Interview with poker mental game guru Jared Tendler

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Jun 04, 2012 Posted in Interviews | No Comments »

After reading and reviewing Jared Tendler’s the Mental Game of Poker I had a chance to talk to the author about his book and pepper him with a few of my own questions about the mental game. Here is my interview with Jared.

Read my Review of Jared Tendler’s book, The Mental Game of Poker, HERE

PokerNewsBoy: How did you come to the decision to write the Mental Game of Poker?

Jared Tendler: The original idea to write a book came one day when I was playing golf with Dusty Schmidt, my first poker client (Funny, I can remember the exact spot on the course where we first talked about it). I felt like I could add a lot to the existing poker books on this subject and I also wanted to make my material more accessible to players who couldn’t afford private coaching. The decision was pretty easy to make because I thought it would be easy to write a book. I was wrong and clearly overconfident. Fortunately ignorance is bliss and by the time I realized how hard it would be to pull off I was really motivated to pull it off.

PNB: Could you talk about the overall writing and publishing process, and what you found to be the most difficult part of the process?

JT: That’s a big question. As a first time writer and publisher the whole process was new and I was a complete fish. When I started writing I didn’t realize that I wasn’t a writer. I have so much more respect for writers having gone through the process myself, and I still don’t consider myself a writer yet.

I had a lot of help. I spent the first six months trying to write the book on my own, until I realized it was going absolutely nowhere. Fortunately, around that time Barry Carter and I had just completed a four-part blog/article series for UK PokerNews where I he became a client and then wrote about it. We had a really good rapport and I figured he might be up for working on the book with me. Thank god he said yes, I couldn’t have done it without him. We found out that the best way to get it done was for me to dictate a section and Barry write it up, then I revise, dictate more, rinse/repeat, you get the idea. I just think better when speaking and while I’m better at explaining myself in writing it’s still quite hard comparatively.

PNB: After reading The Mental Game of Poker I felt the book was underpriced, but there are a lot of people that seem taken aback by the $49.95 price-tag, so let’s hear your best sales pitch for why the book was priced as it is?

JT: Thanks. I’m glad you thought the book was well worth the $49.95 price. (I’ll add that it’s now available for just $29.95.) I originally priced it at $49.95, because clients pay thousands of dollars for private coaching. To get a book packed with a ton of great advice and a system that shows you how to make permanent improvements in your mental game, at a fraction of the cost, seemed like a no-brainer for any serious player. The book really is designed for players serious about improving; it’s not for recreational players. For serious players – I don’t mean just pros – who have issues with tilt, motivation, confidence or fear, the book will pay for itself many times over.

PNB: A few other poker authors have tried to tackle this topic, what did you feel you could bring to the debate that the others have not?

JT: First off, I want to say that I’m thankful and respectful of the work these authors have done. They trail blazed the path for the mental game to have greater acceptance in poker and made it possible for a book like mine to have a place within the game.

The biggest difference between my work and the other books is that I provide a clear roadmap to solving the major mental game issues poker player face: tilt, fear, low confidence, overconfidence and poor motivation. The other books know the end game, but for many players it’s much harder than these books make it seem. Not let bad beats tilt you, not focusing on results, and being fearless are great ideas, but achieving that end goal is not that easy. My book provides a straightforward process for making permanent improvements with these issues. The other books provide a lot of good philosophy, theory, or advice, but that alone often doesn’t produce lasting improvements. Instead, players make immediate progress, but then fall back into old habits of say, letting a beat tilt them.

PNB: Do you feel that there are certain players who simply can’t be proficient in the Mental Game because of their personality or other influences, or is it something that you believe anyone can improve upon to the point where it’s no longer a major factor in their play?

JT: I’m an optimist and believe that anyone who is willing to be persistent in finding a solution to their mental game problems can find one. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy, or that my book has all the answers. New research has shown that personality, brain chemistry/wiring, is much more changeable than first thought. There are limits to how much, so maybe someone with a major tilt problem will never be as cool at the tables as Ivey, but they can certainly get to the point where tilt doesn’t destroy bankrolls.

The publishing process was a challenge too, but much easier comparatively. I really enjoyed working with designer, printer, editor, copyeditor, etc to make the book look like it was produced by an experienced publishing house. Most of the people involved did a tremendous job. Start to finish it was a two-year project and I’m really, really, happy with how it turned out. So far, it’s by far the greatest accomplishment of my life.

PNB: In the Mental Game of Poker you use the term ‘Unconscious Competence’, to define a player’s instincts at the table; how do you help players recognize when their emotions have gone from calling on their experiences (when they should listen to their gut feeling), to overwhelming the logical part of their decision-making processes?

JT: Great questions and this is something I would consider to be higher-level mental game stuff. I’ll be covering in more detail in the next book. Essentially, the gut is most accurate when a player is playing at the peak of their game — that should come as no surprise. However, as performance drops, instincts or automatic reactions, start to be more influenced by underlying mental game weaknesses in their game, or vice versa, where mental game problems like tilt or anxiety, cause performance to drop.

How do players learn the difference? They have to study the patterns in their game to be able to spot the difference between playing at their peak, and when mental game issues have popped-up. For many it seems obvious, but once closer attention is given, there becomes a dramatic and obvious difference. Recognition of a player’s mental game patterns is a skill and increases the more they study. It’s really no different than learning about the tendencies in your opponent’s play. Over time you learn more about how to exploit their game. In this case, you can learn how to maximize your play by studying the differences in your mental game, so you can know when to trust instincts and when not to.

PNB: And finally: After reading your book I have a lot of confidence in you as a mental gamed coach, so would it be possible for you straighten out Rajon Rondo for the Celtics if we started up a collection?

JT: Ha! Well, my only concern would be that he might bump me, like he did that ref, if I say something he doesn’t like. I’m not sure, but I’d love the chance. Working with tough cases is a challenge and forces me to step up my game!

Purchase The Mental Game of Poker at (paperback, kindle, and audio versions available)

You can also purchase the book from Jared Tendler’s website:

The Mental Game of Poker is also available as an audio book, at and at iTunes, as well as on Kindle (although I recommend getting the print version since it contains some charts, graphs, and other visual aids that may not convert well on Kindle).

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