"I run really bad, maybe I should take a break."

"I never won on PokerStars at Fridays."

"I started my session with 3 stacks down, I do this a lot of times, and had to grind it out but got managed to end the session with 1 stack up."

"I wish I could play as well as I did today all the time."

One of the above sounds familar to you? - Then you should pay some attention to this blog, because I´m working exactly on those issues and you probably can learn a thing or two for your game.

Just a few words about me. I believe that I´m an above average guy in many ways. I think that I´m above average intelligent. I think I´m above average in game theory and some more. It took me ages to master the game of poker and at the moment I work on proofing that I can master this game. I experienced a lot of losses in the past. I tilted away a lot of money. I played way to long sessions chasing losses. I called big bets on river, knowing instinctively I´m beat but thought I can´t be beat all the time and many many more. What is behind all that?

I´ve seen a lot of very good players over the years and how they made it. I´ve talked to a lot of them and I´m sure I can be on the same level. I´ve seen also a lot of players struggling and it was the huge majority. Some of them are persons who are really successful in real life and some are even really brilliant.

So why is poker that selective and most important how does the selection work?

Basically it all comes down to our leaks! - The ones who get successful have all a few points in common...

They all play a high volume.

They all work hard on their leaks and to improve their game.

They all specialyze on a part of the game.

Put in some volume and to specialyze in a game isn´t that tough and anyone can do this, so the part about plugging leaks seems to be the toughest and that´s why we should have a closer look on this topic.

Please understand this as in invitation for discussion!

I´m not almighty and I´m far from knowing everything. I will describe what I´ve learned and what may will help you, but this should be a topic for everyone and I would be happy to see people discussing more about it as it´s really essential to your game if you´re serious about poker.

In my opinion there are two groups of leaks. The two major groups match the skill groups of poker.

Soft Skills - How to focus, how to prevent or handle tilt, how to organize your game, how to make a general game plan, how to manage and protect your bankroll and many more.

Poker SKills - It´s allbout game theory. How to play profit for set mining, or how to draw profit on a flush or how to protect your blind and so on.

In this blog I wil focus on the soft skills. When you look at them you will find out they are all some kind of mental stuff and from my experience this mental stuff is what seperates most of the time the fish from the sharks.

Back to the four statements from the beginning...

"I run really bad, maybe I should take a break."

Have you ever heared about selective perception? - We all know variance can be brutal but what  our brain does to variance is even more brutal, because we experience losses way stronger. That´s how humans learn. We learn from mistake and that´s why bad feelings have a bigger impact on our mood as good feelings but poker is irrational at this point to your emotional system as you can be right but lose at the same time. That´s unfair and that´s the point were emotions grow strong! Taking a break for sure helps to calm down but wouldn´t it be better not to get into this situation? What can we do to avoid those situations when we need a longer break? - To me it helps a lot to understand what happens!

"I never won on PokerStars at Fridays."

Yes, selective perception again but this time combined with a negative attitude embossed to fridays. So what´s the difference betweem fridays and other days of the week? What can we do to change this?

"I started my session with 3 stacks down, I do this a lot of times, and had to grind it out but got managed to end the session with 1 stack up."

When we start our session very often with a loss we need to have a look at the hands. Mostlikely they are played bad so the question is why do we play not our best poker when we start our session? After losing some stacks we focus more on the game because we want our money back and most important we don´t want to lose more. Why don´t we start the session this focused and how can we achieve that in the future?

"I wish I could play as well as I did today, all the time."

You´re focused, you´re in the zone, everything seems to work like expected, you can ddoge bullets baby! For sure a great feeling but how do you get to this point and how can we reach it every session we play?

Four easy statements but a ton of questions and most of them aren´t easy to answer. If you made those experiences and the statements above could be from you, you for sure agree that answering those question is worth a ton of money.

I will try to explain what I did in the past and what I do actually to answer those questions. I´m sure that there are a lot more possibilites and what´s best for me don´t has to be the perfect solution for others too, so again you´re invited to join this discussion for your own benefit!

On big problem is Tilt. There are a lot of different tilts. There is soft tilt like beeing depressed because of being in a downswing, there´s hard tilt like revenge for a bad beat, there´s slowly growing tilt and there´s instant monkey tilt. Fortunately I´m out of the instant monkey tilt phase for years, but I know players who always have 2 or 3 mice and keyboards as a backup when they destroy their equipment in tilt.

One thing I do to manage tilt is, I write a mental diary. It´s something very basic. I write down in an Excel sheet every session and how I played, A, B or C game and what happened when my gamed changed from A to B. This helps me to identify the reasons for tilt and what puts me on tilt. When I know that I can work on it.

I can convert my weakness into excellence when knowing about my weakness!

I give you an example. I found out by my mental diary and by having a look at my session data, that I start a lot of my sessions with losses and when I can´t compensate the losses because I get a beat my game changes to a lower state. In addition I play longer sessions when I´m losing than I do when winning, obv. I hate to end a session in minus.

What I want to do is, starting the sessions more focused on poker. To reach this I will do kind of a warmup. I watch a video for motivation or education, I will set a goal for the session which will be related to one of my poker skill leaks, f.e. paying more attention to 4bet bluffing in blind battle or more squeezing. This way I hope to start the sessions more focused.

I do my session reviews after the session and not directly before the next session. I feel that when I still have the tough spots in mind from last session my brain is kind of saturated already and I want to start the session fresh and relaxed.  To reach this a walk with my dog of at least 10 minutes before starting a session is great and my dog is for sure happy about it too.

To prevent me from chasing losses I have the lobby closed, I use Table Starter on Stars or a table selection tool on other rooms to open tables and my HUD isn´t showing session results anymore. Also I stoped posting daily result graphs and looking at them. The goal that matters is being focused on the game, trying to play my best game and play as much hands as possible to reach my volume goals. If I´m doing this I´m sure I will show profit on the longrun!

The point is when I have identified the result oriented thinking as a leak to my game and that it´s tilt inducing I can remove this element from my game and by this way I cut the losses i gain from it. I do this by constructing an environment which works in the opposite direction and therefore (hopefully) turn my weakness into excellence. If not I have at least learned something which will help me for the future!

I have already identified that way some mental leaks I have. Leaks I don´t have thought about before. So the return to invest of that mental diary is really really huge. I´m not sure about the results of leak plugging so far, that´s something time will tell me but wihtout identifying a leak I can´t plug them anyway so I´m already at least one step ahead and that´s what it´s all about!

Being one step ahead!

Thanks for reading so far. I hope this was interesting to you and now I ask again for your contributions! Enter this discussion, think through the stuff I wrote, let me know your experience with tilt, tell me how you managed to avoid tilt. Tell me about your approach to poker. To make it short: ENTER THE DISCUSSION!

Btw. I have a ton of respect for everyone who posts a hand in the forums, especially when it´s misplayed. It needs balls to post. Same goes for comments and questions! I have posted so much nonsense dumb stuff in my life myself. We´re all here to learn so let´s use this as what it should be - A resource to learn!

I will post a download link to an excel sheet of my mental diary in my thread, so if someone is interested in trying this yourself, you´re invited to do so! Also I invite you to post some feedback in my daily update thread. Yes, I do this thread mostly for myself but I hope it can be a source for motivation and for education for some of you too and feedback is always encouraging to go on - a wini-win stuation. I also encourage you to read my other blog entries. They show how I work my way through poker and how I try to reach my goals. As said you´re always welcome to comment and ask questions!


Yes, this is part one, means there will be a second part which will be dedicated to pluging skill leaks by using a tracking software.

Good luck at the felts!

PS: I highly recommend the book "The Mental Game of Poker" by Jared Tendler. It has life changing potential!