Friday, March 15, 2013

Categorizing the Mental Game

Read an interesting article the other day by Jared Tendler, who is a relatively well-known "mental game" poker coach, specializing in emotional problems and control. In this article, Tendler breaks down the mental/emotional issues that affect the majority of players into four basic categories:
  1. Tilt. Unlike Tommy Angelo and others who call "tilt" any play that is less than your A-game, Tendler believes that most tilt is in fact a form of anger. The cause of that anger can be many things, such as running bad, revenge, bad beats, hating to lose, making mistakes, feeling cursed, etc., but the bottom line is that tilt = anger. Anger management is therefore key to controlling this emotional leak in your game.
  2. Fear. This is another big area of mental anguish that affects players. Fear can manifest itself by such things as over-thinking decisions, mind going blank in big pots (deer in headlights), feeling rushed, avoiding higher variance plays that you know are right, and just feeling overwhelmed or out-matched by better players than you.
  3. Motivation. Tendler says that you can be over- or under-motivated at the tables, and this can affect your play.
  4. Confidence. Finally, Tendler says that you have to have confidence to play poker well, but too much is just as bad as too little. Being overconfident can lead you to play too aggressively, play at limits too high for your abilities, and ignore advice or lessons at the table. Similarly, being under-confident means you trust your gut too little, can't pull the trigger, and so on.
FWIW, and while I am certainly not the expert Tendler is, I'm not sure I fully agree with these categories. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I still like my own three major categories of Emotional Edges:
  1. Tilt. I think Tendler has this one mostly right when he talks about anger being the chief component of tilt, but I think there can also be a "I just don't care anymore" flavor of tilt that is just as dangerous to your bankroll. I personally know one player that I've seen do this multiple times in the past; he takes a beat or two, and instead of getting "angry" and tilting off his money, he just starts playing stupidly and saying things like, "it doesn't matter" and "I suck anyway" as he tilts away his bankroll.
  2. Discipline. A huge emotional issue that can mean the difference between winning and losing is simply being able to play an emotionally controlled, patient, RDM, disciplined game. Diligently paying attention, folding when you're beat, betting when your supposed to, implementing REDi, etc. all takes mental "toughness" or discipline.
  3. Heart. I think Tendler's categories of Fear and Confidence both are part of this emotional component. But there's more, too. I wrote a blog post on the subject a few months ago (see here) that covers it in more detail.
The one thing on Tendler's list that isn't on mine is the Motivation thing. While I agree this can be an issue, I don't really see it manifesting itself purely as an emotional mental game thing, as much as I do as a bankroll management concern.

All-in for now...

1 comment:

  1. It's common in tournaments to see a player who lost a big pot (and most of his stack) to go all-in on the next hand. I don't know if this is loss of motivation or anger, but it's definitely a bad idea.