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NY Giant Doubt

Posted by Jared Tendler

I’m a NY Giants fan. In the run up to the NFC Championship game, I’ve been paying closer attention to what the players and coaches have been saying in the media. Gives me a chance to get a glimpse into how they’re doing mentally, and then connect my estimate to how I see them perform. It’s a great way for me to learn and continue to test my perception. (Plus, with the Giants doing so well, it makes paying close attention even more fun.)

I came across this article about Justin Tuck, the team’s defensive captain. He’s been battling injuries all season and made some interesting comments about how he’s been able to deal with them much better in the past several weeks.

While the injuries haven’t healed, he’s played significantly better because of his attitude towards them. That’s why I’m sharing this article, his situation is very different from what any of you will face, but there’s a lesson to learn.

This is the quote that I keyed in on from the article:

Training Mental Toughness

Posted by Jared Tendler

There’s a great article in the NY Times today about elite tennis players training mental toughness. This quote epitomizes what the article is about and is something I’ve been pushing poker players to realize for the past several years:

The brain, like a muscle, gets stronger when pushed to the point of failure. In “Rafa,” his recently published autobiography, Rafael Nadal articulated what becomes patently obvious to anyone at the Open who watches the parade of players hitting on the practice courts.

“‘If you watch the No. 10 player in the world and the No. 500 in training, you won’t necessarily be able to tell who is higher up in the rankings,’ Nadal wrote. ‘Without the pressure of competition, they’ll move and hit the ball much the same way.’”

But in the caldron of competition, cooler, clearer heads prevail.

Real mental toughness doesn’t happen by forcing yourself to be fearless or tiltless or supremely confident once or twice. You have to train it by pushing yourself to develop real mental skill and proper mental technique.

The problem is that many poker players, athletes, and people in all walks of life, react to mentally failing under pressure so negatively they can’t use that failure to become stronger mentally. When you’re in the gym lifting weights and your muscles are so tired they can’t push any farther, that’s failure. When you’re playing poker and a bad beat causes so much anger that you can’t control how you play thereafter, that’s failure. Both are equal in their opportunity to increase strength, however, tilt is rarely seen that way.

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Mental Game Tips for November Nine

Posted by Jared Tendler

The November Nine successfully played their way past 6854 players, and now to become champion, they need to successfully navigate the next few months. I’ve coached professional golfers to handle the intensity of the spotlight and big tournaments. In the past 4 years I’ve done the same for pro poker players and I know firsthand what the November Nine will experience. The bottom line is this: What each player does between now and the final table, plays a part in determining the eventual winner.

I watched a lot of the action from the rail over the final four days, and witnessed firsthand players crumbling under the pressure. The November Nine, however, not only played great and ran well, they’re among the strongest mentally. I didn’t observe any major mental leaks in their game. That of course, doesn’t mean they’re without weaknesses, or won’t develop any over the next few months. Every player on the planet has tactical and mental leaks, even if slight.

With over two month until they face the biggest test of their poker career and the cost of a poor decision potential a million dollars (or more), here are a few tips to help the November Nine enter the Penn & Teller Theater prepared to become champion:

Mentally Transitioning to Live Poker

Posted by Jared Tendler

Moving from 20 tables to 1 is a topic that was written about a lot even before Black Friday. Since then, it’s been written about even more, and nearly every training site has instructions on how to make the transition a profitable one.

My goal here is not to give you specific advice about playing live, instead, I want to give you an overall strategy/plan that will help you to make the transition faster and more successful.

When making the transition from online to live,
don’t assume you're going to sit down and crush.

Making a successful transition (in anything really) first and foremost requires you to learn the necessary skills. On the surface, poker is poker, but the differences between live and online poker are different enough that if you aren’t organized in how you make the transition, major problems can trip you up.

From the mental side of things, are you prepared to handle the following?

• Being card dead for 200 hands (now lasts 6 hours).
• Dealing with a host of characters at the table being loud, obnoxious, or even just distractingly friendly.
• Hiding your emotions from your opponents.

No matter how many tables you were able to crush online, you can’t expect to show up to one table and crush without making any adjustments. How much you have to learn is unclear (or if you’ve been doing it for the past 2 months you already know). However, if you’re really committed to learning to play one table live, take 30 days as a transition period and work at it, as you would learning anything new. If you don’t, being overconfident about your live game will force you to overlook the small details needed to be successful long-term.

Surplus of Focus

You’ve spent years training to play 6, 10, and 20+ hands at once, and now you’re playing 30 hands/hour. That means you have a surplus of focus/attention and don’t yet know what to use it on. With so much of your game used to making automatic decisions, now this extra focus needs to find new things to learn otherwise you’re going to get bored.

You need to embrace the dynamics of live play, and learn how to read opponents better, perhaps even improve how you exploit weaker players, etc. Use that extra attention to dig deeper into the details of live action. Whatever it is that you decide is necessary for you to improve, work at. If you can’t think of anything, it’s not because the opportunity isn’t there, you’re just not looking hard enough. There is always something new to learn—always. It may not seem like there’s that much opportunity, but the reality is that you can’t know that until you really look.

To improve your focus try:

• Setting goal to focus as much as can on the action, and avoid thinking for more than a few minutes about anything but poker. This is necessary to retrain poker brain for live play. Multi-tabling in essence is multi-tasking. Avoid using your extra focus to think about non-poker things.

• What you recognize that you’ve been distracted, work hard to refocus on the action by taking a few deep breaths, reminding yourself of your overall poker goals and the common poker mistakes you make while distracted (for example, forgetting to put player’s on a range, autofolding weak hands, etc). Doing this, retrains your surplus of focus for the live game.

Mental Game Issues Reemerge

Issues like tilt, overconfidence, fear, etc, that you previously were successful in correcting in your online game, may come back when you play live. The reason is that your actual skill playing online poker, helps to buffer these issues and makes them appear to have been solved. The same thing happens when online players change games, say from NL to PLO, or 6-max to HU.

It’s better to expect that your mental game issues will show back up, rather than expecting they won’t. This way, you’ll review the old tactics that you used to solve your tilt problem, and will be ready encase it shows up. If it doesn’t show, then you know you truly have corrected it. If it does, you’re ready to minimize the damage, and make the correction.


It can be easy to get caught thinking about how much live poker sucks, and wishing you could play online again when card dead, losing big pots, or running bad. Whether for these or other reasons, you have to embrace the new reality of online poker, otherwise you’re missing the opportunity that exists right now.

It’s impossible to know what’s going to happen in the future—as I say in the book, “Poker players make shitty psychics.” However, if you get too caught up wishing the past was still real, then you’ll lose whatever opportunities may exist for you in the future. Focus on doing what’s necessary now, especially because it’s hard, and leave regret to your weaker-minded competitors.

Organized Learning

There’s edge to be gained by being able to understand your opponents tendencies, how to hide or disguise your own, and many others nuances of live poker. Take notes after every session you play. Review these notes the next time you play. Read books (Joe Navarro, Mike Caro), watch videos, talk with players, and other means to gain knowledge to go along with your building experience.

I’m stating the obvious. I’m stating it, because at times like these, sometimes the obvious is overlooked. Is it necessary to take/review notes? No. It just helps you to learn faster and avoid additional mental game problems.

Learning the live game as well as you know how to play online is going to take time. Follow my advice and it’ll take less time.

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35% off The Mental Game of Poker: One Week Only

Posted by Jared Tendler

The Mental Game of Poker is now available on!

We're excited and have decided to celebrate by giving you 35% off the retail price of $49.95 when you order before Friday, June 17th.

Get the book that's changing the rules on how the mental game is played.

The Mental Game of Poker isn't just another poker psychology or poker mindset book. It's a true advancement in the field and full of great advice that's helping players permanently, not just temporarily, solve problems with tilt, motivation, confidence, and more. The reason this book can offer such strong claims, is that it's based on methods proven to help over 170 players from around the world. What other book can say that?

It's hard for me on the one hand to be the author, and make such strong claims. It's not in my nature to be boastful, so I hope it's not coming off this way. I just know how valuable, unique, and powerful this material is, and I'm doing what I can to help you see that too. It almost feels a bit like the movie, The Game. Michael Douglas's character is a very wealthy man, who is set in his own ways and believes that his life is the best that it can be. It takes an outside company, hired by his brother, to shake him free of his outdated perspective.

It's dramatic and jarring, and a great movie if you haven't seen it. I'm not trying to be quite so dramatic. I just want to point out that what makes my material so valuable, is not just the advice I give, but the process by which you can take it, learn, and use it. There's a ton of great information out there, but the real question is: Can you use it to help you perform better mentally, and reach your potential as a player?

The secret is learning. The mental game is a skill. Every little piece that makes up tilt control, or the focus to play a ton of hours, or the confidence to sustain long-bad runs, can all be learned because it's a skill. Some people have these skills naturally, others have to learn them.

This book is for majority of you out there who are Mental Game Fish, and need to learn these skills. The way you're going to learn it best is when you understand the basic principles of learning, how the mind functions, and the role of emotion. With that in the background, the general strategy I lay out in Chapter 4 can help you solve any mental game issue once you've used the rest of the book to plug in specific advice that you need.

The question about whether you should buy this book or not, should not be based on importance of the mental game - that's obvious. The question is whether the material in my book can help you to solve issues that many poker players thing are just part of the game. Getting pissed off and tilting money because you lose in not just a fact of playing poker. Tilt does not have to be part of your game, and this book is proving that it can help you get rid of it.

It's not just me making these claims, there book is off to a great start with reviews:

"This book is the first of its kind and should be considered mandatory reading for any poker player."
- Hunter Bick, DragTheBar CEO (some random dude)

"Tendler and Carter also take a fresh approach and give you actionable things you can do to improve your mental game but also measure your improvement."
- Bill Rini, Legendary Blogger

"I'm a tilt monkey and finished the book with the confidence knowing I can diminish tilting at the tables."
- Paul "Tao Pauly" McGuire, Author, What is Jack Tripper Stole My Dog?

"Raises the bar so high for poker mindset books, other thinkers may not be able to clear it."
- Jack Welch, Poker Author, Editor & Player

"Tendler provides real steps and real answers for poker players involved in the day to day struggle who are too often beating themselves."
- Jesse May, PartyPoker

"This book contains advice that simply isn't out there."
- Matt Perry, Bluff Europe

"Quite simply it is the only book you will ever need regarding the mental side of poker."
- Matthew Pitt, Betfair

"The book is full of so many ways to help you improve your emotional control that they are literally spilling out from the pages."
- Lee Davy, Poker Journalist

"Concisely written, painstakingly detailed and fantastically insightful."
- Daniel Smyth, WPT Magazine

"Jared Tendler's book is by far and away the most advanced Poker book out there"
- Colin, Customer

"This is the most advanced, detailed information in one spot that I have ever seen on the mental side of poker."
- Charley, Customer

"I now easily see how losing players continue to be losing players...they are, 'Mental Game Fish.'"
- Rey, Customer

Find out for yourself what players from over 40 countries have already discovered - this book gives you a real edge and can quickly pay for itself. Order today!

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Worried about the US Situation? [Advice]

Posted by Jared Tendler

For the last three plus years since I’ve been in poker, the threat of online poker going away has been a fear that I’ve talked about with many of my clients. Mostly, we were talking about it because it was affecting their performance at that time, but we were also planning for this possibility.

In the panic that often sets in after such a shocking announcement, it can be hard to be objective. I hope this post can help you to be better at figuring out what to do, rather than getting overwhelmed by fear, confusion, and uncertainty.

It's hard to know what this means, but I do think it's important to avoid speculating or get caught up listening to others who are doing it. Stay tuned into facts, listen to credible people, and do what you think is best. It's easy to think only of the absolute worst case, and on one level it can be smart to prepare for that possibility, it also many not be the most helpful when ultimately figuring out what you need to do. Try to brainstorm some options so you're prepared to make decisions as more information becomes certain and avoid making premature definitive conclusions.

This situation is different for each of you. Your circumstances in life, mean that what you need right now is different – so I’m going to post a few general ideas/thoughts that I’ve had and see which fits best. I’m happy to expand on any of these, answer any questions, and help in any way I can.

Dealing with Fear

Part of what makes fear so difficult, it that like tilt, it overwhelms your ability to think clearly. The thinking part of your brain can’t do its job because it’s overwhelmed with emotion. Instead, whatever thoughts you do have ripping through your head have a hard time settling down. Images of the worst, uncertainty about your future, and how you’re going to make money cause more anxiety because there are no answers.

The antidote to fear is an answer you are certain about.

That may sound overly simplistic, but think about it logically, if you knew without a doubt, that you’d have all your money and online poker would be regulated in the US within 1 month, you would have nothing to fear.

Right now you’re looking for answers. The problem is that some of you are so desperate for answers you’ll listen to almost anything or anyone. That desperation is very similar to feeling desperate to win. You’ll do almost anything to shake this feeling because the uncertainty is almost too much to handle.

The reality is that there aren’t many answers out there right now. If you try to force an answer too soon, you’ll be making the same mistake if you were forcing the action because you need to win money right now. You have to stick to a sound and logical strategy.

Of course, there is no playbook for this spot. There is no equity calculations you can run to figure out what the best thing is for you to do. However, I do know how to help you figure out what is in your best interest. It’s going to take some work on your part. There are no easy answers right now, but you can make the situation a lot easier by following my advice. Eventually, this shit storm is going to turn into something positive for those of you who can see the opportunity that’s present right now. It is hard to see, especially when your vision is clouded by fear, but it’s there.

The one that’s most obvious is learning how to be resilient (I wrote a blog about this recently). The economic downturn that rocked the world three years ago, forced millions of people into a similar situation that you’re in, and thousands of them found ways to succeed through tough times. Learn from them. And perhaps more importantly, learn from the people who haven’t succeeded. Their story is a cautionary one and if you learn from what they didn’t do, or the mistakes they made, you’ll be in a better position to capitalize on this situation.

Bottom line: This isn’t a tragedy like the Tsunami in Japan. No poker players died yesterday. In the game of life you still have chips on the table. Your stack took a hit, but you’re not busto. You’re a smart group of people, you’re going to be fine. Is this going to be hard, absolutely. Some of you facing difficulty for the first time, but:

“Necessity…the mother of invention” - Plato

You’ll figure something out. You’ll get through it, and will be stronger mentally for it. I’ve had a bunch of thoughts the past 24 hours, here are a few things I’ve come up:

1. Book Excerpts.

I wasn’t planning on releasing any excerpts of the Fear chapter of my book, because tilt was a much bigger issue. Amazing how that can change in one day.Click here to view excerpts of the fear chapter - there's also a link there where you can download it. You need this now more than ever, and I think can really help you to focus on what’s most relevant right now.

2. Write.

(In the excerpts, I go into this more.) The biggest problem with fear, is that it can run wild if left unchallenged. Whether it’s just in your mind or in a group of players yacking about the situation, if you get caught up in a wave of fear, it becomes easy to lose all sense of objectivity, and you’ll make poor decisions.

What do you write about? Very simply write what’s on your mind. The way to get you thinking more clearly is to clear out the shit in your head. Write what you’re specifically worried/fearful about? What your biggest fears are? The thoughts, ideas and questions in your head. The mind is limited by how much you can think about at one time. Writing helps you dig through all the things in your head so you can think clearer.

Most importantly, try to identify the questions that are underlying your fear, and that you’re trying to answer. Subconsciously, that’s what the fear is really all about, and the first step is to determine specifically what questions you need answered.

  • What am I going to do for a job?
  • What if all my money is gone?
  • How am I going to live?
  • What are all my friends going to think?
  • Should I move overseas?
  • Should I play live?

The antidote to fear is an answer. Right now it’s impossible to know definitively what that answer is, and you’ll make the situation worse by trying to know definitively. Instead, gather information so you can pull the trigger when it’s time for you to act.

I wasn’t planning on releasing any excerpts of the Fear chapter of my book, because tilt was a much bigger issue. Click here to download excerpts of the fear chapter that I think can really help you to focus on what’s most relevant right now and what’s most likely going to help.

3. F*** regret.

I know there are some of you out there who are pissed you didn’t play more, didn’t work as hard, didn’t do X, Y, and Z. You had a window of opportunity and not it seems closed. The situation is hard enough as it is, do not get yourself bogged down thinking about the what ifs. The major reason is because it keeps you living in a fantasy. A fantasy world where you can dream about something positive. It’s a waste of time and energy, and makes you less prepared to make real decisions.

Its sucks right now. I’m not here to blow sunshine up your ass. I don’t think that’s useful. I’m here reminding you that there is opportunity out there, and it’s only going to show up for the ones who are actually dealing with reality rather than hiding in a fantasy to avoid how they feel.

4. Like the NFL Lockout.

Poker isn’t going away. There’s no chance a multi-billion dollar/year industry disappears. Instead, this period reminds me of the lockout going on in the NFL. There are hundreds of pro football players wondering when they’re going to get back to playing. Not all of them are rich btw. Of course there are those at the top, who want to get back to doing what they love and have no worries about money. But there are many of the marginal players who are in a much different situation.

I heard an interview from one player today on ESPN. He said that he’s going to keep working hard so he’s ready when the lockout ends. I realize the situation is very different, but some of you can take his advice. Keep working. Online poker will come back. When it does, will you be ready?

Even if you get a job and never play a hand of poker before online poker is regulated, your mental game issues aren’t going to change unless you work on them. The cool thing about the mental game is that you can work on it in other areas of your life. Sure poker may make these issues worse, but they tend to show up in other areas of life in smaller ways. If you’re new to my blog, there are many articles on here to read, old blogs, and forum posts.

5. December Blackout.

Last Nov/Dec there was a lot of chatter about the 18 month blackout in online poker if the Reid bill would have passed. At that time, you and others had thought – many of the probably very good – about how you would handle it. This situation has it’s obvious differences – so the planning/ideas you had then may not apply exactly. But, another difference between then and now is the level of panic, which ultimately has a direct impact on your level of sanity.

If you want a dose of sanity revisit the threads that popped up then, either to remind yourself of things that you wrote, or others. There’s a lot more clarity in figuring out what you’re going to do in those posts than in the threads right now.

6. Transferable Skills.

Some of you are going to have to get new jobs. It’s a reality. One thing I talked to clients about every time we discussed their fear of poker disappearing is transferable skills: the skills you learned in poker, that transfer to other professions. There are many of them, some completely unrecognized.

The biggest one is that you’ve been running a small business. It’s often under appreciated that you have to be the one making all the decisions about how you make money, and you have to be your primary asset that makes money. In other words, you’re a player/owner. It would be like the owner of the Yankees also playing. An extreme example yes, but think about all the different things you had to do to be profitable:

Decide what games to play. How long to play for. How to get yourself ready to play at your best. Decide what you do to improve. How long to study vs. play. Who to get help from. And none of this has anything to do with the actual decisions being made at the table.

There was no boss standing over you telling you to play. You were accountable to yourself. That’s hard. Not everyone can do it, and it’s a major reason why some players really struggle to get in enough volume.

If you made money playing poker, you ran a successful business. Figure out specifically how you did it. Being successful is something you can learn, and the traits are similar across professions. Identify the ones you have and know them well. They are the ones that you’re going to carry with you to your next profession.

Also look back on your time in poker and identify specifically what the steps were that you took to become a skilled player. There are a lot of things you did well. Have them written down so you know what steps you’re going to need to take to learn you’re next profession. Also, identify the mistakes that you made along the way, and be ready to fix those mistakes.

From the mental side of the coin, many of you have broken through a lot of the things that have kept you from having success in other things. Expect these same issues to come up again. Even though you eliminated them in poker, they are often connected to task specific skill. Meaning if you become an equity trader, go into sales, or another job, the same mental game issues will pop back up. Not usually to the same degree, but enough that if you aren’t prepared, could cause troubles.


This post became a lot longer than I expected, but I had a lot of thoughts on this today. I’m sure I’ll have more thought soon and will post them as I have them. If you have questions for me, my forum has is spotty. Send me your question via the contact form here, and I’ll either respond via email, or if it’s a question that I think can help others I’ll post it to my blog.

Do what you have to do to stay objective.


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Order The Mental Game of Poker Today!

Posted by Jared Tendler

After nearly two years of work, I’m excited to announce the launch of The Mental Game of Poker. To order the book, visit Purchase before April 27, and take advantage of a 20% discount.

This 242 page, soft cover book is comprehensive, while at the same time being straightforward and user friendly. It demystifies a lot of common wisdom, and gives you step-by-step instructions to produce lasting improvement in the most important mental game areas: tilt, fear, motivation, and confidence.

Poker is tougher than ever. The mental game is the next place to gain an edge. If you don’t see how much value there is to improving your mental game, just think about how much issues like tilt have cost you in the past. The book will pay for itself in no time!

On the website, you’ll find more details, including excerpts, a trailer, and stories from the nine clients featured. The first review is in…click here to read it!

The book is scheduled to complete printing the last week of April and will ship out immediately once it’s done. If you any have questions you can post them in my thread here.

Now is the time to take your mental game head on, order The Mental Game of Poker today!

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Presale Starts Next Week

Posted by Jared Tendler

After nearly 2 years of work, I'm excited to announce that I'll start taking pre-orders on the book next week. The Mental Game of Poker will sell for $49.95, but you can take advantage of a 20% discount during the two week pre-sale (released the week of April 25th) and be the first to have it in your hands.

The book is 237 pages of the best instruction I've come up with over the last 3+ years in poker. My goal when I set out to write it was to create a resource that would give players the ability to make dramatic improvements in their game without ever talking to me. I won't know for several months whether the book will deliver on that promise, but I'm really proud of what I've written.

It's comprehensive while at the same time being really straightforward and user friendly. It demystifies a lot of common wisdom that doesn't produce the type of lasting solutions that you need, and provides a step-by-step strategy to improving the most important mental game issues out there: tilt, fear, motivation, and confidence.

There's a lot about the book that I'm excited about, a big one, is who else you're going to hear from. I'm really fortunate to have great people as clients and these nine players bring the material to life by sharing their story and what they learned as a client:

Dusty “Leatherass” Schmidt
Niman “Samoleus” Kenkre
Liz “RikJamesB1atch” Herrera
Matt “mbolt1” Bolt
Jordan “iMsoLucky0” Morgan
Mike “Syous” Song
Pascal “Stake Monster” Tremblay
Sean Gibson,Poker News Daily
Barry Carter, Poker Journalist and co-author

Details on where you can go to purchase the book, as well as excerpts will be available next week. In the meantime, check out the Table of Contents.

TMGP is written in a way that you can either read it straight through, or jump around to sections that are linked (pages numbers provided) and choose your own adventure in a sense. It's a resource that will give you the information to bring your mental game up to the same level as your poker game. For some of you, that's a pretty scary proposition. Just imagine what your game would be like if your mental game was just as strong as your skills at the table. The book will pay for itself in no time.

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Goals Setting/Resolutions Series: Part 6

Posted by Jared Tendler

Resiliency– is all about finding a way through the things that stand in your way. Finding a way to get back up after getting knocked on your ass. Taking a step forward after taking 5 steps back.

It’s not possible to achieve something great without some challenge getting in the way. In the last blog I spoke about what these tend to be, and in this one I’m going to help make sure you’re successful in battling through them, so you can achieve your goal or resolution.

Resiliency is the work ethic you have when times are hard.

This skill is not unique to poker, so even if you develop it in poker, it can help other aspects of your life as well.One of the first obstacles that are often in the way is expecting to face no challenges. When dreaming of what you want to accomplish, it seems easy in your mind. But that fantasy isn’t real. Plus, what makes these accomplishments so rewarding is that you had things standing in your way, and you still won. When things come easily, it’s easy to take them for granted.

How you’re going to do that happens in a similar way as in step 3 only this step refers to the details of how you’re going to break through the things holding you back – whether internal or external. Often it’s nothing external that’s holding you back, it’s your own mental game. It’s your own issues that are standing in your way.

Here are some ideas how to do it:

  • Read your goals and the reason you want your goals, at the start of everyday.
  • Analyze each issue/problem that likely will get in your way and develop a plan of attack.
  • Create a daily routine that you follow at all times and especially when faced with tough times.
  • Think back to times in the past when you’ve succeed doing something very difficult and write about how you did it.
  • Get help from others. Just because it’s your battle alone, others can still help.
  • Put your head down and bear through it – remove additional distractions
  • May need to take a break. Pushing too hard, and backing off and resting. If you’ve only been pushing hard, a break is needed to build the mental muscle you need.

May need to readjust your goals. Think about how this time can be like having training wheels on your goals.

This is a tough, but necessary step. Many people think achieving goals or resolutions are easy or they hope they will be easy. Either way, they’re unprepared to fight for what they want to achieve.

Step 7 gets more fun as you look for ways to stay motivated and inspired.

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Goal Setting/Resolution Series: Part 5

Posted by Jared Tendler

For many of you this is the most important step (by far) in making your resolutions stick. You’ve set goals, maybe even made a plan, but too often that plan doesn’t account for the predictable things that are going to get in your way.

When setting out your goals or resolutions, the likelihood that you can achieve what you’ve set out to do, seems MUCH easier in your mind than in reality. In your mind, there’s nothing stopping you. It’s easy – a straight shot between you and the end. You may even realize that it’s going to be hard, but what’s going to be hard doesn’t seem real…until you’re faced with your first roadblock. Then it get’s real – real quick.

At this point in the year, you made have already had your rude awakening from the illusion it was going to be easy, even if you have, take this advice and use to make sure you don’t hit more.

The big question you have to answer here is how much are you going to let these things deter you?

The greatest reason why resolutions and goals fail is old habits. When you’re trying to reach a goal, or create new habits in poker or your life, old habits truly die hard. You don’t live in a vacuum. Your old ways of approaching poker are gone just because its 2011 and not in 2010. They don’t disappear just because the calendar has turned a page. Plus, the inspiration you had at the start of the year, isn’t enough to carry you through to really reach your goals, because that inspiration is hiding your old habits.

If you followed my advice from previous blogs and know what your weaknesses are, that’s what you have to be on the look out for. Every time they show up, it’s a chance to reach your goal now, in a real way because only when these old habits are gone will have you have really reached your goal/resolution.

Old habits only disappear easily in your dreams. Reality is harsh until you accept it.

Besides old habits, be sure to also brainstorm anything else that you anticipate making it harder to achieve your goal. The purpose of thinking about this stuff is to make sure you’re prepared for what’s most likely to throw you off, so you can stay on track. It sounds simple enough, and really it is. It’s just that players don’t take the time to do a little extra thinking to be prepared.

They think it’s going to be easy, and when this shit completely throws them off, they make excuses. Excuses are easy. Goals are challenging…but nothing worth doing was easy, and the way poker is today, it’s no longer enough to just do what’s easy.

Don’t get discouraged by your old habits, or anything else that stands in your way, and in my next blog, I’ll give you some strategies to break through them, and make real progress towards your goals/resolutions.

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Goal Setting/Resolution Series: Part 4

Posted by Jared Tendler

In the first two posts of the series on Making New Year's Resolutions Stick, I talked about what and why. Now we are going to talk about how: the specific actions you are going to take to achieve your goals and resolutions you've set this year.

Get Down to Details

To have any chance of succeeding this year, especially if you’ve fallen short of your goals in the past, you have to take a hard look at where you’re strong and where you suck…specifically around the goal. Only then can you make a realistic plan. Too often plans are made without really thinking about what you are and aren’t not capable of.

Let’s say your goal is to take poker more seriously and that means, playing 120 hours/month, work on your game for 40hrs/month, schedule your week, get coaching, and of course improve your mental game.

In order to reach that goal, you need to first know what you did last year. Even though you’re taking this year more seriously, looking at where you were strong and where you were weak, around each part of this goal, establishes your baseline. It’s basically what you’ve already proven you can do, and now the goal is to essentially fill the gap. So let’s say on average last year you played 80hrs/month, worked 10hrs/month, played when you felt like it and didn’t get coaching, nor work on your mental game.

Essentially the plan that you’re building is to help you to add the 40hrs of play, the 30hrs of study, getting a coach and figuring out how to best utilize that time, and figuring out how to work on your mental game.

On the one hand it may seem simple. It’s not, and that’s why many people fail to accomplish their goals or resolutions.

Be specific about what you need to be doing on a daily or weekly basis. Time wise, your adding roughly 10hrs of play and 7.5hrs of study to your week – which means that you now have 17.5hrs/week less of what you used to do. That’s a big chunk, especially if what you used to do was low stress. Plus if you used to play at random times, developing a schedule that works for you is a major leak. It takes experience working with a schedule to figure out what works best for you – when the best games are, how to prepare yourself to be in the right frame of mind, getting to sleep on time, avoiding personal distractions, and many more questions have to be answered. There’s a skill to all of it, and your plan essentially helps you to build that skill.

Many of you may not know what skills you need. That’s fine. Dive in and figure it out. Ask for help. Find out what others do, what works for them, what doesn’t, what problems they run into and how get around those problems. Ask several people, since everyone is different so you get a range of ideas, and begin figuring out what is going to work best for you.

Avoid getting caught thinking too much ahead of time. There’s little to no chance that you’ll get it right the first time around unless you already have a bunch of experience. So give it some thought and then go do it, so you can being learning for yourself what works and what doesn’t…it’s no different in that way than learning how to play poker.

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Goal Setting/Resolution Series: Part 3

Posted by Jared Tendler

Last time I talked about the obvious first step to achieving goals, deciding what you want, and mentioned a few things about that decision that isn’t as obvious. The next step is defining why you want it what you want. Most players focus the majority of their time on the "what" and leave the "why" as an after thought.

Knowing “why” is critical because:

1) It helps you clarify your goals and gives you one more opportunity to be very specific about what you’re setting out to accomplish.

2) You can use it to push you through the times when you fall off track. Anything that is worth going for is going to challenge you, and remembering why you are doing this is a great motivator to avoid distractions, being lazy, or totally bailing.

So take some time and figure out specifically the underlying reasons or motives for achieving your goals. These could be any number of things such as: fame, money, achievement, mastering a skill, the challenge, learning, or just for motivation. Once you have the list, write them next to your goals and as obvious as it may sound keep reminding yourself of them for a few weeks, so you reinforce what these goals or Resolutions are for.

Also, if your Resolutions or goals are all poker related, also think about how poker fits into the context for your life. If you’re a pro, how does poker facilitate the quality of life you want to live. Knowing this can be a good remind when you go through periods when running well so you don’t get complacent and keep working.

Now that you know what you want and why you want it - you can develop a plan to accomplish it.

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Goal Setting/Resolution Series: Part 2

Posted by Jared Tendler

Deciding what you want is the first step in my series: Making New Year's Resolutions Stick. While this step is simple and pretty obvious, it’s easy to miss why it’s so important: having a clearly defined Resolution or goals narrows your focus on just it.

By now, many of you may have already set goals for this year. Even if you have, this post will help you clarify if what you’ve picked is best.

Reaching your goals comes from knowing the right number of things to focus on.

A common problem poker player’s have is they want too much. You start thinking about what you want to accomplish this year, or what habits you want to break from last year and a lot comes to mind. It starts with a wanting to play more, and then you want to play more tables, make more money, maybe go for SuperNova Elite, study 10+ a week too, and move up several limits.


When you want too much, your mind is divided and you won’t have enough focus to accomplish much. Essentially you’re multitasking – you can do many things ok, or a few really well. Narrow focus is essential to achieve your goal because it means you’re automatically going to not be less focused on things that don’t matter and more focused on the stuff that does.

Keep in mind too, if you do a few things really well this year – you’ll have greater potential to do even more next year because you’ve gotten really good, made a bunch of money, created more opportunity, etc., by being really focused.

Another big key to making 2011 a successful year is having goals that push you, but not too much. They need to be challenging, but still possible. You have 365 days – that’s a shit load of time, but that doesn’t mean your goal achieving powers are limitless.

When deciding what you want, you really are deciding what is realistic and what you might be able to achieve by really working hard. Here are two exercises that can help you find the magic number for you:

  1. Look back at your track record from last year and measure the sum total of your accomplishments. How well did you achieve your goals last year? How long did you stay true to your resolutions? That’s your baseline. That’s what you are working off of this year. It may not be pretty, but it’s reality. If you want to be successful this year, you have to build off of that; otherwise, you’ll run into the same problems you did last year.
  2. Identify the old habits that take focus away from meeting your goals and hinder the change needed move yourself forward. You could have watched to much TV, gone out too much, not played enough poker, or any number of habits that are really distractions. Fixing each one becomes an objective to meeting your overall goal. It’s the frontlines to you battle plan. It’s the well timed 3-bet to confusing a fish at the table. These small distractions accumulate into LARGE chucks over the course of the year and in some case are what separates you from success and failure.

These two steps help you to figure out what is realistic and how to really achieve your goal and Resolutions. With a clearer vision of what you want, you’ll have the narrow focus make a great attempt at achieving it.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how knowing the underlying motives to why you want to achieve the goals you've set is the fuel needed to push you forward throughout the year.

Photo courtesy of: twitpix

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Making New Years Resolutions Stick

Posted by Jared Tendler

Right now, thousands of people around the globe are trying to stick to their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, spend more time with family, and poker players are doing the same thing. They’re also making poker goals to grind a ton this year, to stop Tilting, to move up in stakes, make SuperNova or SNE, to win more money, to work harder, watch more videos, get a coach, to post more hands, etc, etc, etc.

Unfortunately, most won’t see their grand declarations stick very long. We’ve all been there, myself included. A recent study showed that only 12% (this number seems pretty generous to me) of people who made New Year’s resolutions achieved their goals.

To help make 2011 a successful year, I’ve put together a straightforward, strategic and practical series of blogs to not only make resolutions easier to accomplish, but goals in general. Many of the common missteps that derail your efforts are not too hard to fix with right information.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be releasing additional posts in my blog, with one dedicated to each of these 7 steps:

1. Decide what you want.
2. Know why you want it.
3. Plan how you are going to accomplish it.
4. Pinpoint what obstacles will get in your way.
5. Determine how you are going to overcome those obstacles.
6. Identify what will motivate and inspire you to get back up when you fall.
7. Evaluate progress.

The main purpose for setting goals or resolutions is to narrow your focus. Focus is the cornerstone for learning the skills required to achieve your goals. Often the skills you also need include eliminating old habits.

One of the most common reasons resolutions, or goals fail, is that players forget they are not just trying to accomplish something new, they are also trying to eliminate the old habit, what ever it is.

Let’s say you want to increase the amount of poker you’re playing. You decide you want to go from playing 25 hours/week, to 35. Increasing that isn’t just about adding 10 more hours (which by the way is 40% increase in capacity), it’s also about eliminating the things you would tend to do in that time.

So your trying to increase your ability to play more, and stop browsing forums for an extra 2hrs/week, TV, for an 1hr/week, not going out with friends 1/week, quitting because of tilt, or not playing because you’re tired.

Often the inspiration of a new goal can make it appear that it’s going to be easy for all these habits to disappear. In the short-term they are gone, because of that inspiration. But once it wears off, the gravity of these patterns brings you back down to the reality that you HAVE to fix them otherwise your resolution becomes just another failed idea.

My goal with this series is to provide you with the right information to make your New Year’s resolutions, or goals in general stick. I will not focus so much on writing goals down, passion, self belief, inspiration, routine, or any number of self improvement buzz words you may have heard or read about. While these things are helpful they are NOT required.

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The Book is Done!

Posted by Jared Tendler

It’s hard to even believe this moment is real. I’ve dreamed about it and worked towards it for over 18 months, and while the end goal is not complete, a solid draft of "The Mental Game of Poker" is ready for final editing!

I’m excited both to have completed a major project, and more so because the of the actual content. It’s strong and if I had finished it right away it would have been good, but I have a year more of experience. Mostly what that’s done is allow me to talk about complex things in a much more simple way.

I’m eager to get this sucker polished up, looking great and ready to have all of you get a look at it and see what you think.

The book is jam packed with a ton of information for my work over the past 3 years in poker, and nearly 10 years in psychology. Basically what it’s turned out to be is a strategy book for the mental game. It has a good mix of theory and practical step-by-step instruction.

There are 8 chapters and once it’s finalized, probably in the next 3-4 weeks I’ll release a full table of contents. But the chapters are as follows:

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Foundation
Chapter 3: Emotion
Chapter 4:Strategy
Chapter 5: Tilt
Chapter 6: Fear
Chapter 7: Motivation
Chapter 8: Confidence

The book is going to total around 300 pages, and about 120 pages is just the Tilt chapter. That’s a little deceiving because part of this chapter is referenced by other parts of the book. Underlying issues that cause tilt in some players also cause fear, motivational and confidence problems in others. But very simply if you have a tilt problem, you’re getting a ton of information to help solve that problem.

Much more to come soon I promise.

Also, since I wanted to keep the book as logical, and strategic as possible some of the topical stuff that didn’t make the final cut I’ll start throwing up in my blog.

Lastly, this week I’m launching my first email newsletter along with a series of blogs about New Years Resolutions. If you’d like to be added to the list enter your name in the top right corner of this page.

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Unplugging for a 3 Week Book Writing Grind

Posted by Jared Tendler

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Belated Hanukkah, Festivus, Kwanza, & New Years everyone! The holidays are a great time of year and taken with a grain of salt the stresses that are naturally part of it don't have to take away from the fun that can be had with the important people in your life.

I'm looking forward to spending a great weekend with some close friends, family and my girlfriends family for Jewish Christmas (chinese food and a movie - not sure which one yet, anyone see 'The fighter' or 'The King's Speech' ?). It's going to be a great chance for me to relax before I unplug for a 3 week grind to finish up the book. From Dec 26th - Jan 16th other than one day to talk with clients and another day I'm going to the dentist - getting the book read for final editing is my only focus.

The last few months I've happily been very busy with an influx of new clients. That's just left much less time and energy (sessions take a lot of it) to focus on the book. So for the next 3 weeks that's going to be my only focus, so I won't be posting any new blogs, and won't be on twitter, facebook, skype, and I'd prefer not to answer any questions in my forum on DTB, but if you have a pressing question it's just not in my nature to turn someone away.

Until then I wish you all well!

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New Years Resolutions Now

Posted by Jared Tendler

I decided earlier this week that in January I’m going to do a series of blog/articles on how to keep new years resolutions. I’d never personally been into making resolutions because I didn’t make sense to wait for the new year to improve something, but I’ve begun to appreciate the idea more.

This morning at the gym, I saw a sign that said – “Start Your New Years Resolutions Now.” There are a 100 different ways to take this advice – the gym of course was advocating getting training sessions so you wouldn’t “Look like Santa when the ball drops.” Here’s what I thought about and here’s what I’m going to do:

I’m not going to start my new years resolutions/goals for 2011 right now, but I am going to start thinking and writing about what I want to accomplish next year. Part of that is thinking about where I was this time last year, what I wanted this year, what I did/did not accomplish, the flawed beliefs/perceptions that I had at that time, what I’ve learned about myself, my career, specifics within my job, things that happened I didn’t expect (could I have), etc.

The reasoning is simply that to know what I want in 2011, I need to know better what actually happened in 2010. The biggest lesson for me was around the book. I completely underestimated what this process would require, what my actual writing skills were at the time, the degree of mastered knowledge at the time, and I’m sure a few other reasons. Very simply, I didn’t know what was required to accomplish a project of this size. I do now. In doing so I’ve gained a lot of experience/knowledge about how to achieve future goals. It’s that knowledge combined with what I learn from writing out the first paragraph stuff, that will tell me what’s realistic to accomplish in 2011, and how.

As I mentioned, there will be much more come January, but since I’m getting off to a start on this earlier than expected, I thought you might like to as well.

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The Value of Being Thankful

Posted by Jared Tendler

I’ll be honest. Years ago, Thanksgiving was mostly about food, family and football for me. I’d pay a little lip service to the idea of giving thanks, but it wasn’t something that I’d ever really taken to heart.

The last few years have been different though. It started in my career as I’ve become acutely aware of all the people who have contributed to my development as a professional, have given me opportunities, and have supported me along the way. Recognizing this has kept me grounded, focused, and at peace with the process. There have been times in my career where I wanted things to happen faster, was frustrated with results, was frustrated at myself for mistakes, got ahead of myself, and was uncertain about the future. All of these have eased up, in part because I have a clearer understanding of how I’ve gotten where I am today.

Furthermore, I’ve shared my appreciation with the people who have helped me along the way. I think that’s important, not just to being that kind of person I want to be, but to make sure they know how they’ve helped me. It's validating for me and for them. It feels good to have those conversations or send out those emails, and makes for a richer life. I don’t mean money wise. I always appreciate feedback, and assume that others do too.

I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities I’ve had in poker. I’d felt for a long time that I had an understanding of performance that could help people in an innovative and positive way...I just didn’t specifically know how. It wasn’t until I began working in poker where it took my coaching ability to the level that I had imagined.

To that end, I’m grateful to all the people I’ve met in poker, the clients I’ve worked with, and all of you have given me feedback and supported my work. Specifically I want to thank Dusty Schmidt for having the foresight not just to hire me, but also to show and support the opportunity for me to jump into poker. Barry Carter who has been helping me write my book for almost a year now, has helped me in a number of ways beyond just book writing and like Dusty, has become a close friend.

While I’ve only spoken so far about poker, I’ve done the same thing in my personal life I as have professionally. I've written a bunch of emails, written letters, made calls, etc to let the important people in my life know they are and how. It’s strengthened my relationships and the enjoyment I have in my life.

I say this mostly because there is great value personally for being thankful and recognizing what and who are important to you. You don’t have to be celebrating thanksgiving tomorrow to do it, and truthfully, I don’t wait for a holiday to tell me to. I do it regularly and when I feel it (or close to it) because I never know what tomorrow brings.

Recognize what you have and know why it's important. If you don't, it creates the need to want more and more and more. Never really satisfied with what you have. It’s cool to want more – I definitely do too, but when that drive for more leaves behind what you already have, you’ve done yourself and all the people who’ve contributed to your life or your game a disservice.

Interestingly the value of recognizing important elements, extends to poker too. The more you recognize the aspects of your game that are strong, both at and away from the table, the easier it is to maintain a balanced perspective when the cards go against you. It’s a practice that when done regularly that creates a mental stop loss. When things get bad, you know immediately what to do and what not to do. In the emotional fog that happens when poker (or life for that matter) get rough, the mind can fall quickly into downward spiral and shatter your confidence. Knowing clearly what is solid in your game (or in your life) to the unconscious competency level – where that knowledge enters your mind automatically no matter how hard the situation is – provides that mental stop loss for your confidence and allows you to be calm in the middle of a shit storm.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Pressure is Positive

Posted by Jared Tendler

Small amount of pressure or nerves in the early stages (before it builds into something big) can be a distraction. With your senses heightened, your mind can attend to things unimportant to what you’re doing. Noises that you didn’t hear before you now hear. Your clothing doesn’t seem to fit as comfortably. Movement around you, that you didn’t even see before, now catches your eye.

Players skilled in dealing with pressure, use the power of their minds, their mental muscle, to block out these distraction. They’re successful not just because they know not to focus on these things, but more importantly they know what to refocus upon.

When you know where your mind needs to be, rather than just where it shouldn’t be, you have directions for where you mind needs to focus.

If all you have are directions where not to focus, the mind idles like a car waiting for you to step on the gas and go.

The benefit of pressure is that increase in energy – nerves amped up – allows you to dig deeper into the action and see things that you can’t normally. If you’re finding that in the early stages of getting nervous that you get distracted, force yourself to focus 1st on where you mind needs to be (reading your opponents, improving a few of your own weaknesses, sensing game flow, etc) and 2nd use that find new details.

Pressure can be a positive if you use it well.

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WSOP Final Table/Overconfidence

Posted by Jared Tendler

There's been a lot of mentioned in the poker media, blogs written and discussions on forums about Joseph Cheong's shove with A7o in the WSOP final table last night against Jonathan Duhamel's 5bet. You can also check out his exit interview here, Duhamel talks about the hand about 40 seconds in here too for their take if you missed it.

When I first heard about the hand, I assumed he cracked under the pressure and wasn't thinking clearly. The more I read, and having watched his interview and Duhamel's I don't think that was the case. I'm obviously not going to comment on the actual decision itself, but it seems to me that at a minimum, he made a decision that was unaffected by the pressure of the situation.

In my speculation prior to getting more information, I wondered if the people watching him play (or heard about it later, like me) that thought he went crazy and tilted or cracked under the pressure, think they would make the correct play in that spot? Players often think to themselves, watching someone else tilt, make mistakes, or struggle under pressure, that they wouldn't have the same problem. They assume if the roles were switched they could handle it no problem. It's the same thing that happens when you're sweating a friend and see everything they should do, but the second you sit down, suddenly it's not as easy.

It's subtle, but this is a good litmus test for overconfidence. Unless you've been in the same or a similar enough situation, you cannot know for sure how you'd handle it. But that doesn't stop many players from feeling 100% confident or 100% certain they could handle it easily. It's only real success that is proof, until then you're just estimating.

If you tend to estimate too high, that's overconfidence and you want to make sure that it isn't an issue in other parts of your game.

Despite what you may have read or hear overconfidence is a major issue that should not be taken lightly. Yes confidence is necessary to succeed in poker, but too much of it makes you prone to playing equally as bad as when you're tilted, tired, bored, etc. That's right being overconfident is just as bad as tilting. In fact, what player's commonly call 'winner's tilt' is actually overconfidence.

Overconfidence isn't something that just strikes players who are cocky, arrogant, full of themselves, happens to players who generally have a pretty good head on their shoulders. One of the reasons it's a major issue is the feeling of crushing the games, or imagining that you would fold to Duhahamel's 5bet, feels so good. Why would you want to stop that? Because the feeling is based on a lie. Not entirely of course, what what isn't true creates positive emotion that you didn't earn. In other words it's a fantasy.

One day it might come true, but until that point, make sure overconfidence doesn't prevent you from actually doing the work together. Sometimes the fantasy or dream world can seem so real that you lose motivation and focus...which is why player's spew money when they are up - the game is assumed to be so easy they're just sitting and printing money like poker is an ATM. Of course logically you don't think that way, but the unconscious flaws that create overconfidence do - and that's what causes winners' tilt.

It's a random way to get to talking about overconfidence, but I've been wanting to write about it for a while now, and it popped into my mind today while thinking about the final table.

Is anyone not overconfident enough to admit this is a problem for them? If so, describe it and the problems that happen because of it in the comment section.

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Back to Blogging

Posted by Jared Tendler

The past 4-6 weeks has been the busiest that I’ve had in quite some time and it was last on my agenda. A combination of a big influx of new clients (around 20) on top of my other book work and article writing (WTP Mag and Partypoker’s Blog), I got sick 3 times (a cold I couldn’t kick probably because I was so busy), moved to NYC (really excited about), met a great girl that I’m now in love with, and took a few personal trips.

Now that things are more settled both business wise and personally, it feels good to sit down and get back to blogging. First off there are a few things that have come out recently that you may have missed so I’m just going to throw them all out at once and get the spammy reposting out of the way:

I’ve started writing monthly articles for WPT Magazine, which began with a three part series on tilt, here are the first two, third one is due out later this month:

Solving the Tilt Equation
7 Types of Tilt

While I was in vegas for the WSOP, I did a 30 minute on camera session with Sean Gibson from Poker News Daily. The issues he talks about are really common, and you might find our interaction interesting as well. It’s in three parts:

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

I also wrote a 4 part blog series on tilt as a guest blogger for PartyPoker. Here's the first one - Take Control of Tilt: part 1

Lastly, I woke up this morning to find a great review from one of those new clients after he finished the 8 hour package yesterday.

With so much going on recently, it’s like I’ve been playing a lot of poker without really working on my game. As I look back it, the blogs that I wrote over the summer were a version of my practice. A chance to play with ideas that I’ve been thinking about, get them out of my head, work with them a bit and get some feedback from you. I really enjoy not only the process of learning/working but also the interaction. I’ve definitely missed it and in missing it, better understand its value. Like the old saying goes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I know better what I have, and am looking forward to using it more, and in shorter postings too! I can talk with the best of them, and my fingers have a tendency to spew too.

So I’m going to try and be not only more regular in my writing, but also be varied in length. I’ve had a lot of short simple ideas that I often stopped myself from writing about because it was long or formal enough – as I’ve said before – I sucked at social networking and didn’t realize how a blog could be whatever I wanted it to be. It has to be of value for you otherwise I’m not doing my job well, but I falsely assumed that I always knew what value means. I’m looking forward to hearing more about what you think is valuable, rather than sitting ideas that could have been and never finding out.

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WSOPE Main Event 6th Place

Posted by Jared Tendler

A client, Danny Steinberg, recently finished 6th at the WSOPE main event. The reason I'm writing is not just to celebrate his poker accomplishment, it's to celebrate the accomplishment he made in how he handled busting out.  You can read more on his (and his twin brother's) blog.

Busting out so close to winning a major title could have caused anguish, tilt, dispair, or a whole range of negative emotions as is common for some many players; but it didn't.  Instead, he was happy.  Not happy that he lost – the outcome at that point in the final table was out of his hands – but happy because of how well he'd played.  He knew instantly when the river card that busted him came down that he made the best decisions he possibly could have made given his level of preparation and the information he had in each hand.  In the next moment, realizing how he was purely focused on how well he'd played an not on busting, came the realization of what he'd accomplished mentally.

Here's an excerpt from his blog:

"After I lost, the experience was a little surreal. I felt like I had played really well so whether I won or lost the all in became totally irrelevant to me. Everyday I use the logic that I can’t control the results so I should just be happy when I play well, but it rarely manifests itself completely. It didn’t in the KK hand. But when I got it all in with AJs, it did, and I think everyone saw that in me. I was happy because I played exceptionally, the result truly didn’t matter. Nicolas Levi, a very good french pro to my right, told me the nicest thing I think anyone has ever said to me. “I told Roland that I knew it would be the best for us if you lost the all in, but I didn’t want you to.” I turned to James Bord, the coolest guy I’ve ever met at a poker table, and shook his hand. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that expression he had on his face on anyone ever before. His smile and head nod seemed to say he was honored that he got to play with me at the poker table. After I exited the table the ESPN reporter, who was about to interview me, started tearing. I asked her with a big smile “Why are you crying? Don’t be sad there is no reason to be sad  .” She replied. “I don’t know… I mean some people come over here all upset but you seem genuinely happy.” I know this whole paragraph may come off as incredibly self centered but I don’t mean it to be, it’s just honestly what happened."

To be purely focused on how well he'd played and on how well he was reacting after just busting so close to a major title is a remarkable accomplishment.  An accomplishment that happened from consistent effort and work on focusing more and more each day on what he ultimately controls in the short-term – how well he plays.

I know it can be hard for some of you to wrap your heads around how you can focus on winning, while at the same time not care when you don't.  It would seem that being happy losing suggests you don't care about winning – or that he's basically delusional. Danny does care A LOT, but he cares about how he plays because that's the only thing he ultimately has the final say in.  The cards are going to do what they want, and getting pissed that they didn't do what you want is one reason why players have so much trouble losing.

His accomplishment proves that the answer to not being results oriented isn't just forgetting, detaching, or ignoring results, it's to instead refocus your emotions around your poker skill.  It is not nearly as easy to produce as it is to write.  That's why it's a challenge, and that's why Danny's accomplishment is so monumental.

Poker is not like other forms of competition where the outcome is largely a matter of who is better skilled.  So while wanting and being driven to win is a critical trait shared by elite poker players, what's most important in my mind is HOW you go about achieving that end.  If you're focused more on your game, and less what's out of your hands (the cards, your opponents), you'll not only be more likely to win over the long-term, you'll be happier, and be able to enjoy the ride a hell of a lot more.

Through a steady and continual focus, Danny broke barriers in his own mind, and in doing so I hope that he can show you that it's possible to do the same for yourself.  It was an incredibly proud moment to receive the email from him yesterday describing how happy he was.  To be honest, I've held many theories about what I thought was possible within the frontiers of the mind and have worked hard to prove them.  Danny's reaction gave distinct validation for the work that I'm doing, and it feels great.

The means to get there for each of you is different, and in many cases still not fully known yet.  But it is possible if you keep working at it, and know too that I'm working to make it easier for you to make the changes too even if we never actually talk.

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Thoughts on Phil Galfond’s Blog

Posted by Jared Tendler

Phil wrote a blog a few weeks ago where he gives the advice that long-term pros or those planning on becoming one should, “be playing in tough HU matches all the time.” I think he makes a really interesting point and want to share my thoughts and give another perspective that might help you make use of his advice.

First off, I haven’t met Phil, but what I’ve heard about his reputation in the community fits with how I’ve seen him in his blogs, as a guy who loves the game, talented as hell, works hard and is genuine in his interests to help other players. I’m also not going to talk on the merits of this from an overall ev, earnrate, or other pure poker terms, and I want to focus just on the psychological and learning reasons why tough matches can be great for your game. Also, his advice can apply to anyone who wants to improve, not just pros or aspiring ones, with some more info about why.

The reality is that when talks about every nosebleed player playing in a lot of tough matches on their way up, you can say the exact same thing to every sport, or form of competition. To beat the best you have to play against them, bottom line. There are many ways to improve as a player, but until you can actually sit across from a tough opponent and either hold your own or beat them you can’t. Thinking/dreaming that you can before that point is just a goal or an idea that represents you potential. Potential that is real only when you can prove it.

Playing against a tough opponent forces you to step up your game. The pressure to perform can give you just the right amount of challenge and focus to kick you into the zone. THE only way you have a chance is to play your best, and since you’re best is a moving target (see my blog on Finding 110% for more), this is your chance to step beyond what you were previous capable of doing and into what you’ve thought was possible.

You’re able to do that because the pressure fuels your focus to pick up on details of the game that you previously couldn’t see. Your opponent’s action forces you to think in different ways and your deep focus allows you pick up on details you can’t really even explain. One of the most common descriptions of the zone includes being able to be so good that you can’t explain why. Here’s why that is:

As I’ve talked a lot in my videos, and specifically in the “Playing Your ‘A’ Game” series that’s still up on CR, the adult learning model begins with a stage called unconscious incompetence – which basically means you aren’t yet aware of something that you’re really bad at. As it applies to the zone, it also means you aren’t yet aware of something that you’re really good at. In this case the incompetence is in not knowing why you’re so good.

It’s these details that make up the zone. Without them you can still play really well, just not at your absolute best.

How this applies to tough opponents, is that eventually you will figure out what it was in that tough match that made you play so well. Or you’ll figure out more about the details about your tough opponent’s action that made them better than you. In both cases, it’s playing in tough matches that makes you better because you learn what you need to learn to step up your game. It won’t be totally clear right away, but as you review that match, post hands, talk with other players, watch videos, think on your own, do some calculations, review the match again, rinse/repeat, you’ll start to be able to explain those details that you previously couldn’t.

The bottom line is that Phil’s suggestion to play in tough games is something that can benefit any player who wants to improve. I say can because there’s never a one size fits’ all strategy that’s going to work for everyone. So before jumping into this, here are a couple other things that are VERY important to consider:

1) Playing against tough opponents can also mean that any mental game issues, like tilt, confidence, performance anxiety, etc, will become worse when you play. On the one hand that might motivate you to spend more time working on your mental game, it also might be too risky and thus not a good thing to do.

2) Playing against tough opponents, is very similar to a tough workout. Let’s say you hire a personal trainer to push you. The force and effort to get in those last few reps when your body is exhausted is massive because it is when you are working the hardest that you have the most to gain. ONLY if you rest. Muscles worked out in the gym, grow when resting. Think of playing against a tough opponent as a workout.

3) Keeping with the workout analogy, the gains are also only possible when you aren’t pushing yourself TOO hard. If you can only bench press150lbs once, then pushing yourself to lift 200lbs is not only impossible you can also injure yourself trying. In poker that principal also applies to playing tougher games. So don’t just play anyone, play someone who’s going to challenge you to step up, but only a step you have a chance of actually taking.

4) Another of Phil’s points was that you aren’t going to get any better by just playing weak opponents all the time. That’s actually not true; you get better at playing against weak opponents playing against weaker opponents. If I were designing an ideal training regiment – it would include you playing against weak opponents with the same intensity as a tough one so you can also INCREASE how well you can play against weaker players. Since those matches also challenge you to think more deeply, it’s another way to improve, which makes you better overall and thus able to play better against tougher opponents.

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Winning the Mental Game

Posted by Jared Tendler

It’s obvious when you’ve won something in poker, your chips, bracelet, title, money, account balance is starting you right in face, but it’s not that way with the mental game. The mental game challenges you to define winning on your own, and especially for goals that take a long time achieve, sometimes you’ll win and not even realize it.

I was talking with a client yesterday about this. He’s among my oldest poker clients, over two years, and he was talking about increasing the hours he plays from 25 to 30 as though he was pissed at himself for not being able to play 30. He’s a full time player, so there’s no excuse in his mind. Except when you put 25 hours in the context of where he’s been, 25 is a solid accomplishment and he didn’t even realize it. Basically he’s wanted the same thing in cycles for over two years. When he was only playing 8-13hrs, he wanted 20, when he got to 20 he wanted 25, and each time along the way forgetting the progress that had been made before.

The point is, that when you fail to recognize the accomplishments you’ve made in the mental game, not only do you not get to enjoy it, you also fail to validate the means or the process that got you where you are now. Leaving you instead feeling unfulfilled, and with less energy to go after what you want NOW, and less certain about how to get there.

I don’t often talk about my own mental game, it’s not purposeful, I just never have too much I think, as poker players you’d be interested in. Unintentionally, I think that’s lead to some of you thinking that I don’t struggle myself. It’s because I do that I understand so much and am motivated to learn more.

I have a live interview coming up on a morning radio talk show that broadcasts through Michigan at 8am (Listen here - about 6 min long mostly about golf) and last night I was feeling a nervous about it. Back in my golf days nerves in big tournaments was what I struggled with most. I’ve put a ton of work in over that time and along with knowing that my unconscious competence is really solid, a lot of my nerves are gone, but some of course remains. There’s two side of it for me, the excitement nerves and the nervous nerves. In doing some writing last night I realized my nervous nerves were a fear of looking stupid. I’ve definitely looked stupid before so this isn’t a completely irrational fear, just one that doesn’t account for how strong my core knowledge is.

The speed at which I was able to move through and past my nerves is one thing of note; the other is something I don’t really know what it means. In the past my nervousness was always centered in my stomach and last night it was in my chest. Given the first point, I knew I’d accomplished something being able to compare it to the speed I could resolve issues in the past, and the second point added further proof since it must mean something, I just don’t know what.

So in a way, I see the interview a tangible reward for my work and helped me to measure my mental game progress.

So this got me thinking that I need to create the mental version of Hold’em Manager. There’s so much value to being able to track progress in the mental game, and since our minds and emotions need to be trained to see that progress and not lose perspective, some kind of software would be great for it. What do you think?

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Insight into Emotional Control

Posted by Jared Tendler

I woke up this morning with what I sense in my mind is some major insight. I may not be able to explain it well enough yet, writing this blog is as much for my learning as yours, but if you stick through it, and it sparks a conversation, I think it can have great value for your game.

I’ve been thinking about the word control for a while now, and this morning realized something that helps to improve the problems I’ve had with it. In the eyes of some people, I’m definitely way to nit picky/tough about certain things. I just have a hard time accepting conventional wisdom that doesn’t make sense to me and put a lot of work into to really understanding things I think are really important and uncover details that weren’t known quite as well before.

For the past year or so, control has been on my list of things that I continue to pour over, trying to better understand. Control annoyed me because it infers controlling, and in a way I felt controlled by trying to be too controlled. (Obvious connection to my own desire to be pick on small details). The thing about controlling that really bothered me was that there’s so much beyond our control, but if you try to control what you actually can’t, you get pissed off, anxious or lose confidence and motivation when things go poorly. PLUS, since you’re spending more time focused on what you can’t control, variance or other players, you spend less on what you actually can control.

So in now focusing more on what we actually do control, I first swung way too far the other way and said that we have none. I know it doesn’t make sense to even say that now, but I can’t remember my exact reasoning right now. Basically what I figured was the closest we can get to control is that we can have an influence or make an impact on a situation in much the same way an asteroid would have an impact on the moon - it makes itself known – but doesn’t actually alter the orbit. Influence and impact – at first I really liked the idea, and so did a good friend of mine, Cameron Moore, who’s a tennis coach making his way up the professional ranks. He has 3 guys he’s working with in the top 500 and one who just won the first US Open qualifier to get into the wildcard draw for the main event!

At first Cameron loved the idea too – that control can’t be had entirely and your job is instead to go out and make the greatest impact you can and encouraged his players to go out and do that in every practice and match. But steadily my thoughts and our conversations sort of naturally worked back towards control having a prominent place in performance. Plus the idea of influence and impact sounds weak, and now I see why.

What I realized this morning, I think really helps to put this in better context and settle the issue of control…at least for now.

Control is about action. When you have control, it’s something you are actively doing. You’re taking control of the situation, you’re in control of the hand, you’re in control of your emotions or your thoughts. In order to be in control you have to be actively doing it, that’s the whole point. If you relax you lose it…unless you own it.

Unconscious competence, procedural memory, mastery, ownership – all things that related to skills or knowledge that are automatic and require no thought whatsoever and if you were to think about them – which would also mean you were being over controlling – you’d get worse. Think about how you walk and you become worse, potentially even tripping, something that would never happen if you just walked. So control doesn’t apply to unconscious competence. In fact control makes it worse.

On the flip side of the Adult Learning Model you have Unconscious Competence: the stuff you don’t even know you’re terrible at & Conscious Incompetence: you’re now aware you suck, but don’t know yet how to fix it – which too often players think that when they become aware of something they’ve mastered it and totally mind **** themselves because they’ve tried to run before they could walk.

So that just leaves Conscious Competence: now you’re getting good at it, but you need to think about it in order to be good, otherwise you return to sucking. You need to think, and thinking is a major form of control. That’s the conclusion - you need to control what you have the opportunity to control, which are only things that you have a good enough understanding for to even know HOW to control it.

It is fundamentally impossible to control something you don’t understand. Which is one reason why players who talk about emotional control as something that is easy to do, who don’t actually have much understanding of emotions, really just don’t get it. Emotional control is a skill that is developed like any other – it has to go through the stages of the Adult Learning Model. As my point goes today, in order to be in control of your emotions you have to have enough skill in understanding them to even be able to.

So if that’s true, and control can only happen with something that you have a good understanding for but haven’t yet mastered, that means that the term – be in control of what you actually control is really misleading in an environment when there is SO much information available about poker. It is really really easy to become Conscious of areas of your game where you suck. But just because you can become aware that you suck at say controlling tilt – it does not automatically mean you can control it and if you think that you should – you have now set yourself up for disappointment, likely more tilt, and to believe that you are less likely to be able to fix your tilt.

Another big one is variance. You can’t control variance, but you can increase your understanding of variance and by in large the poker community as a whole sucks at understanding variance beyond the obvious. It generally assumed impossible to ever really know variance to 100%, which I agree with, but that still leaves a lot on the table. As the game continues to evolve and competition gets stiffer, improving your skill in knowing variance can provide you a MAJOR edge if you work at it. I don’t know the specifics of how, but I do know that it’s possible because it like any other skill falls into the Adult Learning Model. Up until a few minute ago, many of you were unconsciously incompetent to that reality, which means you stand at the threshold of an opportunity to gain control of variance in a way that previously was not seen as being possible. You still can’t control variance, but your reactions to variance emotionally and in the quality of your play, can improve exponentially by increasing your skill in recognizing it in real time. I think there’s an idea for a video here…

I know there is more here, and I’ll probably write a follow-up at some point. Generally what are your thoughts? does it make sense? what do I need to explain better? what do you think I’ve gotten wrong?

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Finding 110%

Posted by Jared Tendler

A couple weeks ago, in my ‘I suck at social networking’ blog I referenced a quote by George Steinbrenner that was my first post on twitter. I’m still enamored by the quote and am devoting this blog to fully explain why I love it so much, and why I think you should too.

The video unfortunately is no longer available on Basically, George was talking about what made him successful and he said, “ I believe there’s 110% in each person, there’s 10% they didn’t know that’s there and that’s what I want to get into. Maybe too much.”

Put any negatives have towards him aside for a minute, when he says, “Maybe too much” he’s referring to HOW he accomplished getting the most out of his players and executives that made him maligned. But his idea of getting more out of players than even they knew was there is absolutely brilliant.

I had always thought that when coaches would motivate their players by saying something like, “Now go out and give me a 110%” I though it was a line of crap. I mean you can't give more than you have. It sounded like just some inspirational line that lacked a lot of substance. It’s been years since I’ve thought about it and it became just another one of those things that’s stuffed away in the recesses of your mind that you don’t give much thought to…until something like this yanks it back out.

The reason this quote blew me away when I first heard it is because it fits perfectly with my ‘inch worm’ theory of development. This theory admittedly has a strange name, and I’m going to soon link you to a video that is laughably odd. There is a point I promise as long as you get past the fact that you’re sitting there watching a video about an inch worm.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, inch worm is a theory that I came up with during the time that I was producing my first video series for Stoxpoker back in March of 2008. Out of all the material that came out of those 4 videos, it’s the video that introduces this theory, that got the poorest ratings, and my guess was that it didn’t really give people the ‘ahha’ moment I thought it would and deserved.

Basically the theory says that improvement happens from two directions, by not only improving on what is already strong, but also by eliminating your greatest weaknesses. The key piece in this is that if you’re like many people who have been following the conventional wisdom that says, “always play to your strengths” what you end up doing is creating wider and wider range in your ability. You create greater variance or variability in your performance because your weaknesses still exist. They don’t automatically go away just because you’re best has gotten better. But too often players believe that it should, and it completely messes with confidence - when you’re expecting the ****ty part of your game to not be there and it shows up, your mind can’t make sense of it and it gives your confidence a punch in the nads.

The reason this theory is called ‘inch worm’ is this. If you were to plot on a graph, quality ratings of your play over a large sample what you see is a bell curve. How that bell curve is distributed varies depending on how good you are at your best compared to how bad you are at your absolute worst. The closer those two points are the narrower your range and the narrower your bell curve, and when the opposite is true you have a flat bell curve.

As the theory goes, the bigger the gap between your best and your worst, the more energy and effort is required to actually increase your best. And the reason is because improvement actually happens in the same way that an inch worm walks. As you watch this video, think of the inch worm as a bell curve, and think about his back leg as being your worst, and his front leg as being your best.

What you end up seeing is that the only way your can actually make your best better, and the only way you can find that extra 10% George is talking about is to eliminate your greatest weaknesses. Otherwise your bell curve gets so flat you get stuck, you plateau and stop improving.

So why I love George’s quote so much is that I now truly believe in the idea finding that extra 10%. You can give 110% and doing so brings you to a level of performance beyond what you previously thought possible. That has already happened for many of you already. If you think back a year, two or more ago, are you able to do more in poker than you though possible before? You may even be 200% or more better by now - I actual math for this could exist. Or if you’re new to poker, than in other aspects of your life your improvement has happened like this already.

If not, this theory can help, and if so, use this theory to take you even further. The key to taking that next step forward after you’ve reached a new peak, is not to try and take another one from the front – to improve your best – it’s to take one from the back, and eliminate your greatest weakness. Only then does finding that extra 10% get FAR easier, and not require the kind of rage and volatility that Steinbrenner probably believed he needed to get it.

What do you think? Does it apply to you? Answer some questions? or create more? (which I’m happy to answer as always).

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Baby Steps

Posted by Jared Tendler

My cousin invited me to run a 4 mile race through central park on Saturday. It was my first race since developing tendinitis in my Achilles earlier this year. It wasn’t a long run as races go, but with the heat and having recently gotten back into running, the race was tougher than expected and offered some surprising insight.

I don’t like to run outside with music, because as cheezy as it sounds, I like to hear what’s around me, especially in a race like this with 5000 other people running around. I’m a people person, a people watcher and there was no way I was tuning it out. When I run with other people I also like to talk, but my cousin is the exact opposite. So while she was jamming to her ipod, I had some time to think, and it came in handy as I grinded through some tough spots in the race and came to some insight that might be helpful for you.

Within the first mile barely 5 or 6 minutes into the race was a hill steep enough to get my attention, and steep enough for thoughts of wanting to quit pop in my mind. Naturally surprised even thinking it, I tried to put it out of my mind, but they persisted. Then I noticed my eyes on the ground looking at the ground just 10 feet in front of me. I just needed to make my goal smaller. Focusing to wide – on the remaining 3.5 miles was too much – I needed to get through the next 10 feet. It wasn’t something I stayed consciously aware of, but it seems to me that when things get the toughest, working your way through it is easier when you make your goals smaller than you would normally.

The idea of setting small goals is nothing new…reminds me of baby steps from the movie What About Bob?…but the idea of setting small goals when things gets hard was an important realization for me. Reaffirming the need to adjust my goals to the situation so I can still reach the end goal.

As I finished the hill and settled into the run, the race got easier. I was on a good pace and feeling comfortable, so it was natural for my perspective to widen again and enjoy what was around me. For me, I think too often I want the harder times to be this easy, not realizing that working hard, pushing through times when I’m struggling, is how I find stronger footing. Only then is can I do more, more easily. Otherwise, I’m actually just doing less wishing it were more. There were several other times throughout the race that challenged me mentally and armed with this insight fresh in my mind I plowed through and felt stronger each time.

By the end I was pretty tired. The heat surprised me, and I was most happy my ankle felt good all the way around. And thanks to spotting an on course photographer, got this fun pic of me and my cuz.

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Tweeting to Distraction?

Posted by Jared Tendler

With the rise of poker players using Twitter, and having started posting there myself (can't bring myself to say tweet yet), it makes me wonder - what effect posting on Twitter when playing a tournament has on a players’ performance?

Barry mentioned this to me the other day and I thought it was a brilliant observation. All the major poker news sites, including Pokernews, have Twitter feeds for the popular pros. It doesn't take long looking through the list to see that they are definitely updating followers when sitting at the table. Sure a lot of are updating when on break, but dang if you look through some (I’m not calling anyone out) there’s a whole lot a tweeting going on.

I personally think is awesome for poker. Twitter is made for poker and having players give real time updates on the action is huge for fans. Brings the action you can’t get anywhere else right to you. It’s awesome and I’ve definitely been following the ME through some of them, along with blogger updates from Pokernews. Plus since I had a player I was coaching go pretty deep into the tourney, I spent more time that I probably would have normally checking out the action.

So it’s obvious that Twitter is great for poker, but is it great for the poker player? I actually think and argument can be made strong on both sides. On the one hand, being able to vent to a group of people about the action might keep some from Tilting. One of the things I suggest to a lot of players, in dealing with Tilt, is writing. Usually I mean for them to write about it afterwards, but I can see how even just a few sentences, even words can be enough to take a little of the edge off. Getting things out of your head is one way to release emotional pressure and I can see how posting updates can do that.

On the other hand, it could be a distraction. If updating your twitter feed suddenly takes more of a priority than focusing on the action it a problem. Likely a subtle one for most players where there just loosing small details that may or may not be material enough to make a difference…though I can guarantee that other players, likely players who already have focus issues, Twitter has just become another way to destroy their attention.

Have you actually been in a tournament using Twitter? What effect did it have? I’m really curious. I think it’s an interesting question and one that I haven’t seen asked yet…or does anyone else have any thoughts on it?

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I Suck at Social Networking

Posted by Jared Tendler

Ironically it took admitting this yesterday for me to finally do something about it. The truth is I just didn't really understand how to use the medium to add value to my coaching, but with the help of some friends, and a little research it's starting to sink in.

I have a bunch of ideas and am now really looking forward to figuring out how to use it in a way that's useful to you. Insights that I have when writing the book, quotes that I find that I like, videos, articles, etc... that I find along the way related to the mental game. Stuff intended to help you be a jedi master.

So I just created a Twitter account and have a couple posts up there now. It's obviously really early, but it'll give you a taste of where I'm heading with this. I've been on Facebook since the beginning of the year, and will be adding more there too. Btw, the quote by Steinbrenner I posted on Twitter, I think is absolutely brilliant. I heard it on ESPN while they were paying tribute to him, showing old clips of an interview from 2002. He took it too far, as he admits, but I think the logic behind the idea is a BIG reason for the Yankee's success.

I'm not going to bombard this space with updates, or reminders to this fact unless it's something really noteworthy...for now I just wanted to keep you all up on what's new.

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SNE Project Video Series Update

Posted by Jared Tendler

After 5 sessions with Jeff, I’ve started going through the recordings to put together the videos series for all of you. As Jeff has written, he’s made some great strides over the past several months in his mental game and I’m looking forward to piecing together parts of our sessions along with some instruction, so it can have the same impact on your game.

There is one important change to the series that you need to know about. The original intent was to find someone, who with the right information and coaching could make SNE. That went out the window from the start because Jeff was so far behind, but he was such a good candidate in other ways that I went with him. As with any goal, adjustments have to be made when the conditions you started with change and for Jeff, that happened when Stars made changes to their table structures. With the games getting tougher, he decided to devise a new playing strategy and cut back on tables. As a result he asked if it was alright that he abandon getting on pace for SNE status, and after thinking for a few minutes, realized I wasn’t going to let a video series get in the way doing what he thought was best for his game.

He mentioned this about 5 weeks in and I considered going back into the pool of applicants to find someone else, but with the year close to 1/2 over by the time we would have started, it just didn’t make sense. Plus, thinking more about the timing of this whole thing, made me realize my logic from the start was completely off. The time to start it is in September or October of the year prior to going for SNE, so they can hit the ground running on Jan 1st, rather than getting started on Jan 1, let alone mid April! Complete tactical error on my part, that was partially due to the timing of me joining DTB, but hey I’ve learned a few things along the way with this, and now I’ll be putting the series together so all of you can as well.

So the adjustment that I’m making is really just in the content. Since volume is such a huge part of making SN or SNE, I wanted all of you to know that it is not going to be in this series. If there are enough of you out there who want coaching type videos like these specifically for improving volume I’ll strongly consider doing it. Just let me know.

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