As part of the Mental Game contest, I asked a handful of readers who submitted partial stories in this survey, to go into more detail about their experience with the mental game. Yesterday posted this story from Dale, and I’ll post one more each day for the next four days.
Next up is Steve:
I started playing poker in 2007, initially just for fun. However, my competitive instinct meant that I wanted to win and once I analysed the technical side and how maths based the game was, I wanted to study and learn more. I took lessons on the technical side and became a winning player but I’ve always struggled with the mental side, I would get very down even after one losing session, expecting to lose every hand I was playing and thinking I’d somehow lost my ability or everyone else had improved.
In 2010 I decided to leave my job in computing to spend more time with my daughters and granddaughter and to see if I could play poker full time to make a living. I’d always wanted to make a living working for myself, on my terms, with no ‘customers’, staff or employers. However, I soon found that I wasn’t playing regularly, I was finding reasons not to play and I was getting even more despondent after losing sessions or even losing games.
I’ve always known the mental game is hugely important, I play golf and having read the Inner Game of Golf I put huge store by what the right mental attitude can achieve and how mental issues can kill even the best game. I initially saw your videos on Cardrunners and reviewed them a number of times, building up a word document with my goals, my A/B/C game attributes etc and working heavily on the mental game. Then when I saw your book advertised I knew this would be the best investment I could make in my game.
I worked through the book methodically and through the mental hand histories asked a lot of hard questions of myself. The fear chapter really hit home for me, fear of not making the ‘right’ move, fear of whether I was good enough to make a living from the game, fear of what other people thought were all issues I had been avoiding, and these were contributing to me not playing regularly, if I didn’t play regularly I could keep the dream, I wouldn’t find out that I wasn’t good enough!
I reviewed all the hand history info and broke down the flawed logic and correct logic as much as possible, I then listed all my achievements and improvements to date and set out a plan for preparation, play, evaluation and analysis including quantitative (number of days/hours to play, number of tournaments per day) and mental goals, but nothing based on money. I wrote one sheet with my goal for every hand at the top, the recovery plan (recognition, deep breath …) and then a list of the key ‘correct logic’ points for me and stuck it above my screens. I review this list as part of my preparation and I often say some of the points out loud when I’m playing ‘be process oriented, not results oriented’ when I take a beat, ‘ it’s about accumulation, not preservation’ when I get scared of making a +EV shove/call.
In September 2011 I started to play full time and in the last 3 months I’ve achieved my playing volume goals every month, including achieving Platinum Star for the first time in November, again a goal I set for the month.
I had a great first month but the mental work has shown its real benefit over the last month where I’ve had a run of negative variance that would have definitely have impacted the quality of my play and probably stopped me playing in the past. I’ve reviewed HEM and know I’ve run significantly under EV, but I’ve also worked very hard on my game, both mentally and technically, seeing how my play differs from winning regs , reviewing videos, defining ranges etc, rather than just putting everything down to bad luck.
I know I have a huge way to go, I’ve reviewed and updated my sheet 3 or 4 times since I first wrote it and I have a long word document for my hand histories which I constantly review and update. I still get despondent but it’s nowhere near as deep and the immediate evaluation really helps as well as the on-going analysis as I feel I’m doing something to end the bad run rather than just hoping for it to happen. I focus much more on decisions rather than results and hoping for cards and I find myself making moves I would never have made 3 months ago, the fear is still there but the logic helps me to push through it (another point on my sheet !).
I hope to still be playing full time in a years’ time, when my goal is to get to Supernova status. Nothing in life is guaranteed but I do know it’s within my control and much more likely since I read the Mental Game of Poker.