Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!

  • Skilled poker players are easily able to see how the actions of weaker opponents aren’t random. They pick up on betting patterns, timing tells, physical tells, and verbal tells, which allows them to exploit the games of weaker players

  • A solid player is a mental game fish if they: Change a proven winning strategy because they are running bad/hot. Never recognize when someone has played well against them and/or believe everyone they play against is bad and just gets lucky. Try to win every hand. Think the outcome of a hand can be changed by shouting, praying, or playing a favorite hand. Get frustrated when a bad player plays badly and they even educate them as to why they are bad. Feel like a failure when they lose a hand that was played profitably. Think the solution to running bad is to stop playing or change stakes. Read a poker book cover to cover and think they know everything in it. Watch some of Phil Galfond’s training videos and think they should now be able to crush the game like him. Believe that they are cursed or that other people are luckier than they are. Believe it’s possible to own another player’s soul. Play more hands when they are winning/losing. Play fewer hands when they are winning/losing. Play badly when the stakes are too small for them to care. Allow things to get personal with another regular. Tell bad beat stories to anyone that will listen, while doing nothing to improve how they react to bad beats. Say “one time.”

  • The three foundational theories are:
    • The Adult Learning Model: Describes the four distinct levels of the learning process
    • Inchworm: Shows how improvement happens over time
    • The Process Model: Makes it easier to consistently play your best and improve over time  
  • The “Adult Learning Model1” (ALM) is a straightforward theory that defines the four distinct levels of the learning process. The four levels are:
    • Level 1 — Unconscious Incompetence. You don’t even know what you don’t know. In other words, you’re blind to the ways that you lack skill
    • Level 2 — Conscious Incompetence. Now you’ve become conscious of what you don’t know. But that doesn’t make you skilled, it just means you know what skills you need to improve. Becoming conscious happens from either your own insight or insight that is shared with you by someone else
    • Level 3 — Conscious Competence. If you’ve reached this level, it means you’ve done some work and/or have had enough repetition to gain some skill. The only catch is that in order to be skilled, you need to think about what you’ve learned … otherwise, you return to being incompetent
    • Level 4 — Unconscious Competence. At this level, you’ve learned something so well that it is now totally automatic and requires no thinking. Unconscious Competence is the Holy Grail of learning, and by far the most important concept in this book
  • To begin looking at how the ALM applies to poker, take a minute to think about: How much you knew the first time you played poker. The complexity of your thought process when making poker decisions now compared to when you first started really trying to improve. A mistake you recently discovered. Decisions at the table that are made automatically. Mistakes that don’t happen anymore. A good example from poker that demonstrates the levels of the ALM is starting hand selection. When playing for the first time, you may not even have been aware of the concept and played too many hands. Even with some knowledge of starting hands, the first time you played it’s unlikely you had any clue of why calling a 3-bet out of position with QJo is a mistake. So, whether you were Unconsciously Incompetent about the concept as a whole, or just the finer details, in some way this was a weakness and you didn’t know it

  • To begin looking at how the ALM applies to poker, take a minute to think about: How much you knew the first time you played poker. The complexity of your thought process when making poker decisions now compared to when you first started really trying to improve. A mistake you recently discovered. Decisions at the table that are made automatically. Mistakes that don’t happen anymore. A good example from poker that demonstrates the levels of the ALM is starting hand selection. When playing for the first time, you may not even have been aware of the concept and played too many hands. Even with some knowledge of starting hands, the first time you played it’s unlikely you had any clue of why calling a 3-bet out of position with QJo is a mistake. So, whether you were Unconsciously Incompetent about the concept as a whole, or just the finer details, in some way this was a weakness and you didn’t know it

  • Fast forward to a few weeks or months after you started learning more about how to play poker, and specifically hand selection. You may have picked up information about it from a friend or book that advocates the value of certain hands from certain positions, from an opponent who berated you for playing QJo, or from playing more you started to realize you were second best far too often. You weren’t sure what hands you should be playing yet, but you did realize something was off. Simply realizing that you were making mistakes in hand selection didn’t mean you were good at it, just that you needed to work on it. An easy way to know that you’re at the level of Conscious Incompetence is that you’ve recognized a mistake for the first time. After playing and studying more, you know the pluses and minuses of all the possible starting hands. It feels as if you’re improving; you’re in control of the hands you’re playing and things are good … until you lose focus at the end of a long session or you’re frustrated having lost a few big pots … now suddenly you fall back into old habits and start playing hands you know you shouldn’t. The mistakes are obvious afterward, but that only reinforces the reality that you actually don’t know the correct hands to play as well as you thought. At this point in the learning process, you still need to think about which hands to play, otherwise you make mistakes

  • After more experience, more work, and more learning, your job is finally complete. Now, when you’re dealt marginal hands, even on tilt, you muck them without a thought, an insta-fold. It’s a new habit or decision made automatically. A lot of work is needed to get here, and the benefit is well worth it. Now you no longer need to think about starting hands to be good at it, and because of that, your mind is free to learn something new. Whether it’s starting hands or tilt control, there is a limit to how much your mind can think about in a given moment  
  • You can only work on parts of your game at one time. As a result, it’s critical to know the level of the ALM your skills are in, so you know what to focus on improving  
  • Inchworm isn’t a revolutionary new idea; it’s just an observation of how you improve over time and something you likely never thought about previously   
  • Understanding the concept of inchworm starts by looking more closely at the natural range that exists in the quality of your poker or mental game   
  • As long as you’re playing poker, you’ll always have aspects of your game that represent the peak of your ability, and the flip side, your worst. Always. Perfect poker isn’t possible over a large number of hands. There are times you play perfectly and other times that you don’t. Poker is a dynamic game that’s becoming more competitive. This means that the definition of perfection, even just solid play, is a moving target. As long as your game evolves, that means you’re learning. If you’re learning, that means there’s range in the quality of your decision making  
  • When looking more closely at your game, for better or worse, it’s important to be honest about the reality of the range that exists. Not what you wish the reality to be, but what it actually is

  • The concept of inchworm comes in when you look at how the range in your poker game or mental game improves over time. A bell curve is a snapshot of a given sample, while improvement is the movement of a bell curve over time; something an actual inchworm illustrates perfectly in the way it moves  
  • When you reach a new peak in your ability, the front end of your range takes a step forward. Your best just became better, which also means that your range has widened because the worst part of your game hasn’t moved yet. The most efficient way to move forward again is to turn your focus to the back end of your range and make improvements to your greatest weaknesses. By eliminating what is currently the worst part of your game, your bell curve takes a step forward from the back end, and now it’s easier to take another step forward from the front   
  • The inchworm concept illustrates how consistent improvement happens by taking one step forward from the front of your bell curve followed by another step forward from the back. The implications of this concept are that: Improvement happens from two sides: improving weakness and improving your best. Playing your best is a moving target, because it’s always relative to the current range in your game. You create the potential for an even greater A-game when you eliminate your mental and poker C-games because mental space is freed up to learn new things. (Yes, the quality of your mental peak or zone can actually improve as well.)

  • To further understand how inchworm applies specifically to poker, here are two common mistakes players often make, along with a solution for each: Ignoring weaknesses. When players constantly learn new things while avoiding, ignoring, blocking out, or protecting weaknesses, their bell curve gets flatter and flatter. Weaknesses haven’t improved, so the back end doesn’t move. They also have a bunch of new skills to use, so when they’re at their best, they’re better than ever. The problem is that by exclusively learning new things, they create a wide range in their game, which means that it takes a lot of mental effort to think through all these new concepts. If you aren’t mentally sharp, there’s a dramatic drop-off in your play. So when your play goes bad, it gets really bad. Here are a few other consequences for this approach to learning: Playing your best takes a lot of energy so it doesn’t happen that often. Mistakes, many of them basic, show up completely out of nowhere. It feels as if you’ve stopped improving and your game has plateaued. You have a lot to think about and often get confused or miss important details of a hand. To make matters worse, all the new information you’ve acquired is in the process of being learned, so it won’t show up when you go on tilt, lose focus, get tired, or are nervous in a huge pot. When any of those mental game problems happen, it feels as if you’ve just had the carpet yanked out from under you—and now you’re lying on the floor (the back side of your bell curve) with your confidence shattered, wondering what the hell happened. For some players, this leads them to question everything in their game, which accelerates the free-fall like an airplane in a death spiral   
  • You must stay focused on learning the correction to your weaknesses until it is trained to the level of Unconscious Competence—especially after your A-game improves. Doing so keeps you humble, reminds you of your weaknesses, and is the most efficient way for your best to improve. Comparing your worst to your best. Inchworm also has another important lesson that comes in handy when your game is under pressure from being on a bad run, on tilt, or having poor motivation and focus. During these times, it’s especially hard to maintain proper perspective, especially for improvement in your poker and mental games. While actually recognizing improvement may not seem like much, it can be critical to helping turn things around. The only way that you can prove the back end of your game has taken a step forward is by analyzing your game at its worst, and comparing it with your worst during a previous tough stretch. So, rather than comparing your game at its worst to your recent peak, which can seem miles away and makes you feel worse, instead compare apples to apples, or your worst to your previous worst

  • Comparing your worst to your previous worst allows you to prove that the back end of your range has improved. For example, you might not be completely tilt-free, but compared to before, you are more aware of your tilt pattern, manage your tilt better so you play better longer, and quit sooner when it’s no longer possible to recover a solid thought process. Basically, you’re looking to see your worst improve; and seeing that you have improved in the midst of a tough stretch can give you a much-needed confidence boost

  • The process model has five parts that all work together: Preparation/Warm-up: What you do before you play. Whether it’s planned, random, or nothing at all, it’s how you prepare. Performance: Playing poker. Results: The outcome of your play. Evaluation: A review of your results right after playing. Analysis: Actively working to improve your game away from the table

  • Here are some general things you can do to prepare to play: Review your long-term goals and set goals for the session. Review a list with the corrections to your common poker mistakes. Review your strategy for improving mental game issues. Use deep breathing, meditation, and/or visualization to steady and focus your mind. Listen to a favorite song

  • Ideally, evaluation only happens after the session when you can objectively look closely at how you played. (This is typically more relevant online than live). However, players often review hands in the middle of a session, fixate on past hands looking for mistakes, run equity calculations, and check Hold’em Manager or PokerTracker. Basically, they are evaluating how they are playing while they are playing. In other words, they’re multitasking, and they play worse for that reason alone. Removing evaluation doesn’t mean eliminating adjustments. Adjusting to your opponents is how you stay at least one step ahead of them while you’re playing. Adjustments are key; evaluating while playing is excessive. If you are spending too much time reviewing previous hands, your adjustments aren’t known well enough. Ideally, they should be so well known that they are made automatically and without thought (Unconscious Competence)   
  • Here are a few better ways to evaluate how you played: Look closely at tough decisions to see how you played them. Estimate how much variance influenced results. Calculate whether you accomplished the qualitative goals you set before the session. If you fell short, why? Review how you did in the areas you’re trying to improve (poker strategy and mental game). Did you see any progress? If you’re going to analyze hands later, write some game flow notes or thoughts about them that you may otherwise forget

  • Spending a short time to evaluate is also a great way to: Put poker down when you’re done playing, so you can go on with your life. Reset your mind before the next time you play

  • In poker, analysis doesn’t have to be done immediately after sessions; in fact, sometimes it’s best to take a break before diving in. There are many ways to work on your game, such as analyzing marked hands, posting on and reading forums, watching training videos, doing equity calculations, talking with other players, and studying regulars. After you’re done analyzing, take what you’ve learned and adjust your preparation or warm-up to include the most up-to-date information. That way, you’re even better prepared the next time you play

  • The two primary strategies needed for solving mental game problems are: Injecting Logic: The short-term strategy that contains mental game problems while playing and also takes a small step toward resolving them. Resolution: The long-term strategy to correct the faulty logic that’s causing problems in your mental game   
  • Resolving a mental game issue means that eventually you need to be able to think clearly at times when you typically would not. If you are trying to play without going on tilt, you have to actively fight going on tilt and win that battle. If you are trying to play without fear, you have to fight through your fear and continue to play well. In essence, injecting logic is like using a spotter for the last few reps while lifting weights at the gym—enabling you to steadily build up the strength to control your emotions in a way you couldn’t do before

  • Your goal is to know all the signs that indicate you’re about to tilt. This gives you a roadmap of your issue, so you can see the signs before driving your game off a cliff

  • The better you learn your pattern, the quicker you can recognize it early, and the more easily you can control emotion. Here’s how to build the skill of recognition: A. Create a profile. Appendix II includes a questionnaire to help you analyze your mental game. After completing it, dig deeper into the specific problems in your game by writing out, in as much detail as you can, the thoughts, behaviors, actions, emotions, triggers, and poker mistakes that occur with this problem. Ideally, you are also organizing these signs by when they occur, i.e., the first sign when the issue is small, all the way to when it’s at its worst. B.   Study the profile. Regularly review your profile, especially before playing. C.   Examine the consequences. Describe the damage these problems have caused in the past and what they may cause in the future if unresolved. How much does the problem cost? Is it stopping you from moving up in stakes? Does it affect your confidence, life, happiness, or friends and family in any way? Having a clear understanding of the consequences often provides more motivation to take direct and immediate action. Otherwise, it’s too easy to keep right on playing thinking nothing bad is about to happen. D.   Add to the profile. After sessions, take note of new signs or details about the problem(s). E.   Set an alarm. This step is only for players who get so caught up in the action that they don’t recognize any mental game problems until after they are finished playing. Set a timer to go off at some regular frequency that isn’t too disruptive (i.e. every 30, 45, or 60 minutes). At that time, take a minute to see if the problem is happening, or has recently. If so, quickly detail the thoughts, behaviors, actions, emotions, triggers, and poker mistakes connected to the problem. Yes, this process is disruptive in the short term, but you only have to do it until you build up enough skill to recognize the problem without the timer. F.   Take action. Then, as soon as you recognize the signs that your pattern has shown up, go on to step 2

  • Even after improving recognition, players still ignore signs that the problem is coming and predictably run into trouble. On the surface, it may seem illogical to ignore these signs when you know what’s coming; however, players subconsciously do this just to prove that the problem is that predictable. It’s no different from making a play you know is wrong, such as calling a big river bet knowing the villain has the nuts; you need more proof to know you were right

  • Even after improving recognition, players still ignore signs that the problem is coming and predictably run into trouble. On the surface, it may seem illogical to ignore these signs when you know what’s coming; however, players subconsciously do this just to prove that the problem is that predictable. It’s no different from making a play you know is wrong, such as calling a big river bet knowing the villain has the nuts; you need more proof to know you were right. 2. Deep Breath The primary purpose of a deep breath is to create separation between you and your emotion so you can inject logic. It’s similar to leaving the room during a heated argument with someone to clear your head so you can think straight. Taking a few deep breaths while focusing on your breathing can give you just enough separation to stop the problem in its tracks, so you don’t have to leave the table. Depending on your emotional level, you can also use these breaths to either: Calm Emotion or Increase Intensity   
  • The primary purpose of a deep breath is to create separation between you and your emotion so you can inject logic. It’s similar to leaving the room during a heated argument with someone to clear your head so you can think straight. Taking a few deep breaths while focusing on your breathing can give you just enough separation to stop the problem in its tracks, so you don’t have to leave the table

  • Thinking is essentially the brain’s muscle, so consider injecting logic as a workout to build mental muscle and become stronger  
  • Basically, the goal of this step is to come up with a phrase or statement to say to yourself (or out loud), which helps to keep your head on straight before you lose it. Ideally, this statement also corrects the faulty logic creating the problem, so you can simultaneously work toward resolution  
  • Here are a few examples: “Bad players have to win; it’s just variance. Keep playing well and stay in control.” = Bad Beat “Today I have to weather variance and try to lose the least amount.” = Running Bad “It feels like I can take on anyone, but I can’t. Thinking that way is an illusion.” = Overconfidence   
  • When fighting the onset of tilt, or actual tilting, you might make errors such as getting too loose pre-flop, ignoring position at the table, forgetting to put opponents on ranges, or not thinking about how your range looks to your opponent. Since you’re confronting a malfunctioning mind, the skills that are currently being learned start to disappear from your mind. To keep that from happening, write down either of the following in the same place as your injecting logic statement: A. A list of only what goes missing from your thought process when making a poker decision. B. A list of all the factors you consider when making a poker decision

  • Common approaches to mental game issues tend to look only at a problem and then jump straight to the solution without understanding why it happens. Without understanding why the problem was there to begin with, there’s no way to develop a solution that sticks. Instead, you have a surface-level understanding that won’t solve the real problem, because it has never been identified. To solve a mental game problem permanently, you need to get to the root of the issue, understand the logical reason it happens, and find out why that logic is flawed. Only when you get to that point can you say that you understand the problem well enough to prescribe a solution that isn’t random, nor a placebo

  • Many clients also use this protocol to break down and correct technical flaws in their game. Learning is learning, and the following steps make it easier to unlearn an old habit and train a new one
    • Describe the problem. To begin, write down what you would say if you were describing the problem in your mental game to me. It might be something such as, “I go on tilt when a fish sucks-out on me in a big pot” or “I play too loose when I am winning big.”
    • Why does it make logical sense that you would react, think, or feel that way? This question may be counterintuitive if the problem in step 1 seems completely illogical or irrational. It’s not. Mental game problems always happen for logical reasons and they often have several parts or layers like an onion. If you identify more than one reason while completing this step, follow the next three steps for each reason. In keeping with the examples above, the logical reason you go on tilt when a fish sucks-out on you is because you always expect to win against bad players; and the reason you loosen up when winning big is because in that moment your confidence is high, poker seems easy, and it feels as if whatever you do, you’ll win. The rationale behind these reasons does make sense, but you still need to try and eliminate them
    • Why is that logic flawed? Avoid using stock answers for why the logic or reason you found in step 2 is flawed, unless you’re sure it’s correct. Accuracy is critical. Plus, since there are often multiple reasons why your logic is flawed, don’t assume that you know all of them. Negative emotion happens for predictable reasons and is never the flaw. In the examples from step 1, the most obvious flaw in your logic is that you’re ignoring the realities of poker. No one is capable of always winning against fish or winning no matter how they play. In essence, you believe at a deeper level that you are more in control of the outcome than you actually are. For some, having that level of control is a fantasy they wish could come true. When this wish is proven to not be realistic, you’ll react with intense anger—or when it feels as if it has come true, you’ll react with intense overconfidence. This illusion of control is an example of a flaw that is not obvious. Fail to correct it and resolution won’t happen
    • What is the correct way to handle the situation? Taking into account steps 2 and 3, this step defines the straightforward correction to the underlying flaw or cause of your mental game problems. Be sure to use affirmative language in at least some part of your answer. In these examples, if you had skipped steps 2 and 3, the solution you would have come up with might be something like, “Bad beats happen; just don’t let them bother you,” or, “You’re probably running hot; don’t worry how much you’re up.” These are pretty good answers that address the flaw in your reaction to variance, but miss the exaggerated sense of control. So, add a statement that corrects the illusion of control, such as, “I can’t control the cards, I can only control how well I play and how well I react” or “Playing too loose when I’m up means I’ve lost control of my game.” 5. Why is that correction correct? This question identifies the rationale behind why the answer to step 4 is correct. In some cases, this step can be a bit redundant; but at a minimum, the repetition helps you learn, and it can also add additional clarity or details to the solution. In these examples, “Control in poker comes through my decisions and how I handle what happens at the table. Bad beats have to happen in the long run for me to be profitable, because without them, the game would fundamentally change,” or, “If I loosen up because I’m winning, it means that I believe I’m just going to continue winning in the future no matter what I do. Because of variance, that obviously isn’t true, so I just have to force myself to keep playing well and not think I suddenly own poker.” Lastly, achieving resolution means you have learned the correct logic in steps 4 and 5 to the level of Unconscious Competence
  • Here are some ways to know your mental game problems are improving: You have increased recognition of your patterns in real time at the table. You can recognize the signs of your patterns before reaching your threshold. (That doesn’t mean you can control your emotions yet, just that you better recognize what’s happening.) You have a stronger ability to control emotion while playing. You make fewer poker mistakes. You have a stronger ability to play longer while battling a problem. You quit faster (for the right reasons). You’re able to recover a solid mindset faster. The urge to berate your opponents lessens. You have fewer negative thoughts. You feel normal faster after a bad session. Your absolute worst is better than it was before. You recognize new layers of the problem, or entirely new problems. You have an increased desire to work on your game after the session

  • The steps below can you help you to resolve old emotion. Realize that accumulated emotion is a real risk each time you play—so take it seriously for a while. Don’t expect it to disappear quickly. Instead, look to steadily decrease the intensity of the emotion you feel, while increasing your ability to control your emotion. That process isn’t like a light switch. Some days will be easier than others because of the range that exists in your ability to control emotion. Do a mental hand history for each issue. Then study what you’ve written as you would a poker concept you were having trouble learning. Work hard to build recognition of your pattern. Then while playing, work hard to recognize it sooner and sooner. Set an alarm. Rewrite the past. Not literally, since that’s impossible. Instead, do a mental hand history for any old memories that stand out around this issue, treating the memory as if it just happened. Write about what you learned from these old memories. Even negative experiences are often positive because of what they teach you not to do. Taking what you’ve learned in the past, and using it to make you stronger today, goes a long way in resolving old emotion. If you’re critical of your past failures, errors, or the like, go to the section tilted, Mistake Tilt. Remove any expectations that this shouldn’t be happening or should have already been fixed. If that were true, you wouldn’t be in this position. There are many players in the same position, so don’t wallow in the fact that you have to deal with it and just do what’s necessary to fix it. Address the subtle pieces of the problem. Use the mental hand history to help you to identify and resolve previously unknown pieces of the problem. Even though the issues may be different, consider using any of the steps in the Desperation Tilt section  
  • Tilt = Anger + Bad Play

  • When you go on tilt, it’s easy to focus just on how badly you played. But you need to recognize that not everything goes to hell, you still do some things very well. If you still throw away marginal hands out of position, it means you’ve mastered the importance of position and good hand selection. Even though you might be playing too loose or tight while tilting, you may also be bet sizing well, or thin value betting in the right spots. Of course, there’s the obvious flip side where a bad beat or constant aggression sends you over the edge and your greatest weaknesses show up. All of a sudden you may find yourself in no man’s land trying to bluff a donkey who clearly has a hand, demonstrating that perhaps you still don’t automatically know when to take your foot off the gas in a pot. If you find yourself calling too loose or chasing draws without the right odds, this could demonstrate a lack of deep understanding of the mathematical side of the game, or it could highlight an inner urge to gamble   
  • Use the questions below as a guide to begin analyzing and identifying the details of your tilt. If specifics are hard to find, that’s fine; everyone has a different starting point. What causes you to tilt? (Bad beats, losing to fish, running bad, etc.) What are the things you say to yourself out loud, or to other players, when frustration starts rising and when tilted? How do you know that you’re on tilt? What’s the first thing you notice? How does your body react to tilt? (Head gets hot, body is sweaty, heart races, fist is clenched, etc.) Can you identify the point when tilt starts shutting down your thinking? At what point do you take action to deal with tilt?

  • Seven Types of Tilt The following list briefly describes the most common types of tilt: Running Bad Tilt: The tilt that’s caused by a run of bad cards is not actually a unique type of tilt. Instead, one (or more) of the other types of tilt happens so frequently in such a short amount of time that your mind can’t reset itself before the next time you play. As a result, tilt builds up and hangs over your head like a dark cloud. Injustice Tilt: Bad beats, coolers, and suck-outs are prime examples of triggers that make you feel cursed and make poker feel unfair. Hate-losing Tilt: Many players hate losing even though they realize how much variance impacts results in the short run. Wanting to win is not the problem—the problem is how you handle the inevitable losses. Mistake Tilt: Making mistakes is frustrating for many logical reasons; these reasons just happen to be flawed because of inaccurate views about learning. Entitlement Tilt: Classic Phil Hellmuth tilt is caused by believing that you deserve to win for X, Y, or Z reason. Winning is a possession and you tilt when someone undeserving takes it from you. Revenge Tilt: Disrespect, constant aggressive action, and opponents thinking they’re better than you are just a few of the reasons why you seek vengeance at the table. Desperation Tilt: The urge to win your money back and get unstuck is so strong, it makes you play monster sessions, force the action, and jump up in stakes  
  • Here are a couple of suggestions for correcting the imbalance in what you believe is fair: Short term: Improve your ability to spot positive variance and your mistakes. Doing so balances your perspective about variance. Also, refer to Developing Stable Confidence for more about developing the skills of recognizing: variance, your skill, and your opponent’s skill. Long term: Go back through your poker career, perhaps even your personal, sports, or business life as well, and identify instances of good luck that at the time you thought happened more because of your skill than variance. Also look for instances when you thought you were getting screwed, but were actually making mistakes. Correcting the bias you have now is easier when you correct your past biases. You can’t change what happened in the past, but changing how you look at the past provides a more accurate and stable view of the present  
  • Since you can’t control variance, the only solution is to: Get better at understanding it. Improve how you handle it emotionally

  • Although many consider them to be one and the same, there’s a significant difference between motivation and inspiration. Motivation is like a marathon runner and inspiration is like a sprinter. Motivation and inspiration each play an essential part in achieving goals. Motivation is the more solid and stable energy that keeps you consistently working over the long term, while inspiration provides short, intense bursts of energy needed to get you fired up or to stay on track

  • While inspiration is invaluable, it can be used incorrectly. Here are two problems to look out for: If you’re constantly looking for new things to keep you inspired, you’re relying on inspiration too much and likely compensating for underlying problems in your motivation. In other words, by playing clips of the movie Rocky or challenging yourself to play 100,000 hands a month, you might actually be protecting a problem that inspiration cannot fix. You think a surge of inspiration makes problems such as tilt, anxiety, and a lack of confidence disappear. This is one reason why New Year’s resolutions fail. People forget that it takes a long time to eliminate old habits or resolve underlying flaws. Being on an inspirational high can make these problems seem like a thing of the past. Ultimately, when you use inspiration and motivation more efficiently, you’re in a stronger position to achieve your goals

  • If you want to stop procrastinating, you first must eliminate the belief, “there’s always tomorrow.” Today is when improvement happens, not just in your game but also in reducing procrastination. Today is your only opportunity to improve. Tomorrow is a fantasy. That doesn’t mean you have to do it all today; developing consistency also means working at a steadier pace. Besides, when learning poker skills or knowledge to the level of Unconscious Competence, working for 15 minutes per day (rather than by cramming in three hours every other week) is the most efficient method. That is not true for everyone, of course, and it doesn’t mean that you’re restricted to working for 15 minutes at a time. However, if you’re currently doing no work, then 15 minutes a day is a good start. INJECTINGLOGIC    TODAY IS THE DAY TO IMPROVE. TOMORROW IS A FANTASY. IF YOU WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW, YOU’LL HAVE TWICE THE AMOUNT OF WORK TO DO. Running Good and Bad Variance does not cause motivational problems; it unearths them. Running good or bad provides an excellent way to identify the specific motivational or other mental game problems affecting your game. Thanks to variance, problems that may normally be small leaks accumulate into bigger problems. The pressure that variance puts on your game brings them to light, and tells you what to be working on. When you are running bad, you might lack motivation because: You feel destined to lose = Injustice Tilt Working on your game seems like a waste of time = Hopelessness You question your ability = Low Confidence You drop down in limits and have trouble playing enough hands = Low Confidence or Fear of Failure You don’t want to go on tilt = Any type of tilt A period of good variance can have a similar effect on your motivation because: You’ve won enough and don’t need to play anymore = Goal Problems It feels too easy, as if you’re printing money = Overconfidence You want to book a win = Risk Aversion or Hate-losing Tilt You feel so good about your game, you don’t need to work on it = Overconfidence You don’t want to lose money back, or have the feeling that losing brings = Fear of Failure

  • Confidence is an unreliable measure of results and skill for two reasons: Underlying flaws in your mental game create inaccurate feelings about the quality of your game. Players use short-term results to form the foundation of their confidence. However, short-term results are unreliable for proving a player’s skill, therefore the basis of their confidence is also unreliable. In most other competitive arenas, results are the easiest way to prove a player’s skill level. But the fact is, such a large sample is required to determine your skill that by the time you get it, your skill has changed. In the short term, you can’t definitively prove your skill, you can only estimate it. That’s one of the challenges in poker, and what makes it perhaps harder than any other form of competition  
  • Having stable confidence means that your confidence never swings to extremes because of variance. This is possible when your game is built on a set of results and skills that give you more certainty about the strength of your game in the short term. When your confidence is stable, minor fluctuations actually help to improve your game. You won’t get too down or critical of how you played. And, in equal measure, you won’t delude yourself into thinking you’ve mastered poker

  • You may solve all of your confidence problems by improving the following three skills: The skill of recognizing variance The skill of recognizing your skill The skill of recognizing your opponents’ skill Even after developing these poker skills, many players still can’t create the stable confidence they need to weather variance in the short term

  • Achieving stable confidence can only happen when you resolve underlying flaws in your mental game that create illusions in your confidence. These illusions act like trap doors under your poker skills that spring open when triggered by circumstances at the table, most commonly when running terrible or like god

  • While it’s impossible to know definitively how you’re playing, the stronger your recognition of your skill, the more stable your confidence becomes. Here are a few ideas on how to improve your ability to recognize your poker skill: Identify the strengths in your game that are proven to be at the level of Unconscious Competence. These are the skills that always show up no matter how badly you’re playing. One of the ways to identify these strengths is by analyzing the solid parts of your game when on tilt or under emotional pressure for another reason. For more, refer to chapter 2 and the section, Using Tilt to Improve Your Play. Create a list of the greatest weaknesses in your game. These are all of the major mistakes that show up when playing at your worst. These weaknesses can be hard to swallow because they are so basic relative to your best. However, identifying them means you know what to improve, which is better than not knowing. Plus, since these weaknesses are often connected to tilt or other mental game issues, recognizing them while you’re playing helps you to spot those issues so you can take action to control them. Identify the entire range of your game from your current absolute worst, to your current absolute best. To do that, think about what mistakes you make when playing your B-game, what makes your B-game better than your C-game, and what defines your A-game. Having that knowledge allows you to make better adjustments because you know how you are playing. Evaluate your game regularly. After every session, analyze how you played, what improved, and what needs more work. Set goals for the next session based on your evaluation  
  • Here are some ideas on how to become better at recognizing skill in your opponents: Identify instances when you suspect your opponents played well and played poorly. What did they do well that you can apply to your own game, and what did they do poorly that you can exploit in the future? Resist the urge to prematurely label someone a fish. Instead, be objective and specific in assessing their strengths and weaknesses relative to your game. The stronger this skill, the more objective you become about your opponents’ play, and thus your own. Keep your opinion of their game open. This way, you can easily adjust when a player does something that contradicts your opinion of them. Otherwise, you might miss adjustments that they’re making to your game. Analyze key hands by thinking about the hand from their position. Take a few small notes throughout the session on the players at your table, even if nothing glaringly positive or negative can be said about their game. Ask better players for advice on how they recognize skill in their opponents

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