Book Review: Dr. Tricia Cardner’s Peak Poker Performance

Steve Ruddock : August 28th, 2016

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After the success of her first book, Positive Poker, which was published in 2013 by D&B Poker, Dr. Patricia Cardner is back with her second poker mindset book, Peak Poker Performance: How To Bring Your “A” Game To Every Session.

Peak Poker Performance was also published by D&B Poker, and like Positive Poker, was coauthored by two-time World Poker Tour Champion Jonathan Little – one of the most prolific authors in poker in his own right.

You can buy Peak Poker Performance at Amazon.com.

You can also find a full selection of D&B Poker books here.

Dr. Patricia Cardner at a glance

In a very short amount of time, Dr. Tricia Cardner has become one of the foremost experts in the burgeoning field of poker mental game coaching. Her foray into the world of poker began as a “fun” player, and later as a mindset coach to select group of poker players. But it wasn’t until the release of Positive Poker that Dr. Cardner rose to prominence in the poker world writ large.

Since then, Dr. Cardner, a sports psychology and peak performance strategist, has been one of the most active contributors in poker.

She continues to work with poker players of all stripes, including high-level players. She hosts a podcast, the Mindset Advantage. She’s active and engaging on social media and always available for interviews or as a guest on other’s podcasts. And somehow still finds time to play poker.

the reason Dr. Cardner’s back-story and what she’s done during her time in poker is important is because this is the central theme of Peak Poker Performance.

Work hard.

Work smart.

Stay focused.

Set yourself up for success.

About Peak Poker Performance

In the past I’ve read several self-help books and thought about their application to poker. What Peak Poker Performance does is boil down all of the aspects of Dr. Cardner’s primary field that are applicable to poker, and turn it into palatable, streamlined lessons for poker players.

You’ve likely heard a lot of the advice in the past (perhaps phrased differently), as general life advice, but it’s unlikely you’ve seen it expressly aimed at poker players and with the intention of improving performance. It’s even less likely that the person dishing out the advice has spent the last several years of her life perfecting this delivery.

So instead of, how does this book apply to poker, I found myself pondering how the poker advice in Dr. Cardner’s book could be applied to my everyday life.

One important distinction I’d make between this and other self-help styled books is Dr. Cardner blends what she’s learned as a psychologist with the latest brain research, which she seems to be a voracious reader of.

So, you’re not only getting advice from someone professionally trained as a psychologist, but you’re also being introduced to the field of brain research and what the current research into this field has concluded. Within the pages of Peak Poker Performance you get the, “do x because it will lead to y at the poker tables,” type of advice you’d expect, but you also get the, “here’s what’s going on in your head that’s causing this to happen.”

While not a follow-up to her first book per se, Peak Poker Performance does build on some of the concepts Dr. Cardner first broached in Positive Poker. The two books don’t have to be read in tandem, or in a specific order, but the recommended order would be Positive Poker followed by Peak Poker Performance.

The mindset genre

The game of poker has evolved quite a bit over the past decade.

Not only have the strategic concepts evolved, but access to this information has proliferated.

In 2016, you can’t simply sit down at a poker table armed with a tight and aggressive strategy and wait for your opponents to make costly mistakes. In the modern poker world, high-level players look for any edge they can find, and one of those edges is mindset, and mental game coaching.

Mental game coaching has its critics, but it also has its place in poker.

It’s not the be all end all that separates winners from losers, but it’s certainly worth investing some amount of time into if you feel you have a strong foundation of poker skills. And for some players, the mental game is worth investing a lot of time into – you know who you are!

Like athletes who’ve learned it’s not enough to practice and have some natural ability, poker players are learning that sleep, proper nutrition, and training smarter not harder (or longer), will help their performance.

For a high-level player every small edge matters, and if the mental game is costing you even 1/10th of a big bet an hour, that could be $60/hour for someone playing $300/$600 mixed games at the Bellagio or Aria.

For a mid-stakes winner stuck at a certain stakes (maybe $2/$4 NLHE online) the mental game could be the vehicle that allows you to move up to the $3/$6 or $5/$10 games, or simply improve your current win rate by a BB/100 hands.

For struggling players, the mental game (and not playing your best game) could be a massive barrier preventing you from properly implementing the strategies you’ve learned – maybe you tilt too easily, or play great but continue to play when you’re tired or hungry and give your profits back.

That is to say, Dr. Cardner’s advice and strategies on how to play your “A” game will have some value to just about every poker player.

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