I play mahjong and billiards. When it comes to cards, Trumps, Hearts, or Jeu de Tarot are my games. I do not play poker. I do not enjoy playing poker, and have no intention of ever becoming a poker player. However, I do appreciate the amount of work, growth, and strategy that goes into excelling at any sport or game. I find it enjoyable to watch poker on TV or in movies. I was pleasantly surprised when I read Peak Poker Performance. I reread it several times over a few months. I loved it.

My Interest

There are many similarities between poker players and billiards players. There are different levels of play, nuances of the game, and many people that function well in both poker and billiards. These are both competitive arenas that have very little to do with sports conditioning or training. Yet, the majority of numbers of players are in the middle layers with very few that reach the top.

I loved how this book discusses the elements of improving your poker game, overall health, lifestyle and mental habits.

The Myth of the 21 Day Habit

Dr. Cardner brings up some interesting research in this book. If you are serious about your sport or hobby, you want to develop good habits in many areas of your life. These good habits will help you shine out and make it less taxing for your brain, giving you more energy to perform well. There is a myth that it takes only 21 days to develop a good habit. This book goes into the research showing this is simply not true. Some habits take months to develop. Some habits take over a year to form.

Knowing that some routines will be grueling, it becomes demotivating to stick with a routine if it takes a long time to develop into a habit. However, her discussion on the importance of habits was informative. It provided enough motivation for me to lay out the plan for a good routine knowing that it might take months to develop into a habit. The result is definitely worth the months to form the habit.


Dr. Cardner gives her insights into how to achieve peak poker performance. She currently coaches a lot of the top poker players. Being a psychologist and a psychology professor, her knowledge of the brain and its reactions to competition, adversity, and lifestyle habits make up a good portion of this book.

Jonathan Little, former World Poker Tour champion and finalist, provides his thoughts and insights on all of the topics Dr. Cardner speaks on. This approach gives the book a theoretical viewpoint which is then demonstrated by real world application and examples.

Book Content

My favourite part of the book is their explanation of loss aversion. According to Dr. Cardner, our brain is hard-wired to hold on to small winnings. If you win poker chips in the first round or two, your brain will send signals to cash out now and keep that small amount of winnings. It drives up the emotions of fear and anxiety if you decide to risk your small pile for a bigger pile. One poker player wrote in and stated that they get really tired when they are winning, versus being really energized when they are losing.

Dr. Cardner explains the brain kicks in to protect what you already won. Numerous studies show that losing is at least twice as impactful as winning. The effects of losing actually shows up on imaging scans of the brain as pain! The brain tries to prevent you from losing and can create psychosomatic fatigue.

The reverse occurs when you are losing. Adrenaline kicks in as well as survival mechanisms. In response, you are now operating on heightened awareness and are highly alert. At this point, you can lose your entire bankroll. You are no longer applying winning strategies if you fueled by adrenaline versus good decision making.

Impact on Performance

Even though I am not interested in playing poker, Peak Poker Performance gave me a lot insights to think about. The depth of knowledge into the brain, the psychology of performance, grit, habits, and more really made this book a great read. I highly recommend it.

For more books I recommend looking into, check out The Grand: my goal to review 1,000 books, blogs, and articles that help you attain your goals and the lifestyle you want!


The book details are below if you want to check it out. I am an affiliate for different programs, I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on my site.

Peak Poker Performance

4.2 out of 5

Author: Dr. Patricia Cardner with Jonathon Little
Published: August 7, 2016
by D & B Publishing
Page count: 272 pages
ISBN: 1909457507

Amazon Rating
4.2 out of 5
Based on 37 ratings

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