Book Review: The Mental Game of Poker 2

I just got done reading Jared Tendler and Barry Carter’s follow up to their ground-breaking book The Mental Game of Poker, [simpleazon-link asin=”0983959757″ locale=”us”]The Mental Game of Poker 2: Proven Strategies for Improving Poker Skill, Increasing Mental Endurance, and Playing in the Zone Consistently[/simpleazon-link]. As one might expect based on the title, TMGP2 extends what Tendler and Carter presented in TMGP.

Some of this review may end up sounding somewhat similar to what I wrote about another book I recently read called Poker Hero. The reason for that is both books cover many of the same topics and give very similar advice.

In fact, I was unsure of how to approach this review since I throughly enjoyed both books. Is one better than the other? Do I recommend one over the other?

I guess the best way to reconcile that is to put the two books into perspective. Poker Hero is an excellent book if you’ve never thought about the mental aspects of poker before. It’s an excellent book that opens to door to novice players to get started on taking their game to the next level.

TMGP2 (and to a large degree, TMGP) is an advanced look into peak performance. For instance, both talk about playing in “The Zone” but 2 goes a step (or two) further. The content is more focused on serious players and the explanations are much more detailed.

The zone is a state of heightened mental functioning, awareness, and concentration that allows poker players to perform at the highest possible levels. – The Mental Game of Poker 2

Both of these books are exciting because this is one of the areas in poker that has been under-explored. Tommy Angelo was one of the first major authors to discuss the concept of forgetting about working on your A-game and put more time into eliminating your C-game if you’re really interested in putting more money in your pocket. TMGP2 validates and evolves Angelo’s observations about the game using recognized research into how the brain learns and processes information. Tendler’s background in sports psychology applied to poker is a natural progression in performance enhancement.

I remember years ago hearing a Tony Robbins speech about coaching professional athletes. He said that you don’t teach an NBA player how to shoot free throws. They already know how to shoot free throws. They didn’t get to where they are and not know how to shoot free throws. It’s not about their form or their stance or any of the basics. It’s about getting them into them into the right mental frame of mind.

Essentially, Tony Robbins was talking about eliminating the player’s C-game. If you can teach them to be in the zone more often they’ll make more free throws. The goal is to increase the amount of time spent in the A-game and reduce the amount of time playing the B and C-games.

[simpleazon-image align=”right” asin=”0983959757″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”107″]What TMGP2 teaches isn’t some secret that you can read and your game will magically get better. It’s work. Hard work. And what makes it even more challenging is the fact that much of it is training your own mind. Most of us never learn to direct our own minds. We put information into it but we don’t train the mind to produce the states which give us the outcomes we desire.

TMGP2 is the manual. It’s a guide. You still have to get in there and do the work yourself. It seems soft and fuzzy and all new age-y when you first hear about these methods but they’re backed by scientific research and by countless professional athletes outside the realm of poker.

Whether you’re talking poker, golf, basketball, or boxing, technical skill will only take you so far. Crossing the threshold between good and great is entirely psychological. If you aren’t working on your mental game, you’ve already set a limit in terms of how far you can go.

In many ways working on the mental part of your game reminds me of meditation or mindfulness. In fact, there are many similarities in terms of training yourself to be able to put yourself into an empowering mental state.

When you first begin to meditate you train your mind to think about nothing. That is very difficult when you’re first starting out. Your mind is used to going here and there and moving from one thought to the next.

And then you have a moment. A moment when your mind has completely stilled itself and you are entirely present in this very moment. It might have taken weeks or months of sitting there each day for 10 or 15 minutes trying to focus on nothing and not perceiving that you’ve made any progress but when it happens it’s like getting slapped in the face.

But that moment is fleeting and is quickly gone. However, the more you keep practicing the more often that moment comes and the easier it is for you to still your mind each session and get access to that state again.

Perhaps Tendler and Carter would disagree but that is what your A-game is about. You can’t live in your A-game every moment of your life but you train your mind how to get there more frequently and stay there longer. Even more important, you can learn the difference between your A-game and your B-game before you even begin to slip back into your B-game.

As Darren Kramer attests in TMGP2:

I’ve gotten to the point now where I don’t even have to make mistakes to know my game has slipped. Last year, one of my B-game mistakes was becoming creative and making too many fancy plays. After calling this out and working on it over many months, I was able to recognize when I was just thinking about being creative. I didn’t have to make a mistake to know I was in my B-game! This gave me so much control over my game and allowed me to prove that I was making real progress with my mental game. Now, when my game slips and I start to feel like I want to get creative, I say to myself, ‘Darren, you know the things you do well—be patient and clear.’ That stops me immediately, and then I can look to what I do in my A-game and try to play that way. The knowledge I have from working with my A- to C-game analysis is incredibly empowering. I have extra knowledge about my game that not many players have. When I sit down at a table full of good regs, I feel like I have one or two extra tools in my back pocket.

Probably the most difficult part about employing the strategies and techniques outlined in TMGP2 is that you can’t force it. Just like you cannot meditate harder, you can’t rush the processes in TMGP2 by trying harder. It’s a learning process, a training process, which has a natural progression and clearly defined steps along the way. If you put in the effort and the time the results will come but there are no shortcuts.

If what I’ve said sounds like a load of BS, don’t buy this book. You’re not ready for it. You might be ready for it one day but you’ll get absolutely nothing out of it today. If anything I’ve written has resonated in even the slightest way, this book is 100% for you.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Mental Game of Poker 2”

  1. Hey Jeff,

    Yeah, it’s difficult to review a book that some people may dismiss because they’re not ready for it. 🙂 Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and chat with Tommy over the years so I’ve been a big fan of this concept for a long time. I’m really glad to see these ideas/concepts being explored deeper.



  2. Great review Bill! Thanks for saying what needs to be said about being READY to read about this facet of poker strategy. Your mention of Tommy Angelo is superbly fitting. I remember purchasing Elements of Poker years ago after reading all the fanfare about it. I read half of the book and declared it to be phony, fluff, BS…

    A couple of years later, after having improving my game quite a bit, I started pondering the mental side of things. I dusted off Tommy’s book to reread it, and all of sudden, A-Game vs C-Game and Reciprocality and poker profits became key concepts to my becoming a profitable player.

    I agree with you that TMGP was groundbreaking and I am definitely ready to read the second part of it. Thanks for the primer!!!


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