Interview with poker mind coach Jared Tendler
Monday, 9 May 2011
Having the right mindest is crucial to becoming successful in poker but is often overlooked by many players. We talk to top mental coach Jared Tendler whose new book, The Mental Game of Poker, will point you in the right direction.
So for those of us who don’t know who you are, take us through your career?
For the last three plus years I’ve been solely working as a mental game coach for poker players. I began in golf because I was an aspiring professional golfer and knew golf really well. I got into poker thanks to Dusty Schmidt [super-grinder “leatherass”]. I got my introduction to the poker world then and I’ve been slowly wiggling my way deeper and deeper into it since. It’s been great.
It’s pretty difficult to get out of the poker world once you enter it, isn’t it?
[laughs] Yeah, I’m finding that for sure.
The other major book on the market regarding the psychological aspect of the game is The Poker Mindset by Hilger & Taylor. I found that whereas they detailed how to deal with variance and explaining how downswings aren’t tangible things but products of a standard deviation, you seem to go more in-depth and psychologically address the root cause of tilt. Others say “stop tilting” and you ask “why are you tilting?”
Yeah, my sense about how tilt was viewed in general was that it was very broad. I think in that book, and in many others, tilt is basically looked at as being anything less than your best game. Tilt is really just anger; when you realise that you can go in-depth and explore tilt further, break down the problem.
I guess the way I would frame the difference between The Mental Game of Poker and other works is that they were like the earlier books in poker strategy – they kind of laid the foundation, got people interested in the game and the psychology of it. I just kind of took and moved it farther and deeper into the psychological side of things because that’s my knowledge base. As I say in the book, I’m a fish in most poker games so for me to talk strategy would be truly talking out of my ass.
Hilger & Taylor, Tommy Angelo and others did a nice job of kind of getting the ball rolling and I just ran with it. If you look at their backgrounds, none of them have a degree in psychology. I have a Master’s in Counselling and spent several years getting a license as a therapist so I have the psychological training and I just had to put that in the context of poker and combine it with my interest in poker and improving performance. That’s essentially what the book is a by-product of – plus the hundred to two hundred clients I’ve worked with over the years.
Going back to how tilt is simply viewed as playing less than your best – in the book you write that saying “I went on tilt and lost three buy-ins” is like analysing a hand by saying “I had Ace-Queen in the small blind, the button raised to $12 and then I made a technical mistake and lost my stack.”
There was a client I reference in the book, “rickjamesb1atch” who said that when she first started playing not only was tilt talked about in general terms but it was almost talked about as being part of the game, as though it were built into the rules that if you lose or get three-outered or make a silly call you get pissed off and that’s just what happens. Obviously it doesn’t have to be that way.
In your book there are actually seven types of tilt that you break down. I actually recognised elements of all seven in my game which was a little scary at first.
[laughs] Yeah, it’s easy to look at them and think “holy crap how screwed am I?” Were there any that jumped out in particular?
Yeah, entitlement tilt and hate-losing tilt were probably the overriding ones. I was a little offended that my brand of tilt was referred to as “Phil Hellmuth tilt”...
Yeah, that was a little bit of the point.
Is there one type of tilt that you find overwhelmingly common amongst players or is it a fairly even distribution?
That’s interesting. I’d say that of the seven [Injustice tilt, Hate-Losing tilt, Entitlement tilt, Mistake tilt, Desperation tilt, Revenge tilt and Running Bad tilt] the least common – but probably the least common because it’s less recognised by players – is Mistake tilt. Take that out and the other six are equally as common; in any given week talking to clients or answering forum questions I’ll be talking about all six.
One of the graphs in the book I found very interesting – it showed a bell curve where on either side of the curve were having too much emotion and not enough. Most people associate tilt with too much emotion but could you explain the opposite end of the spectrum?
Yeah, I think a lot of players react like: “I’m tilting, therefore the answer is no emotion.” With no emotion there’s no anger so they try to become robotic and desensitised to money. Ideally, though, you have a balanced amount of emotion. If you’re emotionless you’re numb and neutral, it’s very difficult to perform over long periods of time like that. You can do it for a couple of days here and there but if you don’t have that motivation and will to really get into the action and focus then you can’t perform. If your emotion gets too high you will of course perform badly but if your emotion gets too low then you will also perform badly. You’ll be playing as badly as if you’re half-awake or bored out of your mind.
So when people say that players like Ivey and Patrik are the best because they’re emotionless robots it’s actually that they have the perfect balance of emotion?
Yeah, exactly. What they’ve done is they’ve gotten rid of the negative emotion and what remains is... I don’t want to say something like “pure focus” but it’s along those lines. It’s something very few people understand, including myself, so it’s hard to describe. It’s a balanced energy that is not neutral or bad but it’s also not too low. It’s just into the action and in the zone.
Your basic guide as to how to use this book is read the first, foundation chapters and then read the sections that apply to you, is that right?
Yeah and the reason behind that is because whether you’re learning poker strategy or learning the mental game you have to learn the material. A lot of people get that part wrong – I give some examples of clients who did get it wrong, including Dusty. Having a solid foundation for how you learn – which the first chapters give you – makes it easier to not just get my material and stuff it into your head but to actually turn it into something that’s useful.
I think a lot of people have that problem. My winrate actually went down after joining a training site because I was like “well I’ve watched a Brian Townsend video so poker is easy now”.
One of my descriptions of a Mental Game Fish is someone who watches a training video and presumes they can crush the games. There’s a lot of Mental Game Fish out there, though, so you’re the only one in the pond.
I assume it’s a pretty big pond. OK, so someone buys this book and it improves their game. Why should they still pay four figures for your private coaching packages?
Well there’s two reasons that come to mind immediately. One of them is the element of mastery; it’s all about detail. There are more details that can be personalised to each player that go beyond this book. What you get from me is the ability to brainstorm and come up with unique solutions or problem-solving for your particular issue.
The other thing is that the mental game continues to evolve. What the book has done is created a point in time where this is the best of what I knew of the mental game to date but I actually had to cut it down by six chapters. That included a lot of A-Game, performance, The Zone stuff that I couldn’t include. It may end up being a volume two but I don’t want to make promises. Through my coaching you can get access to all of this material.
Fair enough. On the opposite end of the spectrum, what if someone has tilted off their bankroll and can’t afford your coaching or the book? Any advice you can give them without costing yourself money?
Honestly I would say go to jaredtendlerpoker.com and read the content. I have a lot of articles up there including several for Bluff Europe. I’m writing articles all the time, they can also post a question to me on Two Plus Two, Cardschat or my own forum. You can e-mail me if you want personalised advice... there’s just so much content that that’s your best bet for free stuff. In the short-term, one piece of advice would be... let’s see... treat your mental game like you do poker.
What I mean by that is analyse your mental game as you would poker. If you can really understand your own problems then even if you don’t yet have the solutions you’ll be far better off than just randomly scouring the Internet to find solutions. That would be the simple advice – treat it like improving your technical game.
OK, lastly is there anything further you want to say about the book?
To sum up I’d say it’s a good combination of theory, practical strategies and client stories. The three of those I think interact really well so people should be able to take from that, personalise it and make use of it themselves. That was something really important to me, I didn’t just want to throw out information and say “use this”. The more they are helped, the better it reflects on the quality of my work which is what matters.
The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler & Barry Carter is available for order now at mentalgameofpoker.com. You can read up on Jared and his work at jaredtendlerpoker.com