As poker players, our relationship with pocket aces can be intense. They are a beautiful sight, but we must wait so long for a glimpse. The moment becomes critical. Will our aces get cracked? Will this rare opportunity be squandered? There are a lot of “feels” to be had about pocket aces, and Dr. Tricia Cardner breaks down the science and psychology behind overcoming them. This is a mental game episode you won’t want to miss.

Featuring: Zac Shaw and Dr. Tricia Cardner

Links from this episode:

Dr. Tricia Cardner Official Website

Poker On The Mind Podcast

Rev Up Your Poker Success by Dr. Tricia Cardner

Zac: Dr. Tricia Cardner, welcome back to the podcast. It’s great to have you on. How are you doing today?

Tricia Cardner: I am doing fantastic and I’m so happy to be here with you talking about all things psychological and poker, ’cause those are two of my favorite subjects in the whole wide world.

Zac: Some of my favorites as well and this topic that we’re gonna talk about today, the psychology of pocket aces, came up in a real world scenario for me. But before we get into that, for our listeners who maybe aren’t quite familiar with you as all of our members, can you give a little background as to what you’re doing right now? I know that you’ve got your hands involved in quite a number of mental game related poker projects.

Tricia Cardner: Yes, that is true. Sometimes I feel like I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Some people are from the South and they’ll know that saying. But I’ve been involved with poker and obviously psychology for quite a long while. This summer I’m actually preparing right now to go to the World Series of Poker and this will be my eleventh World Series of Poker, so I’m excited about that.

I got into poker, probably like many people who are listening, at the time, I was a licensed psychotherapist and I was psychology professor, and I had done all the sort of things that you’re supposed to do while in school and getting your education and becoming an adult. I got invited to a home game, a poker home game and I never played cards before, but as soon as I went to this home game … and it was just a lot of my husband’s military buddies because we were Air Force at the time and so, we got stationed in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and there’s not a lot to do there, and it was sort of the dead of winter. So when one of the guys in his squad room was putting together this home game, I was like, “Hell yeah, I’m in!” Even though I didn’t know anything about poker or cards. But I just wanted to get out of the house.

So I went over and they kind of taught me the basic rules of the game, as they knew them, cause it wasn’t like they were Phil Hellmuths or anything and we started playing the game, and we even played this sort of weird, hybrid, cash tournament kind of thing, because everybody would come and they’d put in their $20 but then they would do the betting. It was like, I bet one dollar. I don’t know. It was just really bizarre. Right? And if somebody did bet a dollar, say the flop came out, and somebody was like I bet a dollar, everybody was like, “Oh My God!” Like a dollar.

Zac: We’ve all been in those games before.

Tricia Cardner: Okay, but I’ll tell you what I was taken with immediately. I was taken with the fact that, okay, this is a lot of math and statistics. I could see that immediately and of course, going to graduate school I took a lot of statistics. I could kind of see that. Then I could also see the psychology angle of it. I was like, I got to learn more about this. This right here is my jam and I sort of embarked on a process of trying to learn about poker and meet people. Of course, this was… What did I say? That it was my 11th World Series and I was probably getting into the game like a year before I went to my first World Series. So it’s been a while and, yeah, here I am now.

Zac: And that just seems like the start because right now you’re doing so many things. You’re on what episode of the podcast now?

Tricia Cardner: I’m podcasting. It’s called “Poker on the Mind” with Gareth James, also known as Gazzellig, who does make videos for Red Chip as well. We’re up to, we just recorded number 42. And prior to that I podcasted with Elliot Roe, which was, the Mindset Advantage. Almost forgot what that was called. We did like 50 something episodes together. That’s a lot of episodes, right?

Zac: I mean, that’s incredible, as someone who’s put together 140 something I know how much work that takes. One of the things that’s hard is you have a topic like mental game which is so broad, and one of the best things that you do is pull out these very specific topics and really dive into the science behind them. You know, give examples, but even still it’s kind of a lot for someone to bite off who’s just getting into poker to think about building resilience in their mental game, when they’re just trying to figure out what hands to open.

Tricia Cardner: Oh, yeah.

Zac: This topic I thought would be perfect to talk about because we’re really talking about at the heart of it aces cracked. It’s something that we see recreational players, they’re just so afraid of having their aces cracked. I played in a home game where a friend of mine, it was a three way pot pre-flop. You know, raised, three-bet, four-bet, five-bet. It went all-in, and my friend was sitting there hemming, and hawing. Finally, called after two minutes in the tank, and showed aces pre-flop.

Tricia Cardner: What?

Zac: That was the reaction of everyone at the table. It was hard for us to let her live that down for a while, but I was just fascinated from that, and I had to ask you what is behind this intense fear that you’re gonna have your aces cracked? It’s the best hand in poker.

Tricia Cardner: I mean, it’s so interesting, and I knew what the topic was because obviously you contacted me about this like a week or so ago and, so, I had to think on it. Right? And there’s just so many aspects. That’s one of the things that makes mindset so interesting, is there are many, many angles. I have a few ideas, and would I say this is every idea? No. Because psychology is so personal, and individualized, but a large part of what I think happens is I think we have these preconceived notions about what should happen with our aces. Right? We get aces, we’ve been waiting.

Tricia Cardner: Now, I know you play mostly cash, right?

Zac: Right.

Tricia Cardner: Okay, and I play mostly tournaments and so, in either condition, but maybe in tournaments even a little bit more. It’s, like, “Oh my God. Where are these aces? I need these aces.” Right? You’re just, every time you get a dealt a hand, before you look at it you’re like, “Come on. Come on.” And then maybe you look at the first card and you see the ace, and you’re like, “Oh, yeah,” and you’re getting revved up, right? And then you look at the second card and it’s, like, a nine off suit. Wah-wah.

Anyway, let’s say you do get the aces, right? You’ve waited, and waited. When are you gonna get them? One out of every 220 hands on average, something like that. Okay, yeah, and then when I get it, I have it in my mind I’m going to win. I should win. I should get a big pot, right? And then you’ve got all these kind of notions, and then you start getting a little scared. Especially when you’ve got two black aces, and the board is red, eight, nine, ten. Or nine, ten, jack, or something like that. Has that ever happened to you?

Zac: All the time.

Tricia Cardner: And then what happens? You can tell us ’cause you’re on the cash side. What kind of thought process goes through your mind when you take your aces multi-way, and then maybe you even see like a bad board for you?

Zac: Yeah, no matter how many times it happens. No matter how much I study. It’s never a good visceral feeling to see that happen. I’ve talked on the podcast about some hands, in fact, a pocket aces hand just like that, and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned strategically is to in those situations, both not be too scared, but also not be too overconfident.

Tricia Cardner: Yeah.

Zac: It almost seems like the key is to balance your emotions, so that you can make the correct decision.

Tricia Cardner: Well, I think it’s pretty interesting what you’re hitting on, because if we think about our ego, or the self. People have different terms for what they call it, but I’m just gonna call it ego for sake of simplicity. The ego’s role is to protect us, and so the ego is kind of telling us to shutdown and flee whenever we’re faced with any sort of threat, right? And so you get in these situations where it’s threatening. With your friend, where there was the three-betting, four-betting, five-betting, and then she had to tank for two minutes with the aces. Why is she unsure there? I mean, that’s crazy. The only time you should ever consider folding aces would be if you’re in a very specific satellite situation.

Zac: Right.

Tricia Cardner: And, right? You don’t need to risk it to get the seat because the top ten people are getting the seat, or whatever. That’s the only time. In a cash game, and in a tournament game, pre-flop, I should be looking to pile as much money as humanly possible in, but why wouldn’t I do that? Well, I think some of it is this ego. Right? It’s trying to protect us from some of these threats, and the way the brain works is it doesn’t look at the threat in an especially rational way. Okay, so, right? Like, we know. When we’re on the outside looking in, it’s real easy for us. ‘Cause we’re like, “Girl put that money in.” Right?

Zac: Sure.

Tricia Cardner: But her mind is like, “Girl, what if you lose this money,” and you know we don’t know what the money means to people. For some people maybe it’s the rent money on the table, which I’d never advise you to do, but maybe that’s true. For some people the fear or the threats come from how are they going to look. I don’t want to look stupid. I don’t want to make a mistake. A lot of people are saying these things like that. A lot of it is just an ego protection sort of system.

Zac: Right.

Tricia Cardner: I’d love to hear, kind of, now that I’ve said all this, kind of what strikes you about it? Or what are your thoughts about that?

Zac: Well, as you were describing it, the one thing that occurred to me was this was not a hand that happened at the beginning of the night. This happened at the end, and she had been dealing with a long string of kind of bad beats.

Tricia Cardner: Right.

Zac: To me it’s something where in poker it’s so easy to slip into tilt, to slip into B game, and for people who don’t have sort of a conscientious approach to at least knowing their internal mental state, and where they’re at. Those kind of emotions kind of compound to the point where you’re making these bad decisions, or at least weird decisions.

Tricia Cardner: Right. I think that’s interesting what you said, she had been on a long string of losing, and so for her then maybe the threat is that she is perceiving is even greater because she has been losing, and she’s like, “Oh, no, not again.” Like, that’s the thought that’s popping into her head. Like, I’ve been losing all night, and this is probably going to go poorly for me.

Zac: Right and I mean, its one of the things I’ve really learned from you watching your videos. Especially, I love what you say on resilience. You really do have to go through some pain in order to develop that resilience, and people are resistant. It’s almost kind of what you’re talking about with the aces cracked. They’re resistant to go through that pain, whereas a more seasoned player understands having your aces cracked is almost just part of the ride.

I mean, one of the most embarrassing hands I ever played was the first time I went into a casino. I bought into a limit game with … I’m … Yeah, a limit game with three hundred white chips, and I played aces to the river in a five-way pot, where the board was super wet. I mean, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I can remember the pain that I felt, and ever since that point I never was too over confident with the aces. I mean, I still had a lot to learn, but that’s what you got to do, right? You gotta experience that pain, and process it.

Tricia Cardner: Yeah. I think you’re hitting on just a lot of really important concepts. The first thing that people need to understand is that unpleasant emotions are normal in many situations, and especially poker. So, I guess with the ego trying to minimize our “pain,” and unpleasant feelings and stuff. It’s trying to help us, but it’s actually getting us into a ton of trouble. Then I like the way you’re talking about how you took those aces to the felt, on the river, five ways, wet board.

Zac: In a limit game, no less.

Tricia Cardner: You were super committed. But now you know better, and you know, like, hey, there is no hand in poker that’s 100%, right Pre-flop?

Zac: Right.

Tricia Cardner: And so, and as the flop goes, and particularly when we multi-way, we’re dividing up that equity amongst all the people, and all the hands, and then as the flop interacts with that it can go real bad, real fast.

Zac: Yeah, there is this sense of entitlement that I think is a huge leak in players. The obvious one is people always think they’re better than they actually are. They are then therefore entitled to the results that reflect that, but I guess we talked about being over confident, being under confident, and worrying about having them cracked, but what do pros do when they get dealt pocket aces? Are they even reacting to that? And one of the things that illustrates the difference is, let’s say, you get dealt pocket kings. Why is that so different? It just feels, like, aces, oh it’s this big deal, but kings okay, well, it’s the second best hand, I can handle this.

Tricia Cardner: And you know, when the kings come, everybody knows that kings are ace magnets, right?

Zac: Yeah.

Tricia Cardner: You’re almost expecting to see an ace on the flop to ruin your party with kings, but with the aces you’re, like, “Mm-hmm. I’m ready to go.” It’s just like I said in the tournament … Although, I’m not gonna lie. If I see kings, it’s game on all day long. Every day, and twice on Sunday. It’s like, we’re go. I think the more you play, and the more you learn about the game the more you start thinking in terms of ranges, and so aces is just one hand in that range, right?

Zac: Right.

Tricia Cardner: And I don’t know, I guess, when you’re a range based thinker, you’re not so hung up on the one hand, but when you’re first starting out you get hung up on the one hand. If that makes sense?

Zac: Yeah, and each hand is this kind of psychology. When I was starting out I couldn’t understand why people hated pocket jacks so much for example. You know there’s only three ways to play them, and they’re all wrong. I mean, is it about moving away from hands having a certain psychology? Or do you just kind of have to roll with the psychology, and come up with ways to deal with it?

Tricia Cardner: You know, that’s an interesting question, and I love what you said about the jacks because I’ve seen people with … I’d say tens, jacks, and queens in particular, people get a little crazy. Now, I’m generalizing, but in the tournament situation somebody will be opening up their standard raise size. Let’s say it’s somewhere between 2, and 3x, right? And then all of a sudden they raise like 5x to 7x. You know, they got tens, jacks, maybe, queens, but almost every time it could just be bang on. Why are people so afraid of those jacks?

Zac: I know. I mean, it seems … It’s one of the best hands in poker, and again, I guess, it just comes down to that sense of entitlement, and really your mind is focused on winning when you see those cards, so anything that approaches you to the contrary can kind of disrupt your game plan, but like you said if you’re thinking in ranges. Jacks, aces, queens, ace king. They’re all just parts of ranges. There’s no particular psychology. You might have a psychology to a range, instead of a particular hand, right?

Tricia Cardner: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I think so. I think it’s very interesting because we’re always telling ourselves these stories because that’s the way the mind works, right? It’s like thoughts and feelings, and they come and go, and they come and go, but what people need to really start thinking about is that the mind works in many ways and it’s sort of like a trap, okay? And there’s even certain traps that I discussed in my book, Peak Poker Performance, but the main psychological traps that will end up getting us into trouble would be rumination, avoidance, emotion driven behavior, and self criticism. Okay?

I think when people are getting a hand like aces, maybe, they could run through, and they could go, okay, am I getting myself into any of these traps? Rumination is where we’re sort of brewing and stewing. A lot of times this is after the fact, but it could have even been with your friend. She might have been doing rumination because she had been losing, and she was stewing on the fact that she had been losing, and she had been replaying the losses in her mind, and maybe obsessing over how unfair it was, and even fantasizing revenge. I don’t know, but any of those kinds of thought processes. Those are rumination. And then whenever we’re doing that, trouble.

Now, avoidance is I think coming into play more with the jacks hand. Avoidance is where we shut down the hand early because of some fear, or discomfort because we want to avoid fear, and discomfort. That’s sort of a natural human response, okay?

Zac: Mm-hmm.

Tricia Cardner: And so, I don’t know that, that was her case necessarily, but you know, if she’s gonna fold aces it could be. I don’t know what’s going on with that, but anyway, an emotion behavior of course is when we get rash, and impulsive. We sort of act without thinking on the long term consequences. We’re doing a behavior, and we later regret it because we’re like, “Oh, that was really bad,” but the reason we’re doing it in the moment is because it reduces the intensity of our bad feelings. Whether those are fear, or anger, or sadness. Whatever they might be.

Then finally, self criticism is where we are saying I’m so stupid. I shouldn’t have played it that way. I made a terrible mistake. You’re just judging yourself in this real harsh unhelpful way. I would suggest that your listeners think about these four mistakes, or traps if you will, when they are playing and see if they’re doing any of them.

Zac: I am very familiar with those four traps. I’ve been working on them for a while, and you’ve helped me. One of the things you’ve helped me see is that a lot of people have this idea that professional poker players are kind of emotional robots. They don’t feel anything. They get dealt pocket aces, it’s the same as seven deuce off suit. They are stone walls, but that’s not true they are human, and they have emotions just like us. It’s not about being emotionally numb to the point where you can’t feel anything. You have to process your emotions, right?

Tricia Cardner: Yeah, I think so. I think what we have to do is we have to have more of a level of acceptance. We have to accept that, hey, discomfort is just part of the game. We have to learn, and just be willing, I guess, to get comfortable with that fact. Now as you pointed out, very wisely so, it’s not possible to be an emotionless robot. We’re humans and we have feelings, but what we can learn is that feelings can come and go. We should let them come and go, right? We should just be, like, “Hmm. I just noticed that I looked down at these jacks, and I got a feeling of fear in my heart. Isn’t that interesting?” You’re just sort of noticing it, labeling it, stepping back and then you can be more objective and say, “Okay, what is the right way to play jacks in this particular spot?” And then hopefully you can make a more rational logical range based decision.

Zac: Right. Yeah, I mean, I’m gonna play this podcast for my friend, and it’ll be interesting to see if this is one of those painful experiences that makes her grow as a mental game player, but I think rumination is really … Probably knowing her, knowing the situation, one of the things that caused it. And I’m very familiar with this. It’s tricky because when something bad happens at the poker table, and we lose. We want to ruminate on it for strategic reasons, as well as the emotional reasons. We want to think strategically through what did we do, and could we have done something different, but it gets to the point where if you get too deep into the emotional level the strategic stuff just completely flies out the window.

Do you have any tips for pros on things that they can do to process the feelings at the table, and then kind of get to the more important work of ruminating on the strategy?

Tricia Cardner: Oh, I do have some tips. I would say that it is very difficult, almost impossible, I’m going to say, to be at the table thinking about a mistake that you made, and trying to work on the strategy side of it while still engaging in the game. The brain just doesn’t work that way. I would say. Let’s say you play a hand, and the outcome is not what you want. You think you might have made a mistake, and whatever. I would suggest take a note on your phone, or a notepad if you’re old school. Jonathan Little, he does a lot of writing in his notepad, but either way, just make a note of it, so you can process the strategy side after the game.

Tricia Cardner: In the game your focus should be to be … You know, mindfulness. That’s kind of a catchphrase, but I think it’s really important for poker players to be very mindful. In terms of, I’m being very focused on what is going on. I’m paying attention. I’m in the moment. And if I’m trying to process that hand, or thinking back over it and reflecting it while the next hand is going on I can’t be in two places at one time. If that makes sense?

Zac: Right. And each one of those things you mentioned is just going off in my mind. The avoidance part especially. I feel like recreational players, and players that go through these emotional experiences they avoid looking back on those negative experiences. They’re looking at the game as a fun social time to enjoy themselves.

Tricia Cardner: Right.

Zac: But for them looking back on the strategy, or the mental game aspects isn’t a part of that. What would you say to someone. You know, why would someone want to start to do that? I mean, at all if they are just looking at the game as having fun?

Tricia Cardner: I mean, I think if you are a recreational player, and you look at it just as having fun. I would say to you think how much more fun you would have if you actually got good at the game, and you won more money. ‘Cause I don’t know about you, but I lovesit when I can win a pile of cash, and go then do something I want with that pile of cash. Fun fact, I actually paid off the vast majority of my student loans with poker money.

Zac: Wow, congrats.

Tricia Cardner: And that’s really fun. I was like, it’s my dream in life to pay off student loans with poker money, and I just kind of had that in my mind to do something like that. You know, your dream might be different. It might be you want to get a house, or for some people maybe they want to quit a job, or maybe only work a part-time job while poker supplements their income, or … I don’t know so many things. Maybe you wanna take your poker money, and travel with it, or volunteer, or donate it to Habitat for Humanity. Like, whatever, right? You’re always going to do better if you apply yourself, and improve your game.

Zac: Right and you know I’m sure that for a lot of the up and coming players with small bankrolls they’re feeling the finances. What I find is tons of recreational players don’t really worry about the money. They’re doctors, lawyers, successful business people who are happy to lose a few buy-ins, and not break a sweat. For those people, what’s the bigger motivation there for these kinds of leaks? If it’s not about the money, what do you think it is about?

Tricia Cardner: I mean, it could be just if you have achieved a lot of success in some area, doctor, lawyer, whatever you’re probably a highly competitive person, and you’re a smart person, and you want to challenge yourself, but maybe you don’t have the time or wherewithal to really challenge yourself in poker. Because anybody who’s really gone down the rabbit hole of poker knows it is very challenging to train yourself to think in terms of ranges. To do the hand reading.

You know, with all the things that you really have to learn to get really, really good. I mean, maybe they don’t have the wherewithal for that, but, oh, my knees are bad, so I can’t play football anymore, but I can still compete at the table. I do see a lot of people doing that as well. Maybe they were a competitor in some type of sport when they were younger, and that kind of goes by the wayside, and they’re like, “Oh, well, I can still compete in poker”, but you’re busy with a full-time job and whatever. You can get pretty good at poker if you want to, but it’s more challenging I think, because how can you possibly put in all the deliberate practice, or purposeful practice, as I like to call it, that you would need.

Zac: Right. Wow, there’s just so many aspects to mental game. Everyone’s got to focus on their own particular leaks. I’ve got a couple more questions before I let you go, because here’s the deal, I’m headed out to Vegas, just I think like you are for the meet up this year and every time I have to sit down at a table with a ton of players who are way better than me, who are really fantastic. Not only that, but they’re coaches, they’re people I work with, and I want to play my A game. There’s a lot of pressure, and I think this goes along with what we’ve been talking about with aces, right? I mean, you get dealt aces, right? You feel pressure to perform with the best hand in poker. Do you have any general tips for me going into that situation as to how I can alleviate that feeling of pressure, and just play my normal A game that I would play at my local casino?

Tricia Cardner: Okay, I do have some tips for you. First things first, I would say focus on your breathing, because whenever we get under pressure filled situations, or we get stressed your breathing gets really shallow, and your heart rate increases. And all those physiological things happen. And when those physiological things happen it works to depress your brain function. Okay, because it’s pumping out a lot of resources to those other things.

You want to focus on your breathing. Doing proper diaphragmatic breathing will calm you and the way you do that, because a lot of people think, “I don’t know how to breathe from my diaphragm,” and that’s true a lot of people don’t because we so rarely do it. But you can easily do it by taking a breath in through your nose slowly for a count of six. So, one, two, three, four, five, six. Some people can’t go to six at first because they’re not used to it, or they have a breathing problem or something. You might have to shorten it, but ideally it would be six. You hold for two, and then out for a count of seven. If you do this six to seven, and you count it properly, then each breath is going to take you fifteen seconds, and it’s going to automatically be this diaphragmatic breathing.

Do not underestimate the importance of this breathing because what it will do is it will slow your heart rate. It sends a signal to the brain, that, hey, I’m relaxed, I don’t need to be worried like a saber-toothed tiger is about to tear my throat out. Okay. Because the brain doesn’t differentiate between different types of stress. It doesn’t know the difference. Okay. It doesn’t know is it a tiger about to kill me, or am I stuck in traffic? The body responds the exact same way. So, you’d want to do the breathing.

The second thing, before you even get to the table, I would just take a minute to think about what is your purpose in playing this game. What’s your purpose? What’s your goal? And get focused on that. Because remember when I talked about the ego’s role being to protect us? Well, there’s a good amount of research that shows that when we have a purpose, and particularly if the purpose is, not just like I want to pad my wallet, although there’s nothing wrong with that, everybody wants to fill their wallet. But if your purpose is something that transcends the self, that also helps us deal with that ego minimization. And so that will help us be more present.

Zac: For example. Just to make sure I’m understanding you correct. One of the things I did in my last session, that I had a good session. I went in saying I have to record the hands that I play in great detail. That’s my only purpose. I’m not caring about winning or losing. I just want to record it in great detail, so that I can share it with the listeners.

Tricia Cardner: Perfect.

Zac: Is that the kind of thing you’re talking about?

Tricia Cardner: Well, that’s really perfect. Because that, really, you have a goal. You have something that you’re focused on, and it’s not just results oriented, approach right? What I really like about yours is you want to record the hand, so you can share them with your listeners. So you know that people are going to hear about these hands.

Zac: Oh boy.

Tricia Cardner: You would not like to report that you did something extra silly, right?

Zac: I don’t know if I can avoid that, but, yes.

Tricia Cardner: But, right? It motivates you to try, right?

Zac: Oh, so much.

Tricia Cardner: Because you want to come back, and you want to have something good, so you are having a purpose. You’re transcending. Which that’s all really great, and you have a focus, and I think that’s really good too. I really like that strategy for you.

Zac: And I think we see that with the poker vlogger’s out there. They’re really trying to get better by putting themselves out there. And YouTube comments are one of the most horrible places to receive criticism.

Tricia Cardner: Yeah, I always say about YouTube comments. Okay, when people are just being mean to you on YouTube or any other social media. Let’s say, you vlogged, and you did make a legitimate poor play, and then people are pointing that out. I’m not talking about that, that’s great. But I’m talking about people who are just mean to you. Who come in and they comment, and they’re just, like, “You’re stupid,” and “You’re a loser,” or whatever. You will never see a truly successful person ever trolling in social media comments. Bill Gates, I promise you is not trolling anyone. Take that for what it’s worth. That’s a little bit of sidebar on how to deal with social media trolls.

Zac: Don’t have the time for the trolls. All right. One last question about aces because this podcast is all about profit, making money, bringing something to the table that you can use. We all know players like this in our home game, or we encounter them in lives games, and by players like this, I mean, players who are afraid of getting aces cracked, have these psychological things around it. How do we exploit that at the table? This is kind of half strategy, half mental game thing. How would you approach exploiting that person if you were sitting down at the final table?

Tricia Cardner: I mean, if I know somebody is scared, then I’m gonna want to make them scared, if that makes sense?

Zac: Aggression?

Tricia Cardner: Oh, absolutely, I mean, I’m gonna put somebody in an uncomfortable situation. That’s what exploitation is all about. I mean, one, it’s about seeing the mistakes that they make, and then capitalizing on those mistakes. So, that’s one. And two, it’s about taking the things that make them uncomfortable, and putting them in those uncomfortable spots because you know they’re not going to play as well.

Zac: Hmm.

Tricia Cardner: What do you think?

Zac: Yeah, I mean.

Tricia Cardner: ‘Cause you’re like, “Hmm.”

Zac: Yeah, well, I’m also thinking of it in terms of this is me when I sit down, and how everyone is gonna be looking at me. I, at the very least want to figure out how to not be exploited by others.

Tricia Cardner: I mean, the easiest way not to be exploited is to play a fundamentally sound game, right?

Zac: Right.

Tricia Cardner: If you’re truly balanced. Although, it’s very difficult to be truly balanced and in a lot of situations you don’t need to be balanced, because you are taking an exploitive line, but you want to have some level of balance to what you’re doing because when you have some level of balance you play better poker. Like, I said unless you just don’t need it because you’re exploiting somebody to the max. It makes you a lot harder to exploit.

Zac: Yeah, I think that’s really useful advice because sometimes the instinct can be to adjust. To make changes to our game, but I’m sure this applies to really any sport. You can’t make an adjustment to your golf swing, and expect to win like you did. You have to develop those adjustments over time, right?

Tricia Cardner: And they have to be done in a logical manner, I would say. Like, there has to be a reason why. You know, it’s just like when we were talking about the jacks hand, and I said, oh, in the tournaments a lot of times I’ll see weaker players, and they will open the tens through queens, at like 5x to 7x because they’re uncomfortable. Okay, well, I know that. I know what they’re opening. Isn’t it really helpful to have someone’s range narrowed down like that?

Zac: Yeah.

Tricia Cardner: I could do anything to them. I can call them with two cocktail napkins. It doesn’t matter. When the board comes with an ace, and a king, or something like that. I can just hammer them.

Zac: Yeah, oh, man. I’m just imagining myself across the table from you in a few weeks.

Tricia Cardner: Hammer-time. No, I’m just kidding.

Zac: Oh, man. Well, Dr. Cardner, it’s always amazing to talk to you. I learned so much. I hope our listeners did too, and I’m sure they’re ready for more, so, can you tell them where they can listen to your podcast, and get in touch with you, and get more of your content.

Tricia Cardner: Absolutely. I have a free online course called, Rev Up Your Poker Success, which you can find at I highly recommend people sign up for that because, hey, it’s free. And it’ll get you going on the goal setting aspect of the mental game. And the podcast, of course is Poker On The Mind, and you can find that at iTunes or Spreaker, anywhere that you listen to podcasts. You can ask for an invite to my private Facebook group, which is the Poker Mindset Mastery Lab. And actually people ask questions, mental game questions, and I do answer them in there. And a lot of them I actually take out, and I answer in much greater detail on the Poker On the Mind podcast.

Zac: Excellent. Well, I encourage our listeners to check that out. We’ll put links in the show notes. Dr. Tricia Cardner, it’s been great, and until we meet in Vegas. I hope you continue to run good, and have fun.

Tricia Cardner: Wow. Thank you so much. I’m looking forward to it, and good luck to everybody who is going out for the summer festival o’fun.