Mental Game Story #9

A reader of the book was inspired to write a story of his own after reading the other stories on my blog this past week. He’s titled it: Poker and perfectionism: Getting it right without losing your mind.

I used to put a lot of pressure on myself in making the correct decision. Invariably I would get it wrong, maybe my opponent’s range was a lot tighter in that spot, or he was polarized but only to nut hands and not nuts and bluffs. Sometimes I would think my opponent was strong and call anyway or get ‘married’ to my hand even when I think I’m beat. Whatever the case was, I was furious with myself, especially when I ‘knew better’. My ego also played a role in that I assumed that I always would be able to have the correct decision available to me.

The [Adult] Learning Model first made it clear to me that I didn’t have the level of mastery that I thought I did. If I was making errors playing my B- or C game but not when playing my A game then clearly I had not learnt that skill to the level of unconscious competence. I began from scratch again and went through all relevant materials to ensure I had the basics and intermediate theory covered, before exploring and analyzing my game further. I took on a coach and began putting in more hours of poker and study time.

I had an epiphany when I realized just how ridiculous my expectations were in my ability to ALWAYS make the best decision when the game by nature contains information asymmetries. If I always got it right I should already be at the level I’m aspiring to – instead, I know now that perfect poker doesn’t exist but with hard work and dedication, I can make better decisions than I made in the past. I’ve been working on my poker game harder than ever before, putting in more volume than ever but also importantly, I’m enjoying the game again.

Being a perfectionist and a poker player meant always being frustrated. Now that my expectations have changed and I am understanding the learning process better. Poker is more fun. There is a short poker clip where I watched one poker pro asked another “why do you look so sad?” to which he replied “I’m at work”, the pro then remarked “buddy, you should be enjoying this as we doing what we love”. I used to fool myself by saying that I played emotionlessly, when actually I was bottling everything up inside. Now I’m a lot more emotional but direct things to a positive ends. I am enjoying playing poker again, because I enjoy learning and problem solving. I was doing neither when I did not have realistic expectations about how to improve as a player, nor how to improve my mental and emotional stability. MGoP has corrected my faulty thinking, allowing me to get better at getting better and leading a happier, healthy professional poker life.

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  1. Recap: Mental Game Stories : Jared Tendler Poker - January 18, 2012

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