Got Mental Game Questions?

Discussion in 'The Mental Game' started by Dr. Tricia Cardner, Jul 22, 2018.

  1. Hi all!

    I'm Dr. Tricia Cardner, author of Peak Poker Performance and Positive Poker & co-host of the Poker on the Mind Podcast. Recently, I was asked by one of your moderators if I would be interested in fielding some of your mental game questions and here I am!

    I'm an avid poker player as well as a licensed psychotherapist & former psychology professor. My specialty area is peak performance psychology & I have extensive training in positive psychology and sport psychology, too. I work with a pretty wide range of poker players on issues related to maximizing performance (habits, goal setting, managing emotions, etc.).

    I'm not too familiar with blackjack tournaments, but I've been told that there are some unique features that render mindset quite important.

    I'd love to hear any questions or concerns that you have around mindset issues & I'll do my best to give you some tips/strategies that you can put into practice or at the very least point you in the right direction for some good training materials.

    Who knows - maybe I'll get into blackjack next :)

    Monkeysystem and johnr like this.
  2. noman

    noman Top Member

    OK DR: Here goes. How does one fight against the presumption of failure, when the rate of success hovers around 25%.
    Monkeysystem, KenSmith and johnr like this.
  3. Great question! There are many facets, of course, but the first thing off the top of my head deals with motivation. What is your motivation for playing? Yes, the odds of success are low - but at least some players are able to succeed. Ask yourself: am I sufficiently motivated to succeed? (I assume the answer is yes because you're here :)

    Understand that motivation waxes and wanes. Some days it is easy to study and play and some days it is not. It is critical to build the habit of studying and playing to the degree that it becomes a non-negotiable and you do it whether you feel like it or not. This is a key trait of people who are successful across a variety of domains - whether sports, music, chess, language acquisition, etc.

    Second, seeing progress is a key component to motivation. Set small, achievable goals and track your progress on a daily basis (daily is best). Keep a spreadsheet or a chart where you can see it. Having a goal that is years in the making can be very de-motivating, so it's important to make it obvious in the short-term that you are making progress.

    Which goals should you set & how should you go about improving your game? Find the best players you can and work backwards to figure out what it is that they are doing to achieve their success. There may be books, videos, etc. to guide you on this and a coach can also be quite valuable. The key is to look at what they are doing that you are either not doing or need to improve upon doing. Then set up a strategy to learn the specific skill. It is best to break overall skill development into very small chunks and practice each chunk (while looking for and correcting any mistakes) over and over until you have that specific piece down. Then move on to the next piece.

    In poker there is a tendency to get mired in knowledge acquisition. We watch videos or read articles and books - all very passive activities & studies show skills do not development from knowledge alone. There must be a skill/practice component (drills on a particular skill). In poker, there is a myth that you will naturally develop expertise through playing time. Is it the same in blackjack?

    I want to stress this is a myth. More experience does need lead to better results & more success unless it is the right kind of experience. Specifically, we have to find ways to drill so we can eradicate mistakes and make correct plays more often. Do this enough and success will start to come more frequently.

    Success in any endeavor does not come easily and it is especially tough in gambling games because we do have a luck factor to deal with and (in poker at least) we can do everything right and get the wrong result. Of course, over the long-term variance evens out and skill determines those who beat the game.

    If you want to increase your odds of success, it is certainly possible - but not easy - which is why most people plateau out and never achieve what they are truly capable of.

    Let me know your thoughts. I'm interested in seeing what you think! Hopefully, there are a few kernels of wisdom in this wall of text that you can use!
  4. gronbog

    gronbog Top Member

    I fight against the presumption of failure by tracking my results against what is expected. If my expected success rate is 25%, then I am happy if I achieve or overachieve that mark. I think that it is important to research what is expected by any means available to you before committing your hard-earned cash. This means understanding the expectation, variance and risk of ruin ahead of time.

    Having said that, I will admit to periods of self doubt during the times when things are running below expectation. I once had an entire year where it seemed like an unending series of unlikely events and bad-beats prevented me from advancing out of the first round of every tournament I played. I lost a lot of confidence and it got so that I began predicting my own demise especially when things were looking good.

    To escape this negative mind set, I used my resources to reconfirm that my strategies were sound and to see if there was any way to improve. Eventually things returned to match expectation, as did my attitude.
  5. Monkeysystem

    Monkeysystem Top Member Staff Member

    Hi Dr. Cardner,

    Thank you for joining our site!

    I guess through years of experience playing this high-variance game of tournament blackjack, I've had the good and bad swings.

    It's tempting to change your game because of a run of bad luck. But don't let a run of bad luck be the sole reason for changing your game. If your strategic approach to the game has brought you success in the past, that should encourage you to ride out the bad run until your sound strategy brings you back on track.

    If you decide to alter your strategic approach to the game during a bad run, make sure you have sound, logical reasons for the specific changes you make. "I've been losing every time I play" is not a sound, logical reason! Post your ideas for the change you're thinking about here on the forum. That way you'll get good feedback that is not biased by a bad run of cards.
    johnr likes this.
  6. noman

    noman Top Member

    DR: More than a few kernels: And only two days to digest before entering the fray. I have to correlate your advice on the mental side with Monkey's Optimal Game Theory. My mind is about to explode. But, if I take it one step, one fraction of a kernel at a time, maybe there'll be success. IE: finishing in the money.

    A side note for the DR. I've always advocated one has to play to experience the possibilities. But to your point,"play with a purpose" to learn from mistakes and avoid them in the future. Thank you for the detailed response.
    johnr and Monkeysystem like this.
  7. Monkeysystem

    Monkeysystem Top Member Staff Member

    Noman are we going to correlate at the bar at Buffalo Run thus weekend? :)
    johnr and KenSmith like this.
  8. noman

    noman Top Member

    johnr and Monkeysystem like this.
  9. noman

    noman Top Member

    gronbog: Like your response. You are, and have the means and acumen to be, more analytical than I could ever dream. But your point to setting realistic expectations is well taken. Correcting mistakes can be a a wack a mole, if one unknowingly tries to correct a mistake with another mistake.
    johnr likes this.
  10. TJ4justice

    TJ4justice Member

    I am curious as to how the doctor feels about self hypnosis to help you play your best game that you can possibly play. Could it be effective? I think it helps me to focus on the tournament and make good plays. Any thoughts?
  11. Self-hypnosis can most certainly be effective. If you use it as a means to relax and clear your mind and focus on what your intentions are for a session, it can be valuable.

    It is not a cure-all of course and won't work for all people. Hypnosis is contraindicated for people with certain types of mental disorders (psychosis comes to mind as do some of the personality disorders).

    I'm a fan of developing your technical/strategic game to its highest level and using tools like self-hypnosis as icing on the cake. I don't want to promote the idea that self-hypnosis (or guided hypnosis or visualization in general) can take the place of thorough preparation because that's just not so.

    I'm just curious, how did you come to learn about self-hypnosis?
    johnr, Monkeysystem and KenSmith like this.
  12. TJ4justice

    TJ4justice Member

    I have been playing tournaments for a very long time, I have read Wongs book at least 10 times and memorised all of the tables, all of Ken Smiths books, but it seemed I would make dumb mistakes every once in a while that would cost me a tournament, even though I would later realize my mistake. A friend of mine helps people to quit smoking and other issues by hypnosis. I had him work with me because it seemed I would make idiot mistakes at the tournament table. So he taught me self-hypnosis. Since that time I use self-hypnosis right before a tournament and I think it helps me focus and block out any outside factors. My in the money percentage has jumped from around 25% to 42% and for 2018 I was Arizona Tournament Player of the year. So for me I can see a big improvement.
    johnr, KenSmith and Monkeysystem like this.
  13. Monkeysystem

    Monkeysystem Top Member Staff Member

    I've been playing poker tournaments online regularly since this COVID plague started. I noted a loss of focus in my game. My work offered us a free mindfulness webinar and I took it. I have to say it improved my focus in everything I do, including poker and my job. In blackjack tournaments you have to be really on top of it in the last few hands of an elimination round, especially the last hand. The mind races. The heart pounds. Mindfulness training would be a huge benefit to a blackjack tournament player.
    gronbog and johnr like this.
  14. johnr

    johnr Top Member

    Suggestions on how to get mindfulness training?
    BughouseMaster likes this.
  15. Monkeysystem

    Monkeysystem Top Member Staff Member

    Udemy has some, along with meditation and sleep courses. They often have specials where you can get a course for about $12. Some are already that cheap. But sometimes they mark down the long, high-quality, expensive ones up to 90% off. Sign up and subscribe to their email newsletter.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2020
    johnr likes this.
  16. johnr

    johnr Top Member

    Thank you, from Buffalo Run this evening.
  17. BughouseMaster

    BughouseMaster Active Member

    This "mindfulness" thing is quite interesting! I am a Court Reporter, cook, trumpet player, blackjack player, chess player, and could definitely benefit from better FOCUS!!!
    Wm. O. Woodward likes this.
  18. BughouseMaster

    BughouseMaster Active Member

    Very interesting! What big tournaments have you done & placed? What were your best results? Have you done any of the UBT ones? I haven't been a member of this forum for too-too long, but haven't heard of you before as one of the "tournament experts" on this forum. Would be interested to learn more about your blackjack past tournaments/stories/etc. I'm relatively new to the blackjack tournament seen compared to many people here, but did manage to win 1st & 2nd at Hard Rock Biloxi's monthly tourney in Dec 2019 & Feb 2020.

Share This Page