Friday, May 8, 2009

Mental Coaching & NLP

As I slowly delve deeper into the poker world, I'm understanding more and more how dangerous tilt can be. If an amateur tilts, no big deal. Poker's just a game. They are playing with chump change. And they end up losing just a little bit faster than they would've expected. If a pro tilts, its easily 10X worse. Their livelihood is at stake. And given the volume they do, the effects can be multiplied over many more games. Plus, it's such a tough situation to mentally reconcile positive expectations with negative actual results. As someone in a forum said, "Poker's a great second job, and a horrible first job."

There's been some discussion about mental coaching, with Tommy Angelo being the most famous of them. I definitely appreciate the value of that, given that a majority of poker plays are standard and mathematically optimized already. Seems like emotional and bankroll control probably do a lot to separate entire classes of players.

I can't really afford the services of a mental coach ($100+ / hr), so I figured I could do a good bit of legwork on my own. From my experiences with the pickup artist community, they've greatly stressed the benefits of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) for self-help and behavior modification. I picked up an audio book and have been listening to it today. Here are the 5 basic principles.
  1. The map is not the territory.
  2. Experience has a structure.
  3. If one person can do something, anyone can learn to do it.
  4. The mind and the body are part of the same system
  5. People have all the resources they need.
All in all, it sounds very self-reliant and empowering. When they say the map is not the territory, they refer to our emotions and perceptions, which are not reality. If we can learn to change our experience of a situation, then we change our reality of it. Success therefore becomes emulating certain habits of others. It does seem a little more New Age-ish than I'm used to, but I'm definitely open to self-improvement.
"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible."
-- Lawrence of Arabia


  1. Hey, you should go on Deuce plays podcast and get the one where Bart Hansen interviews Tommy Angelo. It is amazing

  2. Mental toughness is definitely an overlooked part of the game (I'm guilty of this too). I picked up a sports psychology book that HokieGreg recommended (that applies well to poker) called Mind Gym. There are few golden nuggets of wisdom in there...

    I wrote a post on it here: