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Poker is an emotional game that is increasingly competitive, with players constantly seeking new and different things to do to help them win. One of the biggest places elite players today are finding that edge is by working on their mental game as a compliment to their technical skill set.

Elliot Roe is one of the people they turn to for help. He is increasingly being recognized as one of the authorities on the mental aspects of poker. He is a contributor to Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em by Jonathan Little, and is currently running a webinar series designed to make his help available to more and more people in the community.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Why don’t you start off by letting us know about what you do?

I’m a hypnotherapist and mindset coach. I work with poker players, UFC fighters, and stockbrokers.

I specialize in performance. So, my work can help any business, any sport, anything where you are looking to gain an edge over your competition and there may be emotions holding you back from reaching the level of success you would expect.

What is hypnotherapy? How does it work?

The media portrayal of hypnotherapy is something that is magic or that there is some sort of power that the hypnotherapist has. In reality it’s a form of guided meditation; there’s nothing magical about the state – it’s a state that we are in multiple times a day. It’s no different then when you are on a highway and you miss three or four exits and you seem to be in your own little world. That’s the state I coach people to get into.

From that state, we can start to explore emotions and feelings in much more detail and start to understand the root causes. It’s just a process that allows us to get at the root causes of emotional issues from the past.

What would you like to say to someone who is skeptical that the past can have so much impact on the present?

You are born with a fear of loud noises and falling; everything else is learned behavior. We learn these fears and phobias in our childhood and adolescence and they are carried with us into our adult life. Some of them manifest themselves at the poker table.

An example would be people who have a very big issue with being 3-bet consistently. Some people get very anxious or angry when it happens. In the majority of cases like that the root cause tends to be being bullied in school.

So what’s happening is the individual at the poker table is feeling picked on again and bringing back those emotions from the past, rather than just accepting that this is something their opponent is allowed to do and that they just need to adjust to it.

You used the term “guided meditation.” How is that different from any other type of meditation? Do you just tell people to stay calm?

This is a process of understanding root causes, not just telling you that you shouldn’t tilt. So, I’m looking for where your problems are coming from, rather than just to try and paper-over the issue.

What makes what you do different from what someone can get from a traditional therapist?

With the talking therapies, it can take a very long time to find the root causes. It’s not rare for someone to be in therapy for a few years. With hypnotherapy, because of the guided meditation and the mental state that you are in as you start the therapy process, it takes you to the root causes very, very, quickly. So we might be covering the main important issues after a few sessions rather than after months and months of therapy.

What is the process behind your method?

It will be a combination of finding the root causes and looking to remove the need for any emotion at the table. I do also use some suggestion techniques around understanding the game in a different way.

For example, seeing that a fold can be a way that you win a hand even though you don’t win the pot, or the analogy of the poker professional having the same position as a casino and it being ok if someone hits and runs because you have the edge and it’s a long-term game.

Moving beyond poker, how is hypnotherapy able to help in other activities such as business, academics, or your personal life?

Hypnotherapy can help you wherever there are irrational emotions causing you problems in your life. So, if you feel that self-sabotage, fear of failure, fear of success, etc. are keeping you from where you want to get to these are all things that we can explore and understand through hypnotherapy.

Can you give me an example of some of the problems you find in people and how you would go about resolving them?

We would go through the relaxation process to get you in the mind state necessary to do the hypnotherapy. Then, we would explore the root causes of any issue you have. An example might be someone who keeps sabotaging themselves by not putting in the effort that they feel they should be putting in to be successful.

Often times what comes up is a trend in their life that they are struggling to put the necessary effort into many things across their life. Very frequently we see that there is a fear of failure; there is a fear that if I give it 100% and I fail that’s far harder for me than if I give only 70% and I have an excuse for why I failed.

It’s protecting the ego, so we the work through that and break down that issue so that the person is not being held back by their fear of failure.

Do you feel like what you do is necessary to be successful in competitive arenas today?

I think it’s accepted in almost every sport that sport psychologists can help your performance. It’s underutilized in poker, which is great for my clients. It means that currently they will have the competitive edge over the majority of their opponents who don’t work on this part of their game.

Where can people find out more about you and hypnotherapy?

My website is pokermindcoach.com and I have a podcast in the iTunes store that you can listen to weekly called “The Mindset Advantage Podcast” with professional poker players and athletes. That has a lot of information.

If you are looking to jump right in, I’m holding a webinar on Wednesday, June 17th that you can sign up for here.

I also offer free consultations, so if you want to contact me on Skype: @Elliot.Roe that’s absolutely fine and you’ll be able to ask me any specific questions that you have.

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Bradley Chalupski

Bradley Chalupski made his first deposit onto an online poker site in 2009 and has been paying rake and following the poker scene ever since. He received his J.D. from the Seton Hall University School of Law in 2010.

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