Jared Tendler: Always Playing Your A-game is Impossible

Jared Tendler shares new insights into the mental game of poker.

One of the most common requests I get from new clients turns out to be impossible to achieve. Wanting to play your A-game all the time might sound like a simple request, but it’s not.

In this article I’ll prove why and provide steps to realistically play at a high level consistently.

Trying to playing your A-game all the time seems simple in theory when you look only at your current A-game. You know what it’s like to play your best. You win more money, feel better about your game, leave the table happy, and a host of other great things attached to playing great poker.

It makes sense why you’d want that to happen it all the time. The only problem is that wanting or wishing it were true is the poker equivalent to believing in Santa Claus.

The reason it’s impossible to always be at your best is because your best is a moving target, which is constantly rising higher. When your game improves, it means that your peak has risen higher than before. In other words, your current A-game becomes your B-game, and you’ve gained a newly minted A-game.

Chips
Play your A-game as much as possible to get more of these.

It shouldn’t take much to realize this has already happened to your game. Think back to what your A-game was like a year ago and compare it to your A-game now. Heck, go back far enough, and your current C-game today is better than your A-game was back then. (By the way, if you’re a serious player and this isn’t happening, follow the steps in the next section.)  

Your game isn’t static. It’s constantly improving; although often in ways that are so subtle they’re hard to see. As soon as you’ve played at your best, a new standard has been set.

The first time you play well it’s often hard to describe why you played so well. If you can’t explain why you played so well, it’s going to be pretty hard to do it again. Funny enough, once you can explain why you played so well, you’re able to play even better; and a new A-game is created.

Playing Your A-game Consistently

While it’s impossible to always play your A-game, you can play that way consistently if you put the work in. Most poker players aren’t willing to take the extra steps and instead are happy to dream of what it would be like to consistently play that well.

Here are a few tips how to get your A-game show up more often:

  1. Eliminate C-game. Your number one goal every single time you play is to make sure your C-game does not show up. Every time you make a really obvious mistake, no matter what the reason, you actually reinforce poor play. You simultaneously fail to correct the mistake, and get better at making it. That means it’s more likely to show-up again, and your A-game is now less likely to show-up. Instead, by consistently eliminating your C-game, you make it easier and easier to play your A-game.
  1. Eliminate Your Mental C-game. The mental side of the major poker mistakes you make have to be eliminated to correct your tactical C-game. Mental game issues like tilt, anxiety, boredom, being distracted, unmotivated, and losing confidence often lead to poor play. If you want to be at your peak consistently, these big issues have to be eliminated.
  1. Assess Your Range. Write out the full range in your game, from A-game to C-game. Start by listing out all the mistakes you make now, when playing at your absolute worst. Then, list the mistakes that are progressively less bad until you reach your current A-game.
  1. Quick Recovery. Playing your A-game consistently requires that you recover it quickly after slipping into your B or C-game. Having your range clearly listed out, makes it easier to recognize when your game has slipped and thus easier to recover your A-game quickly while playing.
  1. Be Prepared. Consistently playing at a high level doesn’t happen easily. All great poker players and great athletes show up prepared to play at a high level. If you don’t have a warm-up routine, a simple way to get started is to review hands connected with all parts of your game (A to C-game). That way, you know specifically how to play at a high level and improve your B or C-game when it shows-up.
  1. Tracking Progress. A good way of tracking your progress is by keeping a journal where you regularly assess the quality of your play after a session or tournament. This not only increases your skill of recognizing when you slip into B or C-game, it’s also a great way to focus you more and more on what’s necessary to play quality poker and you automatically become less results-oriented.

It may seem strange to focus mainly on eliminating B and C-game as a way to play your A-game more often. However, if you think about, you’ll automatically play your A-game more often if the rest of your game doesn’t show-up. The more consistently you play your A-game the easier it is to take your game to an even higher peak. 

Jared Tendler, MS is a mental game coach for over 200 poker players and author of, "The Mental Game of Poker." A free audiobook version of his book is currently being offered by Amazon. Go to Jared’s website to find out how to get a free copy.

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20 April 2008 1404