Daryl Jace

Teacher, Blogger, Poker player.

2013 will be a very difficult year for you

2013 Will Be a Very Difficult Year For You: How to Achieve Your Goals Through Mental Toughness

This year will come with a lot of setbacks, obstacles, and frustrations in poker and in life. I know that's a very negative way to start a article but it's the truth (well, for most of us anyway).

We all start off the new year so confident and optimistic, but generally what happens is we inevitably hit some setbacks/obstacles, have some missteps/mistakes, everything starts to get really hard. You should expect this. You shouldn't go into 2013 thinking you're going to just crush at life and poker consistently all year round.

This doesn't mean, though, that you cannot be successful or that you cannot reach any of your goals . Randy Pausch had a great quote from one of the last lectures before he died called achieving your childhood dreams, he said that :

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

Not only do you have to fight through all of these brick walls, but you can't let them affect your confidence, effort, optimism and love for the game . If you let it affect you, you will start a vicious cycle that's hard to break . If you start to lack in these areas it will lead to more/worse problems (brick walls) and more/worse problems will in turn lead to a greater loss in those areas. This continues forever, until you break the cycle or you quit . So what can we do we avoid falling into this vicious cycle and how can we break ourselves out of it if we do?

I think the acceptance that bad shit is going to happen and is supposed to happen will help with both in preventing and breaking it. If you understand that constant struggle is a necessary part of success, maybe you'll begin to appreciate it and see it as a challenge rather than some curse of the poker gods . This is not enough though. You will need to improve your mental toughness if you want to be a great poker player and meet your goals.

The Importance of Mental Toughness 

Albert Einstein to me was one of the most mentally tough people in the world. Einstein spent the last 30 years of his life working on a unified theory which would discredit the ideas behind quantum mechanics. He never developed a unified theory, but what's impressive to me is that he worked on it for 30 years without quitting!

People criticize him for this though . They talk about how stubborn he was and kind of paint him as this mad scientist with a crazy idea in his head who wouldn't listen to reason. What he did was incredibly admirable and difficult. He gave everything he had to something he believed in, in the face of so much adversity, struggle, and even ridicule from his peers…and he did it for 30 years!

I doubt you can ever be as great as he was at something without this kind of mental toughness. Your typical poker player would probably give up after just a year of poor results. If he somehow managed to stay with it he'd probably have all of his confidence and love for the game sucked out of him . So much so that he really wouldn't have any chance to succeed. OK, now that I might of convinced you on the importance of mental toughness, let's talk about how to actually get some.

Metal Toughness

"I'm not the most talented guy in the world but if you get on a treadmill with me 1 of 2 things will happen , Your gonna get off first or I'm going to die."  – Will Smith

I don't think you can succeed at anything in life for a significant period of time without mental toughness. Everyone knows that guy who's extremely talented but is depressed and doesn't succeed in life because he's so negative and is easily rattled when something doesn't go his way. You'll no doubt hear him say to anyone who'll listen, "I'm the unluckiest person in the world ," and he'll really believe it. If you challenge him on it he will talk almost boastingly about all the bad beats/coolers he took deep in MTTs with lots of money on the line .

I know I can be this person at times and I bet most people feel the same way . Don't be this person , this person sucks . So how do we stop this kind of behavior and negative thoughts? It first starts with acknowledging 3 things:

 1) Your a pussy

 2) You have a problem

 3) You cannot succeed until you fix this problem .

"Now you know, and knowing is half the battle" – G.I Joe

Just recognizing a problem will fix a lot of it – exactly half of it according to G.I Joe . How do we fix the other half though? Improving your mental toughness won't be easy as it's a slow and tough process. You can't go from the guy who can't gargle Listerine for more than 15 seconds, to Will Smith running on the treadmill until he dies, in one day. How  to look at it is as a continuum ( shown below ) and try to move a little more to the right of that continuum everyday and on every decision .

                          Pussy<——————————–>Bad Motherfucker

When you tell yourself you can't do something because it's too hard or you're too tired, try to at least do part of it . For example, if you need to work out but wont because it sounds too hard, you could at least do a 5 or 10 minute workout at home instead . Constant small improvements like this will add up to a lot after a few months .


This article was originally posted on http://www.tournamentpokeredge.com/dap/a/?a=961


There is another way to improve your mental toughness and that is through meditation. Meditation will help control your emotions, help you focus, increase your objectivity along with many other important things. There are a ton of scientific studies done from major universities on the efficacy of meditation and none (that I know of) that deny it .

Here are some useful ways to use meditation:

1) I found this way of meditation from the book "10 Minute Toughness". The author is a sports psychology consultant for professional athletes and he advocates for this quick type of meditation that athletes can use in the middle of the game when they get nervous or frustrated. When you're playing poker and you start to get frustrated you do a 15 second meditation. You close your eyes and slowly breathe in through your nose for 7 seconds, then you hold your breath for 2 seconds and breathe out very slowly for 6 and your done. You'll be surprised how well this works .

2) Just standard meditation where you focus on your breathing. I like to do this immediately after working out when my heart is beating really fast. I sit down, close my eyes and try to lower my heart rate as quickly as I can. This is more difficult than regular meditation because you have to time your breaths properly. If you try to breathe in for 7 seconds and hold for 2 while your heart is beating at 140 BPM that won't go over too well. You have to find the proper speed that feels right and slowly start to make your breaths last longer and longer. 

3) Another way, that works really well for me personally, is to tune into your. I'm just going to copy paste from the site I found it from.

" Let’s try touch first. Can you feel how your body is making contact with your chair, for instance? Notice your feet on the floor. What do your clothes feel like on your body? Now take a moment to take in your environment visually. Employing a soft gaze, let the world around you come to your eyes. Be curious about what you might observe, even if you’re very familiar with your setting. How about hearing? What sorts of sounds are arising around you? Maybe you hear the hum of the lights overhead, a bird outside, a ticking clock, or the sound of your own breathing. Can you smell anything? Food? Flowers? Someone’s perfume or cologne? Tasting might be a bit more difficult if you don’t have some food on hand, but maybe you just popped an Altoid or just took a sip of your latte, and your taste buds have some stimulation. After you have taken this little tour of your senses, check in with yourself and see how you feel."

Most of the ways I use meditation are in ways that are easy implement for me. The first is very easy to do while I play. The second is an interesting challenge and it's really a lot more relaxing to me then doing it when your heart is at rest. Finally, the third is a quick check I can do when I don't have a lot of time and it is really easy to focus on. I highly recommend learning and practicing meditation to help with your poker game and especially your mental toughness .

Keeping the Fire Alive 

When things start to get hard it's easy for people to lose their love for the game. When you're constantly losing playing just seems to bring up negative feelings of helplessness and low self worth/self esteem. So our natural reaction is to either play less or detach ourselves from playing. All of the things I mentioned above should help you stay in love with the game but if they don't then here are some things you can do to help .

1) Game selection – Play more tables, play less MTTs that are tough and have big fields and instead look for and play MTTs with softer and smaller fields. All of these things will increase the probability of having a winning session which is probably the best thing you can do to get your love for the game back.

2) Keep the game interesting – Some ways to do this is to stop auto-piloting , look at novel solutions to problems when you're playing. Work on parts of the game that interest you or talk poker with someone who makes it interesting .

3) Take breaks – Sorry don't know much about this , I just know they can be helpful : )

Doing all of these things along with the things above should go a long way in helping you maintain you love for the game .


Doing all of these things listed in this article probably seems very daunting and that's because it is. It's important to break everything you need down to small goals that you can see progress towards on a weekly basis. This will help you feel less overwhelmed  and like your actually accomplishing something .

I highly recommend reading Randy Pausch's lecture on time management and goals. I found this lecture extremely helpful with getting things done and figuring out what to do. I hope you guys enjoyed this article and that it helps you have a happier more successful career and life in 2013. Good Luck!


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