Master The Mental Game Of Poker & Life (PCA 2015 Update)

Updates on the 2015 PCA and some serious mental game lessons for you to take home and improve your game (and life). They work. The proof's in the pudding. And by pudding, I mean me - and thousands of other pro players.

First stream of the year is Free Money Friday on Jan 16th. Join me for the community games and stream with a special co-host! Get the details here.

Lessons Learned:

1. Focus On What's Good, Not What's Bad

If I focused on the negative instead of the positive, this blog/vlog would be very short:

  • Went 0 for 4 in PCA events for like $6000 plus travel
  • Played poker on days I shouldn't have
  • Bad beat in the Main Event after playing like a boss
  • Didn't maintain an ideal sleep rhythm and ate pretty unhealthy
  • Paid way too much for everything down here

But I wouldn't learn anything and you guys wouldn't learn anything. So I focus on positives - that the good stuff wouldn't happen without these seemingly negative events occurring. 

2. Friends & Family Are More Important Than Finances

The main reason I've had such an awesome time out here is because I saw so many of my best friends. I had great times together and build my friendships stronger. I rekindled some relationships which had gotten really shaky (my family). 

I made some amazing new friends in Scott Ball (@rumcakes) and Jonathan Little (@jonathanlittle) - who I had the pleasure of co-hosting his first Twitch stream. When I have such great people in my life, losing a little but of money goes from being the end of the world to nothing but water under the bridge.

I mean, hey I get to be in a paradise in The Bahamas with amazing people and play a game that I love. 

3. The Value Is In The Main Event

Why? Satellites, and you want to register on time. Satellites are the way to go for these main events - so much value.

These are the events that it's worth selling action for if that's the only way you can play. Guys regularly sell 60% of their action just to play in the WSOP ME.

Make sure you feel comfortable playing a main event though. If you won't be confident it's not worth it no matter how juicy. Your mind game and mental preparation is key. So why was I so confident? I was in the zone!

I use iAwake Technologies to help me get in the zone and staying alert (NeuroFlow). If you're interested in checking it out, use code "GRIPSED" for 10% of all their products.

4. Optimal Registration Strategy Is Different For Different Types Of Tournaments

I played some events I shouldn't have which didn't help my game. Why shouldn't I have? Because they weren't that soft, I put all my energy into the main and needed to recover, and I registered before all the fish did and got bad tables.

This is why I say to take the time to scope out the tourney area before you reg (unless it's a main event, in which case pre-reg) and reg when the tables look like they have the most value.

Value you sacrifice by not playing every level is made up for by fact that other players will be making way more mistakes, and we know from Sklansky's Theory of Poker that this is where our profit comes from.

5. This Game Can Be Extremely Brutal & Seemingly Unfair

I gained a lot more perspective on this topic (one that gets brought up a lot in the communities), getting sucked out in quite a few crucial pots in these events. I've been lucky to run really well in the past in the more important live events I've played, but now I now understand better what a lot of people are going through, and can now speak and teach better to it.

If you don't take days off to recover you will carry this with you. I suffered a bit from's important to recharge the battery, and remind yourself why you play poker: so that you can finance FUN!

Tip for now: Don't be over-invested, losing a tournament shouldn't rattle you! And if it does, you either set an unrealistic expectation, violated some of your personal standards, or were playing outside your bankroll - and all 3 of these things are things that you should never do when playing poker the right way.

6. How You Look At The Situation Is What's Most Important

I attended Daniel Negreanu's Mental Game Strategy Seminar and got some nice tips. Overall this was an amazing talk Daniel had. Here's the keys points:

  • Set your intentions before you play, and make sure your actions are in-line with those intentions
  • If you aren't specific with your intentions, it's unlikely your brain will know what actions to take
  • You want to set goals, but you don't want to be attached to your results (It's OK to come up short if you moved in the right direction, making progress is the key)
  • Shoot for something that's within reach but a little higher, so that you have to work to achieve it
  • Stand responsible for your results, don't try to absolve yourself of them by playing the 'victim mentality' and trying to say it was someone else's fault (the cards, the dealer, your girlfriends, etc)

If you want to watch it, you can catch the first part here:

Shoutouts & Your Mission

Mark Herm took down PCA Event #26 PLO Dealer's Choice for $14k.

Charlie Carrel almost did it in a big way, bubbling the final table for $6.5k in event 25. 

Your mission, on the advice of the $30M man, Kid Poker: GET SPECIFIC WITH YOUR GOALS.

  • Try for a 2 week goal to set the habit (next month do a 30 day)
  • Make an action plan for at least one of them, and follow those action steps over the next 2 weeks
  • At the end of the month, take a look back at that goal and honestly assess how you performed:
    • If you came up short, try to identify what caused that to happen
    • If you exceeded it, identify what you did well and if you can do more of that to exceed even further next time
    • If you gave up and didn't follow your plan, was it because the goal was unrealistic, not what you really wanted, or because you just got lazy and didn't really want it as bad as you thought you did (just kinda wanted it)

Photo Credit: PROPatrik Nygren | Flickr