppy and riddled with errors. Great care has been taken to ensure a quality conversion. Please, let me know what you think.

Already purchased a hard copy?

To get a PDF or ePub version for $9.95, send an email to ebook@mentalgameofpoker.com. Include your name, the email address used when your order was placed, or if purchased from Amazon, include the order ID or approximate date of your purchase.

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