Book Review: Positive Poker positively shines
As much as I love working through the different strategies and mathematical aspects of poker I am far more enthralled by the mental aspects of the game. So, of all the poker books I get to read, the one recently released book I have been most looking forward to is Positive Poker, by Dr. Patricia Cardner.
The full title of the book is, Positive Poker: A Modern Psychological Approach to Mastering Your Mental Game, and was written by Dr. Patricia Cardner along with two-time WPT Champion Jonathan Little, who offers a poker player’s point of view to the topics covered by Dr. Cardner.
Before I dive into Positive Poker I should probably offer up a little background information on my own interest and experience in this genre.
I’ve read dozens of psychology books over the years: Brain Rules, How We Decide, The Invisible Gorilla, The Believing Brain, and Without Conscience, to name a few, so I’m probably a bit more versed in this field than your average poker player. I’m not claiming to be some kind of expert in psychology, but I have a pretty solid understanding of the field especially as it relates to poker. I’m sure when Dr. Cardner pitched the book I was the target market.
The Mental Game Niche
It’s often said: “Poker is not a card game played with people but a people game played with cards.” And this is why I find the absolute lack of mindset (mental game) training books a bit hard to explain. There are literally hundreds of poker primers on the market teaching people the basic strategies and math of the game, but when it comes to the mental side of things the picking are extremely thin.
What further confounds me is that once you have a good grasp of the strategies of poker it’s likely to be your mindset and the mental aspects of your game that will be your undoing. And as I mentioned in this article at 4Flush.com, this is the advice that is so hard to come by and often doled out by people that have no clue what they are talking about.
I’m happy to say that Positive Poker is going to help fill this void in the poker book market.
Dr. Cardner is highly knowledgeable and gets her points across in a clear concise way, and she also has a very good grasp of the poker world. Much like Jared Tendler’s Mental Game of Poker series, Positive Poker doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t sugarcoat the level of involvement and responsibility that you the player must burden if you want to improve.
The text is very readable, and is laid out almost like you would expect if you went to a self-help seminar, with the Table of Contents reading something like the itinerary for the week. Because of this, you could skip around if you wanted to, but there is also a strong building block process to the book, so my personal suggestion would be to start at the beginning and read through the entire book –maybe highlighting areas where you feel you need the most improvement.
Why Positive Poker Belongs on Your Bookshelf
I was extremely happy and engaged before I even got through the Introduction, and became more impressed with the book the further I delved into it, as many of the topics and research studies cited by Dr. Cardner throughout the book are not only current ones I am familiar with, but they were presented in such a way as to add to my knowledge and make them more applicable to poker.
The book talks about everything from the Dunning-Kruger effect, to the 10,000 hour rule made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, and all the while maintains the poker theme.
Throughout the book you’ll find a heavy emphasis on hard work, accountability, and self-awareness, whether the topic is tilt control, goal setting, or concentration.
While I certainly don’t agree with all of the points Dr. Cardner makes (brain science is by no means a “solved” field, and nature vs. nurture has never been more hotly debated), the book will most certainly improve the mental part of your poker game, whether it’s a lack of focus, discipline, goal setting, motivation, or self-control that is plaguing you.
Positive Poker is one-stop-shop for all of the problems that will beset a poker player, and it’s the most all-encompassing mindset book I’ve read up to this point.
Another way that Positive Poker impressed me is the further reading and reference sections in the book. I’m used to seeing these in the psychology books I read, so it was refreshing to see a poker book laid out in such a professional manner.
While I’m certainly predisposed to liking a book of this sort I wholeheartedly feel that this is a must read for poker players, whether they are terrible, high-stakes professionals, or anything in between.
Even if you’ve read books like Elements of Poker, the Mental Game of Poker volume 1 and volume 2, and Treat Your Poker Like a Business, Positive Poker will explores new ground and if nothing else, will leave you with a lot of food for thought.
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