Elliot Roe is a Hypnotherapist who studied and the Royal Berkshire College of Clinical Hypnotherapy, and is a member of the American Board of Hypnotherapy.
Since starting to work with poker players in 2011, he has consulted one-on-one with over 150 players on mental game issues, and many more players have downloaded his pre- and post-game from his website: https://pokermindcoach.com
We spoke to Elliot about his unique approach to helping poker players resolve mental game issues. Topics include which players should work on their mental game, common mental game mistakes, how UFC fighters and poker players are similar, and his process for getting players to perform at their peak.
His is a very unique specialty, so I’m sure you’ll find everything Elliot had to say quite interesting – and perhaps it’ll help you with your poker game as well.
Without further ado:
Hey Elliot, thanks for taking the time to join us in this interview. So, hypnotherapy seems like a pretty highly specialized and unique field. What got you interested in hypnotherapy in the first place?
Elliot Roe: I had quite a serious fear of flying to the extent that I wouldn’t get on long-haul flights. I decided to see a hypnotherapist and see if I could resolve that issue. I went to one session with her and she eliminated my fear of flying, which was absolutely life-changing for me. After seeing the immense benefit I received from it, I took an interest in hypnotherapy and signed up for the course because I wanted to be able to help others in a similar way.
For people who might not be familiar with hypnotherapy, what is it exactly?
Elliot Roe: The best way to describe hypnotherapy is like a guided meditation where you focus on your issues in a very relaxed state. It allows your subconscious to become more dominant in your mind, enabling you to make changes to issues that you understand but are struggling to change. If you’re trying to lose weight you might know logically that you’re comfort eating, but you might be finding it difficult stop. Through hypnotherapy, we can speak directly to a client’s subconscious and make the changes there, stopping the need to comfort eat anymore.
So, is it anything like a Las Vegas show where the performers can get volunteers from the audience to run around like chickens and bark like dogs when they hear the sound of a bell?
Elliot Roe: No it’s nothing like that at all. Hypnotherapy and stage hypnosis are completely different. A hypnotherapy session is more like a mix of therapy and guided meditation.
You specialize in mental game coaching for poker players and martial artists. How would you describe mental game coaching and what made you want to specialize in this aspect?
Elliot Roe: I like helping people reach their peak performance. Mental game coaching consists of working with a competitor to help them understand their weaknesses as well as what they’re doing wrong, then helping help them through so they can make the necessary changes to be more successful when it’s time for them to perform. For a poker player these weaknesses might be tilt control, self-sabotage, or lack of motivation.
I decided to specialize in mental game coaching because I found hypnotherapy was very effective at getting fast results for my clients. It’s always nice to see the direct results of the work that you’re doing as a therapist. Especially in poker, I get the players’ before and after graphs, so I’ll actually see the impact that I’m having on someone’s game quite quickly. It’s a pleasure to see that in any work that you do.
What type of poker player do you think should focus on improving their mental game?
Elliot Roe: Anyone who considers themselves anything but an absolute recreational player should be working on improving their mental game. If you’re just playing for small sums each week in your local home game, then working on your mental game may not be necessary. Everyone else should be working on this aspect though as it’s what now separates the good from the great players. Most poker players have become technically much stronger over the last few years, and there’s a huge edge to be gained if you can control your mindset and not tilt at the table.
You’ve probably seen pretty much every mental mistake from poker players. What are some of the most common ones?
Elliot Roe: One of the most common issues that I work on with poker players is rage tilt (which people imagine if they think of “tilt”). Then there are anxiety issues around actually starting sessions and anxiety issues during sessions where people might be struggling playing against a certain player or player type. There are motivation issues, where players aren’t putting in the hours at the table or into their study, and there are also other issues which come up with poker players such as pit gambling, sports betting, and other forms of self-sabotage.
You work with not only poker players but also UFC fighters. Are there any similarities between the two competitions that our readers might find surprising?
Elliot Roe: Yes, there are quite a few similarities between the two. There’s certainly an element of risk in both. In poker it’s financial while in UFC it’s financial and physical. Competing in either forum amplifies emotions, so if someone has any anxiety in them it’s going to be something they notice an increase of.
I work with fighters in terms of anxiety, self-sabotage, reckless behavior and also trying to perform in the cage the same way that they would be able to perform in a gym. In the same way, I work with and train poker players to play the hands in the way that they know they should, which is something they don’t always do at the table.
You offer a series of poker MP3s on your website. Tell us a little bit about those and how they work.
Elliot Roe: I make pre-game and post-game MP3s for different types of poker. They work as guided meditation focused on improving your play. Each one is around 15 minutes long and you’re meant to listen to it before or after you play. It gets you in a very relaxed and very focused state so that you’re ready to play your best poker. Some of the things that may have distracted you in the past should seem insignificant and you’ll find that you’ll be able to play through your session without those same distractions. They can be very positive for someone’s poker game during and after those sessions.
What sort of benefits have poker players who’ve used those MP3s said they get from them?
Elliot Roe: They’ve said they’ve been able to focus for longer and have improved the length of time that they play their A-game for. They’ve also been able to increase the length of their sessions and in a lot of cases they’ve also felt an improved love of the game of poker. In the past they were starting to get sick of playing. Many who’ve tried my MP3s have started to get back in the swing of actually enjoying playing poker and putting those hours in at the table to make that money.
You also do one-on-one sessions. How do those differ from the MP3s? In other words, if I were to have my first one-on-one session with you today, what would that experience be like?
Elliot Roe: One-on-one sessions are a bit different than the MP3s. We focus on a particular issue that the player is dealing with and I help them to work through that issue in the hypnosis state so. I’ll have them working through memories from their past that could be the root causes of those problems. An example of this may be that if somebody really struggles with being 3-bet frequently and takes it personally. Often, in sessions, that reveals past issues with school bullying. We work through those issues and try and resolve the emotion that’s stored there. Once that emotion is resolved then it’s typically no longer an issue for that player at the table. In sum then, the one-on-one sessions are about finding the root causes, whereas the MP3s are more of a short-term focus tool.
If a poker player read this interview, just heard about poker hypnotherapy for the first time, and was inspired to start working on his/her mental game, what would you suggest they start off with?
Elliot Roe: I have a free MP3 on my website where you can test out some simple hypnotherapy for yourself. It’s a pre-game warm up, so using it is a great way to set up your session for optimal results. I also recommend looking for books on the subject of the psychology of poker.
Make a list of what your own issues may be and start trying to work through them yourself. If you find that you’ve got some issues that you’re struggling to resolve on your own – then that would be the time to work with a mental game coach like myself to help plug those leaks.
Very interesting stuff Elliot! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us!
Elliot Roe: No problem! Mental game is a topic I could talk about for hours. It really is an area of poker where players can see a significant improvement in results if they taking working on it seriously.