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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Gaming


The Mental Game of Blackjack

Erik Flowers

What if I told you I know what's inside the minds of the world's best tournament blackjack players? You want to win like the pros, you have to think like the pros! You're going to need all your book knowledge, skill, experience and more to compete professional blackjack tournaments.

To be a top professional tournament blackjack player you have to control your emotions, minimize drama, use effective systems, employ flawless strategy, enjoy competitiveness, rely on unerring money-management skills, and absorb the bad-beats.

I know you. I know your bookshelves are stuffed with expert blackjack books: "Big" books, "Secrets of..." books, "Theory" books. You must have a brain for numbers. Likely you play chess or Sudoku. You are a visual-analytical thinker who stores information up and to the left. That's where your eyes go when you are ruminating. You remember vividly your first love--what he/she looked like. You don't have time for heavy breathing, so likely don't do yoga. You prefer action sports. You speak in clips or bursts. You'll agree there are X-factors in the game, but not the thing called luck.

Here are the mental skills needed to be a top pro tournament blackjack player:

  1. Relaxation (comes with hours and hours of experience in mini-tournaments, not with the game on your cell phone)
  2. Concentration (so many important decisions to be made in brief spans of time)
  3. Risk play (be comfortable losing because most of the time you will)
  4. Fear (don't--it's only a game)
  5. Pressure (it's your money you're losing)
  6. Distractions (waitresses dressed like cheetahs, drinks, noise, stares, jabbering players)
  7. Confidence (start small win big, start big win nothing)
  8. Optimal play (not perfect play)
  9. Post-performance review (all pros in any sport do it)
  10. Control factors (stay in your zone, play your game)

Even after all that training, how much of the game can you really control? Maybe only 20% say some of the pros -- same as any other high-stakes game.

Erik Flowers is a Certified Mental Game Coach. He has been called "The Athlete Whisperer" and was taught tournament blackjack in his mid-20s by players who are now considered the world's best. Contact him at:

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