Blessed to be Obsessed

I heard a couple of comments lately from poker players I admire that really hit home for me and inspired me to write this next article.

“It takes an interesting mindset to succeed at poker tournaments. You have to be able to get demolished all day, study all night, and then return the next day ready to play your best. Do you have it?” – Jonathan Little

“Eat shit for the next 2 years so that you can eat caviar for the rest of your life” – Bencb Raisers Edge

People who don’t understand the depths of what I do often tell me that I play too much poker or that I am addicted to gambling. These people give me a sideways glance when I tell them that I can’t go out because I have to study or play poker. I often hear “I have been playing for “X” number of years, why do I have to study?”

I am definitely not addicted to gambling. I have lived in Las Vegas for 3 years and have played a slot machine exactly one time. I don’t play the Lotto or buy scratch off tickets. I am not addicted to poker either but I am definitely OBSESSED! In order to really succeed in this game you have to be obsessed. How bad do you want it? Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make it to the big time? Are you willing to change as a person in order to give yourself the best chance of being successful? Are you willing to put in the hours and hours on and off the table in order to improve your game?

Surround yourself with players that are on the same path as you. Iron sharpens iron. To fast track the learning process immeasurably, seek out like-minded, dedicated poker players on the same path as you are. This doesn’t mean that they all have to be as good as or better than you. As a coach, I would rather study with someone who is positive and has the required dedication than a Reg who is constantly complaining about studying or their results. If you find people who are not as committed as you then cut them until you find a solid group with a common goal.

Invest in yourself and do the work! A lot of people I talk to are worried about spending money on training sites or coaches. Most people do not treat their poker as a business. As the old saying goes….it takes money to make money. Most people don’t consider that investing in quality coaching and quality studying will only increase their win rate and raise their ROI. If you have to invest 10 – 20 % of your current bankroll in order to get coaching and raise your ROI by 50%, then you are up 30% from where you are now! There are levels to coaches as well. If you are a break even or losing player there are a lot of affordable training solutions out there for you (cough cough check out  ). There are twitch channels that talk a lot about poker content (cough cough ). There are very affordable video training sites, free forums to post questionable hands in and YouTube channels. The list is endless. You should be searching for resources you respect and trust and devouring all the information that these resources provide, in order to get yourself to a place where you can afford to move to the next level of training programs / coaches that are pricier.

Stick with it. No one is born with the ability to crush. Whether it’s poker or sports or anything else, it takes the fortitude of staying the course in order to reach your long term goals. It takes years of repetition, hand history reviews, trial and error and work in programs like Icmizer or Flopzilla before you go from surviving the micro stakes to playing the $55 MTTs regularly and profitably. The Poker Gods can be cruel and unmerciful. Remember to celebrate all the ups along the way and not to dwell on the downs.

Make the tough sacrifices. As Bencb said, “Eat shit for the next 2 years so that you can eat caviar for the rest of your life”. It may be more than 2 years depending on where you are in the process and how hard you work. It took me quite a few years but my friends and family all know that on Sundays GBT is not coming to your hang out, pool party, bbq or anything of that nature because I am playing poker. Want to hang out on Wednesday night? Not with GBT you aren’t. Wednesday nights are study nights. I have sacrificed more social gatherings and family dinners than I can count in order to put in the time needed to succeed at this game.

This journey is never ending. The game and the players in it are constantly evolving. Strategies that are working now won’t work 10 years from now. Ask anyone who was playing pre Black Friday. Even after playing this game for over 15 years and studying seriously for just as long, I am still always learning new things. I study poker at least 3 times a week. I still have my own study group of people that I trust and admire that I look to for guidance in tough spots. Today I invested in what I consider to be a next level poker training program. It was the biggest investment I have made in bettering myself up to this point.  Through poker I have been so fortunate to have had some amazing experiences, been to amazing places and met even more amazing people. I am completely obsessed with being successful at this game that I love so much. And for that I am truly blessed.


Life Of The Grinder

With the WSOP in town and everyone going for the dream, there has been a lot of talk about bad beats and downswings lately. I see and hear a lot of people screaming, crying, ready to break things and ready to quit this stupid game forever!!! This may not be what you want to hear but I can assure you that downswings are inevitable. They are going to be worse than you could have possibly imagined AND they will come to an end!

I think that people vastly underestimate how big a downswing can be and how big your bankroll needs to be in order to survive the dark times and make it back to the light! This is the reason why bankroll management will always be at the top of the list of skills needed to be a poker “grinder”. After all, you cant put in the volume without the roll to support it! Most would agree that you need between 150 – 200 buyins in order to be properly bankrolled for any particular MTT. That means if you have a $500 roll, you should not be buying into tournaments bigger than $3.30. If you are continuously taking shots at tournaments above $3.30 on this size bankroll you can be certain that without a lot of luck, you are guaranteed to go broke.

It is completely normal for a good MTT player to go 50 MTTs without a single cash. The best MTT players cash between 20% – 25% of the time. That means the good players are losing 75% – 80% of the time!!! This is the reason why making those top 3 spots as often as you can when you do cash are so important! When on a prolonged run of whiffs, these times are never easy. These times can make you feel like you are losing every flip, you are never getting there on your draws and every monster hand is getting cracked. The biggest key thing to survive these moments is to keep your head in the game. How you ask? Here is a list of a few things that work for me.

  1. Bankroll Management
    • We talked about this one at length to kick this article off. See above :o)
  2. Confidence
    • I think a lot of tilt control comes with the confidence of knowing you are a good winning player. This is a tough one when someone is first starting out. For those out there who have not yet built this sort of confidence, take confidence in the fact that you are not going to be one of those players that lose their mind when things go south. Have the confidence that you are studying hard and putting in the effort that most are not and this will take you through these downswings and into the land of profit.
  3. Study Study Study
    • One of the things that can really put a crunch on the ole bankroll is playing bad on top of running bad. This sort of thing can sneak up on you if you are not careful. You start to hear that voice in your head that says “F this!” I am just going to jam 150 bbs in the pot with my TT only to run into a flip or a dominated hand and the curse the poker gods when things don’t go your way. Or perhaps it is calling off in a terrible spot because “They cant possibly have it again!” only to realize that they do which is quickly proceeded by a string of curses to the almighty poker gods. Or another common one is punting off the rest of the MTTs you have running because “This game sucks!” Talk to your coach, talk to poker players you trust, post hands in forums. Make certain that you are running bad and not compounding issues.
  4. Let go of your pride
    • I think another big contributor of tilt is pride. This is called entitlement tilt. I deserve to win this hand! This Tournament! Every hand! Every Tournament! All poker players think they are better than they are. All poker players think they deserve the dream. No poker player wants to drop down in stakes. But the truth is that this game is ever evolving. The poker community as a whole is getting better and better. That means the games are getting tougher and tougher to beat. If things are on the slide there is no shame in taking it down a notch to rebuild both your confidence and your bankroll and then jumping back up again when you are mentally and fiscally ready.
  5. Take a break
    • Sometimes the really bad swings can take a huge toll on you mentally. Compound tilt is something where you keep your head together for as long as you can, but the length of your downswing and run bad build up to a point where there is nothing left to do but EXPLODE! If you feel yourself start to go down this path, take a break! One thing it took me many years to realize is that the $11 $10K will always be running tomorrow. And the next day. And the next week. For eternity! Spend some time doing things outside of poker that you enjoy. Clear your head. Come back fresh.
  6. Remember that this is a game
    • Always try and remember, we play poker because it is fun and exciting. Everyone loves the potential to hit the big score but in the hunt for glory they tend to forget that this is a game. Always hold on to the memory of when you first started playing poker. Like I always say, poker is like life in a lot of ways. Lots of moments where you can choose to laugh or cry. If you choose laugh, I can assure you that you will have more fun playing and more fun living life as a whole!

I hope this helps! Stay tuned for lots more content from both myself and Muthafnlifecoach so that you can hear more about general wellness and mental game approaches from both the Life Coach and the Poker Players point of view!!!