Judaism teaches that when misfortune befalls you, the first thing you should do is “examine your deeds”. In other words, rather than fingerpoint and look to blame circumstance or others for times when bad things happen, the proper course of action is to look inwards and see if in fact you yourself are at fault. These thoughts resonated through my head over and over again as I read the pages of Jared Tendler‘s The Mental Game of Poker.
Too often, as poker players, we attribute our failures at the felt to bad luck, random happenstance and being on the wrong side of variance. Surely, most losses we endure are as a result of bad beats, suckouts, and lucky fish having their way with the deck at our expense. Rare are the players who understand that the solution to their poker problems lie not in poker itself but rather within themselves. As The Mental Game of Poker teaches, the emotions of tilt, fear, confidence, and motivation can all be controlled, and even mastered through the injection of logic and intense self examination and improvement techniques. To be sure, co-author Barry Carter expertly weaved these teachings into poker-specific situations and examples throughout.
Make no mistake about it; this is no traditional poker book. You’re not going to learn amazing poker strategies, hidden poker tells, or what makes the greatest poker minds tick. You will learn about the other game being played by millions at and away from the felt: the mental game of poker. This is a self-help book designed to assist you in becoming the best poker player you have the potential to be.
Note-Taking Isn’t Just For the Classroom
Aside for identifying wholeheartedly with the book’s idea of self-introspection, as mentioned, the other main theme that struck a chord with me again and again as I read the book was Tendler’s insistence that poker players take notes on themselves and their actions and reactions at and away from the poker table.
Throughout my schooling, I always prided myself on the notes that I took in the classroom. This habit extended well into my adult years and university classes, as I’ve found that writing down my observations for future review has proven to be the ultimate study tool.
I extended this concept to the poker table when developing my Poker Notes Live app, which enables players to quickly and efficiently take notes on their mobile devices while playing live poker. An important feature that we integrated into the app was the ability to email your notes to yourself after a poker session for subsequent review.
Needless to say, I was overjoyed to read how Tendler emphasizes over and over again the importance of taking notes on one’s mental game. The many testimonials given throughout the book by poker players who’ve done this and how successful this strategy has been for them just helped to confirm my own long-held beliefs in the power of note-taking. Humbly, then, I also personally believe that anyone who reads The Mental Game of Poker will see the value in downloading my Poker Notes Live app for the sake of taking notes on themselves while playing live poker.
(Ed. Note: I’m aware that I’ve just shamelessly promoted my own app, but I’m very sincere in my belief that it can help poker players improve their game – and now their mental game as well.)
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How to Get the Most Value Out of This Book
It took me about a month to get through The Mental Game of Poker. At 242 pages long, it’s not because I’m a slow reader; it’s actually because I did all my readings on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath. As an orthodox Jew, I refrain from using all electronic devices on my Sabbath and other holy days. The peace and tranquility this offers away from the buzzing, ringing, and pinging of regular daily life is indescribable. It’s with that type of calm that I sat down to read and enjoy The Mental Game of Poker.
Without any other “modern trappings” to distract me, it was that much easier to concentrate on this book’s higher-level concepts. It’s because of that, in my opinion, that I was able to gain so much from the book. If you pick up a copy, I highly recommend that you try your best to consume its content and learn its lessons in a similar sort of relaxed, undisturbed ambience. While the lessons are, of course, to be incorporated at and away from the table, they’re most certainly best imparted and absorbed in serene solitude.
As a poker player, with a vested interest in seeking out weak opponents from whom to make money off of, I’d prefer to square off at the felt against someone with a poor mental game; i.e., someone who has never heard of Jared Tendler, Barry Carter, or this book.
As a poker writer and blogger, however, I cannot help but give this book my highest rating and recommendation. Well done sirs! I look forward to reading and reviewing The Mental Game of Poker2, and further improving my own mental poker game.