Psychological Principles of Poker Success

volume1Since I was introduced to no limit hold’em a few years ago, I’ve been obsessed with figuring out how to take my game to the next level. In that vein, I decided to study a group of top tournament players (many of whom are also cash game players) to find out it takes to get to the top and stay there. Specifically, I wanted to know what psychological tips, tricks, and strategies elite players use. As we all know, once you get to a certain level, everyone knows the fundamentals of the game and psychological aspects become increasingly important.

I analyzed my data and concluded that there are nine overall psychological principles that players can use to enhance their mental game and increase profitability. They are:

  • Develop Talent and Expertise
  • Set Goals
  • Maintain Self-Control
  • Be Motivated
  • Have Focus and Concentration
  • Be Self-Confident
  • Master Tilt
  • Be Mentally Tough
  • Learn to Have Resilience and Joy

While the principles seem straight forward, it takes constant work and attention to these skills in order to achieve and maintain elite status. You have no control over how opponents play. Variance and tilt are constant psychological challenges. These things can derail you if you let them. The one thing you have control over is how you choose to use your mind. While we aren’t born knowing how to control our minds, with work and effort almost anyone can become a mental game master.


“ passion, a willingness to learn, change and grow, and an open mind. ”

I’ve concluded that there are three prerequisites associated with mastering the above principles of psychological success. They are: passion, a willingness to learn, change and grow, and an open mind. Passion allows you to persist at mastering both poker and psychological challenges. A willingness to learn, change and grow makes changing habits easier, and open mindedness increases the likelihood that you’ll seek out and implement new information and techniques. I call the combination of these three traits the success trifecta and if you have them (or work to develop them), you’ll have a head start on working towards the nine principles of psychological success!

Patricia Cardner

Patricia Cardner

Dr. Patricia Cardner has two doctorates (one in psychology and one in criminology), and is a licensed professional counselor. Patricia has taught numerous university courses in psychology including courses in sports psychology, positive psychology and a special topics course on the psychology of poker. In addition, Patricia is an avid poker player and since learning the game a few years ago, has over six figures in tournament winnings. Patricia is one of the few people with the level of education and clinical expertise who actually plays the game.
Patricia Cardner

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