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  • My big poker problem

    OK, I really need help here.

    This is a problem I know I have, that I have decided to put some real work into tackling, as it's really stopping my game developing.

    When in a poker hand I am unable to think clearly and rationally with much structure.

    I know that sounds strange, and to stop us going too far off topic- some context.

    I'm a high school science teacher with a BSc. in chemistry and post grad educational qualifications. I know how to study and learn. I have over 20 poker "text" books on my kindle, or in paper form, and have signed up to I also have a big library of videos from the poker coaching webinars and from JLs resources (I got a $500 bonus for being one of the first people to sign up for I recognise that is probably -EV for me at the stakes I play, but I enjoy it. Like many people, I drift into passive learning too often by simply sitting and watching videos or reading the book- but generally speaking I am quite good at being more active and taking notes etc (I like the quizzes on for example).

    I am a recreational player- nothing more- and have been for about 10 years. I have no aspirations to "go up the ladder" or become a full time grinder/pro. I am not looking to use poker to take me around the world Vblogging my exotic lifestyle! It's a fun game, but I like to win. I play in a small soft weekly tournament that casts £36 to enter, and I am an overall winner in the game (my ROI is consistently about 100% year on year), and during school holidays I will play in a second tournament a week. I also play in about 3-4 bigger competitions with £100-£200 buy ins. Winning the regular tournament pays £500-£600. My wife and I have a combined income of about £100k p/a, so the amount of money I win/lose is basically irrelevant to our finances. In fact I normally take any winnings and simply spoil the kids/her with them. I'm not playing with scared money.

    So, given all this, does my brain turn to mush in a poker hand?

    I'm pretty decent pre-flop. I have a decent understanding of my ranges, positions, bet sizes and the like. Post flop I get drown in a morass of well it feels like mud. It doesn't matter if it's level 1 and a small pot, or late in the final table and a big one. The weird thing is I don't feel like this when I'm doing the quizzes. I do pretty well at those, and if I make a mistake, I can usually see how I have answered as an adaptation to the game(s) I play in compared to the games Jonathan is describing. Obviously a lot of the maths fundamentals are locked in and I can recall them at will, and I can keep track of players stacks and tendencies pretty well, but that's not really what I mean. Perhaps an example would help.

    Last night I set off with a fairly simple goal (beyond making day 2), and that was to clarify to myself before every bet why I was taking that action. So if I was betting for value, I wanted to simply say to myself "I am betting here because worse hands will call", and the same for bluffs "I am betting here because I believe better hands will fold". Once I'd folded my way through the first few hands, I don't think I remembered to do it a single time.

    I realise my explanation isn't particularly clear, but that's because I don't really understand why I feel like this. I spend my days explaining technical and detailed information with clarity and precision to my students- but in this one area my thoughts are unclear and garbled.

    I feel like I need a SHORT checklist of things to consider before I take any action. Something that I can train myself to do playing 1 table of microstakes online poker (which I despise, but will do) to embed the thinking habit for the live games. I don't want to be "that guy" that tanks for 2 minutes before taking a standard action- but I do want to be the best that I can be- within the constraints of it being a hobby, a demanding job and a young family that both take priority over poker!

    Anyone want to chip in their thoughts, or suggest a point for my structured thought process checklist?

    Don't worry about checking position/stack sizes/player types/hand selection- that's all fine.

    I'll start with my current 1 that I am adding- I think 5 might be a workable number to train with.

    1) Are we betting for value (which worse hands call?) or bluffing (which better hands fold?).

  • #2
    Being unable to think clearly, having brain fog, freezing up in important situations and rushing to decisions are all signs that a part of your brain that is responsible for the fight or flight response is taking over. When this happens your thinking part of your brain is basically shut off.

    This occurs because the brain has evolved to come up with the quickest and most effective way of making a decision in stressful situations or situations our brain perceives as threatening. Think of facing a gigantic bear running at you from out of no where in the woods. You will not stand there and think about the most effective way to stay alive. Your brain is going to have you fight or flight (run).

    In life this is what has helped us evolve...In poker, it can hurt our game. The question is figuring out why your brain is doing this and then working on fixing it.

    There are so many reasons why this may be occurring:

    1. You may know too much poker info and flooding your brain with thoughts in important and stressful situations.
    2. You may have a form of tilt that is leading to emotional responses.
    3. You may not have enough experience playing live in pressure situations.
    4. You may not have enough practice thinking through hands.
    5. There are several more...

    Your approach to fixing it begins by discovering why it is happening.

    I would highly recommend Jared Tendler's book The Mental Game of Poker. I learned a lot from this book and it may help you find the cause of your thinking issues.
    Last edited by JredA; 04-14-2017, 05:37 PM.


    • #3
      Hi Andy ,i would like to help you and give you my suggestion but i will need some time to think about it and write it out , wait for my reply =D


      • #4
        Hi Andy, I am in my mid fifties and can identify with all you are saying.
        I have studied a lot of poker over the years and have also joined and I have to say that I think I am finally beginning to see a big improvement. I get lost playing live as regards hand reading. I think this has a lot to do with all the distractions and the banter that goes on in our local game. Recently I realized to my disdain that I knew very little about some players that I have been playing with for the last five years.
        So now I put the phone away and concentrate on what is going on in hands and what cards people are showing down. I still find this hard to do, so I pick out one or two players to really focus on and really study their play. I use my phone to take notes on these players.

        So my No 1 aim is to improve further my hand reading ability..
        No 2 Be very aware of stack sizes. Often you can bet into a 15-25 bb stack that will force your opponent to fold or go all in.
        No 3 Learn how to bluff better. I still haven't got around to Jonathon's videos on Bluffing.
        No 4 Value bet on the river more but be very careful against skilled players as they are capable of bluff raising you.


        • #5
          Thanks for the replies guys- they are very helpful.

          In reverse order.....

          Joseph, I can really identify with some of the things you talk about. I can also see a lot of improvements technically from pokercoaching, but don't think I am applying the lessons properly yet. I love your comment about not knowing much about players you have been playing with for years- I feel exactly the same. Whilst I have a really clear read on some, others seem to be a mystery. OK, that's overstating it- but I don't feel like I have half as clear a read on them as I should after the amount of time we have played. I listen/watch/read players saying they will play "standard" poker for a few orbits before having the information they need to exploit players. Like you, I try to concentrate on the game, and only get involved in the banter to a level that doesn't distract me (well most of the time ) but sometime I realise I'm not even sure what it is that I'm actually concentrating on! It's like when I have been put to a difficult decision. So I go into the tank, think very carefully for a period of time, and then realise all I have actually thought is "does he have the flush?"!! I was thinking earlier about the times I "value" bet on the river, never stopping to consider if I can only get called by a better hand. I remember the first time I met this concept- it was like a lightbulb going off in my head. I couldn't believe such a powerful, and yet simple, idea. And yet I still fail to consistently apply it, because my thought process is too muddled to think clearly.

          I think I will adopt your strategy of making player notes on my phone. That should help with discipline, and will break me from having to analyse data "on the fly". I can at least look for patterns later, although I do find I have difficulty even in the very short term of recalling hand specifics- how much was that preflop raise? I think I need to put my ego to one side, and not be afraid to blatantly make notes at the table- although the "old school" player in me seems to feel like this is a huge breach of etiquette for some reason. Maybe it's not so much that, but a bit like being someone takes preparation for a minor sports event far too seriously. You know what I mean- an inter department 5 a side football match and arranging training sessions! This is simply social conditioning, and I am strong enough as a person to set it aside and do what I want. But I can see how it has stopped me doing such things in the past.

          Paul....... Interested to see what you say.

          JredA. I can completely identify with your first 3 paragraphs. They make a lot of sense, and I understand the science behind it to a reasonable level. But my feeling is that where I am in my game, I should be beyond that. Note- that's not the same as saying I am beyond it! It happens even early in a tournament where I am deepstacked and the pot is relatively small. I make good "automatic" decisions, but poor complex ones because I seem unable to process the complex information required in the heat of the moment. Because of my experience in playing live (and I do make a surprising number of final tables with decent results (game selection )) and my complete financial indifference to the actual money on offer (I really do treat poker wins/losses as "the score") I should never be in any situation that is "stressful"- beyond that of making the best decisions. However, you also use the word "important", and I do like that word. I also like the use of the word "pressure", which is commonly applied to poker. Pressure counts for me because I want to play well- the money will naturally follow sooner or later. Last night I went out when my 20BB shove with AK over a limp/3BB raise was called by KK and I missed the ace. I walked away from that tournament without a care in the world, because my decision was absolutely correct. I beat myself up all last week for committing suicide on the bubble of a satellite with top set. The first decision cost me more money, but the second decision was wrong.

          so, running through your list:

          1) Possibly true- but for reasons that are unclear to me. The reason for this needs to be identified before I can move forwards.
          2) I don't think this is true- I generally don't tilt. I can happily shrug off AA < KK when it happens, and return to my best game. Of course this might be showing a lack of self awareness. However it has made me think more broadly about the reasons I play poker- and do I have an emotional reaction to the game on a deeper level? Is there an emotional response to the "competition" element of poker? In thinking about this I have realised one of the reasons I am poor at videos games is I panic in many situations where others seem to remain calmer. However I am very good at strategy games where I have time to sit and think- but poker is surely more like these than CoD etc? maybe there is another aspect to tilt that I have ignored all along.
          3) I don't think this is true, as outlined above. I play almost exclusively live (I "practise" online), and within my comfort zone (which might well be a problem in itself).
          4) Not sure on this one. When I decided (a couple of years ago) to improve my game, I started with Harringtons books, and I actually did all the exercises as I went through, and repeated them. I also use the instapoker app and the pokercoaching quizzes. This is on top of my weekly game. Now I appreciate some internet multitable grinder can rack up far more hands than me very quickly, but I think I have enough not to list this as a specific problem. The problem seems to be a difference in my thought clarity when I am actually in a hand compared to the purely academic/non competitive nature of the practise questions. Which I guess brings us back to point 1!

          I'm tempted to flippantly respond "I don't need another poker book"! However this might well be a good investment. In fact I have just looked on Amazon and it's a fiver for the Kindle- so I have bought 1 & 2. The rubric suggests that it targets the kind of tilt I don't really suffer from, but I want to fix it, and I think it's certainly worth a read. I am also considering booking myself in for a hypnotherapy session. As a 48 year old science teacher, this is a bit of a leap - but I did try it once before to stop smoking and it was relatively effective for some reason I can't explain. If there is a deeper reason maybe some form of counselling/therapy option might be a better option- does hypnotherapy sound like I am after some kind of magic diet pill? Even typing this out makes me feel like I am over reacting or something. I have no idea how I would explain it to my wife! But maybe it's actually the sensible route, once I put aside my British reservations and scientific background!

          Thanks very much for the time people have already taken to respond. Your input makes me think more deeply and widely about the problem, and will help me improve/resolve the issue.
          Last edited by Andy Watson; 04-15-2017, 09:23 AM.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Andy Watson View Post
            But my feeling is that where I am in my game, I should be beyond that.
            This very well could be part of your issues and is a way a form of tilt. You know this stuff because you have watched videos, read about it or studied it. However, you still have to think about it in stressful situations. You do not know it well enough to act unconsciously. Therefore you have to think. You get upset with your self because you know it, but you still have to think about it. Your mind races trying to find the answer to the situation at hand and in a way you panic because the situation is stressful.

            I used to think tilt only referred to getting mad because you sucked out on. It turns out there are various forms and they can all affect our game. I bet you benefit greatly from the book. I am by no means an expert in this area, but I have learned a ton from reading about it and it has helped my game tremendously.


            • #7
              Your last post says to me that you have already taken some steps toward improvement that you aren't even aware of yet. being in the therapy field, I often note that others see changes in people before they see it in themselves. Or to put it another way: Dude! you're already there!
              Now for something that might actually be helpful... Watch Cliff Josephy at the final table. See the way he stops and folds his arms in exactly the same way before he acts.
              Watch Tom Dwan counting his breaths (not as obvious). they are both smacking down their amygdala. As mentioned, the fight or flight response. Any repetitious thing you do that delays this can give the more reasoning parts of your brain time to think the problem through more clearly.
              Another idea is to focus on ONE small thing at a time. I read this in someone's book many years ago. Concentrate on ONE player. Resolve to bluff this ONE player when you get the chance. Then move on to one other thing. It may not get immediate results but you will remember what you did and it's probably going to be more fun.


              • #8
                Thanks HUK- I appreciate your comments.

                This realisation and thread have started off some pretty seismic shifts in my thinking over the last few days- and actually in ways well beyond the poker table.

                I have read through most of Tendler's first book (Thanks JredA). I will need to reread it, and make definitive notes, but it has made a lot of things very clear. Interestingly enough I was already very familiar with 2 of the main concepts- "levels of competence", and "inchworm". The thing that I was shocked at, is I had never applied them to my poker.

                I have realised that all my poker knowledge, beyond the most rudimentary, is only ever learned to "conscious competence". In fact I have learned that this is very common for me throughout my life. I like to learn new things, but as soon as I "can do it", I lose interest and move onto something new. I never reach a level of "mastery" (to use another similar term) where I can do it automatically. In the first post I said I was pretty decent at the basics- lets simplify it by calling it "standard preflop". I think this is something I know to a level of mastery. However I now recognise that any aspect of the game much beyond this- either "non-standard preflop" or "post-flop" are only learned to "conscious mastery". I can do it, but I need to think about it and work it out every time. This was actually really drilled into me late last night as I was doing my pokercoaching homework. The first question was simple- against 2 tight blinds raise a lot, and fold to their raises. But that was the limit of my competence. Once I started thinking even slightly more about the hand I had to start resorting to Flopzilla and the range analyser. I worked it all out, but it took time I couldn't have taken at the poker tables, and used tools I wouldn't have. So my "standard" play was fine with AA and Q-8o, but what happens when the BB reraises me and I hold KQs? I didn't know, and it took a lot of effort to work out.

                So when I am playing my A game, this is fine. My mind is clear, I make good assessments and I play well. However this takes me a lot of mental effort- and probably causes me to "flag" faster than I should. I normally feel like I have good stamina- especially considering I have to work all day before I play- but it can't help. However if I am not on my A game, I play poorly as I cannot make the kind of decisions that need to be made because of unclear thought processes. My game drops fast. In fact I have recognised this- I can play well for hours then spectacularly self destruct in a single hand played poorly. This is the inchworm in action- my mental game weaknesses are causing my B/C/D whatever game to be a very long way behind my A game. By fixing this, my sub-A game becomes much closer to my A game ALL THE TIME.

                What does this mean? Well it's actually simple. Practise! I need to push myself to take these topics I understand when I am not under pressure and can relax and think about, and be able to instantly recall the answer. It's funny, because this is the opposite of what I teach at school. I "just know" the atomic masses of most of the common elements. However I want my students to be able to calculate them. They need to master the methodology, but not the answer. In the exam they will have the tools and the time to calculate the answer. I am not allowed to use an equity calculator at the table. So understanding how to calculate how often a bluff needs to work isn't as useful as simply "knowing" for a number of standard bluff sizes.

                So, action 1 will be to practise a range of poker maths problems- but to concentrate on memorising the solution not just the method.

                Secondly I need a method for solving problems at the table that use the raw maths from #1. How much to bet? Tendeler suggests either a linear or tailored system depending on your personal preference. As can be seen from my initial post I had an inherent understanding of my preferred style. I need a linear checklist that I can run through as I make each decision. I think this is something that HUK is referring to in his post, with the consistent processes to implement this list. So Tendler suggests #1 is a deep breath, for Josephy it might be fold your arms etc. But that first step then sets them down a predefined thought process- which again needs to become unconscious in its application.

                So action 2 is to devise a thought process checklist.

                The final area is one I haven't really got to the bottom of yet, and it will take further work. Possibly the second reading, or maybe something further into the book (due to the layout of the book). Why does my mind go blank so I cannot process information? I have read through the "fixing" strategy, but I haven't clearly identified the "why". From my initial read through, it's clearly an emotional response. It also seems to manifest itself in a way that closest resembles fear. However I'm not entirely certain what it is I am scared of. If I were playing for a significant amount of money I would understand it, but I'm not. Maybe it isn't fear- I haven't got to these sections in detail yet. Once this is identified then I can move onto fixing it. This will then allow me to make better decisions with the situations where the thought process checklist isn't as clear cut.

                So action 3 is to identify the root cause of my emotional response when playing.

                I hope people are finding this thread interesting. It's moved well beyond my initial thoughts. I really want to thank everyone that has contributed so far, as it stimulates my thoughts and ideas well beyond what I can do myself. I guess that's the real purpose of a forum like this. I have put ideas of hypnotherapy off to one side for now. If I can't break through this on my own I might revisit it later, but for now I will go for the sledgehammer of hard work! I would still be very interested to hear of anyones experiences if they have tried hypnotherapy or non-technical coaching/therapy.

                Finally it turns out Jared has done a lot of work on YouTube. I found these videos which cover the same content as the books. They give a very good idea of what to look for- almost to the point where they make the book redundant, although I think in my case I find it easier to work with books for specific references.

                Oh, a second final thought- I can't help noticing the relationship between Jared Tendeler's name and JredA! Are they one and the same? If so, sorry if my link costs you a book sale or 2!



                • #9
                  Sorry to disappoint....But I am not Jared Tendler.

                  It sounds like you are well on your way to improving. Having a plan and discovering your weaknesses are a great start.

                  I found dumping out all of my thoughts on paper very helpful. I found some quiet time and just started by going back to my most recent tournament and thinking about an exact spot where I started to struggle with the thinking process. I then dumped out all of the reasons why this could be happening.

                  What was I feeling? What were my thoughts? etc, etc.

                  After a day or so of thinking about it I narrowed down the causes and eventually located some specific tilts that I have since developed a plan to improve.

                  I continue to work on these along with improving my thought process away from the table. I have noticed a massive difference when I play.


                  • #10
                    Well that's a pity- I would have flooded your in-box with questions by now! Then again I did read back and think if you were JT, it was a bit naughty recommending your own book like that!! Then again, it's an excellent book- so I was conflicted!

                    I like to get a really strong start to new ideas like this, so I have done some work today. Not all entirely productive, but the good far outweighs the bad.

                    Action point 1. Poker maths questions.

                    I started the day thinking I needed to find some poker footage where I could see my hole cards, but not the opposition. Then I can practise putting people on ranges and using Flopzilla/the range analyser to play with the numbers. I thought some of the YouTube videos of live streaming would work well. I found a neat one during a quiet spot at work, and calculated my call/fold equity by hand for practise. Then I got distracted and started hunting for poker quiz software/apps and ended up wasting an hour or so thoughtlessly clicking and playing on a free version of AdvancedPokerTraining.coms software. I wasn't doing any deep thinking though- although this was more my problem than the software! Then I searched YouTube for some quizzes, thinking I could pause them and see how I do. That actually worked really well. I found a guy using PokerSnowie, and I took the hand he was using, paused it and worked my way through. I started with a preflop raise, then gradually narrowed it as we got to the river. The good news is I came up with the right answer! The bad news is it took me half an hour! I could be the new Doc Sands/ Yvgeniy Timoshenko. Oh, I also needed the range analyser as well. Could I use that at the table in the ME?

                    However, I learned some really cool stuff. By opening several tabs of range analyser I can have PRE/flop/turn/river ranges all next to each other to see it narrow. This really helped my visualisation. It also meant that by the end I could see the exact combos that I felt would call/fold to my river bet. In the hand I did, I had top pair/top kicker. From JLs quizzes I think (incorrectly in many of my games!) that most people won't pay off 3 streets of value with top pair, worse kicker. However once I had narrowed the range down from preflop I could clearly see that I was expecting to have my bet called by 18 combos that beat me, and only 6 that I beat- so a check was a better option. That's detail. That's the first step to mastery! Actually PokerSnowie was a piece of software I trialled, but never really used- but I think with my commitment to unconscious competence I think I might invest in it. However I also realised I have loads of this type of hand available to me with the pokercoaching quizzes! So my plan tomorrow is to return to the quizzes, but instead of simply thinking about the hand and choosing an answer, I will start building ranges for each one, and make decisions based on those.

                    I was less successful in one of my goals for today. I remember being a bit stunned as I read (only just bought it) Alex Fitzgeralds chapter in Excelling, and how he analysed his hands. He actually challenges the reader to stop and do the calculations. I was scan reading at the time, and didn't- but this actually pricked my consciousness at the time. I meant to go back and reread the chapter and do the calculations- but I got distracted and read the mental ones at the end instead.

                    Action point 2: linear thought process checklist.

                    A little progress, but not much. I have found a couple online, but they seem unsatisfactory to me. I also got JLs tournament cheatsheet. The plan now is to collect as much together as I can, then combine the bits I like into my own.

                    Action point 3: Identify the emotional reason for my brain freeze.

                    Well I have a few possibilities after a small amount of reading on my lunch hour! I'm wondering if it is fear of making a mistake, or simply the amount of stuff I "know" but can't access and process because it's not unconscious. Or possibly something else. This will be the tricky one to solve as I think I can solve 1 & 2 with hard work- but this will take a much deeper level of introspection and self analysis than I have done before. No one tell my wife that the only plan I have to grow as a person is to become a better poker player!


                    • #11
                      Hi Andy , yup i am here to write out my view.

                      after thinking and have read a few of your post i begin to understand more about you.

                      you are looking for a system, a structure to follow , as poker sometime has too many answer and too many ways to play, and sometime we wont know our action is correct or wrong , because in poker short term individual result is not accurate.
                      we human is not computer we cant remember so many hands and if we only play in live game our brain cant record like computer plus its hardly to have 100% similar hand happen again for the next few session, even when it happen few sample size still cant make a conclusion is that right play or not.

                      you talk about you enjoy learning and you did well in poker quiz but you do not do as well for practical live game. One of the reason i believe in poker quiz or in theory they will show you or tell you information that you need to know to make decision , while in live situation every piece of information might be there or might not be there for you to make decision. sometime the variable we need is too many till we might miss out this or that information to make decision to make our decision incorrect.

                      e.g in theory they will write a loose passive villain open , or limp in this hand. in paper might even say the vpip the pfr etc, or sometime range will be given to you depend on the Question. But in live game the same opponent seat in the table with you , now is you as hero have to judge is he loose? passive? or how is the table dynamic etc he might be generally loose passive , but today due to what ever reason play tight passive or tight aggressive? you as hero have to learn to judge or learn to size up your opponent as fast as possible.

                      Online player has huds they play according to stats etc with theory quiz they have so call standard answer or optimal ans, as the information given to you will be correct and will not be change .in live situation everything will become depends on how you feel or how you perceived the information you get. sometime base on what ever factor you get the information the opponent is tilt and shoving light , then you can call light. no right no wrong.

                      what is a good player that play well in the table , they are able to size up opponent well in most situation , they assume, they make intelligent guess, but they guess it most of it correctly and they use logic and certain clue , maybe its tells , vibes, betting pattern, history , understand player emotion , etc

                      you mention you are decent preflop but not as good post flop, that is usually the case for hardworking player, preflop can be easily learn has lesser possibility then post flop and preflop we can force to memorize preflop chart our preflop game wont be too off and out of line. But post flop it open up to more option , when we try to learn poker by memory it will has this issue, but i am not saying hardwork and memory no use. when we understand poker, understand our objective things will become easier in this step.

                      what do i mean by understand how to play poker or how to win poker. they are few ways to play it but i believe only two ways is the right way to play it.

                      one the GTO, to balance in all spot to grind out small profit , the best defense no one can exploit you and will exploit you.
                      second the exploitative play- to find player leak and attack on villain leak.

                      how to identify villain leak is base on your poker fundamental, if you do not know what is the right approach how do you identify is that play a leak ? Everyone has leak even JL or even Phil ivey, but how do you capture it and do you have the balls to capture it. or i use a better words sometime in poker , you need to have the heart to execute the move.

                      example: if you realize opponent is 3 betting very wide range and 3 bet too many time, do you have the heart to 4 bet shove with any two card . if you realize opponent is shoving light do you have the heart to call his shove with AQ or even pocket 9 , how about AJ. If a very very tight player 5 bet shove into your preflop do you have the discipline to fold your QQ or AK or maybe KK. i find it quite exploitable if i fold kk here but if base on description if you certain he is having AA then folding KK might not be a wrong move. But the keyword is certain.

                      sometime range calculation is not as easy in the table, if the opponent range is wide, we only can use estimate in the table, most of the range calculation we do outside the table with enough experience and memory , we can bring it to the table with better estimation.


                      • #12
                        Hi andy , a simple structure for you it might help , you can feel free to add more or take some out.

                        first identify villain / opponent leak/mistake.
                        second formulate a plan to capture on your villain mistake
                        in muti way pot try to play as straightforwards as possible and learn how to value opponent


                        • #13
                          I encourage you not to look online for help with a "checklist" but instead, take some quiet time, sit down and create one on your own that works for you. Everyone has a different thought process and can relate to different things, you want to go with something you are comfortable with.

                          I have spent many notebooks, many hours reading articles and books and research trying to find a thought process that works for me. But the bottom line is, this should come somewhat naturally. It should be your thought process.

                          The important thing to remember is this.....

                          As JT talks about in his book - poker is a game of incomplete information. What makes pro's good are the fact that they have so many pieces of information in the unconscious competence category of their brain. They know it without having to think about it.

                          Hypothetically speaking if there are 10 pieces of information in a specific situation of a poker hand, amateurs might only know 1 or 2 of those pieces and have to frantically search for more. Leading to fear, panic, anxiousness, etc. which can ultimately lead to brain fog and freeze. On the other hand a pro knows 7 or so pieces of info thus giving them a huge advantage and they can calmly put the pieces together formulating a plan. The more you unconsciously know, the more detail you can think and search for the unknowns.

                          This comes from practice, practice and more practice. Experience is the key.

                          So no matter what your thought process is you have to practice the living hell out of it and overtime it will improve.

                          This is what I have done and I have seen HUGE improvements in a very short amount of time:

                          1. I have found what my tilt issues are and worked to all but eliminate them.
                          2. I have created a list to go over when I practice and tried everything I can to engrain that list into my head making it an unconscious thought process.

                          My list contains 5 thoughts, each with subcategories.

                          It is important to remember that this is too much to go over at the table. My goal is to study away from the table and practice it to the point where it comes naturally. When I go play live, I try to focus on one thing within this list (moving in order). I am aware and know that this will take time, so I do not expect instant results or expect to be perfect. I try to improve, one step at a time.

                          Each sub-categegory of my list contains areas where information needs to be learned. This can come from reading books, articles, etc. Again, the more you know and learn, the less you have to think about it.

                          So here is my list:

                          1. Gather Info. - This step sounds simple and it is if you have experience in it. Basically you are gathering as much information as you can to help you with your decision.

                          a. Tournament situation - This includes stage of the tournament, blinds, type of tournament, structures, etc. etc.

                          b. Opponent info. - What kind of player are they? What level of thinking do they have? Do we have history with them? What position did they open? Do they adjust for position, etc, etc.

                          c. My situation - My stack size, my position, my history with villain(s), my image, my goals and current situation.

                          2. Range villain - After gathering info I want to construct a range on villain using the info I have. I find trying to eliminate a category (premium value hands, marginal hands, semi-bluffs, air) from villains range to be very helpful. Then I can plug in hand combo's, etc. and visualize a range.

                          3. Options and Outcomes - After formulating a possible range, I want to look at not only my options (fold, check, call, raise), but what will happen if I chose one of these options. Let's say I think raising for value is the best option against a range. What will the outcome be? So I look at pot size, how the opponent might react, and future plans, etc.

                          4. My Perceived Range - After I find an option I want to go with I first want to see what my range looks like (if villain is a thinking player). What other hands would I do this with, etc. This especially helps with bluff spots. It slows me down and makes me think before just acting without thought.

                          5. Equity - Last but not least I want to think about my equity if called or cards are shown. I find that when I think about this things such as pot odds, bluff percentages, etc come naturally.

                          This works for me and I find that it includes some of the most important aspects involved when analyzing a hand.

                          Again, this is too much to think about at a table (unless you don't mind tanking for 3 minutes). That is why my goal is to improve away from the table so this comes naturally when playing. I try to focus on one thing at a time and I find the process is moving along very quickly in the right direction. The more stressful spots I run into the better, because that is what helps me improve.

                          Just a tip for helping you locate your possible emotional reason....try really digging deeper for the reason you may feel fear.


                          • #14
                            Thank you once again to everyone that has taken a lot of their time to respond.

                            Paul- I understand what you are saying- in a live environment there are innumerable extra factors that may, or may not be available to help you make a decision. Some calculated, some instinctive. I remember playing a hand where my AK was called by a very LAG, very bluffy player I know well in the SB. The flop came out 3-4-6r, and he led out for some normal sized bet. I looked at him....... and just folded. I said, laughing, "you're all over that flop", and he laughed and showed his 5-2! I have no idea how I knew I was beat, but I just knew. Then there is the theoretical side, the fundamentals, which need to slot in alongside. My fundamentals are not as strong as I thought they were- that much is very clear to me. But in applying my brain in the hand to the fundamentals, I am taking away focus from those essential live skills. This is why I am strengthening those key skills, to free my mind up to do other things. Also I am expecting to bring them to the level where "I just know" the maths/strategies, which means that they become unaffected by my inability to think clearly.

                            Jred- once again you have really cut through a lot of work for me and brought some of the issues into clearer focus for me.

                            The checklist was going to be my own, but I wanted to use others to ensure it covered what I needed it to do. I like what you have there, and I will incorporate it into my lists. For example in your list, I will probably omit step 1- because I normally go through this process whilst the dealer is shuffling. I am not looking for a long list that covers every possible eventuality- they call that a book...... or maybe a library! The actual list in my head will probably only be 5-6 words long, but like your system each word will lead to a small number of "sub thoughts". I actually teach this strategy to my students for exam revision for essay questions. It's impossible (well, difficult) to learn an essay in case the question is asked, but it is easier (as long as your fundamentals are strong) to learn a series of words that will cover all the main points, and allow you to treat the essay as a series of shorter, simpler questions. As such, my 5 word list will be my thought STRUCTURE, rather than the full thought process. I will be able to easily (hopefully!) bring that structure to unconscious competence, and add it to my game. I am thinking that as I develop, I might well need a set of these checklists- say preflop, flop, turn and river. Or maybe a set to deal with specific situations. I often describe memory like a filing cabinet. At the moment all my poker knowledge is written on bits of paper and thrown in the draws. I need to start putting things in files, into order, into a system. Some structure to allow me to find the right thing at the right time. The "checklist" concept or key point list, or however we chose to describe it will fit in with my preferred learning styles and systems.

                            Oh, and I have bought another book- essential poker math (s- I'm English after all!). This should help me by giving me exercises and practise. I have finished my first reading of Tendelers book, and I think it's impact is already clear. I need to now reread it as a straightforward text book (i.e. jumping around, making notes, and focussing on relevant chapters). It was my son's football training tonight, so not much time to actually get any work done myself- I'm not procrastinating- I promise! Poker<Family! I will do 30 minutes of maths now before bed!


                            • #15
                              Sons football training, and date night tonight. Poker<Family. However it's a young family, and work tomorrow- so we are home early. Tomorrow is poker night, and I plan to try taking notes at the table. To be honest, I'm dreading it- but that won't stop me trying at least.

                              Just done about an hour of solid maths training. I have been using essential poker math, that I bought yesterday. Now it might be me, and maybe I bought the wrong book, but so far I'm not overly impressed. For a start, I have only covered odds calculations (odds/% conversions), some standard situational odds memorisation (eg overpair v underpair), pot odds calculations (as odds and %) and outs to odds conversions. So I am still right in the basics of poker maths- and I am showing 42% of the way through the book on my kindle. It's a short book. It's not a bad book- the methods are very clearly laid out, and if you are unfamiliar with the calculations then I can see it being a big help. However I think it's pitching a bit below where I am at. It's not that I can't do them, but that I am working too hard to do them. The most annoying thing is all the practise questions have the example and method laid out directly below. It's very easy for my eyes to glance down- even when I don't want them to- and see the answer. I don't like that. Better to put all the answers together somewhere later for checking. It is worth remembering the book was very cheap- about a fiver on the kindle. I looked at some of the other workbooks for poker, and they were very expensive.

                              Having said that, it's definitely having some impact, as I could feel myself getting into a "maths rhythm" and speeding up and thinking less as I did the questions. It's also very easy to google some websites with extra (free) training questions on these same topics. So I will continue to use the book as a starter, and to ensure a good range of maths concepts, but then use other websites for extension questions.


                              • #16
                                I think it was Napoleon that said "no plan survives first contact with the enemy"!

                                The notebooks I ordered online didn't show up, and the local supermarket didn't have anything suitable. I put it off till next week.

                                Then I sat at the table. It couldn't have been worse.

                                I was in seat 7, so furthest away from the pot, which made counting the pot harder than it needed to be. I think I need to work on tracking it in my head, but for now I am relying on counting it as I have enough going on in my brain! My table draw was horrific. I had an unknown on my right, then 2 total nits. On my left I had a decent TAG then the 3 biggest maniacs in the room. The final player was another decent TAG.

                                In one way this helped. Being OOP against maniacs becomes a mathematical game. With no fold equity (25/50 blinds, I decided to raise big with AdKd, since I thought I would still get plenty of action. I raised to 400 (8X if you haven't been paying attention!) and got 6 callers!) I decided to play a simple passive game of limp/calling and waiting for a big hand to get some value. Preflop bets were big, so it became a routine (if boring) case of calculating pot odds. Calculating equity. If the sums were good then working out how to get maximum value. This works. I only won 2 hands in the first 2 hours (I missed every draw all night) and my stack dwindled to close to half what I started with, but I went into the break with double my starting stack as I pretty much got full double ups on both hands. And what had I been practising this week? Pot odds and equity calculations!

                                So lets compare last night to last week- the OP.

                                Firstly at no point did I go blank. So that was a marked improvement in itself.

                                Secondly, my equity calculations were clean and precise. These were already something I was comfortable with, using the rule of 2/4, so maybe that isn't much of a surprise. I am certainly not at unconscious competence- but consciously very competent. I need to move to the point where I simply look at the board and go I have a flush draw and an overcard, that's 24% to hit on the next card, or 48% on the river. At the moment I go- flush draw = 9, overcard = 3, that's 12 outs, and 12*2=24%. It's not complicated, but it's mental effort I want to be using elsewhere. I have also clarified and made myself more aware/comfortable with not double counting outs. One of the things the essential maths book also makes very clear- and not something I had done previously- was discounting dirty outs from my calculations. So definite improvements here, but ongoing.

                                Pot odds calculations were harder. As I said above, actually seeing the pot was awkward- which didn't help. I also found myself getting into a bit of a muddle from time to time. I could normally get through it, but multiway pots (we had lots) were hard work. I also found myself struggling to do some quite complex division in my head- and need to start rounding numbers off for ease. I don't need to be accurate to an exact %. This definitely needs further practise. I did realise I could practise these calculations in pots I wasn't involved in- which was good training. I also realise, on reflection, that this is a very good marker for establishing whether players are making calling errors. I need to be more competent here, but this is a potentially big step forward in my exploitative play.

                                The issue that caught me by surprise was I realised I was used to calculating pot odds as odds (fractions), and equity as a %. This then gave me some really awkward conversions to do, especially since live players don't bet nice clean amounts of the pot! I was doing work calculating the equity, work doing the pot odds, then further work comparing the 2. This isn't good. So, I need to either shift my default pot odds calculations to %, and move that to conscious unconscious. Where the % number is the one that just jumps into my brain, not the odds one, or I need to absolutely memorise a conversion chart- including quite a number of partial odds- and instinctively move between the 2 (like I can do for cm and inches for example). I think I will aim at the straight to % route in my practise next week.

                                One thing I should mention. I feel I was slightly critical of the maths book last week. I'm now much more positively inclined towards it. I do seem to be able to avoid looking at the answers, although I still think my initial point was valid, but the book is now linking these mathematical concepts directly into poker hands much more. It is explaining how to use these calculations. For example there was a very good section about how a very marginal call (pot odds=equity), becomes an excellent shove spot because then you keep your card equity if called, but gain fold equity. I really liked it, and the explanation was clear and well thought out. The book seems to be bringing more of these types of thoughts and plays alongside the maths.
                                Last edited by Andy Watson; 04-22-2017, 07:50 AM.


                                • #17
                                  Hi Andy this is an example we need to prepare outside the table, its not easy to do all this calculation on the table, but we can count it before hand , when we met similar situation , with same category of player we can use it. this is the spot memory and preparation come in place


                                  • #18
                                    Cheers Paul. I saw that episode and recognised the lessons for my situation- in fact I commented on the video suggesting JL uses Excel instead of Word for the calculation!

                                    It really hits home to a wide range of problems I have in my game. I kind of know all the ideas he went through- and in truth I thought I knew them all well. But the reality is I simply don't know them well enough. Then I have to try work it out in the middle of the pressured situation- and as I confessed in the OP, I can't do it. The really stupid thing is I think I work quite hard on my game, but the effort has been misplaced. I've just sat in the Pokercoaching webinar, and I know when I did my homework I didn't really know my button opening range. I had a reasonable idea in the game, but I couldn't have written it down, or have any idea how often it actually was. It's all in the specific details- exactly as JL is doing here.

                                    My thought process here would probably have been something like, I am flipping against any broadways, and crushed by any overpairs. I don't really like that. I would probably have recognised I am not getting the implied odds to call and set mine, but I doubt I would have seriously considered shoving- as JL says, we are probably getting it in bad. That might be a reasonable adaption to the games I play (3 bet bluffs and 3 bet folds are rare). So this might well get me to the right place most of the time, but that isn't really good enough to lay to a decent standard. By doing this kind of work off the table I will really improve.

                                    The range analyser and other tools are not something I have done much work with so far, but I am increasingly seeing the value of.

                                    I really appreciate all the input from people- I am using the thread as a motivator and open forum to keep me going. In fact at the moment I am using it as a procrastinator to put off an hour of maths practise before bed! Pot odds as %, fast and accurate. That's the goal!


                                    • #19
                                      Yes Andy you have hit the point , like you say you did reasonably well in poker quiz etc why all information is well feed to the Question. in live game situation all information is given in a manner that is not clear , we need to have the skill to extract the right information . Poker is a game about information / intel, if we get all the information wrongly , even how great our strategy , we will still lose the game.

                                      Andy you mention you reading the book that help you make marginal call to push (For example there was a very good section about how a very marginal call (pot odds=equity), becomes an excellent shove spot because then you keep your card equity if called, but gain fold equity.) what is the book title i am also studying those spot that is marginal .


                                      • #20
                                        The book I am using is called essential poker math by Alton Hardin. It's the extended edition. It is very cheap for the kindle edition on Amazon.

                                        Initially I didn't really take to the book. Whilst it was nice and clear in it's methodology I thought it was a bit basic and seemed t be stretching things out a little- as I said above I was 42% through and still had only really covered pot odds and outs. However it has now ramped up nicely and is doing a lot more linking with poker play, rather than simply outlining the calculation methods. So I am only about 65% of the way through (I keep going back to the pot odds- I haven't got that smooth yet), but I think I would recommend it- especially at the price.

                                        I did have a look through Doug Hulls Poker workbook for Maths Geeks, which looks bigger and better- but is a lot more expensive.

                                        For the record I have done a little more tonight. The outs/equity calculations are getting to be very good, although I am wondering if I need to move towards a memorising common situations system to make it ultra simple at the table (but ultra hard off the table), or to keep with what seems to be a manageable on table calculation. The pot odds calculation could also be moved over to this style- the odds calculations are simple enough, then convert to a memorised conversion.


                                        • #21
                                          Another hour tonight, and the pot odds calculations are starting to come together.

                                          I have written a simple list of odds to % conversions, and have been repeating them/writing them down all day. It was good to make use of the hour long traffic jam on the way home.

                                          So what I have been doing on my calculations tonight is working out the pot odds as a %, then mentally running down this list- which I will impress you all by typing purely from memory

                                          1:1 50%
                                          2:1 33%
                                          3:1 25%
                                          4:1 20%
                                          5:1 16%

                                          If it's in-between I split the difference, weighting to one side or another.

                                          This is working well, and will be the strategy I stick to. I have printed out some examples I can take into work and do over lunch if I don't feel like talking to my colleagues! I can pretend to be marking or something!


                                          • #22
                                            Funny thing happened at work today.

                                            I was analysing some of the students progress data, and I realised I was recording assorted percentages. So I started treating it like a pot odds calculation- and worked them all out in my head! Obviously I had to go back and check them with a calculator- but good news! I was only shaving a % here and there.

                                            I am definitely improving at these.