During this past July, I introduced Jared Tendler’s first of two books, The Mental Book of Poker in  PSO blog. From there Jared and Barry have been so wonderfully generous in answering questions in the PSO forum (and in sending me a complimentary The Mental Book of Poker2!) With  great admiration for Jared and Barry, I have come to see from my own experiences that no one tool—a book, video, and such-- is the ‘answer’ to all;  however, I just can't move on in life without having freedom to contemplate and discuss the psychological aspects of where/who I have been, where/who I am, and where/who I aim to be. These books have given me further permission to do just that.      

I think back to bridge where I played with the world’s top-ranking players and taught an array of students, some who went on to great heights and some who seemed to be perpetual novices. I had one lovely student who, after 18 months, was not progressing. With his permission, I asked a teacher whom I highly respected to join us on Skype, say nothing, but then give me feedback as to why this particular student, was not progressing. What could I do different, better?  The best answer I got was, “He will probably never progress as that is not his goal; rather, that is your goal. With his spouse having passed away a year ago, he really values his relationship with you and the group of perpetual novices he plays with. Bridge fills a hole for him.” We don’t seem to see that as a group at PSO Live Trainings, but do we really know why each of us is here?

So I first needed to come clean with myself as to why I have taken an extended break from bridge. No doubt, it would be normal for me to teach as a volunteer and to play world-ranking bridge. But I am going through health issues which preclude me from that level of activity.

So why did I choose poker? Given I spent spent my youth at scrabble tournaments across North America, I am 'scrabbled out' and my partner insists on managing investments, I had the opportunity to go back to my early University days where we played what we thought was poker. It was actually a game of bluff! But I could see that played 'properly', this game had amazing intellectual opportunities. After my first surgery, when I couldn't sleep in spite of that morphine pump, I watched a lot of poker on late night TV (not that you get many such show in Canada.). Bless Daniel Negreaun whose talent and constant 'commentary' at the table, confirmed that sooner than later, I would sit next to him at the final table, on television of course!  Oh for those legal drug-induced hallucinations!

I know that On PSO, unlike on the bridge site I played on, I am far from inundated with other peoples’ processes, albeit I have grown fond of many and wish all the best. I can blog at my convenience, play when I feel up to it and give myself at least two hours prior to reviewing each hand--the good, the bad, the ugly--so that I maintain an emotional distance as I judge the sesion In essence, poker gives me freedom from other's expectations,

Recently I read Dave—'TheLangolier'-Roemer’s excellent blog on bad beats. Prior, bad beats were the beginning of the end for me as I was the master of tilting. I have come to realize that I was still in ‘bridge mode’ where expectations of myself were, understandably, very high. Now I accept bad beats and as a $10 Zoom player, I look at my $4.00 left, I do not add money; rather, I have grown to have confidence that I will make up for those chips. When I reach $20—that is my set goal for each session I play—I stop unless I am too tired prior to achieving the goal. Do I always get back to $20? No, but I mark down how short I am of the $20 and when I am able to play again, I typically only play till I fill the gap.

How do I know I am ready to play again? The stars must be aligned.. Firstly, no fatigue and no distractions and the latter is not  easy one as my son and daughter come first. Unless it is something that can be put off with no ramifications, we make a date for later. Next, healthy snacks ready by me. I check with myself that I won’t get bored as it is a fallacy about Zoom that you play so many hands. Trust me, that Fast Fold button gets worn down. Am I feeling sufficiently analytical to read my opponent(s) betting, to take a short break to make a note on a player if something is glaring?

Having a private mentor can be a luxury if the fit is right. I am proud to say that Dave, the Chief Instructor at PSO, is my mentor. With the respect he demonstrates to all, how can one go wrong with the fit? He challenges me; he encourages me and he always leaves with gems that alter my game. Dave, I thank you.

Jared and Barry, I thank each of you for bringing the psychological aspects of poker to the forefront. You have both been and will remain part of my journey.