How the Book Peak Performance Poker Rewrote the Rules for Winning

More popularly known as the author of Viral Hero, not many are aware that serial CEO and startup guru Travis Steffen also wrote arguably the greatest poker manual of all time. It’s called ‘Peak Performance Poker: Revolutionizing the Way You View the Game’. And it is much more than just a poker book.

In many ways, this book also reveals what Steffen went through in order to become what he is today. Back in 2010, Steffen wasn’t just a professional poker player, but a certified strength and conditioning coach as well. Through his experiences in both careers, he figured out that the best way to become the greatest poker player you can be is to also optimize your mental and physical well-being. In his book, Steffen writes that being at the peak of health can allow players to more easily and consistently achieve a state of flow.

Achieving Flow State

First described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1975, there have been numerous studies on the flow state or experience. In a nutshell, flow states are when people reach their peak performance in any given task. And this elusive state is not easy to achieve. Indeed, apart from a person’s grasp of a certain skill, getting into the flow entails several elements. This includes the presence of clear expectations and rules regarding the task at hand, a high level of concentration, clear and instant feedback, and a sense of having control over the task or activity. There should also be a balance between the difficulty of the task and the person’s skills.

The activity should also be intrinsically rewarding, with elements that allow the person to lose their sense of self, merge action and awareness, and be totally absorbed in the activity. On any given poker table, some of these elements are already present. All players are expected to have a clear grasp of fundamental poker rules and goals before they even sit down for a game. And poker is already an intrinsically and instantly rewarding activity. However, being able to maintain high levels of concentration as well as the calmness to lose oneself in the game are not so easily achieved.

Add into the mix the pressures of predicting opponents’ intentions, mathematical probability, and emotional control and you have some idea of what pro players go through at the tables. But as Steffen writes, achieving a flow state can make this combination of mental tasks significantly easier. And in order to do that, a player needs to be of sound mind and body.

Achieving Peak Performance

Arguably the most useful parts of the book are Steffen’s action points. These are his detailed instructions for cultivating mental and physical health. This includes stamina-focused exercises, which improves conditioning and heart-rate management. There are also time management tips, which can increase a person’s sense of control over any situation. Meanwhile, his tips for refreshing the mind can help with calm and quick decision-making.

The action points even include comprehensive advice for nutritional intake, which are linked to the book’s appendices. Apart from food comparisons, these appendices include instructions for exercising without equipment as well as mental exercises. This is also where you’ll find the author’s extensive bibliography, which you can reference if you need to focus on certain action points. As well as a keen understanding for poker rules and strategy, Steffen wants players to realize and leverage the value of overall mental and physical health in achieving a flow state of peak performance.

In short, ‘Peak Performance Poker: Revolutionizing the Way You View the Game’ should be on your top shelf alongside other survival classics. Other than being arguably the best poker manual out there, it’s undoubtedly one of the most concise and useful self-help books in history. If you’re in need of a story fix, this book can help you write the story of your own ascension to greatness.

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