The mental game is a fundamental skill that poker players must work on. Not mastering the mental game can cost you a lot of money in a session or tournament, live or online.
Jason Su, poker player, coach, author of the book “Poker With Presence” (2020) and host of the Podcast with the same name, knows all about mastering the mental game. We got in touch with Jason to talk about various topics related to the Mental Game.
Tell us about the importance of mastering the mental aspect of poker.
There are many reasons the mental game is important, but mostly because it will allow you to win more money with less stress. On top of that, all of my clients over the years have told me how much happier they are in their relationships and personal lives because the practices we trained them in for poker work just as well in other aspects of their life.
What are the most frequent questions you hear from your students?
Most people start from a place of struggling to process their emotions in a healthy way. When people are able to shift into a mode of feeling more and thinking less, their performance quickly improves.
What advice would you give to someone who receives a bad beat in a live tournament that they can apply right away?
The most important thing to do is to not try and convince yourself that you are happy about it, if that is not your true experience. So much damage has been done from people telling poker players to logically “reframe” their experience, when their emotional state is not ready to accept it. Feel your feelings fully first, focus on staying connected and present, then go from there.
Another factor that can affect the mental game is going on a losing streak. What would you say to someone who is experiencing one?
I would ask them if they are really allowing themselves to face and feel everything around their experience. If not, they should give some time and attention to that. When you give your deepest level of attention to something, true acceptance can happen. Then more possibilities open up to allow you to move forward. If you never do this, you’ll always feel stuck or trapped.
Overthinking is what causes you to get in the way of your instincts, make mistakes in big moments, and spend hours regretting it afterwards.
To increase earnings and reduce stress, the formula is simple:
Feel more, think less.
— Jason Su (@jasonbsu) September 12, 2022
You wrote a book called Poker With Presence. Tell our readers what it is about and how you think it can help players.
I wrote the book as an introduction for anyone wanting to learn how to play their best consistently in a way that lets them trust their instincts and have a great time. If you want to reach your full potential as a poker player and a person, the techniques I teach in the book are a great start.
You have a past as a tennis player. It’s another individual sport where you often see players go into tilt. What aspects do you think tennis and poker share?
Both are very individual games where you can get lots of feedback and support from others during preparation. But when it’s time to play, you have to figure it out on your own. Each player is responsible for their own performance. I like that aspect of both games a lot.
What habits would you recommend to live and online tournament players to incorporate into their routines to help them with their mental game?
I find that it depends on the person. For some people, meditation or exercise are great, and for others it could be something else. Whatever helps you to create a feeling of presence, relaxation, and readiness to play is what you should do.
Can you tell us a non-poker movie and a non-poker book that might be useful to a poker player?
- Book: The Art of Learning (2007) by Josh Waitzkin
- Movie: Groundhog Day (1993) with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell
Thank you very much Jason for answering our questions. If you want to read more of Jason’s work, we encourage you to read his book (one of the best poker books of 2020) and to subscribe to his newsletter.