Daniel Negreanu is one of the most impressive figures in the history of poker. While his star isn't shining as brightly as it used to just a few years back - due to his allegiance to PokerStars which made a number of questionable decisions in the recent past, alienating a sizable portion of the community - Daniel Negreanu is still a person we can all learn a great deal from. His tremendous ability at a live poker table is legendary, but Daniel is also one of the pioneers in the field of poker mindset.
Negreanu realized the importance of things like mindfulness, visualization and goal setting long before most of his opposition and it's one of the main reasons why he managed to stay so incredibly successful throughout the years. Let's take a closer look at some of the building blocks of Negreanu's strong mental game.
Unconscious Competence, Intuition and Discipline
Daniel Negreanu is perhaps the best known for his amazing, almost supernatural, ability to soul read his opponents and name their exact holdings on the spot. While the bulk of that impressive skill comes from Daniels mastery of the betting patterns, there's also an important mental component attached to it.
Kid Poker analyzed the ranges of his opponents on a very high level for so many years, that it allowed him to make the process more accurate and efficient by turning it from a conscious effort into unconscious intuition. "Conscious competence" learning model that we know from psychology lists four different stages of competence: unconscious incompetence (wrong intuition), conscious incompetence (wrong analysis), conscious competence (right analysis) and unconscious competence (right intuition).
Daniel played high-level poker in a live setting for so long that computing ranges using all of the information available to him during a live hand, is now a second nature to him. What we can gather from that is the fact that discipline and experience are absolutely essential to a long-term poker success. Persistence eventually leads to mastery and while not everyone might share Negreanu's talent, absolutely everyone can improve tremendously with time.
Mindfulness and Visualisation
In the interview for 'The Mindset Advantage Podcast', Negreanu reminisced about his early interest in the mental game aspect of poker.
"Around 2003, I would start to do things like if I were traveling to a tournament, I would pack an outfit for the final table. I would pack a suit and would plan for success. I did this without any outside influence in terms of books and coaching on the subject".
Visualization is a controversial subject, on the one hand, we have countless examples of bogus pop-science books, on the other we have amazing examples of people like Natan Sharansky who practiced chess games in his mind while spending 9 years in prison in the USSR after being accused of spying for the US and eventually beating the chess world champion Gary Kasparov in 1996. It's pretty safe to say that we can include Negreanu in the latter camp given his proven track record.
Packing a different outfit for the final table of a tournament that you're about to play won't do you any good if you're a total amateur, but it might give you that minuscule amount of additional edge that you need if you're an otherwise solid player. A decade or so after that first realization from Kid Poker's aforementioned quote, Negreanu joined a "Leadership University Choice Center" to further his mental development.
"They didn't teach me how to play ace-queen there, but they certainly taught me how to get my mindset in a place where I was confident, prepared, and ready for success".
Daniel is also a known proponent of mindfulness meditation. He even wrote a blog post about it back in 2015 where he states:
"People often ask me how to deal with a bad beat, and my answer to that is to take three to five really deep breaths".
Lastly, let's talk a bit about goal setting. Daniel Negreanu is known for the yearly blog posts where he lists all of the things he would like to accomplish in a given year and - what's also very important - analyzes the things he was able to accomplish in a previous year, often using the information gained throughout the process to course correct.
This is exactly why Negreanu's propensity for visualization is so powerful. Daniel doesn't engage in some good old-fashioned wishful thinking, he uses visualization to enhance the process of goal setting. Negreanu dares to aim high and is able to achieve a lot even when he ultimately falls short of the achievements he set for himself.