Featured Poker Blog Post by Tommy Angelo

Poker and Mindfulness

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Six of the eight episodes of The Eightfold Path to Poker Enlightenment have aired at DeucesCracked.com. (Here’s a blog post that answer the question, “Huh?”)

I’ve been answering lots of questions at the message boards at DeucesCracked.com. Today’s blog post is a revised version of a reply I wrote over there.

POSTER: “While I watch this, it occurs to me that I am mindless near to 100% of the time. This series has given me some tools to defeat that, but I have pretty severe ADD and I do not like to take the medication I am prescribed for it. I’d rather learn skills that help me succeed.”

ME: If you consider your severe ADD to be a mental problem, then what you should do is do the same thing as if you had something you considered to be a severe physical problem. With a physical problem, we do things do make our body better and stronger. With a mental problem, you should do things to make your mind better, as in, stronger, more resilient, better able to fix its own problems. Since all mental problems are in some way related to thinking (since thinking is the only mental activity there is), then the place to turn to mend your severe mental problem is to take many long, slow looks at your thinking. And the way to do that is to sit still for long stretches every morning and just be with yourself and your body and your mind, and practice the skill of concentration by concentrating on your breathing. Call it meditation. Call it medication. Doesn’t matter. Those are just words. It’s the act of deliberate, repetitive taming of the mind that matters, and works to increase your ability to be mindful.

POSTER: “How can I learn to be more mindful of myself, and less mindful of distractions, but also more mindful of my opponents?”

ME: This is where the math doesn’t add up. You would think that by intentionally detouring your thinking hundreds of times per day to pay attention to something material and current such as yourself or a reflection in a puddle, that you would then miss things that you would have otherwise not missed, such as the betting patterns of your opponents. Well, in my experience, and that of others I’ve spoken to, it doesn’t work that way. Paradoxically, the act of paying attention to things that are not your opponents will cause/enable you to pay better attention to your opponents.

It does matter what you pay attention to, and how. That’s why they call it “practice.” You do it, and you keep doing it, and you keep doing it, and you keep getting better at it, like playing guitar. No one has every learned how to play a guitar without playing one. You can’t acquire new concentration skills from me or a book. What you can learn from a person or a book is how to learn how to acquire new concentration skills. Then you have to go off and do it.

Tommy Angelo

Comments for Poker and Mindfulness


Avatar for elcholodeamor

158 posts
Joined 07/2008

Thanks again for going over my question. DC and Tommy and Wayne are the best.

Posted over 8 years ago


Avatar for tehmac

90 posts
Joined 01/2008

Hi Tommy,

I'd just like to congratulate you and Wayne for a fantastic series. I wasn't sure where to post this question so I thought I'd put it here as it's somewhat related. After watching your episode 3 on Mindfulness I really started to look into breathing from the links on your site and around the web and I discovered that I breathe completely incorrectly. For a start I was breathing through my mouth (shallow breathing) instead of my nose and simply by correcting this I've seen an improvement in my life and especially sleep (constant nightmares I presume due to oxygen starvation!)

I have studied and practiced the Yogic Breathing techniques, 3 Stage Yoga Breath, Pranayama etc. However, although I believe I am now breathing using my diaphragm instead of my upper chest, I am unsure of exactly how this should feel if we are breathing at rest. The 3 stage yoga breath says fill from the bottom up, so I fill my abdomen (or rather the diaphragm moves down pushing it out), then the middle chest then the upper chest. There is nothing I can find that states how we should breathe just in general without doing a full Yogic Breathe, or is this how we should aim to be breathing all day with every breath? Should I be feeling a full to the brim chest of air and full exhalation when just sitting about during the day?

Also, do I fill/have my abdomen push out as far as I can go before I then continue filling the chest (doing this makes my chest feel tight quite quickly), or am I supposed to only have my upper abdomen i.e. area just above my belly button rise and not try to have my lower abdomen rise also?

I apologise if this is a slightly off topic question but I've done a lot of searching and come up empty handed. Hopefully your years of study can help out here. Any help is much appreciated.

Thank you.

Posted over 8 years ago

Tommy Angelo

Avatar for Tommy Angelo

248 posts
Joined 10/2007

There is nothing I can find that states how we should breathe just in general without doing a full Yogic Breathe, or is this how we should aim to be breathing all day with every breath? Should I be feeling a full to the brim chest of air and full exhalation when just sitting about during the day?

During the course of the day, just breathe mindfully in any way. You don't need to alter your breaths at all if you don't want to. Just watch them go in and out. That's enough. Or intentionally breathe through the nose. Or do yogic breathing. That's just one more way. It happens to be a particularly profoundly awesome way. But it's not the way. Anything else you hear about or cook up is fine. It's like playing a musical instrument. You don't just learn one note or one chord or one song. The main thing is keep playing, and just let your growing experience and intelligent do the rest.

Posted over 8 years ago

dunc can mac

Avatar for dunc can mac

24 posts
Joined 10/2008

Hi Tommy,
Got to say that your thinking is excellent and your videos have been very well put together. I have made a couple of very clumsy and confused posts re tilt and the thing is that I would like to discuss a few things in particular about tilt but not so much eg in a form of commenting on a video.
Actually I'm not sure if it is more about approaching this gambling in general involving psychology as well as in relation to playing emotionally. Do you think it is worth a thread to try and discuss this with individual input?
I miss practising yoga fwiw and for anybody that enjoys sport as well as poker I am sure it is a great benefit.

Posted over 8 years ago

rootbeer 2000

Avatar for rootbeer 2000

445 posts
Joined 08/2008

While I was running today there was a point where I thought about just stopping because my mind was telling me it wanted to (as usually happens because it thinks I'm tired of running). But I focused more on my breathing and reminded myself of your quote of focusing on breathing to settle my mind and settling my mind settles my body. I made it to my distance goal and I firmly believe part of the reason is because of your series here at DC. Thank you.

Posted over 8 years ago

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