The idea of poker mindset became popular a decade or so ago with the release of the seminal book by Ian Taylor, Matthew Hilger aptly named "The Poker Mindset". Ever since then poker players around the world, micro and high stakes alike, began supplementing their win rates with a new and improved mental game. It's no longer just about betting patterns and commitment to improving one's mind is as vital to a poker player's long-term success, as optimizing his or her value betting frequency.
That being said, poker mindset is a vast subject and not everyone is keen on the idea of exploring it. Some of us have a very limited time to spend on poker, others prefer sitting at the table (real or otherwise) over anything else. With those players in mind here's the list of a few important mindset hacks that you can start utilizing today without reading countless books on the subject.
Make Mindful Breathing a Habit
If you're still one of those people who think meditation is a bogus fad for hippies - you're out of luck. The subject of meditation and mindfulness is pretty well researched and the benefits or reducing our inner brain-noise are pretty clear. Does it mean that you should shave your head, migrate to Nepal and become a zen-monk? Not really.
Does it mean that you should make a habit of taking as many mindful breaths as possible throughout the day? Heck yeah! Mindful breathing is kinda like lifting weights for your brain in that the benefits are undeniable and yet very few people are doing it. Don't be one of those people.
Rubber Band Technique
Do you have a tendency to make suboptimal calls even when you know for sure that you shouldn't? Maybe you're having trouble firing off tables because you're pretty much addicted to YouTube videos? Turns out that there's a simple solution to these and many other similar issues - a DIY behavioral therapy involving a common household object. Just wrap some rubber band around your wrist and every time you do something that you deem a bad habit pull it (rubber band, not the habit) and let it hit your wrist.
Pick Your (Poker) Friends Carefully
"You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with" - This quote is much more adequate than most of us would give it credit to. One of the best ways of making sure that you're going to go as far as you can in the poker world is finding some like minded friends that also want to improve. Ideally, they should be at least slightly better at poker than you are.
You can also benefit from reaching out to players that are way above your level and using them as a source of inspiration. There's also value to be had in helping players that are worse off than you as long as they're committed to the idea of progress. In any case, be mindful of who you're hanging out with because it has a truly profound effect on you.
Here's the thing, if you're a fan of Oprah and you think that "The Secret" was the best book ever written then you're either twelve years old or you need to seek professional help. People claiming that you can just wish things into existence are obviously full of it and they are the reason why visualization is sort of a dirty word these days, even among people who are very much into this whole mindset thing. With a dose of healthy skepticism out of our way, let's explore the subject of visualization in a bit more detail, seeing as it can be very useful when approached correctly (just ask Daniel Negreanu's bank account if you're not convinced).
Simply wishing that you're going to become a NL500 crusher might not do you any good but convincing yourself that you suck at poker and your button clicking misadventure won't amount to anything, will certainly do you a lot of harm. You can prove that visualization is important in kinda the same way that you can prove poker is different than other casino games - by pointing out the fact that you can intentionally lose at it. Fortunately, squaring this circle is fairly easy - avoid extremes and you'll be fine. Don't daydream about poker greatness and don't bring yourself down with negative beliefs.
Goals, Goals, Goals!
Lastly, pick some direction for your poker journey. Without it, poker is just spinning your wheels by clicking some buttons and/or shuffling some ceramic chips. Benjamin Franklin said that “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” and the guy certainly knew what he was talking about.
Setting goals is an art worthy of another article (take a look here if you're interested) but make sure that you have some, otherwise, there's a good chance that you're just going to drift aimlessly through this whole poker thing without giving the process any coherent structure.