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Old 09-04-2020, 02:47 PM   #1
SportPsych
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Mental Training

I am a recreational poker player and am in the process of completing my master's degree in applied sport psychology. I am currently looking for a few poker players to work with while I complete my practicum. This will be completely free for you.

To be clear, applied sport psychology deals specifically with performance enhancement. Any clinical issues would be better suited by a licensed psychologist or similar professional. Also to be clear, if you have fundamental flaws in your poker game, mental training will not help much. Mental training should compliment game study, not replace it.

The goal would be to help you with the mental part of your game, as I meet the requirements for my degree. Together we can work on areas of your game such as focus, emotional control, consistency, and performing under pressure. Please be willing to spend time and effort to work on your mental game.
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Old 09-04-2020, 03:01 PM   #2
Mason Malmuth
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Re: Mental Training

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Originally Posted by SportPsych View Post
I am a recreational poker player and am in the process of completing my master's degree in applied sport psychology. I am currently looking for a few poker players to work with while I complete my practicum. This will be completely free for you.

To be clear, applied sport psychology deals specifically with performance enhancement. Any clinical issues would be better suited by a licensed psychologist or similar professional. Also to be clear, if you have fundamental flaws in your poker game, mental training will not help much. Mental training should compliment game study, not replace it.

The goal would be to help you with the mental part of your game, as I meet the requirements for my degree. Together we can work on areas of your game such as focus, emotional control, consistency, and performing under pressure. Please be willing to spend time and effort to work on your mental game.
Hi Sport:

Before you get too deep into this, you may want to read this first:

https://www.twoplustwo.com/magazine/issue189/

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 09-04-2020, 09:04 PM   #3
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Re: Mental Training

Mason,

Sir, with all due respect I disagree with the linked article you wrote. While obviously poker doesn't have the same kinesthetic aspects as tennis, you cannot discount the "execution component" in poker. I will concede that the fundamental mathematical aspects of poker are typically more important, but you can't discount mindset! What if the correct play is to shove all of a players chips into the pot and their body has a physiological response due to fear; causing a player to be unable to pull the trigger. Or worse, the high level of arousal causes the player to send out a tell to his opponents. The execution component is absolutely vital in poker. Obviously we've all seen times when emotions have driven players behaviors, interfering with their ability to execute proper strategy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help with this.

If all players could play high stakes poker and micro-stakes the same strategic way, I might agree with you. Or if all players followed proper strategy in a tournament when it is bubble time. Or if poker players knew how to set realistic goals. Poker players aren't just bots that play perfect mathematical poker every hand. Thoughts and emotions drive behaviors and alter play well beyond variance. Mental strength training along with deliberate practice can help. Motivation, goal setting, overall well-being, focus / refocusing strategies, and arousal regulation are all areas where sport psychology professionals or mental strength coaches help athletes (soldiers, surgeons etc.) perform to their full potential and are all relevant in poker as well.
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Old 09-05-2020, 03:22 AM   #4
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Re: Mental Training

Good luck!

Where are you studying? I have an MSc and PhD in areas related to sport psychology
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Old 09-05-2020, 04:57 PM   #5
Mason Malmuth
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Re: Mental Training

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Originally Posted by SportPsych View Post
Mason,

Sir, with all due respect I disagree with the linked article you wrote. While obviously poker doesn't have the same kinesthetic aspects as tennis, you cannot discount the "execution component" in poker. I will concede that the fundamental mathematical aspects of poker are typically more important, but you can't discount mindset! What if the correct play is to shove all of a players chips into the pot and their body has a physiological response due to fear; causing a player to be unable to pull the trigger. Or worse, the high level of arousal causes the player to send out a tell to his opponents. The execution component is absolutely vital in poker. Obviously we've all seen times when emotions have driven players behaviors, interfering with their ability to execute proper strategy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help with this.

If all players could play high stakes poker and micro-stakes the same strategic way, I might agree with you. Or if all players followed proper strategy in a tournament when it is bubble time. Or if poker players knew how to set realistic goals. Poker players aren't just bots that play perfect mathematical poker every hand. Thoughts and emotions drive behaviors and alter play well beyond variance. Mental strength training along with deliberate practice can help. Motivation, goal setting, overall well-being, focus / refocusing strategies, and arousal regulation are all areas where sport psychology professionals or mental strength coaches help athletes (soldiers, surgeons etc.) perform to their full potential and are all relevant in poker as well.
Hi Sport:

First, let me echo Elrazor's good luck with your studies. I know from personal experience how valuable to your life, especially since I'm now old and have had a long career, these degrees can be (even though my degrees are in math and not psychology). By the way, any comments that Elrazor make are well worth reading.

Even though I'm a mathematician, who actually always worked as a professional statistician, I did write a 259 page book called Real Poker Psychology. So, I do think this subject is important but am also highly critical of most (if not all) of the so-called poker mental coaches. And why is that?

To get a good idea, I suggest that you read this thread and also make sure you read all the other threads and posts that it links to:

https://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/2.../#post56473693

I think you'll find much of what is addressed to be eye opening for you.

Then, if you want to come back here and discuss/debate any topic that would come under the heading of poker psychology, and this can certainly include things that you think I have wrong or don't understand, I'll be happy to participate.

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 09-05-2020, 07:07 PM   #6
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Re: Mental Training

Elrazor,

I am starting my practicum, in my last semester of the masters degree program in Applied Sport Psychology at Adams State University. It is challenging finding people to work with during this time of Covid. While studying applied sport psychology these past couple of year I have been constantly seeing how it can relate to poker (even though poker isn't a sport).
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Old 09-05-2020, 07:16 PM   #7
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Re: Mental Training

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Elrazor,

I am starting my practicum, in my last semester of the masters degree program in Applied Sport Psychology at Adams State University. It is challenging finding people to work with during this time of Covid. While studying applied sport psychology these past couple of year I have been constantly seeing how it can relate to poker (even though poker isn't a sport).
Hi Sport:

Again, if you read what I recommended, I think you'll see that poker relates much less to an athletic sport than you think and as the years have gone by much more to a game like blackjack than it once did.

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 09-08-2020, 02:21 AM   #8
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Re: Mental Training

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Originally Posted by SportPsych View Post
While studying applied sport psychology these past couple of year I have been constantly seeing how it can relate to poker (even though poker isn't a sport).
Having played poker for a living and having my formal education in Sport and Exercise Science this is obviously something I have given a lot of thought, although less so in recent years.

Two issues trouble me. Firstly, I broadly agree with Mason that just slapping popular theories used on sports and other areas on poker is not productive, and is probably counterproductive. The best example is the 10k hours rule. It's patently obvious that anyone who has played poker and thought about this for more than 2 mins would see it's absurd to suggest it takes 10k hours to master poker. However, due to the recognisability of this theory, it's just slapped onto poker with little evidence of critical thinking or how it will actually help someone to improve.

Second, I'm sceptical of the interventions employed by Sport Psychologists on athletes. I'm just not convinced that techniques such as visualisation and self-talk can really make that much difference. Obviously, if the athletes believes it will work (i.e., if the psychologist can convince them it's important), you will likely see a small effect.

However, the crisis in social psychology regarding theories that have been pushed for decades now showing effects virtually indistinguishable from zero. Large scale meta-analysis have shown null effects over large samples for Dweck's fixed and growth mindsets and implicit bias training. We're taking decades of research and hundreds of studies and it's all basically BS!

Anyway, this is just food for thought. I know there are a lot of athletes who have been helped by good sports psychologists. Equally, in the same way that people who pay more for their paracetamol report greater pain relief, I'm sure there are some poker players who would swear that mental game training has helped them, especially when they are paying a lot of money for it
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Old 09-08-2020, 06:43 PM   #9
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Re: Mental Training

You can treat mental disease and addictions with "self talk" which are just affirmations/mantras and they have been used for 1000s of years. If they didn't work they woulda died off long ago just like any other instance of evolution, no reason to stick around it's its worthless. They even use them in mental health and addiction clinics in my area when they were just part of a joke on SNL 30 years ago.


I don't see why they can't help with sports and competition. It's basically the solo equivalent of a coach building you up mentally before and during a competition. I'd say a neuropsychologist would have the best argument on this topic and I can't even try to be one right now as I've had a few beers.
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Old 09-09-2020, 12:53 AM   #10
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Re: Mental Training

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You can treat mental disease and addictions with "self talk" which are just affirmations/mantras and they have been used for 1000s of years. If they didn't work they woulda died off long ago just like any other instance of evolution, no reason to stick around it's its worthless.
Probably the same reason reason homeopathy is still a thing despite clinical trials proving it to have no medical value.

Spoiler:
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Old 09-24-2020, 11:13 AM   #11
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Re: Mental Training

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Originally Posted by Elrazor View Post
Having played poker for a living and having my formal education in Sport and Exercise Science this is obviously something I have given a lot of thought, although less so in recent years.

Two issues trouble me. Firstly, I broadly agree with Mason that just slapping popular theories used on sports and other areas on poker is not productive, and is probably counterproductive. The best example is the 10k hours rule. It's patently obvious that anyone who has played poker and thought about this for more than 2 mins would see it's absurd to suggest it takes 10k hours to master poker. However, due to the recognisability of this theory, it's just slapped onto poker with little evidence of critical thinking or how it will actually help someone to improve.

I always thought the 10,000 hour rule was kind of arbitrary. Certainly there are poker players (or athletes in various sports) who have played over 10,000 hours that have not mastered the game. However, I do think that any player can benefit from a significant amount of deliberate practice and study of the game. 10,000 hours of study and deliberate practice can't hurt!

I am honestly amazed that anybody that has played poker can't see the potential that applied sport psychology could have for some players. I do understand the skepticism, as some "mental game coaches" may make outlandish or unrealistic claims and may have different ideas of why they are "qualified" to offer such services. However, at most tables I have ever sat at; there is usually at least one player that is driven by emotions that makes multiple -ev decisions based on misguided thoughts or emotions. Its easy to see. Some of these players understand game theory and would be good players if they could control their thoughts and emotions and play more consistently.

I do believe affirmations, self talk, imagery, arousal regulation, and mindfulness all could help the average player. If you are a bot, or a mathematician with strong self control that can remove emotional influences in your game, then perhaps you don't need mental coaching.
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Old 09-25-2020, 01:24 PM   #12
Mason Malmuth
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Re: Mental Training

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Originally Posted by SportPsych View Post
I always thought the 10,000 hour rule was kind of arbitrary. Certainly there are poker players (or athletes in various sports) who have played over 10,000 hours that have not mastered the game. However, I do think that any player can benefit from a significant amount of deliberate practice and study of the game. 10,000 hours of study and deliberate practice can't hurt!

I am honestly amazed that anybody that has played poker can't see the potential that applied sport psychology could have for some players. I do understand the skepticism, as some "mental game coaches" may make outlandish or unrealistic claims and may have different ideas of why they are "qualified" to offer such services. However, at most tables I have ever sat at; there is usually at least one player that is driven by emotions that makes multiple -ev decisions based on misguided thoughts or emotions. Its easy to see. Some of these players understand game theory and would be good players if they could control their thoughts and emotions and play more consistently.

I do believe affirmations, self talk, imagery, arousal regulation, and mindfulness all could help the average player. If you are a bot, or a mathematician with strong self control that can remove emotional influences in your game, then perhaps you don't need mental coaching.
Hi SportPsych:

Poker is mainly a game of knowledge with at best a small execution factor. This means that what you suggest to help the average player should be worthless. Poker is not an athletic sport where you need to spend thousands of hours working on execution.

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 09-28-2020, 12:46 AM   #13
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Re: Mental Training

And tennis is not a psychological sport where you need to spend thousands of hours working on self-control.
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Old 09-28-2020, 02:12 AM   #14
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Re: Mental Training

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And tennis is not a psychological sport where you need to spend thousands of hours working on self-control.
I don't think you understand what I'm saying. Tennis is a sport/game/endeavor where both knowledge and execution are important. Poker is a game where the execution component is small at best. It's mainly a knowledge game.

And that means much of what these poker mental coaches offer has little value for average poker players who are probably struggling to beat the rake. However, in a game like tennis, I suspect that what they have to offer does have some real value since their advice is mainly targeted towards execution and not knowledge.

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 09-28-2020, 11:03 PM   #15
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Re: Mental Training

The lack of self-control is tantamount to execution because the player, the poker player, is in fact executing plays way beneath his or her skill level even though they "know" better. Knowing doesn't carry the day, any more than knowing not to hit it into the net carries the day in tennis. Both have to execute. Poker players billions of times a year FAIL TO EXECUTE the play they know is right. Make that hundreds of millions of times anyway. And therefore, knowledge level is not behind tilt.
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Old 10-01-2020, 06:00 PM   #16
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Re: Mental Training

There's no point in trying to make the argument Fella. He seems pretty dead set on his Tennis analogy, and no amount of arguing or science is going to change his mind.

Hence, the shoehorning of his book link/ articles at anything remotely resembling a mental game post in Psych.
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Old 10-05-2020, 07:57 AM   #17
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Re: Mental Training

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mason Malmuth View Post
Hi SportPsych:

Poker is mainly a game of knowledge with at best a small execution factor. This means that what you suggest to help the average player should be worthless. Poker is not an athletic sport where you need to spend thousands of hours working on execution.

Best wishes,
Mason
If this were true, poker would be simply a game of variance. There would be no poker professionals.

The human / emotional factor is huge in poker, and I'm sure it effects you. If it doesn't effect you in a negative way, it certainly effects you in the players you win money from!

Blackjack is a mathematical game as well, and one of the table games with the best odds for the player. Yet the human factor makes blackjack the best moneymaker of table games for the casino.
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Old 10-05-2020, 04:34 PM   #18
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Re: Mental Training

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If this were true, poker would be simply a
game of variance. There would be no poker professionals.
No. This is a statement that would only be made from someone who doesn't understand poker very well.

Quote:
The human / emotional factor is huge in poker, and I'm sure it effects you. If it doesn't effect you in a negative way, it certainly effects you in the players you win money from!
You should read this:

https://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/2...poker-1756469/

as well as my book Real Poker Psychology.

Quote:
Blackjack is a mathematical game as well, and one of the table games with the best odds for the player. Yet the human factor makes blackjack the best moneymaker of table games for the casino.
This statement is almost as inaccurate as your first one.

Mason
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