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Poker Psychology. By Tyler Coates. Sports Psychology: the study of the psychological and mental factors that influence and are influenced by participation and performance in sport, exercise, and physical activity. Sports Psychology.

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poker psychology

Poker Psychology

By Tyler Coates

sports psychology

Sports Psychology: the study of the psychological and mental factors that influence and are influenced by participation and performance in sport, exercise, and physical activity.

Sports Psychology
poker psychology1

Poker Psychology: The study of the psychological and mental factors that influence and are influenced by participation and performance in mind sports that contain a monetary wager.

Poker Psychology
mind sport

Mind Sport: a sport or a game of skill, where the mental component is much more significant then the physical.

Mind Sport

The act of wagering ones money on a sport or game of skill amplifies the psychological factors that influence performance.

sports vs poker psychology

Sports Psychology focuses on the mental aspect of physical sports.

While Poker Psychology takes these studies and applies them to mind sports that involve wagers.

Sports vs. Poker Psychology
the million dollar question

“Why is there a disconnect between ones skill and level, and how they perform?” Why are we unable to consistently compete at the top of our abilities, and how does one train themselves to perform better?

The Million Dollar Question
mental coaching

-The role of a mental coach is to help students play as good as they already know how. Everyone performs at a level much lower then their skill.

-A winning player posses the ability to beat, at least, two limits higher then they are currently playing.

-The most efficient way to move up is to improve your ability to perform at the higher level. You already have all the necessary poker skills.

-U.S. Open

Mental Coaching
win rates

Win rate does not portray ones skill level, instead it represents average performance.

Using the grading scale

A: Exceptional

B: Above Average

C: Average

D: Below Average

F: Full Blown Tilt

Win rates
how good are you really

If someone’s win rate is 3BB/100, then what does this really mean?

A game: wins at a much higher rate ~10BB/100+

B game: wins at a slightly higher rate ~4BB-10BB/100

C game: wins at 3BB/100

D game: ranges from break-even to 2BB/100

F game: Anything worst than break even

How Good Are You Really?
performance vs variance

Performance always trumps variance. When you perform above expectation, then your winning at a bigger rate.

Higher win rates equal less variance


Performance vs. Variance
out of control

It’s important to understand that how well you perform on any given day is completely out of your control. If this was under your control, then wouldn’t you choose to play A+ game all the time?

Out of Control

What is under your control are the choices that you make right now. Decisions made in the present, affect your ability to perform in the near future. There is no way to guarantee a good performance, but there are ways to increase/decrease the likelihood.

choices that affect future performance

-Playing too much/not enough

-Balancing poker and life

-Being well rested, nourished, and hydrated

-Having too much to drink

-Reaction to losses, either by learning or self-pity.


-Bankroll/Money Management

Choices That Affect Future Performance

Having one good dinner here and there, or meditating a few times a month will have little to no affect on performance. This process should be treated like exercise for the brain, all pieces of the puzzle are required to see results. Exercise means nothing if it’s not regular, and regular exercise means little without proper diet.


Levels of confidence is what most drastically affects ones ability to perform. Ask yourself how confident you feel about your game, and get a really good idea of how you’re going to perform. If you can be honest enough with yourself, then you can learn to greatly minimize downswings, and maximize on upswings.

signs of low self confidence

-Low energy levels/motivation

-Doubting your reads

-Feelings of self doubt/pity

-Unconstructively focusing on the past

-Feeling like everything is out of your control

Signs of Low Self Confidence
managing low confidence levels

-focus on what’s under your control

-Drop down in stakes

-Cut back on number of tables

-Review your play

-Recognize common mistakes and causes

-Admit feeling guilty

-Focus on learning instead of winning

-Get into the beginners state of mind

-Take a break

Managing Low Confidence Levels
signs of high confidence levels

-Easily accessing empowering emotions

-feeling passionate, invigorated, enthused and energetic

-feeling completely in control

-having full trust in your reads

-trusting your abilities to cope with the everyday stresses of poker.

Signs of High Confidence Levels
managing high confidence levels

-Challenge yourself, and get out of your comfort zone

-Take aggressive shots when games are good

-Add on a table or two

-Get in as many hands as possible

-Watch out for feelings out arrogance/overconfidence

-Remember that poker isn’t always this fun and exciting

Managing High Confidence Levels
virtuous and vicious cycles

Virtuous and vicious cycles are economic terms that refer to an event that reinforces itself through a feedback loop.

Most commonly referred to as the snowball effect.

Confidence works in this type of cycle.

Virtuous and Vicious Cycles
virtuous cycle

When you feel confident about your game and motivated to play, then you will perform at high levels. Good performances lead to good results, which increase levels of confidence. More confidence leads to even better performances, and so on.

Virtuous Cycle
the vicious cycle

The vicious cycle occurs when low levels of performance lead to losing. Losing leads to self doubt and feeling contempt. Thus motivation levels drop, and less time is spend playing/practicing. The more intense vicious cycles can put even the biggest bankrolls in danger.

The Vicious Cycle
which way is your ball moving

Variance is what gets the ball moving in either direction. Virtuous and vicious cycles add momentum, which we can never fully control. However, we can increase performance exponentially by learning how to better manage these cycles.

Which way is your ball moving?
change is lifestyle

Doing so requires a change in lifestyle.

This is not easy, if it was everyone would be crushing.

Learning advanced poker strategy has recently become relatively easy.

And guess what? Relatively, everyone is doing it, however they aren’t all winning!

Learning how to perform requires complete dedication and commitment.

Change is Lifestyle

The ability to perform, is much more valuable then level of skill. Sophisticated strategy is useless without execution. Beating lower limits simply requires the ability to execute fundamentals. Properly implementing the advanced concepts that you already know is all that it takes to win at higher limits.