Hypnotherapist and poker mental game coach Dan Heskett is on the podcast this week dispensing wisdom on developing a winning mindset for tournament players. His advice on approaching the game with a disciplined, focused mindset has translated into poker profits for many of his students. In this episode, you’ll hear some of his best advice on honing your mental game to a well-oiled winning machine.

Featuring: Heskett & Shaw

What is a winning mindset and why is it important in poker?

Mindset refers to how you approach the game. When you start looking at patterns in your mental state, whether it’s at the table or in your personal life, you start to understand your state of mind and how your decisions impact that state. Awareness and mindfulness are the first steps toward establishing a professional poker mindset. Once you’re aware, you can work on changing to frame of your experience, and have control over your mindset, which directly impacts your results.

How would you know when to get mindset coach?

Most poker players would benefit from a poker mindset coach. Heskett’s hypnotherapy deals with tilt, anxiety, stress, and motivation –- the core emotional obstacles poker players must deal with. He focuses on helping clients refocus their energy through a combination of mindfulness, meditation and other mental techniques that build the capacity in an individual to power through the negative and focus on the positive.

Dan’s 3 Levels of mindset in poker

  • 1st Level – The fish mindset: being only results-orientated. If you win money its good, if you lose money it’s bad.
  • 2nd Level – The EV mindset: focused on opportunities for value, reactive.
  • 3rd Level – The professional mindset: proactive, being process-oriented and having good life habits such as a balanced diet, exercising regularly, meditating, listening to music that gets you motivated or playing poker without distractions. Doing these (and more) repeatedly will assist you in creating a healthier mindset and becoming a better poker player.

How do you develop and stick to a healthy habit?

Heskett shared a few habits that can be created for around the poker table or in your daily personal routine to provide for a more successful mindset at the table.

For example, have a notepad or your phone nearby when playing and ask the successful and professional ‘future you’ who have played all those hands, made all that money and have all those healthy habits: What can you start doing now to become a better poker player?

The answers (from the future you) could be, work harder in general, exercise more, look at your diet or change your check-raise frequency. Create a checklist and use it as a daily/weekly motivation for yourself to become a more successful individual and poker player.

Another useful mental game exercise is the “perfect day” scenario. Imagine what a perfect day of playing A-game poker would look like, from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. Think about all of the ideal moves you could make in a day to prepare to play your best. Then compare this perfect day to reality and locate areas of improvement.

What makes a student successful or not?

Having a schedule and a routine to stick to is a big edge-builder when it comes to a winning poker mindset. For example, structuring a week with 25 hours playing poker, 15 hours studying, 2 hours of coaching, 6 hours of reviewing hands, etc.

Students that follow such a specific structure and schedule knows exactly when they are ready to move up to the next level, because these students know exactly what they are doing when they are doing it, and how they are doing it.
In the beginning, it might seem that the players that just jumped in have a greater success rate because they are playing more, in relation to the player that currently spends more time away from the table studying. In the long run, the studying player will catch up and surpass the unstudied player. It’s not just how hard you work at the table, but also equally important what you put in away from the table. You need to do your best, otherwise the rest will progress and you will be left behind.

The action you are the most resistant to do is probably the thing you need to do the most. This type of resistance is often behind the fear of success. So whatever you are putting off, it might just be what you need to take your game to the next level. “Face your fears,” Heskett says.

Have one goal in mind

Heskett recommends starting off by only having one goal. For example, if you are playing online try to improve your win rate or try to move up in stakes. How would you go about reaching this goal?

Players often get so focussed on strategy and tactics that they forget the mental game which is the umbrella over everything, influencing every aspect of your game.

Check out Heskett’s site for more of his thoughts on hypnotherapy, mindfulness, and the mindset of a successful poker player.

Showing 4 comments
  • Tim

    I did a group of 4 sessions with Dan, via Skype. Was an excellent investment. I feel much calmer at the table now, much less anxious about results which allows me to focus on each hand, and what is the best decision, etc. I listen to his MP3s now at least once a week, just to stay grounded and positive. He’s highly recommended!

  • Dan Heskett

    Thanks Tim for your kind words 🙂

    Hi all happy to answer any questions you might have on mental game issues if you do want to ask anything please leave your questions in the comments section and ill get back to you.

  • Jenny

    I had several session with Dan. His help is tremendous. I got so much more confident and play so much better now, since the tilt&panic factor is eliminated. Also he puts some things into a new perspective and offers a lot of tools and methods of arranging all aspects of yor life, including poker, the most optimal way.

  • Dan

    TY Jenny 🙂