Poker is a game of hard work, knowledge of the game, and perhaps a slight hint of luck. But one of the most undermined aspects of the game is the mental side of poker. The solitude, the bad runs, the constant pressure of performing, and sometimes being able to withstand months, even years without getting the results in is, by definition, a hard way to earn an easy living.
Having the right mindset for a poker player is crucial to be successful in the long run. In this blog, we’ve listed the top 9 poker mindset tips that every player should know and use.
Here is what we will cover in this article:
- Create a Long-Term Vision
- Visualize That Vision
- Set Goals for the Long Run
- Measure Improvement to Boost Confidence
- Set Task-Focused Goals for the Now
- Celebrate Your Poker & Mental Wins
- Observe Your Tilt Triggers
- Visit the Mental Gym Daily
- To Sum Up
Let’s start with our foundation. Having a long-term vision of where you want to be in a decade helps you create a timeline for the years to come. This should be the blueprint of the road you are taking. Do you want to ship the WSOP main event, do you want to play the Triton series, or do you want poker to be your means to see the world?
This will not only give you direction but will also help you stay true to your ambition when times are hard. Write down what exactly it is about this situation that makes your heart race and cheeks flush. Is it financial freedom, autonomy? The challenge of becoming the best poker player you can be? Or is it wealth and possible fame? Whatever it is, write it down and put it somewhere where you’ll see it often.
The next step is to visualize your vision. Where exactly are you in ten years? Are you on a remote tropical island with a coconut in hand while playing your online sessions, are you in Vegas, or did you just buy a house on the coast?
Close your eyes and see your dream life in front of you.
- What are the smells?
- What can you hear?
- Who is with you, or are you alone?
- What do you feel?
The purpose of actively visualizing your dreams is that it can motivate you when times are hard. During bad runs, self-doubt, and anxiety will automatically pop up. Having a clear image of your end goal will help you persevere and not give up.
Now that we have a clear vision, it is time to boil it down into long-term goals. If you want to buy that house on the coast in 5 or 10 years, what does that mean for next year? What will you achieve this year, and what steps are needed?
Especially in poker, long-term, results-oriented goals are hard because variance can make or ruin not only your week or month but also your year.
Make sure that you have direct influence over the goals you set. For example:
- study hours
- playing hours
- the number of tournaments played
- the number of live trips
are all great examples of long-term goals. If you set goals that are results-oriented, make sure that you leave out a time frame. Bankroll challenges, for example, work great as a dot on the horizon but not with a deadline. It will always lurk in the back of your mind and give you unnecessary stress while playing.
We’re getting closer and closer to the present. What we want to do now is set goals that measure our own improvement. Let’s say our biggest leak is ICM play, and we want to improve ourselves. If you want to boost your confidence, make sure to set goals within a certain time frame, possibly one, two, or three months. We want to compare our skillset now with our abilities in the near future.
The next thing is to study hard in these spots and measure ourselves again at the end of this time frame. This way we can really see the improvements we’re making.
The problem with just studying and not measuring is that we very quickly get used to a new reality and forget where we come from. This way we are just mindlessly looking over our improvement whereas measuring would give us a confidence boost if we can prove ourselves that we’re becoming a better ICM player.
The Stoics knew it more than 2000 years ago: the only thing we can do to succeed is focus on the influence we have over the situation right now.
What task do we have to make the probability of success the highest? Off the tables, this could mean study-related aspects or your physical fitness.
On the tables, this could mean adjusting your ranges to the specific situation, but it could also mean dealing with your emotions after a bad beat or telling yourself to study a certain spot a little bit longer.
When you set goals and achieve them, it is important, nay, crucial to take a moment to celebrate your success. It will not only give you a great feeling of accomplishment and a feeling of fulfillment, but it will also boost your motivation to set the next goal a little bit higher. You will increase your self-worth and create positive associations in your brain with poker.
Thinking back to previous achieved goals will give you a good feeling and motivate you to work harder! Take your significant other out for dinner and toast, treat yourself to your favorite whiskey, or go on a holiday!
Observing your own behavior at the table can be fascinating. Being mindful of your responses to setbacks, like a 3-outer on the river very deep in your highest buy-in tournament, can give you a lot of insights into what triggers you to tilt.
What are your automatic thoughts in these moments? What do you feel, and how do you resume your session? Does it stick to you, or can you shake it off? Does it affect your play? Do you play more aggressively, or do you want to quit your entire session?
Observing these behavioral changes and writing them down is the first step in recognizing and acknowledging them. From here, you can start working on slowly and steadily finding alternative responses.
Creating the right mindset for poker players does not come overnight and needs lots of work daily in the mental gym. Using different mental skills like goal setting, visualization, and self-talk can help you improve your mindset as a player. But you need to work hard, and on your own, it can be difficult to see where your challenges lie.
Hiring a mindset coach can help you see your personal obstacles in the game from a distance and point out what your biggest mental leak is.
We’ve only scratched the surface considering mindset tips for poker players. Make sure to have a vision for the long run and build a day-to-day plan on how to get closer to your dream situation.
It is important to remember that every poker player struggles with different mindset problems. The first player struggles with sticking to his bankroll management, the next has entitlement tilt issues, and the third is putting too much pressure on himself and cannot seem to cope.
Consider working with a mindset poker coach so you’ll be able to get a clear vision of what your mental leaks are and can work on goals to solve them!