The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler & Barry Carter

The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler & Barry Carter

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

By Matt Perry

The Gospel of Matthew [Perry], 1:40-43
40 A man with severe tilting problems came to Him and begged Him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me Ivey.”

41 Jared was filled with compassion. He reached out His hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said. “Be Zen!” Immediately the tilt left him and he was cleansed.

42 Jared sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. Go, instead, to the tables and make the plays that Taylor Caby has taught thee.”

43 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jared could no longer enter a poker site openly and yet the people still came to Him from everywhere. So he wrote a book.

Now, I’m not saying that Jared Tendler is Jesus Christ. I’m just making an argument that the two are analogous; plus, if you jumble up the letters and add an ‘s’ in there and swap in a ‘u’… Anyway, if you’re the kind of player who dissects ranges with a fine toothcomb, studies 3-betting fundamentals, analyses tricky turn spots to death and yet still can’t seem to make progress without giving back all your hard-earned chips in a fit of madness, Jared could well be your saviour.

We all know what tilt is. Tilt is getting one-outered and playing more than your, or even Tom Dwan’s, fair share of hands to win it back. Tilt is making a good call but running into the top of your opponent’s range, blinding you to the +EV play and making you scared money, folding all but the nuts to a river bet. Tilt is losing a small pot and letting your ego take over your brain, spewing off chips left, right and centre. It’s that, but so much more.

Jared Tendler was an aspiring professional golfer when he began researching the mental game of golf. Those unfamiliar with bunkers and five-irons won’t know that there is variance in golf, but a change in wind or an unusual lay of green is just as much a part of the game as downswings and runner-runner flushes are a part of poker. Jared wound up putting enough letters behind his name, including a Masters’ in Counselling, to work on being a mental game coach full-time.

It was through golf that he met golfing-prodigy-turned-hardcore-grinder Dusty “leatherass” Schmidt, whose own literature you may recognise from previous reviews in these hallowed pages. Since meeting Dusty, Jared has coached over 150 poker players from 23 countries around the world, many of whom have gone on to win seven figures after mastering their mental game. His articles, interviews and training videos at have been consistently popular with those who need help with the non-technical side of poker and the release of his book, co-written by eminent poker writer Barry Carter, has caused ripples – no – waves of excitement in the poker world.

So, how’s this for a disclaimer on a book review: I’ve probably read no more than 55 per cent of the content at the time of writing [You’re fired – Ed.]. Hear me out, though. As Jared himself writes, “this is like a choose-your-own-adventure-book” and you can pick and choose what sections to read after the introductory four chapters. If you 3-bet the flop, turn to page 49; if you fold to the check-raise, turn to page 17.

The first four chapters of the book give an overview of Jared’s career and relationship with poker, go over psychological learning models and explore some basic concepts, introduce us to emotion and how it works, and finally Jared gives us ways to control emotion and tilt in-game briefly with a process known as Injecting Logic (take deep breaths and count to ten, essentially). After the first four chapters I already found that I was calmer at the tables and only got frustrated or started to tilt on a few occasions in several thousand hands. Prior to this I was hard-pressed to go three orbits on any given table without getting at least a tad miffed by something.

The rest of the book covers a broad spectrum of different types of tilt (there are seven!) before discussing fear, motivation and confidence (or lack thereof) at the tables. Since you’re curious, the seven deadly tilts are: Running Bad Tilt, Injustice Tilt, Hate-Losing Tilt, Mistake Tilt, Entitlement Tilt, Revenge Tilt and Desperation Tilt. Now you might be confused, which is fair enough. I’ll let the man himself explain: “In general, poker players don’t analyze tilt in the same way they would a poker hand. Instead, their analysis of tilt is the mental game equivalent of analyzing a hand like this:

“‘I’m in the small blind, it’s folded to the cut off who raises to $10, I have ace-queen suited, then I make a technical mistake and lose my stack.
“The definition of tilt is so broad it basically includes everything except playing great poker. To fix tilt you have to know why you played badly. Only when you know the cause of your poor play can you devise a specific strategy to fix it.”

This book, and the various in-depth chapters on different types of tilt, aim to fix the root causes of tilt. Tilting is generally considered a part of the game – an inevitable aspect of poker, such as bad beats and coolers – rather than an issue that compounds the impact of them. My personal path through this book was a roundabout one. After reading the introductory chapters I looked at the seven types of tilt and saw elements of all of them in my game. That gave me a shock, but then I realised I wasn’t totally screwed when I examined them in depth and discovered that a few were certainly more prevalent.

Entitlement Tilt seemed to fit me and I was a bit offended to see that it was described as “classic Phil Hellmuth tilt”. Jared had laughed at that and told me that was a little bit of the point. Phil Hellmuth “often reacts in ways that suggest he believes his previous accomplishments have earned him the right to win, regardless of how he currently plays.” I lost track of whether that described Hellmuth (11 WSOP bracelets, eight figures in cashes) or myself (several pub and casino final tables, four figures in cashes).

The next problem was Hate-Losing Tilt, specifically trying to win every pot I play. That’s ridiculous, I know, but at the tables it seems possible even as my VPIP climbs into the high forties. That’s all I can really tell you about the book because you need to read it for yourself and find out what can help you. However, I’m nearly tilt-free for 8,000 hands since reading it which is a career record.

With a price tag of $50 (£35 approx) this is expensive relative to most things on the shelf at Waterstone’s but I honestly believe if you are going to buy a poker book then make it this one. This book contains advice that simply isn’t out there on forums or training sites (except at and and could well be the most important book you ever read.

The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler & Barry Carter is available for $49.95 at

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Tags: The Mental Game of Poker, Strategy, Psychology, Jared Tendler, Barry Carter, Matt Perry