Painless Poker

Tommy Angelo on Playing Painless Poker #59 - Duration: 30:29. Poker Mind Coach 1,913 views. Crushing Small Stakes Cash Games by Jonathan Little (Part 1 of 7) - Duration: 35:47. The Poker Monk launches his new series 'Recommends' where he lets his viewers known about good books, videos, tips and coaching sites which he has found helpful and interesting throughout his poker journey. In today's episode Tommy Angelo's book 'Painless Poker' is featured. Poker coach, author, player and PokerNews contributor Tommy Angelo's new book Painless Poker is out and now available in print or ebook versions! As Tommy explained to us recently, 'the book is. Legendary poker player, author and coach Tommy Angelo joins us this week for a discussion about his new book, Painless Poker. The book is focused on mental game and dealing with pain in poker, using an imaginary poker clinic featuring characters embodying seven archetypes of poker players.

Martin Harris

Poker coach, author, player and PokerNews contributor Tommy Angelo has a new book due out this month, following his earlier, well-regarded titles Elements of Poker and A Rubber Band Story and Other Poker Tales.

Angelo's new one, Painless Poker, is due out March 14. Recently he took the time to speak with us about the book as well as to share an early excerpt.

* * * * *

PokerNews: Talk first about that title — Painless Poker. What does that mean?

Tommy Angelo: I get a lot of different reactions to that title. One friend asked me if I was writing a comedy. Most people are like, 'That’s not a possible thing.'

The book is called Painless Poker because most of it takes place at a fictional place called the Painless Poker Clinic. What happens at the clinic is, I'm sitting there alone and seven archetypal poker players beam-in at their moment of greatest pain. Each of them has a story to tell about what they were doing at the moment they got beamed to the clinic.

Once they arrive, I teach a two-day seminar to them on how to reduce pain — both in poker and in life. Each of these characters was developed to represent all the various types of pain that we experience in poker. The two days of the clinic roughly mirrors the coaching program that I do with my clients that is several days' long. So you see the characters develop and grow.

So the book is kind of like a novel or fictional story, but it also gives poker advice.

That's right. What makes the book interesting, I think — both to read and for me to write — is that I'm writing in first person about me teaching this class, but all of it is made up. All the characters, all the stories, everything. They are based on experiences I've either had or witnessed others having, or that any of us can imagine poker players having, but they are all invented. It's like any other fiction, where none of it is true, but it's still full of truth. Or at least my best shot at it.

I think it turned out to be an effective venue for expressing all the ideas that I've learned on the topic of painless poker during my years of coaching, and from my own experiences with pain as a player.

Why did you decide to write Painless Poker?

What I'm hoping the reader will get out of this book is some combination of entertainment and value. As a writer, my primary emphasis was on writing a book that was readable, enjoyable to read and entertaining. As a teacher, my goal was to include information and insights that people might not have thought of before, that will help them reduce the stress and anxiety they have around issues concerning poker, and with everyday life.

One of the things I work on with my clients is meditation and mindfulness, and that also happens at the clinic near the end. We talk about everything from actual poker and strategy — we sit and play poker — and there's also discussion of using mindfulness techniques as a way to improve our poker score and just make life easier.

It's interesting to think about that idea of that one moment of greatest pain — the moment that brings each of the players to the Painless Poker Clinic. Every poker player probably has that sort of moment in their experience, one they instantly think about..

I'm glad to hear that.. in fact, everyone does have their own 'beam-in' story. Here's a trailer for the book that tells three of the beam-in stories:

And that really is the purpose of the beam-in story concept — that it's relatable. It seems like every poker player has their own moment of greatest pain they remember.

* * * * *

An excerpt from Painless Poker:

My next big blind I got ace-king again. Three players folded and the action was on Mick. Mick looked at his cards, looked at my blind, and bet a quick $80 with four black chips.

The other players folded. And then there were two.

I called the $60 more. The flop came with no big cards, giving me no pair and no draw, and no interest in pretending otherwise. I checked and Mick bet fast and I folded fast. Mick turned over his cards, but I didn't bother to look at them.

Andy scolded Mick. 'Don't show him a bluff, you dummy. He might start calling us down.'

'I kind of doubt it,' Mick said. 'He's not what you'd call a reader. He can't even tell when one of the suckers who paid him for coaching thinks he got totally screwed.'

'Are you talking about you?' Andy said. 'Did you pay Tommy for lessons?'

This is Andy's idea of a really good time.

Mick pulled his hood off fast. His hair was short, way shorter than before. A buzz cut, I'd guess #5. His skull had a good shape to it.

'No way!' Mick said. 'I was force-fed, at the clinic.'

'At the what?' Andy said.

And off came the sunglasses. Mick aimed his pale blue eyes at Andy. Then at me for an uncomfortable three seconds.

'Never mind,' Mick said to Andy. 'Just forget I said anything.'

Well, that was surely not going to happen.

Ten hands later I got pocket queens on my small blind. Mick opened for $80 and everyone folded to me. I made it $260. The big blind folded and Mick called the $180 more. We were heads up going into the flop. Mick had his sunglasses and hood back on. I palmed four white chips.

The flop came Q-7-4, rainbow. I had the nuts with a set of queens. I dropped my chips into play, thus deploying a bit of sophistostrategy I latched onto long ago: Seeing as I have to bet the flop many times with crap, I'll be damned if I'm going to check when I finally flop huge.

'$400 is the bet,' said the dealer.

Mick called quickly, using four white chips as well.

What could get us all-in?

He could have 77 or 44, or a straight draw.

Or AA or KK. How could I get those hands to commit?

Just watch out for straights. 65 is your prime danger, plus some gutshots if he
started with a one-gapper.

The turn card was a deuce. I still had the nuts. So I bet out again.

'$800 is the bet.'

Mick did the tiniest hitch. During which he changed his mind. I saw the whole thing. Then he called my $800 bet, using two stacks of $20 chips, slid out slowly.

What did he change his mind from? Had Mick's first instinct been to raise? Or to fold?

He was going to fold.

How do you know?

Because if his first instinct was to raise, then the deuce must have improved his hand,
and the only thing it could improve him to is two pair.

Or possibly trip deuces if he floated the flop with 22.

True. The point is that if he did start with Q2, 72, 42, or 22, then a 2 on the turn wouldn't
make him hitch, because that's what he'd be hoping for.

Here's what really happened. The thought in Mick's mind when he called the flop was the
classic, 'If I hit the turn, I've got him. If I miss the turn and he bets again, the math will
make me fold.'

Mick hitched because he was prepared to fold if he missed, and he did miss. He missed
what he was aiming for. But he also picked up more outs, enough to turn a fold into a call.
It just took him a split second to see it. Hence the hitch before he called.

You're right. The story is complete. So, what does he have?

The stacks were right for him to call on the flop with a gutshot, planning to fold
the turn if he missed. Then the deuce gave him four more outs, so he called the turn.

And with this board, Q-7-4-2, there is only one holding for which that is true: 53.

Correct. He has 53.

The future was determined. If an ace or six came on the river, I would check, Mick would bet his straight, and I would fold my three queens and think hey, good for him, he got there.

The river was a six. I checked, Mick bet $1,000, and I folded, as scripted.

Good for you, Mick. Not that it matters, but I would have played it the same, except for the hitch.

* * * * *

Tommy's new book is called Painless Poker. For excerpts, reviews, a synopsis and more, check out Tommy's snazzy new site at

  • Tags

    booksTommy AngeloPainless Pokertiltmental gamepsychologybad beatslive pokeronline poker

When looking to improve, most of us are mainly focused on the technical aspects of the game. How much to raise pre-flop, when to c-bet, the Expected Value of a semi-bluff, etc.

Whereas we should definitely study these aspects closely, there is another dimension to poker that is often underestimated and neglected. I’m talking about the mental side of poker.

Tommy Angelo’s latest book Painless Poker gives a great insight into how you can improve your mental game by eradicating the “pain” in poker. He explains how to stop experiencing “thought pain” and tilt, so that you can instead focus your mind entirely on what poker should be all about: coming up with the best possible decisions at the table.

Painless poker = A focused mind = Better decisions = More poker profit

A simple formula, but oh so hard to attain.

In this blog post I’ll give you some top tips on how to achieve painless poker and increase your profitability. But first, let’s take a look at what poker pain is and what kind of effects it has.


Pain in Poker

Every poker player knows that you will experience pain in the game at some point. Sometimes a lot of pain.

Games come with emotions. Winning (joy) and losing (pain) is what games are all about. And this applies to poker in particular.

  • First of all, if you lose at poker, you lose money. And that makes it more painful than when you lose a friendly game of tennis or whatever.
  • Secondly – and this is a particular aspect of poker that can sometimes be hard to deal with – you can still lose in poker even when you’re playing the perfect game. The luck factor in poker entails that you can play perfectly and still lose. This can be really frustrating for a player and adds to the pain of a losing session as a result of bad luck.
  • Finally, the intensity of poker means that problems (and pain) come at you at a higher pace than you might be used to.
Painless Poker

To quote what Tommy Angelo said on our Podcast ab out this:

“In the course of regular life, we have problems that arise and then maybe there’s some self-reflection and trying to figure out how to handle that better next time.

If you live a normal life, the amount of stuff that comes at you is at a relatively slow pace, the number of problems that you have. But at poker it’s hyper accelerated. You’re challenged over and over and over, 1,000s of times more often than normal people. And then, also, you’re left alone with your thoughts in between hands or in between sessions to try to untangle what happened or what went wrong mentally.”

A New Definition of Poker Pain

Poker pain is normally considered to be the spikes. The bad luck of losing to a 2-outer and then tilting off the rest of your stack.

But, like Tommy does in his book, it’s actually more helpful to define poker pain in a much broader sense.

Painless poker tommy angelo

Poker pain could then be defined as any type of unhappiness or discomfort whatsoever.

Apart from tilt, it could also be:

These things all prevent us from playing our A-game. If we put it like this, every player experiences pain in poker.

How We Struggle with Thought Pain in Poker and in Life

Thought pain – as opposed to physical pain – is a form of pain that we are less aware of, yet it causes us a tremendous amount of discomfort. In poker and in life.

If we know and realize what thought pain is – and what kind of destructive effect it has – we are better equipped to deal with it.

The following scenario is one that you’re probably all too familiar with:

You do something stupid, resulting in a loss of money, damage to something, physical pain, or whatever. You can’t change the situation and you’re going to have to accept it.

However, this is exactly what you do not do. Instead, you keep thinking to yourself: “How could I be so stupid? Why on earth did I do that? Why do I always have to be such an idiot?” Over and over again. Until you feel even more miserable.

The situation is bad enough as it is, but you make it even worse by continuously blaming yourself for what you did. This kind of thought pain gets you nowhere, but it can be incredibly difficult to ignore.

The same thing happens to us at the poker table. And I’m sure you know that feeling as well.

You make a silly call for a big chunk of your stack. Or some douchebag hits a 2-outer on you. Instead of letting it go and fully focusing on your game again, you are still thinking about it 10, 20, 30 hands down the line. You keep blaming yourself for making that dumb call. Or you are still upset about that tough bad beat.

This doesn’t change the situation and only makes things worse. Being unhappy and distracted doesn’t do your game much good and you’re bound to lose even more money when you’re in this state of mind.

The Effects of Poker Pain

Poker pain can have a disastrous effect on your game and your profit.

The spikes in poker pain are the most obvious ones. If you start tilting and steaming, that’s a good recipe for quickly losing a lot of money.

But also the less intense forms of poker pain have destructive effects. If you keep having negative thoughts about bad beats or incorrect decisions that you made earlier during your session, you will not play your best game. Far from it.

Your mind is focused on things it shouldn’t be focused on. Thinking negatively about things that are in the past and you can’t change anyway, only distracts your mind from what it should be doing: trying to make the best possible decisions at the poker table.

In short, poker pain has a considerable negative effect on both the quality of your game and your win rate. This kind of thought pain is something that you should strive to eliminate as best as you can.

It doesn’t get you anywhere and only causes unhappiness. In poker as well as in life.

The Road to Painless Poker

Painless poker is something that we should all strive for.

It improves the quality of our decisions at the table, it increases our profits, and it also increases our happiness and calmness.

But can we actually achieve such a state?

As Tommy said on the Podcast:

'Painless poker is attainable, but not sustainable. We’ve all experienced moments at the table when we’re content, and when we’re at peace. And then we experience moments at the table where we’re dissatisfied. And to me it’s just a matter of having more ‘at peace’ and less dissatisfaction.”

So this is the whole idea. Can we ever achieve a state where we are always 100% at peace at the table, playing our best game? Nope. But we can definitely improve our game and results by constantly trying to:

  • decrease poker pain
  • and increase the moments of being at peace and playing our A-game

Okay, so how do we do that?

Here are my 5 top tips to achieve painless poker:

Reduce Resistance

Resistance is a common factor of pain.

When reality is painful, we are inclined to resist it. We start wishing that things were different than they actually are.

When you get a bad beat and lose a big chunk of your stack, our natural response is often to resist it. Instead of letting it go, we keep tormenting ourselves by thinking: “How can I be so unlucky? Why does this always happen to me?”

The longer we resist reality, and the longer we keep thinking about it, the more our game suffers and the worse our decisions become.

Try to reduce your resistance to reality and accept the new situation. The quicker you can let this poker pain go, the happier you will be. Get it out of your system as quickly as possible, so you can focus on playing your best game again.

'The gap between accepting things the way they are and wishing them to be otherwise is the tenth of an inch of difference between heaven and hell.”

--- Phil Jackson, NBA coach

Increase Awareness

This is a vital step in dealing better with poker pain.

If you increase awareness, by realizing when you are falling victim to negative thought cycles, you can eliminate that poker pain much more easily.

Painless Poker

In his book, Tommy compares this to “leveling”, something that poker players regularly do already. Tatsumaki slots jackpot discord server.

At level 1, we are not even aware that we are thinking.

At level 2, we are aware of our thinking. We can step back and think to ourselves: “I am aware that I am constantly thinking about that horrible bad beat 20 minutes ago”.

If you take that bird’s eye view, it becomes much easier to get out of your negative thought cycles.

As soon as you realize that you are still thinking about that bad beat 20 minutes ago, you can step back and say to yourself: I notice I’m still thinking about that bad beat, but that’s not helping me. It happened and I can’t change a thing about it. I’m not going to think about it anymore and just focus on playing my best game.

Try to recognize these thought patterns and observe them with increased awareness.

Life Saver

As soon as you realize you’re constantly saying to yourself “Oh, I’m so unlucky. How can I be so unlucky all the time?”, take a step back, be aware of what you are doing, and step out of those negative thought cycles.

Avoid Distractions

Being distracted while playing poker is a common pitfall for a lot of players.

In live tournaments you see players listening to music with big headphones on, checking social media on their phone, watching YouTube videos, or even an entire movie.

They are doing other stuff than playing poker, because of 1 thing: boredom.

Apparently poker doesn’t interest them enough, so they feel they can do other things at the same time.

Let me tell you: this doesn’t help your game and results one bit. You think you can multitask and give sufficient attention to multiple things at the same time? Forget about it. Your game is going to suffer.

Yes, it’s not always easy to stay 100% focused on the game. You might get bad starters for a while and after being card dead for some time, boredom can easily kick in. But instead of doing other things like checking your social media or the latest news, use your time to observe the action around you.

What are other players doing? How many hands are they playing? Are they aggressive or passive? Is that one opponent starting to tilt after losing a few big pots?

This is what you should be doing. Observing other players and figuring out how they play, is what poker is all about. This information will help you in making much better decisions against your opponents in future hands.

Being bored is just another form of poker pain. You’re not 100% focused on the game and once you start doing other stuff out of boredom, your game suffers.

Avoid all distractions and put your phone on airplane mode, tell your family you’re playing poker and ask them not to disturb you, close your e-mail client when playing, etc.

And when you notice you’re getting bored, simply focus more on the action around you. Start taking (mental) notes on other players, observe what is happening. That gives you something to do (and it’s something that you should always be doing anyway). Once you notice you’re getting bored, pay more attention to the game and observe what’s going on at your table.

Play a bit Tighter from the Blinds

A great tip Tommy gives in his book is to trim off 5% of your VPIP from the blinds.

In other words: play 5% fewer hands from the blinds.

Even a simple tip like that can help you experience less poker pain and tilt, and therefore better performance and more money.

The 5% of hands from the blinds that you should consider folding, are the marginal hands. Hands where you feel a fold or call won’t make much difference in terms of Expected Value. These are exactly the hands that tend to get you into trouble when you play them out of position.

If you are playing those hands out of position, you will frequently face tough decisions where you’re unsure what to do. Getting into those situations repeatedly, increases unhappiness and uncertainty, and increases poker pain.

A simple thing like playing just that 5% tighter from the blinds, will make you more confident and relaxed, and it reduces the chance of experiencing some serious poker pain.

Quick tip to reduce poker pain: trim 5% off your VPIP from the blinds

Read Tommy's Book Painless Poker

Painless Poker is one of the best poker books I’ve ever read.

It is not only very entertaining to read (it’s more of a poker novel than a non-fiction book), but it also gives some great insights on how to achieve painless poker.

Painless Poker Tommy Angelo

The book centers around mindfulness and meditation, and how you can use it to improve your game.

Painless Poker Pdf

This may or may not be your thing, but I can guarantee you that even if you are skeptical about using mindfulness and meditation to improve your poker game, you are bound to get something out of this excellent book.

I won’t go into these techniques in this post, as Tommy does that way better than I ever could. So my final tip is simply: read Tommy’s book on Painless Poker!

Do you have any good tips yourself for achieving painless poker? Share them in the comments below!