A good poker book is always a gift. While I have read many that cover theory, math, and hand analysis, the ones I have found potentially most useful focus on enhancing the physical and mental approach to the game.

Recently I found myself nodding my head in hearty agreement with numerous excellent points made by Patricia Cardner and Jonathan Little in their book Peak Poker Performance. Cardner identifies various bad habits that interfere with our functioning and offers strategies to combat them, while Little connects these strategies in very tangible ways to an optimal approach for poker sessions. All of their advice seemed so clear, so attainable.

However “potentially” is the crux of my problem. Let’s look at the current tale of the tape:

I. Sage Advice from Cardner/Little: Prepare physically for poker sessions by sleeping well, eating right, and exercising. Maximal energy, focus, and brain functioning is not possible if you are not caring for your body.

My Reality:  Sitting on the coach the night before a tournament eating a bowl of popcorn (really a thinly veiled butter delivery system) followed by an ice cream chaser while binge watching the first season of The Vikings until 2am probably doesn’t meet the Cardner/Little standards of optimal prep. Neither does making an orphan of the treadmill for the past month or vowing that once the Hershey’s kisses are kaput, the snack diet will be strictly mandarin oranges and celery.

II. Sage Advice from Cardner/Little: Sustain a proper mental approach by avoiding rumination over mistakes, excessive self-criticism, or allowing emotions to drive your behavior.

My Reality: Found all of these fine points challenging the last two weekends when my tournaments were ended by poorly executed directives from another excellent Jonathan Little tome, Bluffs. Apparently, I should not have impulsively shoved all-in representing an ace in my hand when one hit the river when the other player had already paired the raggy board with …top kicker in his hand. So that would be 2 pair to my blown straight draw. “Moron” was the nicest thing my inner critic said over the next 90 minutes.

'Moron' was the nicest thing my inner critic said over the next 90 minutes. Click To Tweet

III. Sage Advice from Cardner/Little:  Avoid procrastination in studying/training by making a game out of accomplishing aversive tasks, structuring a more productive working environment (e.g, put that cell phone out of sight), creating simple to-do lists, and my favorite: Temptation Bundling (which I thought was a reality TV series on Fox).

My Reality: Now they’re just messing with my brand. Procrastination is the lifeblood of future self-recrimination. I’m not sure I’d recognize myself without it. If I was dutifully addressing all the leaks in my game with disciplined daily hand analysis, well where’s the challenge there?

IV. Sage Advice from Cardner/Little:  Don’t just set goals for your poker career: develop a system of growth and improvement that is marked by increasingly strong positive habits.

My Reality: See my above love affairs with procrastination and the couch. Tough to bang out a disciplined system of self-improvement when you misplaced your detailed study plan and you figure you’ll find it tomorrow. Right now a new Shark Tank just came on.

In truth, my good self  does show up from time to time. When it does, growth toward a better poker player and person actually seems attainable. I would just like that self to be a more regular resident, rather than a timeshare holder in my psyche.

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