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Poker Mental Game & Planning

Motivational YouTube Videos - Friend or Foe?

7,547 Views on 19/11/15

Are motivational YouTube videos helpful or not? Can you use these videos as a tool to motivate yourself and improve your poker and mental game?

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motiviational youtube videos

Motivational videos became very popular in recent years and gained huge viewership on YouTube. Many people enjoy watching this type of content and claim that it helps them get motivated. Can you as a poker player also benefit from motivational videos? They certainly seem very intense and it's hard not to get at least a little bit excited while watching them. 

Listening to an inspired speaker while watching examples of tremendous mental or physical effort accompanied by an atmospheric ambient track can really get the endorphins flowing and help you get pumped for your next poker session. Does this sound like something you should incorporate into your routine and are there any costs associated with that? Can you rely on YouTube videos when it comes to your motivation?

Perfection vs Progress

Winners CupOne of the potential problems of motivational videos is the unrealistic portrayal of what it takes to be successful that they present. Barring some extremely unrealistic scenarios (and as poker players we quickly learn not to rely on those) you can't become a high or mid stakes player overnight.

It's a long grueling journey for most people and a large number of those who try will never get there. The 99.9999th percentile can't expand on demand no matter how many hours of sleep you're willing to give up, and since sleep is a vital part of any healthy schedule it might be a good idea not to give up any if you want to be included in that 99.9999th percentile of poker players some day.
Motivational videos show people performing very intense activities and often suggest that it's necessary to exert yourself to the absolute limit ("you have to be willing to give up sleep.") In reality a successful poker player has to include many statics and mundane activities in his routine like database analysis, hand reviews, hour-long coaching videos etc.
A 5-minute motivational YouTube video is like that 30-second clip you see in the news with a winner of a national lottery. It greatly misrepresents the reality, by showing only one aspect of it. Assuming that 10 million people participated in the aforementioned lottery and the news was forced to give everyone the same 30 seconds that the winner got the entire broadcast would last for more than 9 years. I'm sure that after watching something like that most people wouldn't buy a lottery ticket ever again!

Motivational Man

Motivational YouTube videos can be procrastination in disguise. Ideally your actions should be driven by desired consequences and there are necessary steps that you have to take in order to achieve something. When it comes to being a successful poker player you have to study, analyse your game and put in some volume.

If your goal was to become a winner at NL100 you wouldn't be satisfied until you took those steps. Unfortunately, our brains are really easy to trick and we can substitute our own effort with the images of other people's intense work. We get the benefits of feeling good about ourselves without doing the work and, therefore, we're losing the chance of ever reaching our goal.

Motivational ChipWatching people in their peak physical or mental form and hearing that we have to "give it all we got" paints a very specific picture of perfection in our heads. Everything has to be right, we have to be 100% focused and we have to put tremendous amounts of effort into everything we do. When this belief collides with the harsh reality in which we're sometimes not feeling that well, we're distracted, we didn't get a good night sleep etc. this can lead to something that in behavioral psychology is called "learned helplessness".

We quickly learned that it's impossible to always be like those people in our favorite video so there's no point in even trying. Since you're losing way too much money in the small blind at NL20 what chance do you have of ever successfully defending your blinds against. NL200 players. You overslept and missed the morning session review, your day is already ruined so you might as well binge on a Netflix show. You're getting trapped in this belief that everything has to be perfect and the fact that your schedule isn't - paralyzes you.
The solution to this is very simple - break it down. If you're trying to tackle something that's larger than life you're chances of success might seem so slim that there's no point in even trying.
Scale back a little. If you’re playing PLO20 and your goal is to become a winning PLO500 player pick something else that's a bit closer to your current situation. Instead of designing a perfect schedule, try to focus on one specific thing every day. 

Success is often a sum of small imperfect tasks performed over a long period of time. Decent plan paired with good execution is far better than the perfect plan executed poorly.
“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” Frederick Matthias Alexander
You can't become a successful poker player in one desperate push, you can't instantly manifest your sheer force of will and use it to turn from NL10 into a NL200 player overnight. Dreams don't become reality just because we want that to happen. Otherwise, we'd all be living in a dream world. Every long journey should be taken one step at a time and if you try to sprint through it, you might get injured really fast. Perfection is elusive and hard to obtain, but progress is accessible to everyone. Don't try to focus on the impossible task of putting the maximum effort into every action. Instead, focus on small, regular improvements and success will come.

Extrinsic motivation vs. Intrinsic motivation


We hear the word "success" used liberally in motivational videos, but it's almost never defined. The images we see and passionate speeches that we hear seem to suggest that success is largely about money ("sleep is for those people who are broke"). Some interesting studies conducted more than a decade ago at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology seem to suggest that money is a very poor source of extrinsic motivation when it comes to the tasks that require even rudimentary cognitive skill (and that description certainly applies to poker).

Another study (this time courtesy of Princeton University) concluded that even though money can in fact "buy happiness" we're hitting some serious diminishing returns as soon as our income reaches 75 000$ per year. Most of us probably still have something to do in the money department, but some serious regulars already earn 75k per year if not more. Does that mean they have already achieved "success" and they have nowhere to go? What about micro stakes players that aren't even close to 75 000$ per year? Should they focus on money like motivational YouTube videos seem to suggest?

PokerVIP MenThere are some great sources of intrinsic motivation, superior to the extrinsic motivation that we can get from money, but you won't find them in a 5-minute intense YouTube video. One of those sources is autonomy. Human beings have this amazing need to be in control of their own actions and when it comes to career choices poker can certainly fulfill that desire. The lifestyle of a successful poker player allows for a lot of freedom and autonomy, which to many people can be far more important than money.

Another important source of motivation is mastery. Top poker players in the world make much, much more than 75 000$ per year, and yet they still have this internal desire to stay on top of the game. This desire isn't exclusive to the top pros either. Becoming one of the best NL10 regs in your poker room's player-pool can also be immensely satisfying. By trying to become the best poker player you can possibly be you might find joy in simple tasks like daily hand reviews just because they put you one step closer to reaching that goal.

Motivational videos are like a shot of espresso or an energy drink, they can help you gain that extra edge when you're not feeling great, but they are also unhealthy in large doses. You shouldn't rely solely on that small amount of extrinsic motivation that you get from pushing the YouTube play button because it might lead to some serious issues, but you can supplement your routine with it. As long as you're aware that the success is mostly a matter of disciplined slow progress and the best kind of motivation is the one that comes from within chills that a passionate speaker sends down your spine by asking "How bad do you want it?" can only help.

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Matt VIP

Matt is predominantly a mental game and planning expert, with a terrific knowledge of science, meditation, practical methods of improvement and of course, a good level of poker skill! Look out for his strategy articles and follow him for hi ... Read More


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