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Excerpt from The Mental Game of Poker 2 - GRINDING (Part 2)

Jared Tendler

Last week, we brought you an excerpt from the excellent poker psychology book The Mental Game of Poker 2 by Jared Tendler that gave hints and tips for the grinders among you. This week, we bring you Part 2 where Mr Tendler talks about the importance of rest and recovery while giving tips for extreme grinders, such as those aiming for Supernova Elite at PokerStars.

Check out Part 1 here so that you are up to speed with this fantastic article.

Rest and Recovery

Rest is essential to the recovery of your mind and body. As you’ve already learned, you don’t have an infinite supply of energy. Just like you have to fill up the gas tank in your car, your mind and body need to refuel. Knowing how much to rest, when to do it, and how best to do it, takes some experimenting. There’s no one-size-fits-all method. Here are a few ways you can get proper rest:

  • Cool down. Athletes ice and stretch their muscles after playing to help their bodies recover more quickly. Poker players who grind a lot of poker need to help their minds recover after long sessions by taking notes after they finish playing. Writing out their experiences at the table frees their mind from having to grind on poker long after they’re done playing.
  • Step away from the computer. Spending time away from the computer and away from poker is essential to helping your mind rest. Hang out with friends (but don't talk about poker), go to the gym, watch a movie, or do anything else you find enjoyable. Poker players generally know they should be getting away from their computers, but they often have trouble breaking out of the habit. This takes self-discipline. Review Chapter 6 for more on how to create better habits.
  • Take time off. Don’t expect to be able to play poker every day. Sure, you can go stretches of time, one month for example, where you can play every day, but at some point your mind will start to break down. Take, on average, one day off per week, five days off per month, and five days in a row off per quarter.
  • Sleep. Good sleep is of paramount importance. You might be able to get away with a few days of less than optimal sleep, but eventually it’ll catch up to you. Lacking sleep is like a car running on empty. With too little energy in the tank, how can you expect to consistently grind a lot of hands and play them well? The amount of sleep each person needs to be at their best varies. Find the amount that works best for you by relating the amount of quality sleep you get each night to your endurance levels the following day. Keep in mind that for some people, sleeping too much can be as problematic as sleeping too little.
  • Take a vacation. Poker players often don’t like taking vacations because of how rusty their game tends to be when they return. Enjoying some extended time off from poker is important.
  • Schedule days off. Rather than only resting when you get burned out, plan days off ahead of time. This gives you something to look forward to while you’re grinding.

Extreme Grinding

This section is devoted to helping you achieve some of the more extreme grinding goals, such as SuperNova Elite (SNE), a rake race, or prop bet. In general, players are overconfident about their ability to be successful because they can’t envision anything going wrong. Inspired by visions of victory, they dive in head first and only peak their heads back out when trouble strikes. Not everyone who does this fails. But, for those who have failed and want a different outcome, here are some additional things to think about:

  • Planning. Review your goals and spend some time thinking about your starting point, reasons for attempting your goal, and any potential obstacles. Make sure to plan periods of rest. Too often, players think about the average number of hands they need to play over an artificially low measure. For example, when going for SNE, players are often planning to make around 2,800 VPP’s per day for the entire year. This is ridiculous. Attempting to play every day—even if just for a short amount of time—is a recipe for failure. Instead, if you plan to take a more reasonable 80 days off throughout the year, the average VPP’s needed per playing day changes to around 3,500.
  • Minimizing distractions. As you read about in the focus chapter, distractions can drain your energy. Make sure the people in your life understand what you’re undertaking so you can be as free as possible from potential distractions. You can then be more proactive about planning to spend time with them when you know you’ll be resting. That way, your rest time will be more productive and you won’t have to rely on making plans when you’re exhausted.
  • Setting short-term goals. After the initial inspiration wears off, the challenge of playing a ton of poker may eventually feel like an incredible grind. At that time, it’s important to set short-term goals that keep you focused on targets that feel manageable. When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is focus on how much you have left to get done. Instead, focus on getting through the next hour, or playing the next 100 hands. Define these short-term goals ahead of time so you can use them as soon as they become necessary.
  • Warm-up and cool-down. The importance of a warm-up and cool-down cannot be overstated. Make sure you spend at least five minutes on each.
  • Minimizing active learning. Keep the amount of active learning away from the table to a minimum because you need to focus most of your energy on playing. Your main focus should be to improve the areas that you already know well. This will make it easier for you to make high-quality decisions without having to fill your mind with new concepts. New concepts can be distracting, require more energy to think about, and may cause you to forget about other, more important parts of your game. When learning away from the table, find the method that makes it easiest for you to learn. For example, if you find it helpful to talk about hands, then in your cool-down, identify a few key hands to review with a coach or friend. Whatever method you choose, make sure to have a solid A- to C-game analysis done before you begin your extreme grind. Then, focus your efforts mainly on improving your C-game. If you can do this, when your grind is complete, you’ll have solidified a higher low point for your game. You’ll also have created space to elevate your A-game should you choose to focus more on learning than grinding.

This is an excerpt from The Mental Game of Poker 2 by Jared Tendler. To find out more about how sports psychology can help poker players visit Jared’s website at

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