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The Mental Game of Poker – Book Review

/ Jul 15th, 2011 No Comments

The Mental Game of Poker is written by renown sports therapist Jared Tendler, aimed at making poker players aware of their mental and emotions shortcomings in order to make them not just a better poker player, but a better functioning person. The book has the endorsements of many top online professional poker players including fellow author Dusty “Leatherass” Schmidt. Tendler’s book has been crafted to not just give poker players parlor tricks on how to deal with what is known as “tilt” (loss of control or higher brain function due to emotional trauma) but how to recognize the triggers and understand why it happens in the first place.

The book is available at Tendler’s website at and can be purchased at the regular price of $49.99. Alternatively, you could purchase the book on Amazon as well. While you will find countless books and websites dedicated to the topic of game theory for poker and how to make you a better player for whatever game or format of poker you enjoy most, there are a dearth of great books written by credible sources that actually help the mental side of the game for the long term. Tendler is a former golf champion who smartly uses a lot of sports analogies in the book, drawing on his background as a mental coach for golf players. The similarities between golf and poker are striking, as both games have huge hurdles in mental toughness to overcome even after your natural talent and hard work carry you through the game.

Poker is unique in that you can play absolutely perfect and still lose. The aspect of variance and chance is part of what makes poker so much more fun than non-variance games like chess. While the game of poker is internationally recognized as a game of skill (see the International Mind Games foundation, which is related to the IOC), the mental game in poker is more important to its players than to any other form of competition – even professional gaming. The book does a great job of collecting actual user stories from the hundreds of students Tendler has helped during his professional life and applying them to real-world methods of gaining better mental health. Tendler’s aim with the book is to help players simply play their best, no matter how good or bad their results might turn out to be. The book goes into proven techniques (from which I speak from personal experience) to permanently fix problems such as tilt, handling variance, fear, emotional loss of control and motivation.

The beginning of the book talks about Tender’s beginnings in the world of golf and lays the foundation between his many sports analogies and poker, which work well for people reading the book to handle the concepts competently. While non-sports minded, non-poker people who pick up the book might get a little lost early on, the layman’s approach to the concepts work really well for understanding it as a holistic read. The “Inch Worm” chapter does a great job explaining just how progress should be viewed and how you can properly understand how mental progress (along with game skill) can be made, while the Process Model is a fantastic look at the way adults actually process and understand information.

The Mental Game of Poker

The Mental Game of Poker

Later the book dives into what the concept of tilt actually means and uncovers its many forms. Chapter Four of the book leads in well to the most important in my opinion, Chapter Five: Tilt. It’s here that all the forms of tile, from Running Bad to Mistake Tilt and even Revenge Tilt are discussed. There’s all sorts of tilt exposed in this chapter that I think will holistically assist poker players gain a much better perspective. Chapter Six deals with fear, while Chapter Seven is one very close to my heart when speaking to Motivation. The book concludes well with a chapter on Confidence (again, close to my heart) and a nice conclusion. The book ends with a very valuable Warm-up and Cool-down guide as well as the standard Client Questionnaire used by Tender.

Overall, The Mental Game of Poker was a book that I had high hopes for, and somehow it managed to beat all my expectations. Tendler did a masterful job crafting years of valuable work into a very manageable read for poker players and layman readers alike to enjoy and learn from. Clearly, having been a part of the book myself (my client user story is on page 224) the subject matter is right up my alley in terms of interest. However, having shown the book to several people outside of poker and hearing that they enjoyed sections of the book I encouraged them to read, I’m validated in the opinion that The Mental Game of Poker is the definitive guide for poker mental coaching ever written. The book is a no-brainer (or Unconscious Competence to fellow readers of the book) to buy and an absolute must-read if you are interested in any sort of long term sustainability in the world of poker.


Sean W. Gibson

Sean W. Gibson

Founder, Featured Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Sean Gibson has been the owner and Executive Editor of Gaming Illustrated for over eleven years. His roles include acting as CEO and President of Gaming Illustrated, LLC and also includes being a reviewer, previewer and interviewer. Sean's opinions on this site do not reflect those of his full-time employer.
Sean W. Gibson
Sean W. Gibson


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