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Old 12-04-2013, 01:36 PM   #1
Uraby19
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positive poker vs mental game of poker

I've read the mental game of poker just wondering if there is anything new in positive poker for those that have read it. Thanks!
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Old 12-04-2013, 04:13 PM   #2
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

there is nothing new in Positive Poker & i was completely unimpressed by it
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Old 12-05-2013, 01:51 AM   #3
LaProfessora
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

The goal of Positive Poker is to explain how peak performance psychology, neuro-psychology, positive psychology and sport psychology principles apply to poker generally (with an emphasis towards attaining elite poker performance).

Here is a table of contents:

Introduction

Chapter 1: Setting the Stage for Positive Poker

Chapter 2: Developing Exceptional Poker Talent: The Psychology of Expertise

Chapter 3: Innovative Strategies for Goal Setting

Chapter 4: Understanding and Mastering Self-Control

Chapter 5: Motivation: How to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

Chapter 6: Find Your Focus and Improve Your Concentration

Chapter 7: Increasing Self-Confidence

Chapter 8: Mastering Tilt

Chapter 9: Mental Toughness: The Ultimate Psychological Edge

Chapter 10: Dealing with the Ups and Downs of Poker

Appendix A: Dissertation Summary

Appendix B: Questions Asked When Carrying Out The Study

The book combines my experiences as a poker player with interviews that I conducted with a sample of accomplished poker players that I conducted for my doctoral dissertation. Jonathan Little comments on the contents of each chapter as well. Each chapter outlines the empirical evidence for all of the techniques that I suggest to assist you in improving your mental game. Further, action steps are outlined in each chapter so that you can make changes if you so desire.

I've read many poker books and I have not seen most of the information that is presented in Positive Poker. I attribute this to the fact that I am a psychology professor and licensed psychotherapist. I'm well versed in the three areas that are covered in the book (sport psychology, neuro-psychology, positive psychology and peak performance psychology).

Here's an example of how this book differs from others that are available. Most everyone knows that you have to be mentally tough to make it in poker. Instead of just telling you this, I explain what mental toughness is and how you can increase it with actionable things that you can do at the table (as well as away from it).

This book is for anyone who wants to understand the neuroscience behind why we lose our willpower at the table. Or how you have to literally restructure your brain to become an expert poker player. These are the kinds of topics that the book addresses.

If you are interested in scientific psychology, then you'll probably like this book.

If you are looking for information on reading tells, I recommend Paul Ekman's work on micro-expressions (generally) and Zachary Elwood's Reading Poker Tells. I didn't cover that topic in this book because I wanted to focus on the psychological aspects behind achieve elite poker status.

My overall goal with the book is to help poker players understand why we do what we do (tilt, lose self-control, procrastinate, etc.) and how we can make changes and adjustments to attain even higher levels of poker success.

I'm happy to answer any other questions you may have.

Tricia
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Old 12-05-2013, 08:05 PM   #4
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

Quote:
Originally Posted by LaProfessora View Post
The goal of Positive Poker is to explain how peak performance psychology, neuro-psychology, positive psychology and sport psychology principles apply to poker generally (with an emphasis towards attaining elite poker performance).

Here is a table of contents:

Introduction

Chapter 1: Setting the Stage for Positive Poker

Chapter 2: Developing Exceptional Poker Talent: The Psychology of Expertise

Chapter 3: Innovative Strategies for Goal Setting

Chapter 4: Understanding and Mastering Self-Control

Chapter 5: Motivation: How to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

Chapter 6: Find Your Focus and Improve Your Concentration

Chapter 7: Increasing Self-Confidence

Chapter 8: Mastering Tilt

Chapter 9: Mental Toughness: The Ultimate Psychological Edge

Chapter 10: Dealing with the Ups and Downs of Poker

Appendix A: Dissertation Summary

Appendix B: Questions Asked When Carrying Out The Study

The book combines my experiences as a poker player with interviews that I conducted with a sample of accomplished poker players that I conducted for my doctoral dissertation. Jonathan Little comments on the contents of each chapter as well. Each chapter outlines the empirical evidence for all of the techniques that I suggest to assist you in improving your mental game. Further, action steps are outlined in each chapter so that you can make changes if you so desire.

I've read many poker books and I have not seen most of the information that is presented in Positive Poker. I attribute this to the fact that I am a psychology professor and licensed psychotherapist. I'm well versed in the three areas that are covered in the book (sport psychology, neuro-psychology, positive psychology and peak performance psychology).

Here's an example of how this book differs from others that are available. Most everyone knows that you have to be mentally tough to make it in poker. Instead of just telling you this, I explain what mental toughness is and how you can increase it with actionable things that you can do at the table (as well as away from it).

This book is for anyone who wants to understand the neuroscience behind why we lose our willpower at the table. Or how you have to literally restructure your brain to become an expert poker player. These are the kinds of topics that the book addresses.

If you are interested in scientific psychology, then you'll probably like this book.

If you are looking for information on reading tells, I recommend Paul Ekman's work on micro-expressions (generally) and Zachary Elwood's Reading Poker Tells. I didn't cover that topic in this book because I wanted to focus on the psychological aspects behind achieve elite poker status.

My overall goal with the book is to help poker players understand why we do what we do (tilt, lose self-control, procrastinate, etc.) and how we can make changes and adjustments to attain even higher levels of poker success.

I'm happy to answer any other questions you may have.

Tricia
Thank you for this! Sounds interesting.
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Old 12-06-2013, 01:01 AM   #5
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

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Originally Posted by LaProfessora View Post
Here's an example of how this book differs from others that are available. Most everyone knows that you have to be mentally tough to make it in poker. Instead of just telling you this, I explain what mental toughness is and how you can increase it with actionable things that you can do at the table (as well as away from it).

Tricia
Hi Tricia:

Let me ask you a somewhat different question. Suppose you were a video poker player and was playing a machine where the expectation was positive, and you have memorized the optimal strategy for that machine. Do you need to be mentally tough to always make the correct plays?

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 12-06-2013, 02:20 AM   #6
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

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Originally Posted by Mason Malmuth View Post
Hi Tricia:

Let me ask you a somewhat different question. Suppose you were a video poker player and was playing a machine where the expectation was positive, and you have memorized the optimal strategy for that machine. Do you need to be mentally tough to always make the correct plays?

Best wishes,
Mason

Are you suggesting that in poker you could memorize (for lack of better word) the optimal strategy for all types of situations and not even worry about "mental toughness". I would have to agree and argue that lack of control, tilt, fatigue could all be products of being ignorant of optimal strategy. I've learned over the years that as I study more and advance my strategies (which are way behind the curve still), that my lack of mental control at the tables has decreased tremendously. I prefer the rational and strategical approach I find in 2+2 books to those of psychological or mental books. Like a player "mindlessly" (obviously much thought has come into this strategy beforehand) applying optimal strategy in a video poker game, as you improve your knowledge in poker, you can play without the hassles of being mentally weak.
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Old 12-06-2013, 03:11 AM   #7
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

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

Let me ask you a somewhat different question. Suppose you were a video poker player and was playing a machine where the expectation was positive, and you have memorized the optimal strategy for that machine. Do you need to be mentally tough to always make the correct plays?

Best wishes,
Mason
Interesting question! I suppose that if one was able to maintain focus, concentration, and adhere strictly to an optimal strategy at all times the need to increase psychological awareness and skills could be rendered unnecessary. In my experience though most people are not able to maintain perfect focus, concentration, etc. over lengthy periods of time Perhaps they are negatively affected by outside factors (stress, relationship problems, etc).

I would argue that all of us, as imperfect humans, can improve psychological skills and that can benefit us in a myriad of ways. The purpose of the book is simply to help players understand themselves (and others) better so that they can make changes if they so desire. Elite athletes, musicians, and many top business executives make use of this type of material to improve their results, and I hope that it will provide similar benefit to poker players who choose to make use of the material.

Cheers,
Tricia
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Old 12-06-2013, 04:07 AM   #8
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

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Originally Posted by LaProfessora View Post
Interesting question! I suppose that if one was able to maintain focus, concentration, and adhere strictly to an optimal strategy at all times the need to increase psychological awareness and skills could be rendered unnecessary. In my experience though most people are not able to maintain perfect focus, concentration, etc. over lengthy periods of time Perhaps they are negatively affected by outside factors (stress, relationship problems, etc).

I would argue that all of us, as imperfect humans, can improve psychological skills and that can benefit us in a myriad of ways. The purpose of the book is simply to help players understand themselves (and others) better so that they can make changes if they so desire. Elite athletes, musicians, and many top business executives make use of this type of material to improve their results, and I hope that it will provide similar benefit to poker players who choose to make use of the material.

Cheers,
Tricia
Hi Tricia:

First, thanks for answering. And now I'll go ahead and give my answer which is somewhat different from yours, and then talk a little more about being mentally tough relative to poker.

First, video poker is a fairly simple game once you have the correct strategy, and executing the strategy is not hard either. That is, for every hand dealt, the expert video poker player will know the play with the most positive (or least negative) expectation and will thus make it. So we won't, for instance, see a video poker expert on a standard machine throw away three aces when he has four of them to draw for the royal flush, but we will see him discard an ace when he has two of them but also has four to a royal flush.

Furthermore, when a good opportunity comes up, you'll see the video poker players play for hours on end, sometimes not sleeping for a couple of days. So it's my opinion that this game and being mentally tough have virtually nothing to do with each other.

Now let's look at football. Here's a game where being mentally tough is important and you'll hear top football coaches talk about mental toughness all the time. The reason for this is that it's a game where strength and power are important, and it can hurt to get hit. In fact, players play with injhuries all the time, and to play well under this circumstance does, in my opinion, require mental toughness.

Now let's go on to poker. Top players virtually always know the play with the most positive (or least negative) expectation, and they'll just make this play since it's fairly automatic for them. This can include your starting hands, how often to bluff, what hands to call with and what hands to raise with, and how to adjust these plays against different opponents. Thus I don't see any mental toughness in the football sense present in poker.

But there is another side of this, and that's some players do tilt, sometimes quite badly. So what happens here.

Let me give an example. Suppose a particular player knows that playing ace-ten offsuit under-the-gun in a full ring game is a bad play. That is, if he picks this hand up he should just throw it away, and to do this is mental toughness required? But sometimes you'll see a player who should know better make this play. So what has happened?

Well, it seems to me that his discipline has broken down, and one of the contributors to this is that the ace-ten, while not good enough to play in this spot, is certainly better than a random two cards which he still won't play. So why did this player tilt.

Well, it just turns out that I recently wrote a short paper called "A Mathematical Model of Tilt - Cause and Cure," and it's located here if you would like to read it.

What the paper argues is that the player on tilt doesn't understand poker as well as he should. Notice that this is different from what I'm calling mental toughness. Furthermore, I also argue in my paper that if someone who is tilt prone improves their overall understanding of the game, the tilt should go away or at least be reduced.

Finally, for everyone else reading this post, please be aware that I have not read the book Positive Poker: A Modern Psychological Approach to Mastering Your Mental Game by Dr. Patricia Cardner and Johnathan Little, and my comments about mental toughness should not be perceived as any sort of review of this text.

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 12-06-2013, 04:35 AM   #9
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

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Originally Posted by Mason Malmuth View Post
Furthermore, I also argue in my paper that if someone who is tilt prone improves their overall understanding of the game, the tilt should go away or at least be reduced.
Yay! That's what I assumed in my reply in this thread. Personally speaking, your argument has merit, as I am living empirical proof as I'm sure many others that frequent your forums are as well. Now I get to read this paper.

Last edited by RedLineCliffDiving; 12-06-2013 at 04:41 AM. Reason: awesome paper btw, I reccommend it!
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Old 12-06-2013, 10:05 AM   #10
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

While I rarely have any sort of tilt issues at the table, there have been a few times where I have been sucked or on in $200,000+ EV pots where I felt like I got hit in the face with a baseball bat. Even though this pain was all mental, I kept my cool and continued playing well because I know these things happen and I also know how to play poker better than most.

Of course all good players know to fold the ATo utg. They often justify this raise the same way they justify raising 6c5c utg. They think that even if this hand is a small loser they will win it back plus more when they pick up AA eventually. Weaker players justify it by thinking “I have to win my money back.” Even world class players may not know how to play other situations optimally, such as when to run a triple barrel bluff against someone who is fairly prone to call down. World class players are rarely sure if their play is actually good or bad, especially when it comes to bet sizing and bluffing frequency in situations that rarely occur. Because of this, if you are not thinking soundly for whatever reason, you stand to make more errors than when you are thinking soundly because you will miss subtleties that should slightly sway your decision.

If poker was a simple game like video poker, where you can simply follow a chart, I think the mental aspects of it would be significantly less important. I would argue that it does require some amount of mental toughness to sit in front of a boring machine for hours on end while watching your money slowly trickle away, even if you know a game is +EV. This is similar to how some poker players can play super long sessions and some play short sessions. I think this concept applies to anything after a while. For example, I may decide I want to watch football on Sunday but after watching 3 games, I usually don’t want to watch anymore until next week. Sure, I could watch more, but I certainly don’t want to. I have found that if most people do not want to be doing an activity, they will tend to do is much worse than if they wanted to be doing that activity. I know I certainly play less inspired poker when I am tired or after I have been playing for 16+ hours. I do not think I am playing technically less sound but I fail to see all the tiny things that my slightly push a decision one way or the other. I have also found this same thing occurs when I am distracted due to business or life.

It is always funny to me to watch a world class poker player who has a big sports bet on a game totally ignore their poker game. By making a huge bet and sweating it, their game transforms from being nearly perfect to totally flawed. I don’t think this has much to do with their understanding of poker at all. This is simply a lack of discipline that should be fixed if they want to maximize their equity at the poker table. Often these players go on tilt if they lose their sports bet, which is also nice for everyone else at the table.
I think what this boils down to is that poker is a difficult game where most of the situations that arise are fairly marginal. I have seen many players who are some of the biggest winners in the game make blatantly poor decisions at the poker table. I occasionally talk to them afterwards about it and they usually felt their decision was right at the moment but recognize afterwards that it was bad. I do not think this means they do not know how to play poker or even lack understanding about technical skills. They simply lost their mind in the moment and played poorly because of it. One of our goals of our book is to help people experience these situations less often. Since writing the book, I have seen huge improvements in my mental game, which was already much better than most other players. Despite this, I still have lots of room to improve. There are lots of tiny things you can do at and away from the table that will allow you to play much better poker in the long run. If you do these things, you will stay ahead of the curve and if you don’t, it will likely catch up to you at some point.
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Old 12-06-2013, 10:12 AM   #11
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

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Originally Posted by FieryJustice View Post
While I rarely have any sort of tilt issues at the table, there have been a few times where I have been sucked or on in $200,000+ EV pots where I felt like I got hit in the face with a baseball bat. Even though this pain was all mental, I kept my cool and continued playing well because I know these things happen and I also know how to play poker better than most.

Of course all good players know to fold the ATo utg. They often justify this raise the same way they justify raising 6c5c utg. They think that even if this hand is a small loser they will win it back plus more when they pick up AA eventually. Weaker players justify it by thinking “I have to win my money back.” Even world class players may not know how to play other situations optimally, such as when to run a triple barrel bluff against someone who is fairly prone to call down. World class players are rarely sure if their play is actually good or bad, especially when it comes to bet sizing and bluffing frequency in situations that rarely occur. Because of this, if you are not thinking soundly for whatever reason, you stand to make more errors than when you are thinking soundly because you will miss subtleties that should slightly sway your decision.

If poker was a simple game like video poker, where you can simply follow a chart, I think the mental aspects of it would be significantly less important. I would argue that it does require some amount of mental toughness to sit in front of a boring machine for hours on end while watching your money slowly trickle away, even if you know a game is +EV. This is similar to how some poker players can play super long sessions and some play short sessions. I think this concept applies to anything after a while. For example, I may decide I want to watch football on Sunday but after watching 3 games, I usually don’t want to watch anymore until next week. Sure, I could watch more, but I certainly don’t want to. I have found that if most people do not want to be doing an activity, they will tend to do is much worse than if they wanted to be doing that activity. I know I certainly play less inspired poker when I am tired or after I have been playing for 16+ hours. I do not think I am playing technically less sound but I fail to see all the tiny things that my slightly push a decision one way or the other. I have also found this same thing occurs when I am distracted due to business or life.

It is always funny to me to watch a world class poker player who has a big sports bet on a game totally ignore their poker game. By making a huge bet and sweating it, their game transforms from being nearly perfect to totally flawed. I don’t think this has much to do with their understanding of poker at all. This is simply a lack of discipline that should be fixed if they want to maximize their equity at the poker table. Often these players go on tilt if they lose their sports bet, which is also nice for everyone else at the table.
I think what this boils down to is that poker is a difficult game where most of the situations that arise are fairly marginal. I have seen many players who are some of the biggest winners in the game make blatantly poor decisions at the poker table. I occasionally talk to them afterwards about it and they usually felt their decision was right at the moment but recognize afterwards that it was bad. I do not think this means they do not know how to play poker or even lack understanding about technical skills. They simply lost their mind in the moment and played poorly because of it. One of our goals of our book is to help people experience these situations less often. Since writing the book, I have seen huge improvements in my mental game, which was already much better than most other players. Despite this, I still have lots of room to improve. There are lots of tiny things you can do at and away from the table that will allow you to play much better poker in the long run. If you do these things, you will stay ahead of the curve and if you don’t, it will likely catch up to you at some point.

nh, you just completely altered my opinion at least and now I want to check out your book
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Old 12-06-2013, 03:50 PM   #12
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

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

Let me ask you a somewhat different question. Suppose you were a video poker player and was playing a machine where the expectation was positive, and you have memorized the optimal strategy for that machine. Do you need to be mentally tough to always make the correct plays?

Best wishes,
Mason
Is playing against a machine versus playing against people similar enough to make this a valid question?

Or do they need to be similar enough to make this a valid question?
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Old 12-06-2013, 04:52 PM   #13
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

Mason, thanks for the link to the article. I'll check it out! I'm always looking for new and interesting insights on the game.

Psychological skills training is simply a way to get even more tools into one's tool kit. I mention early on in the book that all the psychological skills in the world won't help you achieve success if you don't have the requisite technical skills. The first order of business is to work at strategic improvements. At the same time, you can be working on improving psychological skills. The chapter on building expertise explains in great detail the changes that happen in the brain as you increase your level of expertise (in any domain - not just poker).

Where it get's interesting is when we know the technically correct play, but we do something else anyway! There could be a variety of reasons why we take sub-optimal lines (from being tired or hungry to having a fight with our significant other, and on and on). Knowing what your psychological weak points are and working to strengthen them should provide virtually everyone with benefits.

Cheers,
Tricia
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Old 12-06-2013, 05:19 PM   #14
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

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Is playing against a machine versus playing against people similar enough to make this a valid question?

Or do they need to be similar enough to make this a valid question?
Ignore these questions as somehow I missed all the posts between Mason's question and my posting my question to him.
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Old 12-08-2013, 10:10 PM   #15
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

There is a book on the Amazon Kindle called:

"Mental Toughness Training for Poker Players"

It came out months before Positive Poker. It does a good job of explaining the importance of "toughness" as it pertains to playing poker well. It may have been the first book on the subject of mental toughness for poker.

Here is a tiny excerpt from its product description on the Kindle:

"By allowing your emotions to fluctuate (elated and overconfident when winning, depressed or angry when losing) with your bankroll swings, your decisions become inevitably textured by negative and inappropriate emotions. – one’s that may not be conducive to good decision making and bankroll building.

The solution is to learn how to become mentally tough.

What does it mean to be a mentally tough poker player?

A mentally tough player is one who is capable of making quick recoveries from stressful events like bad beats, losing streaks, and other types of setbacks. Yes, we all take hits. The difference that makes the difference between the mentally tough poker player and the emotionally weak poker player is that the mentally tough poker player can regain his mental and emotional equilibrium very rapidly instead of allowing himself to wallow in anger, depression, blame, stinkin' victim thinkin', and self-pity."


Then the book goes on to teach specific techniques on how to become mentally tough. It seems like it is a book on cognitive psychology and NLP.

The book actually agrees with Mason Malmuth that having true competency is the key. However, it also argues that even very knowledgeable expert players can fall off their optimum mental states due to stress, beats, and fatigue.

I highly recommend this book.

Dan Harrington prides himself on his mental toughness. Paraphrasing Harrington: "My advantage when I am winning and my opponent is winning is nothing compared to my advantage when I am losing and when my opponent is losing."

Chip Reese said that the top 100 players are pretty equal when they are winning but it is how one handles losing streaks that separates the great players from the merely competent.

Last edited by dunkindonot1; 12-08-2013 at 10:20 PM.
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Old 12-09-2013, 02:15 AM   #16
Mason Malmuth
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

Hi Justice:

I want to address a couple of points in your post since my view is different.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FieryJustice View Post
It is always funny to me to watch a world class poker player who has a big sports bet on a game totally ignore their poker game. By making a huge bet and sweating it, their game transforms from being nearly perfect to totally flawed. I don’t think this has much to do with their understanding of poker at all. This is simply a lack of discipline that should be fixed if they want to maximize their equity at the poker table. Often these players go on tilt if they lose their sports bet, which is also nice for everyone else at the table.
I don't think so relative to the lack of discipline idea. In my opinion, it has more to do with their not being able to understand how they lost their sports bet, or why they keep losing sports bets where they believe they have way the best of it. Thus, their minds lock up and their decisions are not rational. Again, this is covered in my paper that I link to in one of my other posts.

Quote:
I think what this boils down to is that poker is a difficult game where most of the situations that arise are fairly marginal.
If the situations are fairly marginal, then this would have little impact on overall expectation. One way to see this is to understand that minimums and maximums of statistical distributions tend to be broad (and look like bell curves).

Quote:
I have seen many players who are some of the biggest winners in the game make blatantly poor decisions at the poker table. I occasionally talk to them afterwards about it and they usually felt their decision was right at the moment but recognize afterwards that it was bad.
I think you have just contradicted yourself. If the decisions are marginal, then this can't happen. Thus you are now saying that they are making bad decisions in situations that are not marginal, which can, of course, happen when someone is on tilt or when someone does not understand the game as well as they should (at least for that specific decision).

Quote:
I do not think this means they do not know how to play poker or even lack understanding about technical skills. They simply lost their mind in the moment and played poorly because of it.
Again, this would only have long term impact if the play was not in a marginal situation. Let me give two specific examples which at first seem similar.

In limit hold 'em, where the bet on the end is small relative to the size of the pot, if a tilted player calls every time it should only have a small effect on his overall expectation since calling almost every time becomes the right strategy (from a GTO point of view). But in no-limit hold 'em, where the bet on the end is large relative to the size of the pot,this same tilted player making the exact same play of calling every time, would now discover that his long term expectation has been significantly negatively impacted.

Quote:
One of our goals of our book is to help people experience these situations less often. Since writing the book, I have seen huge improvements in my mental game, which was already much better than most other players. Despite this, I still have lots of room to improve. There are lots of tiny things you can do at and away from the table that will allow you to play much better poker in the long run. If you do these things, you will stay ahead of the curve and if you don’t, it will likely catch up to you at some point.
Again, I believe that understanding the game well which includes understanding the impact of specific plays is the key, and not mental toughness. This can be seen by my example above. The tired, tilted, or what-have-you player may let his discipline break down by always calling on the river in limit hold 'em because it doesn't matter much. But it's my experience that these same players will hold their discipline and not make these kinds of errors where the mistake is much more serious. And if you see someone making these kinds of errors, it usually means their understanding of the game is not as good as it should be.

Let me give one other specific example. In The Intelligent Poker Player by Philip Newall, this author does a great job of explaining why, in limit hold 'em, when in the big blind and heads-up before the flop you should virtually never reraise no matter what your hand and no matter what the position of the original raiser. Yet, when playing this game in Las Vegas, I routinely see virtually all players reraise their better hands from the big blind in this spot. But since this reraise is wrong from an optimal strategy point of view, does it mean that all these players are mentally weak? Of course not. It means that they don't understand this concept.

And finally, let me give an example of what I would consider mental toughness. In boxing, it's well known that new fighters, after getting a few hard hits, will go back to their corner and tell their trainer to cut the gloves off. However, a few of these fighters are ready to go back in for the next round. This, to me, is an example of mental toughness.

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 12-09-2013, 01:21 PM   #17
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

In a nutshell, Mason seems to be saying that the key in poker is learning how to play properly and not mental toughness. But are the authors of Positive Poker even saying that learning to become mentally tough is the key? Or are they saying it's helpful?

Personally, I feel that I've become mentally toughened to such things as bad beats and that mental toughness has helped me.

Last edited by Doc T River; 12-09-2013 at 01:36 PM.
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Old 12-09-2013, 05:55 PM   #18
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

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Originally Posted by Doc T River View Post
In a nutshell, Mason seems to be saying that the key in poker is learning how to play properly and not mental toughness. But are the authors of Positive Poker even saying that learning to become mentally tough is the key? Or are they saying it's helpful?

Personally, I feel that I've become mentally toughened to such things as bad beats and that mental toughness has helped me.
Doc, it sounds like you have combined several important psychological facets and are achieving some good results!

I agree that learning is important and we devote an entire chapter of Positive Poker to learning (called Developing Exceptional Poker Talent: The Psychology of Expertise). But we also argue that in order to do all that is required to develop expertise, manage emotions, make good decisions, etc. one needs mental toughness (as well as many other psychological attributes). Mental toughness is just one piece of the poker success recipe. Mental toughness itself is actually a very complex psychological variable that psychologists are studying intently.

The game of poker would be much simpler if psychological aspects were not involved. But they are and this is even true for very experienced and well learned players.

Positive Poker talks about many topics and mental toughness is just one aspect. Mason mentioned that he has not read the book, and as such his comments are limited to what was being discussed in this thread. Our aim with the book is to help players learn about many relevant psychological factors that can be used for improvement.

Cheers,
Tricia
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Old 12-09-2013, 06:09 PM   #19
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

I think I've become mentally toughened due to experience. Not necessarily because I know how to play better because no matter how well I play, I can't control how well someone else plays or doesn't play.
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Old 12-09-2013, 07:12 PM   #20
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

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I think I've become mentally toughened due to experience. Not necessarily because I know how to play better because no matter how well I play, I can't control how well someone else plays or doesn't play.
True, the only thing we can control is ourselves! If only we could always get others to do what we want, life would be so much easier

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Tricia
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Old 12-10-2013, 11:01 PM   #21
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

Improvement in Poker is a long journey which involves many ups and downs and because of this I think mental toughness is very important. Another important aspect of poker is staying focused for bringing you’re a game to the table. Many players know what the best play is away from the table but sometimes in the heat of the moment when the pressure is on, the incorrect play is made.

This would go for many aspects in life, making the right play when it counted can be the difference between success and failure. All that practice can be for nothing if you are unable to stay focused when it counted. I think this goes beyond ‘tilt’.

You only have seconds to make the right play. No doubt experience and skill are extremely important when doing this but being mentally tough & focused would help.

Does this book give practical usable exercises to help stay positive throughout the journey and focused at the table?
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Old 12-11-2013, 12:35 PM   #22
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

"Understanding the game well" is a big key... no doubt, no argument. In general, this helps people stay in check as well as gives them the tools to win.

However, the best things for people to work on changes from person to person. With specific players what is needed most may be different that finessing of game-understanding.

Some strong players do need work on things like control or focus.

We all know the stories of absolutely world class games players destroying themselves due to a lack of control in one way or another... even tho they have suburb knowledge of their craft.

Sometimes they destroy themselves outside of their field of expertise, sometimes within.
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Old 12-12-2013, 03:55 PM   #23
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

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Originally Posted by Madsaac View Post
Improvement in Poker is a long journey which involves many ups and downs and because of this I think mental toughness is very important. Another important aspect of poker is staying focused for bringing you’re a game to the table. Many players know what the best play is away from the table but sometimes in the heat of the moment when the pressure is on, the incorrect play is made.

This would go for many aspects in life, making the right play when it counted can be the difference between success and failure. All that practice can be for nothing if you are unable to stay focused when it counted. I think this goes beyond ‘tilt’.

You only have seconds to make the right play. No doubt experience and skill are extremely important when doing this but being mentally tough & focused would help.

Does this book give practical usable exercises to help stay positive throughout the journey and focused at the table?
We give by step step instructions, ideas, tips, and strategies to help you build each psychological skill/trait. I only included things that have been shown in clinical research to be effective for most people. Also, there are a variety of strategies in each chapter so you can pick and choose the things you want to try.

Cheers!

Tricia
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Old 12-13-2013, 12:05 PM   #24
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

I think psychological aspects are very important. I myself have suffered from a lot of psychological weaknesses and tilt issues, and I can say that I would definitely have a lot more money in my bank account if it weren't for these personal weaknesses.

I think it's easy to say something like "if someone makes mistakes in poker then it's a failure in logic and understanding, not in emotion/psychology." But this discounts the huge emotional and psychological problems that people can have. For example, here are an off-the-cuff list of several weaknesses from my own life:

Feeling guilty about taking money from people (not maximizing many spots and even seeming to "throw" certain situations)
Tilt/anger/entitlement issues where it really seemed in hindsight like I "wanted to lose"
General depression and anxiety issues that resulted in many horrible decisions when it came to poker
A symptom where if I had enough money to get by in the short-term I had no real motivation to make more money (played very few hours, didn't play my best at all times, etc.)

I could go on. Obviously I've had issues outside of poker that were root causes of these things, but these were still issues that could have been helped by better psychological understanding. If I had read books like Mental Game of Poker, or Positive Poker, back when I was playing more, I believe I would have had a better grasp of the issues

I understand what Mason is saying, too; that many instances of bad play are due to just simply not understanding something logically, and I agree with that, too. (You could say the same thing about some of the things I mentioned; for instance, my not playing optimally at all times or playing more hours was a function of me not understanding long-term variance and the need to play optimally and to get more hours in.) But I think it is not that simple and that many people can understand many things logically about poker and still not be able to implement them due to various psychological shortcomings and weaknesses.

For instance, I'm quite sure there are many gambling addicts who understand logically that they are playing a losing game but can't help themselves. (I've known some of those people.) For people like that, it is primarily psychological understanding they need, not logic. Of course, you could say that these books are ways to make psychological aspects into more logical aspects, and that's what they are doing, I guess. But just recognizing that psychological aspects play a role is a big step for a lot of people who don't like to think about these things or haven't thought about these things.

Kind of rambling but just wanted to weigh in and say that there can be a lot of unexplained weaknesses in people's poker games that can't be explained away just by lack of strategic understanding.
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Old 12-13-2013, 12:23 PM   #25
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Re: positive poker vs mental game of poker

I just read Mason's article again and wanted to say:

I think the tilt that Mason describes (tilting from just pure losing) is very different from the tilt many people experience. Mason describes tilt as coming from losing a few hands or having Aces cracked or whatever. And he suggests that understanding variance better would help in not tilting, because you'd have a better understanding that these things happen.

But for me, personally, I've never really been truly tilted from just bad luck or things running bad. As long as I know I've played a hand or series of hands well, I've never been really bothered.

What really causes me to go on tilt is more akin to what Mason describes about his tennis tilt: when I do something that, in hindsight, seems very stupid and that I should have known better about. When I do something that my experience level seems to dictate I shouldn't have done. When I rush a decision and make a bad decision and realize that if I had thought about it a couple seconds more I would have reached a better decision.

These kinds of mistakes can make a person very angry with themselves and possibly reach a tilt-mindset of "what does it matter? I'm horrible so I might as well play badly" or something similar.

I just wanted to point out that tilt can take many forms and can have many causes. It can be much more self-hating than just frustration with standard variance. In fact, it has seemed to me sometimes that because I am "supposed" to be more experienced the longer I play, the more I am capable of becoming upset when I can spot obvious flaws in my decision-making process.

Obviously I've got issues that not everyone does, so I'm just speaking for myself here.
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