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Mental game diary – Poker and Psychology

After you mastered poker basics or even some more advanced concepts you will find a new obstacle called MENTAL GAME. It refers to playing your A game as long as it is possible and not switching to you C game. Players can easily lose focus after few bad beats and start playing much under their capabilities. It is hard for beginners to control tilt and keep their composure during a bad card runs and down swings. If you are unfamiliar with poker terms refer to this article.


Tom Dwan frustrated after a bad beat
Tom Dwan frustrated


Amateur players are only checking short terms results. So logic is if you are winning money you are playing well and that is not always the case. Sometimes people play a bad session and just get very lucky or vice versa. Many players are playing very good when they are running hot. They can easily make good lay downs, good value bets and well timed bluffs. Often these same players can go on insane crazy monkey tilt when they are running bad. During bad runs they start playing bad and lose much more than they should. This can be a mayor problem even if their understanding of complex game mathematics and psychology is on advanced level.

One of the things that helped me fix my tilt problems (or at least reduce them) is book by Jared Tendler “Mental game of Poker”. This is one of the best poker books there is and there is not a single hand review or tactics. It is all psychology and mental game and it is well worth it.


mental game of poker
groundbreaking work by Jared



My mental game diary

One of the things that Jared suggests is keeping a mental game diary for every session played. The whole idea behind mental game diary is to focus on playing the best possible poker and not on short term results. If i had a terrible result and lost 10 buy ins in a session but I feel I played really well I will give myself a good marks and walk away happy. I will be true to myself and write down if I played badly and how much money did it cost. On the other side I will also write down  if I did not make many mistakes or spew any buy ins .


mental game diary
one page from my diary


In example page I actually played very bad in previous session so i calculated how much did it cost me overall (compared to if i played perfectly). In that session I was also very unlucky but I did not calculate loses when I got coolered. I only addressed issues related to my bad decisions and bad mental state. And all of these bad plays add up to your total profit so reducing unnecessary loses should be mandatory.

Tilt triggers

In the daily session review (not previous session analysis) is the most important part. It is called TILT TRIGGERS. It is the same psychology principle like when psychiatrist is working with drug or smoking addict. First he needs to identify triggers for taking drugs and talk to patient when and how does he feel the urge . Only after identifying the triggers and causes patient can try to eliminate them.
Since you are not probably hiring a mental coach or psychiatrist to work with you, keeping a mental game diary can be very beneficial.

In my example I identified in today session that when opponent is overbetting (betting more than the size of the pot) it raise my tilt level. So than when i realized that I started figuring out why do I feel this way and how it will affect my play. So now I am not only aware of the trigger but I can also follow my emotional state. I can check if I am doing everything right and not deteriorating from most optimal play in this situations. After some time I will learn this in my subconscious mind and my trigger ( and problem connected with it) will slowly fade away.

If you wish to keep diary on your computer you can use many free apps. I am using Daily Journal. You can download it here

Good luck 😉

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Su

    Interesting article! And thank you for the book recommendation. 🙂

    1. Aleksandar Stojkovic

      Glad you like it 🙂

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