Jan 26 2010

How to Be a Better Poker Player

written by: John under Poker Strategy Comments: 2

get better at pokerGood poker playing demands an advantage. Here are some alternative methods you may want to consider to improve your game and give you an edge over other players.


What your mind can conceive, you can achieve: these eight little words can be the key to attaining your goal, whether it be to quit smoking, stop biting your fingernails, or even play better poker. Hypnosis can be very applicable to poker when used for self-improvement. It can also be highly effective in helping you stay relaxed, increasing your attention and focus, controlling emotions, and improving your unconscious memory.

The word hypnosis is derived from the Greek word “hypnos,” meaning sleep, but it’s so much more. A better definition of hypnosis would be the art of communication and the avoidance of conflict. The act of hypnotizing is making someone go under a state of reduced consciousness while the person remains awake. The general state of mind of those under hypnosis is extremely open to positive suggestions and able to achieve an elevated level of relaxation.

Professional athletes have been using hypnosis for a long time to help them be their best, and you can use the same techniques to help you sharpen your poker game. Hypnotists can give positive suggestions, provide encouragement, eliminate fear of failure, and conjure up motivation, all necessary qualities of a successful poker player. It is now a proven fact that with the help of hypnosis, one can simply change his frame of mind, helping people to quit smoking, lose weight, and even overcome fears. Matt Damon, poker playing star of the movie Rounders, said, “I should have done it years ago. It’s amazing. I didn’t even want cigarettes anymore.”

Of course, studying, learning, and implementing poker strategy, along with practice and experience is vital to being a good poker player, but improving your mental game could give you the edge over opponents that makes you a winner. Poker requires its players to focus for long periods of time, and winning at any sport requires you to believe and exhibit confidence in yourself and your abilities. Through hypnosis, you can train your mind to think more like a poker pro. Hypnosis, coupled with good coaching from your hypnotherapist, can allow your subconscious mind to search out anything that blocks your success and eliminate it, changing the misunderstandings that lie deep within you.


In today’s world of competitive poker, the skill level is so high that the difference between winning and losing may have to come from the way the player monitors and modifies their internal tells. A highly skilled player who can also work with his distractions, personal demons, and internal life is not only more likely to win, but obtain a significant competitive advantage over his opponents because there are few who actually do possess this.

For two of the world’s biggest poker players, Howard Lederer and Phil Hellmuth, an urge to conquer this heightened level of mind set has led them to the study of Eastern philosophies and the practice of meditation. In 2004, Phil (at his wife’s urging) spent two weeks at Esalen, a world famous new-age spiritual retreat located on the Monterrey peninsula in California. There he attended a workshop on Tibetan Buddhism to learn the art of meditation and how to channel focus.

Howard Lederer, considered to be one of the most intelligent poker professionals and known as “The Professor” for his work as a poker coach, also became interested in the study. Lederer read some books on Zen Buddhism which gave him a greater understanding of the process one must go through to master any art form, mastering the art of poker being his desired goal. Lederer believes you must possess a passion for the game and believe that poker is fun and there is no place for fear within it. As a result of his study, he has developed a four-stage evolutionary chart for the course of a poker master derived from the four stages of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism.


While it would be nice if the average Joe could pick up and visit the ancient Asian temples to find his inner-Zen and return a poker master, it’s not really a feasible journey for most. However, like everything else in the world, you can find a treasure of resources on various types of meditation and methods of practice online. You don’t need to buy expensive clothing, equipment, or a club membership to learn how to meditate. All you need is an open mind and twenty to thirty minutes a day. Nothing calms the mind and body like meditation. Once you have learned the basic principles, you will be able to introduce the concepts into your daily life and engage in spiritual practice at any point in your life, even before a poker tournament. Today many people are meditating—not just Buddhists—but people from all cultures and faith including sports players, CEOs, and even poker players.


This is a popular self-help communication tool, which in layman’s terms could be described as sort of like hypnosis, but with your eyes open. NLP explores the relationship between how we think (neuro-), how we communicate both verbally and nonverbally (linguistic), and our pattern of behavior and emotions (program). NLP claims to sharpen your observation and listening ability and enable you to identify patterns in people’s behavior and language, so you can respond accordingly. This enables you to communicate more effectively and cut through distractions.

One of the major elements of NLP is gaining rapport. Once you have rapport with someone, you can take the pace and start to lead them in the direction you want. If you have every bought something you did not want because of a sales person’s persuasions, then these techniques were used on you. Whether they knew they were using NLP or if it just came naturally is irrelevant. To paint this picture in poker terms, you may have already used such tactics if you ever encouraged an opponent to doubt his hand. To use this technique, you have to be a fast talker.

After you’ve established the rapport, then you’ll want to move on to anchoring. This NLP technique “anchors” a feeling or emotion to something tangible or real such as a movement or physical touch. This concept is the same that you experience when a certain smell suddenly returns your mind to a place you haven’t thought about in years or when you hear a song that has memories and emotions attached to it. When you hear that song, those associated memories come flooding back to you.

The next time you are at a poker table, try “anchoring” an opponent to doubt his hand. Once the player is in the peak state of realizing how bad his hand is, you anchor this state with a touch or gesture, such as tapping the table in a particular manner. You have to repeat it a few times to enhance the association. Later, you can then use it to conjure up those feelings in your opponent again, creating the desired response, which in poker would be for your opponent to doubt his hand and then fold.

You can also use anchoring on yourself. You could anchor the feeling of having the best hand, and then firing this anchor when you want to bluff. You’ll have to have the perfect poker face, though. If you are interested in this practice, you can find a multitude of websites where you can purchase books and CDs on NLP.

Bottom line. If you really want to do anything, including win at poker, you need to discipline yourself into believing you can do it. Failure is only apparent when you believe that you have failed. As poker is by definition a very psychological game, it only makes sense that utilizing psychological tactics like hypnosis, meditation, and NLP would only serve to benefit your game; thus, making you a better poker player.

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