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Articles & Ideas


EFT for the mental game of poker

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

Note: This article assumes you have a working knowledge of EFT. Newcomers can still learn from it but are advised to peruse our Free Gold Standard (Official) EFT Tutorial™ for a more complete understanding.

Hi Everyone,

Poker requires a player to be "emotionally cool," a useful talent for all of us in relationships, business and elsewhere. Here are some useful insights into this game (and thus life) by Gene Monterastelli. See how many other uses you can find by using the EFT principles involved.

Hugs, Gary

By Gene Monterastelli

My experience of working with a professional poker player demonstrated how our emotions can override our logic, how this can be disastrous, and how easy it is to use EFT to make changes.

There are types of gambling that are pure chance such as the lottery or slot machines. These games require no skill. The only choice the player is making is whether or not to play. With each play there is a statistical chance of winning and losing.

Poker is different than games of change. There is a component of chance involved in the cards that you are dealt, but poker players make a number of choices on how to play their cards. A good poker player considers the playing patterns of his opponents as well as how the other players at the table think he plays. All of this is in addition to the cards he has been dealt. Because of this, it is much less about the cards that have been dealt and much more about how the cards are played. For this reason poker is not a game of chance, but a game of skill with chance elements.

Because there is an element of chance in poker, a player can have a good or bad run over a short period of time (a small sample set of hands) based on the cards they are dealt. But over the long run a player's skill is going to show. The more hands that are played the more likely that the better player will be a winner over all.

Professional poker players understand this. They don't think in terms of winning one hand or being a winner over one session of hands, but they think in terms of their average over time. Very good players will know this right down to an average hourly wage. For example a particular player might know that if they are playing a game that has a minimum bet of $20 that in the long run, because of their skill level, they will make $40 per hour.

A comparable example would be investing in the stock market. Stocks and markets move up and down each day, but over a long period of time they have trends. A good investor knows the longer they are in a certain investment; the more likely their overall return is going to match the trend.

The way a poker player is able to combat this variance (up and down swings) is by playing as many hands as possible. The more hands they play the more they are going to insulate themselves from up and down swings. With the advent of internet poker, players are able to play many games at the exact same time by opening many computer windows. To combat this variance some players are known to play as many as 100 hands an hour in 6 games at once for stretches of 10 or 12 hours straight (in one session this would be as many as 6,000 hands).

You can image the amount of concentration it takes to do this. Not only is a player constantly recalculating the different statistical outcomes of a hand based on each new card, they also have to keep track of the play tendencies of the eight other players involved in each hand.

As play unfolds it is possible for players to get very emotional. It is possible to lose a hand that you had a 90 percent chance of winning, causing great anger. It is also possible to win a hand you were a significant underdog in, causing great joy. Both of these circumstances can be very dangerous. When a player becomes too emotional (regardless of which emotions are involved) they can start making poor decisions. In poker terms this is called going on "tilt".

When a player is on tilt they are not paying attention to all of the factors they normally pay attention to and they can begin to play very poorly. When a player is on tilt, they can lose all of the money they'd won over a number of hours (or days) of play in one or two hands.

Recently, a professional poker player, "John", who was having a major problem with his game, approached me. John plays 6 to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and poker is his full time income. When John plays he understands how long he can stay focused. He never plays more than eight hours at a time because he understands that as his mind becomes fatigued, it is harder for him to make the good choices that make him a winning player.

John's problem was that he was finding it very hard to get up from the computer after a losing session (meaning that over this day he had lost money over all). He understands the variance of his winning and losing. He knows that over the long term he is a winning player, but he had a mental block about getting up near the end of the losing session.

It is very easy to see how the problem would multiply itself. He would have a losing session causing him to keep playing past being at his mental peak. Since he was past his mental peak he would play worse causing him to lose more. This would push him on to tilt. By being on tilt he would play worse causing him to lose more. This cycle would repeat until he would simply walk away in frustration after losing way too much money.

I had John tune into the feeling of not wanting to get up at the end of his most recent losing session. As we investigated the feeling he described how he knew because of his skill and experience that he was better than everyone he was playing with. He knew intellectually about the swings of the game, but emotionally couldn't let these players get the best of him. We began by tapping on the facts of the situation with phrases like this:

Even though I know I am a better player than most of the people I play with...
Even though I understand that poker does have chance elements in it...
Even though there are going to be times when players who are worse than me are going to get the better of me because of the variance of the game...
Even though over the long term I am a winning player, there are ups and downs in the game...
Even though I never play in a game that I can't afford, and I am playing with players who I can beat, it is OK to have one losing session because I know over the long run, I will come out ahead.
Even though I know I need to get up after 8 hours of play because I lose my mental edge and play worse, I give myself permission to know that I can get up after a losing session knowing I will come out ahead in the long run.

After doing the tapping I had John tune back into the feeling of needing to stay at the end of the losing session. He said most of the desire to keep playing was gone, but there was still something hanging around. I asked him what the feeling reminded him of. He then said, "I don't know what this has to do with anything but..." and then proceeded to tell of a time when he was playing youth hockey and was screamed at by a coach after a loss. He talked about how much he hated losing.

GC COMMENT: Bingo! Getting to the above specific event (there may be others) is the most likely way to get to the core of the issue. Well done.

We quickly used EFT to do some clearing or the emotions of that memory. I then had him tune back into the feeling at the end of the most recent losing session. He reported there was no desire to stay at the computer playing.

Six weeks later John reported that he had losing sessions over that time, but never once did he stay past his mental prime of 6 to 8 hours, which was increasing his profitability more than he expected.



Explore our newest advancement, Optimal EFT™, by reading my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™. More efficient. More powerful.