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Mental Game & Life Strategy

The ability to set goals and the discipline it takes to achieve those goals without letting the rest of your life suffer are two of the most important things you need to master in order to improve as a poker player and begin getting serious about becoming a pro. One of the best parts of playing poker is getting out into the real world, playing in person, meeting new people and going on crazy adventures. This is also the riskiest part of the game because it takes you away from your comfort zone, and leaves you playing without your safety net. The solid footing of any healthy lifestyle depends balance and control, and a thriving poker lifestyle is no exception. Set realistic goals and learn to govern yourself so that you’re always working towards achieving your goals without letting the other, more glamorous things hinder your success. 

Table strategy is great to know, but you'll also need to understand how to manage yourself off the table to maximize your edge - and here’s where things get personal. I invite you to keep up-to date on my life and times as a poker player, and learn from my experiences so that you can learn from my triumphs and avoid my mistakes.  Any pro poker player will tell you your  mind is your most powerful weapon. Sharpen it, nurture it, rest it and give it peace so you can take to the tables - and your life - with killer confidence. 

What Your Table Image Says About You

Evan Jarvis

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Video at bottom of article...

From the moment you first sit down, the way you conduct yourself at the table sends a message about you to your opponents. The question is whether that message is working for you or against you - and either way, the impact on your game will be massive. 

Just like you’re more likely to attract a person you desire by putting at least a little effort into your appearance, you’re more likely to attract the outcome you desire if you do the same. 
Like it or not, your appearance says something about you - not to be confused with saying everything about you. 

Look at pros like Daniel Negreanu, Fedor Holz and Dan Smith. All these guys wore suits and dressed to impress for big career final tables, and it speaks to the level of seriousness they give to their game.

Let’s look at how I use my appearance to create table image:

What I Wear What They Think
Black sweatsuit "He's totaly in synch. He must have come to play. He's prepared."
Money power hat "Is he just some dude off the street? Getting mixed signals here."
Breitling watch "He's got money. He's flashy. This tournament probably doesn't matter to much to him."
Bulgari shades "Ok, he's definitely got money, and he wants to keep me out of his head. Maybe this tournament does matter to him, just not for finanicial reasons - but if not for them, why?"

As you can see, I dress strategically with the intention of sending mixed signals. I also dress for comfort, because when we feel comfortable, we play better. 

This is how I dressed at Fallsview, when I had my biggest win to date.

My appearance said: I came prepared. I’m here to win. I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m overqualified for this event. But it didn’t say it all. It couldn’t have said just how driven I was, or precisely how much experience I had. 

You’ve got to give them just enough, but not everything. 

By dressing this way, I reaffirmed to myself that I was there to play my best. Consequently,I exuded that vibe, and that’s how I was perceived by others and they reacted to me based on that perception. The result: more walks, more orphan pots, more folds to my steals, re-steals, check-raises and barrels, and a general air that it was my table and they were just visitors.

But it shifted. It shifted when Mike Leah came to the table and he had a stronger table presence.

People can sense when you’re being authentic and when you’re not. You can try to put on a bold front, but if you don’t actually feel that way, it’s not going to be convincing - especially when you’re up against more observant individuals. While you don’t want to be an open book, and while misleading and confusing opponents a little as result is a solid strategy, you can’t pretend to be someone you’re not. 

So much of this game is mental and emotional, making the dynamics between players and the relationships often more important than the cards.  Since so few hands reach showdown, having a strong table image and a strong table presence will do wonders for your results. 

Think about it: how do you feel when a big name pro suddenly sits down at your table? Why do you feel this way? 

It’s because they radiate this intense aura of self-confidence.  Others start to feel less confident around them. Believe it or not, you can be the one radiating that aura.

As for not being affected by the presence, image and aura of others? 

Easy. Acknowledge their presence, acknowledge what you know about them, and then don’t fall into their web. Don’t give purchase to their story. 

Stick to the following thought:  “If I play my best, and use all the skills I’ve developed to get to this point in my poker career, I’m going to do just fine.”

One of the most powerful things you can do for your game is to see your opponent as simply another player and nothing more. Nothing special. Like Antonio Esfandiari says, “He’s just a player, you’re just a player. He gets two cards, you get two cards, and all is fair from there.”

By not falling into an opponent’s mystique, you will be able to play clear-headed, unaffected, and ultimately, you’ll make the best decisions for your game.

This is easier said than done, of course, and it’s something that comes with practice. Since most people don’t get to play all that much live poker, they’re more likely to be affected by those exuding strong self-confidence than those who do spent a lot of time at the tables. 

And you’ve done your due diligence at the tables, so why not be that guy who throws others off their game?

If you can intimidate others, or make them feel uncomfortable and emotional, odds are they’ll play worse, and  as Sklansky said, every time they make a mistake you gain. It’s an easy way to win.

That doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk or be rude to others. There’s a difference between being cocky and being confident. True confidence doesn’t require you to say much at all; it simply requires you to have a rock solid belief in yourself and your abilities. 

This is a time where the old sayings “actions speak louder than words”, and” a picture is worth a thousand words” hold especially true. Your table image  (the way you present yourself) is that picture. And the way you carry yourself (the way you make your decisions), those are your actions. Let them do the talking for you, and slowly, silently, make your way to the success you desire.

Want to learn more on this topic? Check out my videos and articles.

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