July 24, 2011

mental game protocol

The aim of this post is to write down and think about a list of both procedural playing mistakes I make as well as a list mental game weaknesses. Then attack them using the 5 step protocol as outlined in my earlier blog post regarding Jared Tendlers video Making Supernova Elite.

To clarify, I do not have any intention of going for supernova elite any time soon. Ultimately I think it is a counter productive goal and at the moment it is definitely beyond my skill set to be able to do it. With that said the video did teach me to think about things in a new light. The main things I got out of his series were that as players we have moments in our game when our emotions kick in and we make mistakes which are ingrained in our proceedural memory. What this basically means is that tilt does not make us 'play badly', but what it does do is remove our logical decision making processes in a hand which makes us play the hand in a fashion which we have habituated. We need to challenge these habits directly and make our own brains realise that the way we have been dealing with these situations while we are in an emotional mindset is wrong, give our minds the reasons why and tell ourselves what the better reaction would be in the future.

The areas where I need to improve my procedural memory are definitely in 3 bet pots, bloated pots, hands where the pot has been raised and I am guessing what to do, playing without the initiative, and also river spots. Almost always I revert to call. I need to address this. As almost always I am wrong and this is massively -EV.

Using the 5 step protocol I learned from Jared in his videos I am going to address these areas one by one.

The five steps to fixing your leaks are:

1. Write out the mistake and be as specific as possible. 

2. Write out the rationale behind your play and why you currently make this play consistently.

3. Write out why the rationale behind #2 is flawed. 

4. Write out a correction that directly challenges step #1.

5. Write out why your correction is correct. Directly challenges step #2.


reason I think this:
reason this thinking is flawed:
reason why the correction is the most logical:

3 bet pots

  1. leak: In 3 bet pots I call down v light post flop because I think people are bluffing a lot.

  2. reason I play this way: People 3 bet light a lot in my games and I do not want to get exploited.

  3. highlighting the flawed logic: People 3 bet for value or as a bluff. People tend to give up on hopeless bluffs post flop, so calling down lightly post flop is costing you lots of money. When you are facing a strong range, bluff catching is a -EV play.

  4. correction: I do not call down light in 3bet pots just because people 3bet bluff a lot preflop. I call because it is +Ev and I fold if it is -EV.

  5. reason the correction is logical: Players at small stakes rarely bluff 3 streets in 3 bet pots because attacking strong ranges is a bad idea, balance is not as big of a factor at small stakes and regs are not bluffing as often as you would like to imagine.

  1. leak: I flat pre flop in 3bet hands too much hoping to outplay my opponents or catch a favourable flop

  2. reason I play this way: people 3bet a lot at small stakes as a bluff and I can catch them out by repping boards or hitting a hand if they do have a big hand

  3. highlighting the flawed logic: If people are 3betting a lot they are either for value or as a bluff. flatting to either catch a favourable flop or to outplay your opponents is the same as saying that you do not know what range they are playing and you are guessing.

  4. correction: If they are weak you can 4bet bluff, if they are strong you can get it in with the top of your range, call with implied odds or simply fold. You are only thinking about +EV decisions to make money in poker.

  5. reason the correction is logical: Terms like 'catching a favourable flop' and 'outplaying my opponents' are nonsense if you do not understand the range your opponents are playing. You can outplay them - by attacking weak ranges and trapping strong ones against your stronger range - not by guessing and hopefully getting lucky.

Bloated pots

  1. leak: in bloated pots I do not want to fold big absolute strength hands (two pair, sets, etc)

  2. reason I play this way: because the pot is large in a bloated pot people can be shoving for fold equity or as a bluff, or with worse hands

  3. highlighting the flawed logic: in bloated pots that are not 3bet/4bet situations you are usually playing a multiway flop which hit many people, or are facing a raise on the flop or turn. If your hand is not the nuts but a nut hand is possible then you are more than likely facing a hand with higher equity than you so playing the absolute strength of your hand is irrelevant and you should be thinking more about your relative strength vs opponents possible and likely range.

  4. correction: think about the ranges of hands opponents can possibly have in this situation and then decide what strength your hand is vs that range, not your relative strength

  5. reason the correction is logical: In bloated pots other players are also aware of what the nuts are and will not want to put themselves in a situation where they can be drawing dead or with little equity, so their ranges are stronger should they raise or bet vs more opponents. You cannot beat a strong range with absolute strength alone, only your hand vs their range relative to the action and the flop texture

hands where the pot has been raised and I am guessing what to do, hands without the initiative and river spots

I would say that these fall in the same category as the above example, it simply boils down to playing against a range that I have not properly defined.

leak: playing vs a range I have not properly defined

reason: their range could be wide here so I dont want to fold the best hand

highlighting the flawed logic: you have no idea about what range you are facing so you are simply guessing, you can not make good plays on bad assumptions so you will more often make a mistake

correction: define the range you are facing and then make the decision based upon that range

reason this new reasoning is correct: you have to be able to make +EV plays based upon accurate assumptions. guessing is ok providing you have some parameters to work within, simply saying this guy is 'loose' 'aggro' 'fishy' is a generality which holds no real meaning once you are in a complex situation. You need to define his range first then decide what the most +Ev play is based upon the assumptions you have made about his range and then review it constantly to make sure it is accurate. 

Emotional Triggers which lead to procedural errors:

  1. Losing a big pot

  2. making a bad call

  3. folding the best hand and getting shown a bluff

  4. losing to a bad player

  5. bluffing in a bad spot

  6. playing a pot and guessing what to do, or better put feeling outplayed

  7. A fish sucks out and leaves


  1. Heart starts to beat faster

  2. Randomly click the HUD popup and look aimlessly at stats for clues on what to do

  3. checking the HEM graph to see how I am doing in the session

  4. become more aggressive in random spots without reasoning behind it

  5. feel short of breath and hot headed


  1. Take a lot of deep breaths

  2. click sit out next big blind

  3. stop playing

  4. identify the triggers as they come up

  5. If I have 2-3 of the triggers and reactions come up in a short period of time stop playing sooner before I reach tilt-play

Playing when you are on mentally tilt and fixing the mental leaks

example 3
1-during a bad run I worry that I will never win again
2-I havent won in a while, I must be playing poorly and cant see it turning around
3- recent results are biasing how I view my game and the future. Its impossible for my skills to disappear that quick.
4-during a bad run, I'll work harder away from the table to maintian a balanced perspective
5-in the long run poker rewards those who can maintain that perspective

Result Orientated Thinking

leak: I just lost the last X sessions so I must win this next one, I am due
reason I think this: I am a winning player and my bad luck cant last forever
reason this thinking is flawed: you can not rely on past results in present hands. The only thing you can control is your current play. If you make correct decisions then you will win in the long run, if you make bad decisions you will lose in the long run. Poker is a game where in the short term luck is king and the long term skill is king. 
correction: all i can focus on is making the correct play in this situation based upon my reads, equity and logic
reason why the correction is the most logical: The only thing you can control in poker is your own decisions. You can only play well and make the correct decisions over and over again and leave the rest up to the cards. There is no concept of 'im due' or 'running bad' or 'im running good' there is only the hand you are playing.

make a snap judgement based on some kind of loose equity

leak: when I am tilted I make fast decisions based upon my perception of my equity
reason I think this: I always have at least some equity and they cant always have it
reason this thinking is flawed: yeah, you always have some equity, but so does 72o preflop vs AA. That is not an excuse to play badly. If you are feeling tilted and making played based upon irrational feelings you will make poorer decisions than if you are thinking clearly.
correction: wait at least 10 seconds and as much time as you need before you make any large call, bet or raise and assess the situation, then decide if it is +Ev or not, then act.
reason why the correction is the most logical: you have given yourself at least time to think clearly by waiting 10 seconds to stop a snap judgement. You can take as much time as you need to work out if the play is +Ev or not, and if you time out at least you made a 0 EV decision rather than a -EV decision.

Posted By Acombfosho at 08:59 PM


Tags: JT work


doc.lemon posted on July 24, 2011 at 22:20 PM

Lemon (automobile)

Is the 3bet pot thing a bit too vague maybe?
Example1 'I will not call light against people that 3bet a lot'

I find it hard how to specifically define 'light' in poker. Overall, I just have problem with defining SMART goals in poker, as everything 'depends' so much. And when you don't have a specific time bound measurable goal it's so easy to just not do it if you know what I mean :(

Example2 yeah the same issue, I guess it's easy to translate that into - 'Call only if I outplay them postflop only if I know how I will do it before I call'

i.e. if someone 3bets a lot and cbets too much you can call and raise flop with any 7+outs and 10+backdoor outs. But these rules are so villain specific i find it hard to work on them in general and put them into goals/rules:/

3) Love that range thinking :O
I tried that in the past week and it hurts and actually hurted my short term EV. When you always think first about his complete range and then make your decision based on that in the very limited time you have for a hand and when you are under pressure, your narrow rational thinking will inevitably weigh parts of their range too much leading to bad decisions.

You can NEVER rationally establish their range completely in game and take into considerations all factors influencing his range so you have to practice hardcore so often and so hard that this range based thinking becomes part of your intuition/procedural memory. It can get very frustrating but it must be done , juts a heads up sir.

Example 3) again that is super vague
' I'll work harder away from the table to maintian a balanced perspective'
what does that actually mean? When I run bad, as I do right now with a breakeven weak, I get all irrational and having vague actions like that doesn't do much help I found out :(

4)10s waiting time - yeah this is good, but I think again a goal should be not to always think about large decision but rather not make bad intuitive decisions at all :O

when you snap act it's procedural memory in Jared's terms that's making the decisions. Waiting 10s will make you use your rational thought process/rational memory, but won't address the issue of your procedural memory/intuition being flawed - fixing your intuition is so much harder as it's slow learning but it should give a long term solution. I think you can do that by focusing 10s and rationalizing your decisions anyway but it helps when you do it with the goal of programming your procedural memory.

Overall great job for starters, I need to do this as well. I have large issue with the vagueness of poker goals, I asked Saibot in the link below what can be done about it, you really need to have SMART goals to make your planning and practice simple and effective and they are hard to get.


Let me know how you progressed and hit me up on skype if you want to discuss this stuff and if you find out how to make things more specific

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