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The Poker Mindset Lab

The poker mindset lab

It’s January 3rd, 2024. Today, I’m out and about with the Pokerstudie team to kick off the new year on a high note. We’ve just finished a padel clinic, and I collapse into a chair at the bar, exhausted. I order a blue Aquarius, look around, and see some team members still working up a good sweat.

I’m glad to be sitting down and open my phone. Someone just filled out the contact form on the website, and I check the message. A certain Daniel Carter would like to get in touch with me. He introduces himself as a mental coach and poker coach and found my profile on Ultimate Poker Coaching. It turns out he lives in the Netherlands, and a week later, we arrange to meet for coffee in Utrecht.

The poker mindset lab mental coach

Mental coach

There is an instant connection; from the moment we meet, it feels as if we enjoy the exact same things and have similar outlooks on life. A few months later, we even discover that our parents share the same names. If it weren’t for other appointments we both had later that day, we would have stayed there until closing time. We share our ideas about mental coaching, our backgrounds, and our approaches with clients. When we say goodbye, I have the feeling that we will speak again soon.

And that’s exactly what happens. Not long after, Daniel wants to schedule a Zoom call, and I already have a feeling about what this might be about. He would like to collaborate. In the weeks that follow, we talk frequently on the phone and meet regularly in person to work, but often also to play a round of golf or at least to enjoy a cinnamon roll. During those weeks, The Poker Mindset Lab is born.

Wat is The Poker Mindset Lab?

The Poker Mindset Lab, or simply The Mindset Lab, is a project by Daniel and me where we aim to completely overhaul the mindset of professional poker players in 12 weeks. Through this program, we want to help poker players regain control over their careers, instilling confidence that they are on the right path. We focus on ensuring that their self-worth is not dependent on daily results but instead fostering a constant sense of self-love.

We have carefully developed the themes, structure, and framework of the lab. Our goal is to work meticulously, to lay bare the foundation and rewire it. We achieve this through scientific frameworks, personal experience, and an open mindset. This has resulted in five different themes that we aim to address.

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Professional poker players are the embodiment of freedom. They have managed to break free from societal norms regarding work and working hours, allowing them to set their own schedules entirely. Do you play best in the morning? Go ahead. Prefer to play in the afternoon? Be my guest. Or do you prefer to sleep in and start grinding after dinner, continuing late into the night? That’s fine too.

It sounds ideal to some, but experience shows that many poker players lack the discipline and willpower to structure their day effectively. That’s why we address this issue. What are the benefits of having a good daily structure, and how can you best implement it? These are the topics we will discuss and improve upon in this theme.

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Emotionally grounded

Not getting swept away by the events of the day is, for poker players more than any other top athlete, one of the greatest challenges. Playing at a loss for a day, a week, a month, or even a year has a huge impact on you not only as a professional but also as a person. The other end of the spectrum is also possible, of course. How do you stay grounded after a big win and avoid getting carried away? Staying emotionally grounded is the key here.

Goal setting

Without direction in your career, you simply drift along, letting yourself be carried by whichever way the wind blows at that moment. Setting goals is a mental skill that needs to be trained. This begins with an endpoint, a moonshot goal or dream objective. What gets you out of bed every day? What is your driving force? To experience more control over your poker career, setting the right improvement and process goals is a crucial component. We will thoroughly address this aspect.

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Self image

Working on your self-image and self-confidence often involves a certain identity in the world of top-level sports. For example, you identify as a good poker player. This is part of the image you have of yourself, which gives you confidence. You constantly seek to reaffirm this image.

This approach works as long as it is validated. When your results are good, you have a positive self-image. However, when this is not validated because your results are poor, you will see your self-image deteriorate. What we aim to achieve is to maintain your self-image by decoupling your identity as a poker player from your identity as a person. This way, you can retain a sense of self-worth despite losing days, weeks, or months.


Many poker players have advanced in their careers thanks to their perfectionism. The constant desire to improve and optimize has brought them a lot in life, but it often has a dark side. This drive for perfection can lead to punishing oneself for mistakes and harsh self-criticism during tough times. By learning to forgive yourself for mistakes, you reduce the fear of making them and foster a growth mindset.

Want to know more?

Take a look at our website: and fill out the Google form or schedule an appointment directly via Calendly. You can also reach out to me through the contact form on this website.

Did you find this interesting? My name is Lex Ligtenberg, MSc. Sport and Performance Psychologist or mental coach, and I help ambitious poker players with their mindset. As a passionate amateur player, during my master’s, I realized that the processes and skills that apply in the world of elite sports are exactly the same as those that can be used at the poker table. Winning poker players are engaged in delivering top performance both at the tables and during study sessions. This realization prompted me to shift my focus to providing individual guidance to poker players who are ready to take the next step in their poker career!

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