I play poker for a living. I love being my own boss, setting my own hours, and doing something fun for a job. But at times it can be boring, terrifying, depressing, or just generally make you want to punch a metal door. With your face. So to avoid punching too many metal doors, it's imperative to cultivate a proper mindset to maintain throughout each session. Following the advice of Stoxpoker mental game coach Jared Tendler, I made a little warm up video to help me achieve this mindset.
The second slide of the video says:
- Relaxed Focus
Relaxed Focus: I call this Zen-lite. Literally it's about living in the moment. Operating at peak alertness and awareness, but not by straining. Introducing unwanted tension (mental or physical) saps your strength. This extra tension is wasted energy. Energy spent doing something which doesn't need doing. A lot of the emotions that arise at the poker table create tension, thus it can be useful to reduce the amount of emotion floating around. This isn't done by forcing them out of your head, but by observing them and allowing them to pass. This self-observation will help later in removing the cause of unwanted emotion, but that's a topic for a different day.
Honest: It may seem odd that I remind myself to be honest just before playing a game which hinges on bluffing and deception. My intention is not to be honest with my opponents. It's to be honest with myself. There are times at the poker table (as in life) where you know what you're supposed to do. But you talk yourself out of it. A poker example would be where you call down when you know that the odds aren't there, but you don't want to fold, so you convince yourself that your opponent may be bluffing. Your intellect and your instinct told you to do one thing, but you did another. Doubt? Fear? Perhaps.
Fearless: The trick is to not give a shit. Yankee fans beware: I'm going to use the 2004 Red Sox as an example. These guys didn't care that they were down three games to none. They didn't care that they were facing the best closer of all time. It was simply see ball, hit ball, steal base, score run, win ballgame. That's the absence of fear of failure. The majority of competitors pay too much attention to the forest when they should be looking at the trees.
Those same Red Sox can teach us more. In the first game of the World Series they made four errors and blew a five run lead. Manny Ramirez fell down. Twice. The whole team looked like a bunch of, well, idiots. But they didn't give a shit. They weren't worried about screwing up. They weren't looking at the fans covering their eyes. They were looking at the trees.
In poker it's easy to worry about what your opponents think of you. In fact, it's important to know how they perceive you since it affects how they play against you. But it's not important to impress them. And worrying about what they think about you can only get in your way. As long as you're not afraid to be honest with yourself, it's easy to consistently make good decisions. In poker and in life. So relax.