In this article, I’m going to share with you a case study from one of our Alec’s Academy graduates Kevin, who went from making roughly $20 to over $100 per hour in just 8 weeks after graduating from our program. Most importantly, you’ll learn the key mindset strategy he used, which can help you do the same.
During our Alec’s Academy program, we cover on a lot of things. From setting up a solid business plan to help students achieve their goals to bankroll management, from managing the poker lifestyle to the mental game, all the way to hand reading like the pros and adopting winning study habits, Alec’s Academy is the ultimate poker business course.
Our next cohort begins soon, and you can hop on the waiting list to be the first to know when doors open.
Of course, we can’t cover everything in a single article, but I want to focus on one core concept, the mental game and tilt, which I believe will make an immediate impact on your poker game.
But first, a quick disclaimer.
The mental game of poker is a reflection of one’s character and emotional control. It’s never something we can truly master, but is a something we incrementally improve upon on throughout our entire lives. There’s always another level, and it’s important to treat the process like a journey, aim to get a little better every day, and of course, enjoy the ride.
We shouldn’t accept (nor can we afford) to play anything less than our A game. This doesn’t have to be full blown, C game tilt. It could merely be a lack of focus, feeling frustrated, or losing discipline, causing us to play hands we know we shouldn’t. To simplify, I’ll refer to all of these as ‘tilt’, which I define as a circumstance when one plays anything other than A game poker, regardless of the cause.
First, let’s briefly aim to understand why one plays sub optimal poker to begin with. That way it will be easier to see tilt clearly without being emotionally caught up in it, and having it lead to poor play.
In both working to improve my own mental game and with clients over the years, I’ve observed that the single biggest reason we tilt is our expectations aren’t met.
Think about it. Why does it bother us when we get our aces cracked by two pair on the river? It’s because we expected to win the hand in the first place!
The same happens when we get coolered with Kings to Aces preflop. We go all in expecting to win, only to get shown the bad news that our opponent has us beat.
Here’s the first mental hack: you can avoid the onset of tilt simply by lowering your expectations.
This is not to be conflated with self-doubt. One should fully believe they are capable of winning and always strive to do so. Lowering expectations means feeling less entitled to the outcome. This opens up space for gratitude when we do win.
The difference seems subtle but can be profound. A great exercise to try during your next session is acknowledge how grateful you are when you win a pot.
Taking time to experience the joy makes the losses easier to handle. It also helps you play better as well, as gratitude acts an immediate dopamine injection to the brain, boosting our mood. Happy players make better decisions. They have more fun too.
Second, but equally important, is to be aware that tilt can only persist in so far that our focus remained fixed on the situation. This happens when our attention remains stuck in the past.
Here’s a thought experiment for you.
Imagine your life 10 years after the moment you take a bad beat. Will the loss still affect you? Most likely it won’t.
People say that time heals all wounds, but a more accurate assertion is that our attention is no longer focused on the past.
The time window it takes to heal from tilt is arbitrary. Most can overcome bad beats in 10 years, but with training one can do it in 10 seconds. This instantaneous healing is what gives professionals like Kevin their edge.
The way to immediately get over tilt is simple: shift your focus from the past to the present. Instead of lamenting over the loss, which is insane because it’s something that cannot be changed, shift your attention to the now, and plan for the future.
‘I can’t believe how unlucky I just got’ becomes ‘what can I do right now to give myself the best chance of winning the next hand?’
And when one combines that actionable focus with gratitude, it’s a powerful combo.
‘I can’t believe I’m so unlucky’ becomes ‘what other things in my life can I still be grateful’ for that go beyond poker?
It’s an empowering one two punch.
The third strategy to overcome tilt and play consistent A game poker is my personal favorite, and it’s to create an in game mental routine which will help you perform your best.
I can’t take credit for this personally. I worked with a mentor and mental coach, who used to train golfers, and here’s how he described it to me.
‘A round of golf lasts for hours. But one only swings the club for maybe 10 minutes. I work with people on what happens when they’re not swinging.’
It made so much sense to me because poker works the same way. To play well one has to be patient and disciplined for hours on end. We’ve all experienced what it’s like to be card dead and fold for what seems like forever. What’s happening in your head during this time can make all the difference.
Once I became aware of the mental game in sports, I began to notice it everywhere. I observed that all great athletes across various disciplines adopt their own version of a mental routine.
A pro golfer doesn’t just walk up to the tee and swing the club. They first eye where they want the ball to go, and envision themselves swinging the club to perfection. Then, they walk slowly to the ball, carefully place their feet, shuffle them back and forth until they’re just right, take a moment of stillness, and finally swing the club.
A basketball player does the same when shooting free throws. They walk up to the line, spin the ball in their hands, bounce it a few times, spin it again, pause, exhale, then shoot.
The best have mastered this so well, they can do it with their eyes closed.
Tennis players do the same before serving. A batter before hitting. I could go on all day with examples, but you get the point.
Once I was aware of mental routines, I became obsessed. I studied the best in the world at what they do, decoded their process, and applied it to my own poker game until I came up with a system I could use in each hand I play to keep me present, focused and playing my best. I call it my ‘Power Routine’.
My Power Routine starts before the cards are dealt. I begin by repeating a simple phrase to myself to get me in the optimal mindset to play the hand. Then, I begin strategizing.
Who are the weak spots?
What will I do if it’s folded to me?
Who is left to act behind me and how are they likely to react?
During the hand I’m fully present, immersed in a flow state where time seems to stand still. Through practice, I learned to access this at will.
After the hand concludes I release any negative charge or stored up energy. This allows me to recenter myself and shift my attention toward the opportunity ahead. Then, I begin again, repeating this process each time the cards are dealt. Hands blend together and the entire session is over before I know it. That’s flow.
I experimented with various Power Routines over the years until I found what works best for me, and is now the foundation of what I teach to clients.
They saw some pretty incredible results.
Naturally, I was hesitant to share my Power Routine because of the impact it can have, but ultimately decided I was doing my clients a disservice by keeping it from them.
Not only are they not competing against me, but it’s my mission at Conscious Poker to turn good players into great ones. And to do that, they need to have unstoppable mental games.
When I created Alec’s Academy, I wanted it to be the best poker course on the market. I knew that to achieve that aim, I’d have to put some of my most valuable knowledge in there. That’s why in our last cohort, for the first time everoutside of my private coaching practice, I shared my entire Power Routine.
It’s just one of the 40 or so modules you’ll get access to during our 8 week program, and is part of what helped Kevin make massive leaps in his poker game.
Our next Alec’s Academy cohort begins soon. You can hop on the wait list here to be notified when doors open, and I’ll follow up with you personally about the next steps.
I look forward to helping you on your poker journey.