It’s the 12 Days of Christmas… Merry Christmas!
My gift to you, a new podcast episode every day through Christmas Day. Give ’em a listen below.
It’s the 12 Days of Christmas… Merry Christmas!
My gift to you, a new podcast episode every day through Christmas Day. Give ’em a listen below.
I answer questions about handling a poker downswing, improving on-the-felt focus and avoiding poker boredom.
In case you missed episode 233, I reviewed Poker Satellite Strategy by Dara O’Kearney and Barry Carter.
From: Graham Wright
Q: Right now, I’m in a poker downswing. Biggest one of my life. -$9,200 in 15 sessions. 2-5-10 and 1-3-6 PLO. 15/30 Limit HiLo. 10/20 and 5/10 Limit Big O. 1-2, 1-3, 2-5, and 2-5-10 NLHE. 20/40 LHE. Doesn’t matter what I play, I lose. I’m finally over it mentally and am taking the next week to recover my money a bit through dealing. My question is this… What’s good timing wise to jump back into play? Do shorter or longer breaks work for you? Are you a specialist or do you play all games, if all games, do you focus back on one specifically or dive into the fire until the run bad is gone?
Take as long a break as you feel necessary. If don’t feel primed and pumped and ready to play, then continue taking time off.
But, continue studying poker every day. Maybe it’s mental game things you need to study or you need to analyze your opponents who put you on tilt or there are certain situations that you feel uncomfortable with. Just pick a topic and study it to prepare yourself for your eventual return to the felt.
When I hit a poker downswing, I take time off just like you’re doing and I just come back when it feels right. I’ve come back after just a couple days before and there’s been other times I’ve come back after a few weeks. During my time off, I make sure to go through hands in my database and try to figure out why I’m on my downswing. Sometimes it is just variance and I’m getting it in with the best and get sucked out on over and over again.
Other times, maybe I’m trying to force the action or I’m getting overly aggressive in bad spots trying to bluff my opponents off their hands. Or I’m playing my draws way too passively and calling too much on every street. Or I’m making too many terrible preflop hand decisions by calling 3bets really light or open raise stealing way too often.
Whatever the problem is, when I return to the felt I am focused on not repeating those same mistakes.
It sounds like you’re mostly a LIVE player with some online experience. Thinking about your LIVE game, where do you think the downswing is coming from? Is it just variance, or is it probably some ways that you’re playing or the opponents that you’re up against or the games that you’re selecting? You need to figure out why the downswing is occurring and then study and work to correct it.
I only play no limit hold ’em cash games, but occasionally MTT’s and SNG’s for fun.
From: Chris Lugiano
Q: I currently play on 3 sites (Ignition, ACR, and Sportsbetting) and I am in the midst of a pretty nasty downswing, mostly because I have taken “shots” that haven’t gone so well due to some poor luck followed by tilt. I know that I should be playing 25 or 50nl to optimize my BB/100 win rate, but I find the games boring because of the lower stakes (I was playing 100nl and 200nl as a break-even/slightly losing player).
Try to flip your mindset from playing to earn money to playing to learn. Get in the headspace of a student or an apprentice playing to improve your skills. The money will come later once you’re a winner at 100nl and 200nl. You were a losing player at 100 and 200nl, so your goal is to be a winning player at 50nl, build your roll and get back to 100nl with a 40x bankroll ($4,000).
Your goal is to practice your strategies and work to exploit your opponents at every opportunity at 25 or 50nl. The stakes you play at don’t matter until you’re trying to play for a living or for substantial side income. Try to think of everything in terms of bb’s, not $. So, a full buy-in at 50nl isn’t $50, it’s 100bb’s. Your job is to make the best decisions you can to build your 100bb buy-ins into more with each session.
One important thing about your email was that you said tilt is a factor in your downswing.
I recommend reading Jared Tendler’s book, The Mental Game of Poker.
Chasing losses is something too many players struggle with. They jump up in stakes when they shouldn’t, bet bigger in hopes of winning bigger pots, etc. The book covers this very well starting on page 145 in the “Desperation Tilt” section. A desperate player will do anything to get back those losses and it’s a form of accumulated tilt/anger/frustration at losing.
Logic statements are a big part of his book, and here’s a logic statement to tell yourself before each session you play and after you suffer a big loss:
“Losing an entire stack is part of the game, so I accept that this will happen sometimes. But, I’m going to earn more stacks from my opponents than they earn from me due to my superior play and my ability to stay in control.”
Here are the two steps I recommend you take ASAP from his list of 10:
#2 Write a tilt profile – write down the early signs that signify your tilt is increasing and the specific things that trigger your tilt. The more you know about how you’re effected, the better you’ll become at handling these situations.
#4 Take regular breaks or use a timer – use the breaks to assess where you’re at mentally. Go for a walk, use the restroom, do push-ups. Do things that take your mind off of any beats you suffered and return to the table when you’re in the right mental space.
Finally, if the games get boring, are you allowing yourself to get distracted with email or Twitter or sports on tv?
Here’s a video that shows a focus session where I tried to learn from every hand dealt, regardless of me being in the hand or not. When you’re focused on every hand, you can’t get bored because there are so many things to think about, even during a 1-table session online.
From: Brice Bader
Q: I need focus
Figure out what is causing your loss of focus and stomp it out. Are you playing LIVE and you can’t help but watch the game up on the big screen? Sit in a seat with your back to the TV or wear a hat so you can’t see the TV above you. Does email distract you? Turn off notifications and clear your inbox before you start your session. Are you tired or drunk? Stop it!
We can all use a bit more focus on the felt.
This question is related to Chris’ prior question about boredom. Boredom leads to distraction which leads to loss of focus which leads to bad play which leads to losing sessions.
Besides that prior recommendation of trying to learn something from every hand dealt, here are 3 more things you can do to improve focus on the felt:
Remove distractions. You know what pulls your attention away from the table (ESPN, email, social media, training videos, etc.). Ditch them all prior to your session start.
Warm up and choose a session focus. Prior to your play session, spend 60 seconds deciding on one strategy you want to focus on. Maybe you want to practice isolating limpers or calling cbets with <TP hands. Choose the strategy, write it down on a piece of paper and keep it in front of you as you play.
Play a Focus Session. Play just 1-2 tables with the goal of practicing your chosen strategy as often as possible (when the time is right and it’s +EV to do so). For example, you don’t want to isolate a limper with J7s, but A7s is probably a good choice. Whatever your focus is, make a goal around it. If it’s looking isolating weak players, make a goal of 5 isolation raises this session (use a tick sheet to record each time you do it). If you easily hit your goal, bump it up for your next session.
You can use rewards to help you stay focused and hit your goals. Let’s say you love Jameson (like me😊). If you hit your goal of 5 (or 10 or 15) iso raises, you’ll reward yourself with one drink after your session as you go through and review your iso raising hands.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: I just gave you 3 different potential Actions to take:
Now it’s your time to shine! Choose the one that’s most applicable to what you’re striving for right now, and step into action. Playing and studying with purpose are the best ways to improve your game.
The Smart HUD with Webinar was purchased again, this time by the wonderful Ken! Thank you so much for putting a bit of faith in this PT4 HUD. The webinar that comes with the Smart HUD is going to teach you all you’ve ever wanted to know about utilizing your HUD to understand the player you’re up against and to make exploitative plays.
Robert Howard picked up PokerTracker 4 through my affiliate link (at no additional cost to him and he supported the show). Robert’s all about improving his online poker game and PT4 is the next step he’s taking on this profitable journey. In appreciation of his support, I sent him the Smart HUD to aid in exploiting every opponent he faces and in making more +EV decisions. Plus, that database of hands to study is pretty nifty.
We’re all about PT4 this week: Chris Dumas purchased my Getting the Most From PokerTracker Webinar ($5 off). This is what you need if you’re feeling overwhelmed or if you’re just plain new to the greatest poker tracking software available. Don’t miss out on the $5 off deal, either.
In episode #236, I’m going to discuss following bankroll rules and conducting pre-session warm-ups.
Until next time, study smart, play much and make your next session the best one yet.
I discuss the 5 essential concepts for poker profitability: EV, play the player, bankroll management, table selection and the mental game.
In episode 206, I answered 4 questions about studying apathy, the SPS archive, JTo and learning from showdowns.
EV stands for expected value, and it’s the value of a prospective play.
Thinking in terms of EV means that you’re giving more than just some casual thought to your next button click. If you’re working with an EV mindset, you’re trying to think at a deeper level when making decisions. You’re considering all of your options, and you’re thinking about the value of each of them.
Poker is one big math problem so EV decision-making gives you a more logical mathematical approach to playing poker.
Here’s a common non-EV approach to a hand: a player looks down to see that they have a flush draw. They get a little excited and think to themselves, “Geez, I hope I get my flush on the next street.” Then they unthinkingly call the flop in an order to see the next street.
But somebody with an EV mindset will instead think, “I have a flush draw, and I’m out of position. What’s my best play here? Should I just check/call? Should I check/raise to bluff them off the pot? Or, should I donk bet in order to make them think I hit a really strong hand?”
The person who plays with an EV mindset is going to consider all of their options before they click a button, and they’re going to go with the most +EV option.
Right in the middle of the spectrum is neutral or 0EV. This is a decision that neither makes you money nor costs you money in the long run. It’s like folding your hand on the BTN 1 million times. You haven’t committed any chips yet to the pot, so whether you fold AA or 72o, your chip stack is the exact same at the end of the hand. So, the EV value of folding on the BTN is $0.
To the right of the 0EV center are +EV decisions, the ones that earn you some amount of money. And some decisions are more +EV or profitable than others. Consider AA. 3betting with AA preflop is definitely +EV. But, there might be times based on the opponents, bet sizing or tournament conditions that calling could be a more profitable move.
To the left of 0EV on the spectrum is -EV. These are all decisions that cost you money in the long-run. Sure, you might hit your flush on the next street this time, but if it’s mathematically not profitable for you to call on the flop, in the long run you’re just handing money over to your opponent.
On the felt, you can put a focus on considering all of your options before you click that button. Too many players auto-3bet or cbet or call in different situations. Your goal in playing with an EV mindset is to place each decision along the EV spectrum and choose the one that is most +EV.
The other way you can practice an EV mindset is off the felt. As you review your hands, take the time to really consider your decisions and gauge where each decision lands on a EV spectrum. You can print and laminate the screenshot and use it off the felt for practice. Take the time to determine which option is most +EV and resolve to make that play in the future.
The final thing that you can is use an EV calculator as you review hands. SplitSuit at RedChipPoker.com has a great free and easy to use EV calculator to get you started: https://redchippoker.com/simple-poker-ev-calculator/
Beginning players are at Level I: they think only about their cards and their hand strength in relation to the board.
Level II players think about the other player’s hand and their tendencies. Their goal is to understand the villain in an effort to exploit them by bluffing them off pots or gaining extra value. When you understand your opponents, you realize that there are many +EV options available to you.
When a Level I player flops a 2p hand, they’re prone to just bet, bet and bet again.
But, if a Level II player knows their opponent’s tendencies, they’ve got other options. Maybe Villain hates to bet then fold post-flop. So, the Level II player exploits this by checking then raising on the flop. Villain is predisposed to call, which builds the pot for bigger turn and river bets. This earns a Level II player more than a Level I player would’ve made.
Study player types at your stakes. There are LAG’s, TAG’s, Nits and Fish of varying degrees. How do each of these player types choose their hands pre-flop? How do these player types play post-flop? You want to look for tendencies in the various player types at your stakes so you can devise ways to exploit them. You might know of a lot of TAG players who cbet almost every flop, but they double-barrel only when they’ve got the goods. Great! Against these players, call every one of their flop cbets when IP, then fire the turn when they check. Bam! Money-making exploits put to use.
Also, utilize your HUD. It isn’t there just for looks. Use the percentages to gauge your opponent’s tendencies then find opportunities to exploit them.
You’ve got to have money in order to make money and without bankroll management, you’re likely to lose your bankroll. Profitable poker involves building up your bankroll so you can safely move up in stakes and make even more profits. Somebody who’s a 10bb/hour winner is going to make a lot more money at $5/$10 than at $1/$2. The higher the stakes, the more potential profit.
Also, bankroll management keeps you in control of your money and doesn’t let your emotions get in the way. Here’s something I’ve done before. I lost 5 $7 SNG’s in a row. I was tilting and angry, so I decided to play a $30 SNG in order to turn a quick profit. I wasn’t rolled for it nor was I ready for that level of play. Of course, I lost and compounded my losses for the day with that stupid -EV choice.
If you’re cash game player, I recommend having 40 to 60 buy-ins for the level that you play. This can be hard to do for LIVE players. Even at $1/$2 stakes, a standard buy-in is $200, x40 means you need $8,000 to play these stakes. So, 40 to 60 bi’s is definitely a good rule of thumb for online, but for LIVE players, you’ve got to do the best you can.
If you’re an MTT or SNG player, I recommend between 100 and 200 buy-ins, preferably closer to 200. We all know the variance involved in tournaments, so 200 bi’s isn’t an unreasonable target. This just makes for a great safety cushion as you grind them tourneys.
It is okay to take occasional shots, especially if your bankroll is over the required amount. If you play with the 40x bi requirement for cash games, and you’re at 50x, great! Throw in the occasional buy-in at the next level to see if you can’t earn some extra profits and gain some experience.
And if at all possible, don’t withdraw your money from your bankroll. Your goal is to build your bankroll so you can move up safely to the next level and make more money. If you continually withdraw money and you’re always at 40 buy-ins, you’ll forever be stuck there.
For more bankroll management, check out this post from TopPokerValue.com.
The players that you play with are a huge factor in your profitability. Let’s look at a couple of extreme examples.
The 1st example is you’re at a FR table with 8 highly skilled players who’re all better than you. Being the worst at the table gives you a very low probability of making any money this session.
Next, let’s look at the other extreme: you’re the single best person at the table with 8 other first-time poker players. Yep, totally profitable situation to be in.
You are going to make poker more profitable by sitting at tables with many players who are worse than you.
Seat selection example: you’re at a FR table with 2 equally skilled players on your direct left and 6 other fish. It’s going to be tough to make money and exploit the other players at the table because these 2 are going to exploit your exploits as much as possible. But if the other 2 players are to your right or directly across the table from you, you’ll have more opportunities to exploit them and the fish.
Look for profitable tables and profitable seats. If you’re an online player you must go by the rules of the site, but do your best to leave unprofitable tables and find profitable ones. If you’re a LIVE cash game player, it’s a bit different. Put your name on the wait list then observe the tables. If you get sat at a good table, stay there. If the one next to you is more profitable, then request a table change. If you’re seated in a bad seat, wait for a good one to open up, throw a chip across the table, announce “seat change” and make your move. The key thing here is to not stay at unprofitable tables or unprofitable seats.
Life is too short to play in unprofitable poker situations.
The mental game is important because it’s the most insidious, costly, and yet hard to fix issue for most players. Most players know that they suffer from some kind of anger or tilt issues, but they often don’t know how to resolve them. Let’s look at how tilt can affect the other 4 concepts already mentioned.
The first was “EV Decision-making”. Anger kicks EV decision to the curb. You begin making your plays based on your hand, the board, your hatred of your opponent or your eagerness to finally win a pot. You stop thinking through things and act on emotion, which leads to chip spew.
The second was “Play the Player”. We’ve all done this: we’re tilted because the donk over there sucked out on us, so now we target him and play every hand he does in order to get revenge and earn our chips back. We put ourselves in terrible situations with crappy cards, and we spew off chips to get them to fold or in hopes of catching our miracle river 6 high back-door straight draw.
The third was “Bankroll Management”. Anger can easily cause you to spew stacks off, or like I mentioned earlier, buy into games too big for your roll and you’re not even mentally prepared to tackle that bigger game so you lose more money.
The final aspect was “Table and Seat Selection”. Exhaustion, distraction or anger can cause you to miss the fact that you’re at a terrible table or seat. These factors can also cause you to stay at the casino longer then normal and play at a sub-par level. You know that you should be leaving, but your inability to think straight is causing you to stay longer to try to win back your losses.
Once you are aware that you have an issue you can work to fix it. I recommend that you start journaling on what sets you on tilt. When you notice your emotions rising, take a breath and tag the hand for later review. What happened to get your heart beating? What did you do or your opponents do to get you angry? What situation is setting your emotions rising? Whatever it is, journal about it so you can start to deal with those issues.
Next, prepare for how to handle eventual anger/tilty situations. When you know the situations that tilt you, you can create a plan to deal with them in a safe and sane way.
I recommend that you read books or listen to mindset-type content. Start with anything from Jared Tendler and Dr. Tricia Cardner: they’ve both got books and podcasts to help you out.
And lastly be honest with yourself and confront your tilting demons. Don’t act like it’s no big deal. Tilt and mental game issues cause major losses and poker setbacks. Don’t let yourself become a poker mindset casualty.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: Use Splitsuit’s EV calculator to run some EV calculations with your own hands. Maybe look for good 3bet bluff opportunities, check-raise semi-bluffing opportunities or simple flop bluff cbet opportunities. Run the calculations to see the EV of the play you’re considering. You’ll learn a lot from this exercise, especially if you’ve never considered the profitability of individual plays before.
Now it’s your turn to pull the trigger and do something positive for your poker game.
Daniel Koffler supported the show by picking up PokerTracker 4 through my affiliate link. I sent him my Smart HUD in appreciation.
Hai Le is working to become a math master by purchasing and studying the Poker Mathematics Webinar that I did with Mark Warner. This webinar is full of critical math concepts that help you make the best decisions at the tables.
In episode 208, I’m going to discuss making the transition from TAG to LAG play.
Until next time, study smart, play much and make your next session the best one yet.
I discuss the strategies you can employ to help you pull the trigger on +EV aggressive plays and ditch the fear surrounding them.
In episode 194, I discussed the leak of skipping +EV aggressive plays because you’re afraid of losing money, making a mistake or looking like a fool.
I said in the prior podcast that there isn’t a good way to calculate the cost of this leak. But, I’ve given it more thought and I’ve found a good way to do so. Granted, it’s still an estimate because who knows if your bluff would’ve earned the pot or if your value bet would’ve been called, but this will give you some numbers to work from and hands to review at the same time.
The first step is to determine which type of aggressive play you often fail to make. Let’s say you’ve got an issue with making +EV 3bet bluffs preflop.
In your database, filter for the opportunity to 3bet (facing a 2bet) and “NOT (Raised Preflop Any 3bet)”.
Add to the filter your normal bluffing hands. If your BTN 3bet bluffing range includes A5s-A2s and 87s-76s, your filter will look like this:
Record the number of hands you failed to 3bet with from a specific position that results from this filter. For example, 30 hands on the BTN. Next, change the “not 3bet” to “did 3bet” with these cards. Record your win rate. For example, over 28 hands your win rate is at +118bb/100 hands. This equates to +1.18bb/hand played.
So, by abstaining from these 30 3bet bluffing hands, you’ve missed out on 35.4bb’s of profit (30 x 1.18bb).
Remember that this is just an estimate. But, it’s an eye-opening estimate designed to spur you to do more 3bet bluffing with hands and in situations that you know are +EV.
You’ve got to put in the time practicing what you want to improve. No practice = no improvement.
During your pre-session warm-ups, make a commitment to getting gutsy and pulling the trigger on the +EV aggressive opportunities you spot. By focusing on it in your warm-up, you’ll be more likely to pull the trigger. Put a sticky note on your computer that says “Make the gutsy, +EV play.” Don’t hang it below your monitor, stick it on top so it hangs over the screen so it’s more likely to draw your attention as you play.
As you play a session, your focus must be on making the best decisions with the information available to you. You should not try to learn from mistakes in-the-moment. Tag each hand with a “GetGutsy” tag so you can put it out of your mind because you know you’ll have the chance to review and learn from it later.
If fear is compelling you to skip +EV aggressive plays, consider what you’re telling yourself as you play. You may find yourself thinking “I don’t want to risk 50bb’s” or “I don’t want to screw up here” or “I don’t want them to think I’m a donk.”
Instead of those thoughts, try this one:
“This is a great opportunity to exploit my opponent. I’m going to take it, tag the hand, and learn from it.”
With this attitude in place, you’ll be more likely to pull the trigger when you spot +EV aggressive opportunities.
Review each tagged hand the next day. As you review the hand figure out if the gutsy action was actually correct. Whip out Flopzilla and enter your opponent’s preflop range, your hand and the board. Narrow your opponent’s range through the streets and determine if your suspected bet or raise was or would’ve been +EV. Would your opponent have folded often enough to make for a good bluff? Would they have given value enough of the time to make for a good value bet or raise? What sizing would’ve been the best for your chosen play?
You must drop down in stakes or add enough to your bankroll to put it between 40 and 100 buy-ins. The closer you are to 100 the better (for SNG and MTT players, I recommend 100-200 buy-ins). I know that you know this, but pride often gets in the way.
What’s more important? Appeasing your pride and playing at higher buy-ins with scared money, or playing at the right level, feeling confident with your decisions and not letting the money on the line screw with your game?
Be honest with yourself and assess the quality of your decisions at the level you play. If your play does not change between 5 NL, 10NL, 25NL or 50NL, that’s great. But, if there’s a decline in your level of play at 100NL, then you must stick with 50 NL with occasional shots at the bigger game when you’re feeling good and making great decisions.
Drop down in stakes as necessary until you build up your bankroll to comfortably play at the next level.
Try not to think in terms of money, but think in terms of big blinds instead. You’re not opening to $1.50, you’re making it 3bb’s. You’re not 3betting to $5. Instead it’s 10 big blinds that you’re raising it to.
Lastly, dropping down in stakes can also help with the other two fears of making mistakes and looking like a fool.
This is easier said than done. When you believe mistakes should never happen, this puts undue pressure on yourself to perform flawlessly. This pressure will create anxiety in your play and cause you to question every play you make. A good bit of thought in every decision is important, but second-guessing yourself will cause you to make more mistakes.
You are going to make mistakes, everybody makes mistakes. Accept them. If we never make mistakes we’re never going to learn.
I’ve only become a decent poker player, because I’ve made a lot of mistakes, I’ve tagged those hands and I’ve tried to learn from them.
Develop this attitude:
Mistakes are my opportunity to learn.
So, get to practicing. Drop down in stakes like already mentioned so that money is NOT a factor. Choose one aggressive skill to work on and find every opportunity to profitably employ that skill. Or, just be present in every table you play and seek out every opportunity to get aggressive to earn more value or to take down pots.
You may have high expectations of yourself, and this has translated into a desire for others to think highly of you. Here’s a universal truth, a life lesson that I’ve believed for many years now:
Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they all stink
What do you care if the other players at the table think you’re a bad player? Why would you care if they think you’re donk or a fish? The worse your image is in their eyes the better it is for you.
If you get caught bluffing off your full stack 2 times, you’re going to learn from those mistakes. But, your opponents don’t know this. To them, a tiger never changes its stripes. But you’re no ordinary tiger.
You tag hands and study them. You make mistakes, research them to figure out what you did wrong, and you vow to not make that mistake again.
So, the next time you make a similar play but you’ve got a better hand than they do, you’ll be stacking those fools that think you’re an idiot. You’ve now turned your prior mistake into a profit-making situation.
I think it’s human nature to care what other people think. But if we consider this logically, you can’t control what they think nor should you try. Like I already said, you’ve got control of two things in life: your actions and your attitudes.
Acting with the intent of not looking like a fool or in an effort to appease other people is not going to benefit you in life nor is it going to benefit you in poker.
Here’s my two-fold challenge to you for this episode:
In your next 3 play sessions, practice 3bet bluffing in position. Make the play against players whose positional RFI is 20% or greater (and definitely over 25%). Drop down in stakes if necessary so the money you put at risk isn’t worrisome. Utilize hands that have good post-flop playability in case they call you. Try suited connectors, small-medium pocket pairs, suited Aces and suited broadway Kings like KQs, KJs and KTs.
Tag each of these hands for later review.
In the following 3 play sessions, when you have position post-flop, bet every time they check it to you. They’ve shown weakness, so now you show strength and put them to the test. If they call, fire on the next street when they check again. If you face a check-raise on the flop or a donk bet on the turn, consider what they could be making this play with and react according. Raise or re-raise as a bluff if you determine it’s +EV and they’re likely to fold, or do it for value if they can pay you off with worse hands.
Tag each of these hands for later review.
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
CK supported the show by purchasing my PokerTracker 4 Smart HUD. I hope CK is utilizing the HUD to crush their opponent’s faces into the felt.
I discuss 4 ways to avoid stress, the importance of resilience, having a “Bring it on!” attitude and some awesome self-help material.
In episode 170, I answered 3 Q’s about the power team that is VPIP and PFR, making thoughtful decisions and wading through so much poker content.
Everyone suffers from stress. I feel like I don’t stress out too much, but there’s always a little bit of stress there.
I’m not going to get too heady or deep into stress today. The biggest reason for that is, I don’t feel qualified enough to tell people how to handle their stress. It’s such an individual thing, that I’m not going to give you advice. I’m just going to tell you how I deal with stress.
There are 4 different ways that I work to avoid stress.
I’ve given this quote on the podcast before, but it’s one of my favorites. It’s from a book called Wizard and Glass by Stephen King. One of the characters named Cort says this to the future Gunslinger:
“Control what you can control maggot, and let everything else take a flying fuck it you. And if you must go down, go down with your guns blazing.”
I can’t tell you how many times that quote goes through my head on a daily basis. At least every session that I play poker it’s there, and often times when I’m dealing with something that’s causing me stress or rising my emotions. Quotes like this help me inject logic into my rising emotions to quell them.
Mindfulness is being present, living in the now, and not letting emotions or random thoughts enter into the fray. We often put stress on ourselves by thinking about the past, problems in the present, or future problems. Practicing mindfulness through an activity like meditation is how I work to stay in the present and not let any worries take over my mind. There are plenty of ways to meditate, and the easiest I’ve found is using apps on my smart phone. Right now, I’m really into the Calm App, and this morning I completed 44 days in a row.
When you’re feeling stressed or anxious or worried or angry, STOP is a great practice.
Stop. Realize that you’re going through some kind of emotion or stressful situation. Something is causing you to react in a negative way. This is the first step in getting beyond it.
Take a breath. This is great practice, not just for quelling emotions, but also at the poker table before every big decision you make. Taking a breath helps to calm the mind and to get you thinking logically and critically about the situation you’re in.
Observe. You want to be present in the situation, observe the emotion and determine why you’re feeling it. Are you stressed because you’re stopped at another red light on your way home from work? Is it a friend dumping all their problems on you? You’ve got to know what’s causing the issue before you can move beyond it.
Proceed. Now that you know what’s causing the stress you could proceed and get beyond this moment. If it’s something out of your control, realizing that will help you to accept it. If it’s in your control, you can now make a change and solve the problem.
Too many of us encounter a problem, and we just dwell on it, letting it stress us out and being a drag on our life. Instead, understand the problem and work to find a solution. This is taking a more proactive approach.
Maybe you have a friend that really stresses you out. They call you every night and burden you with the problems they have with their work or their spouse or their kids or something. And because you’re a good friend, you talk to them and empathize with them every single night.
Eventually you realize that every time the phone rings, your heart starts to beat and your breath gets short. You dread answering the phone. It’s pretty obvious that all this talking hasn’t helped your friend get beyond their problems.
You know how some people fall off a horse and never get back on for fear of falling off again?
In order to not let failure affect us we need to have an attitude of resilience. There’s an old Japanese proverb, “Fall 7 times, get up 8.”
If you have resilience it doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down. You realize that the pursuit that you’re in, whether it’s investing, surfing, poker, riding horses, whatever, it’s worth it to you. When you fall off that horse, when the stock market socks you, when your Aces get cracked, just accept it and get right back in the fray.
Kind of in relation to resilience is having a “Bring it on!” attitude. One of my favorite movies growing up was Mr. Baseball with Tom Selleck. He is a pro baseball player, who hit’s a major slump and gets traded to the Chunichi dragons. He ends up going to Japan, and getting his groove back. Midway through the movie, it’s a sexy bath scene and he’s telling his new girlfriend his greatest fear.
That part always stuck with me. The story of his attitude going from “Bring it on, I’ll hit the ball” to “don’t miss the ball” hit home with me. I remember during baseball games after I watched that movie, as center fielder I would say to myself, “Hit it to me” over and over again. And, actually, what’s funny is I started saying it out loud to myself, and I gradually got louder. Sometimes the infielders heard me and one time the catcher told me he heard it.
I try to have this “Bring it on!” attitude in poker and everything else in life. If I’m taking part in something I want to be a part of it, I want the action. No standing on the sidelines here.
This has translated to my paintball game. I just hate standing in the back behind a bunker, lobbing paintballs at the opposing team. All I want is to move, move, move and get in a position to nail my opponents. I don’t want to shoot 50 paintballs in hopes that one hits. I want to get so close that I can just double-tap them.
If you ever get dealt pocket Aces and say to yourself, “I hope this doesn’t get cracked again”, then you know you’ve got the wrong attitude. Instead, I want you to say, “Yes, AA. How am I going to make the most money with this?” or “Great hand, great chance to make some money, let’s find and execute the most +EV decisions, baby.”
That’s the “Bring it on!” attitude of a winner.
The Kwik Brain Podcast – love this one. Jim Kwik is a big proponent of mental health, physical health and working to develop your memory. The podcast gives tons of strategies and shortcuts to better memory and learning. https://kwikbrain.com/podcast
I love this podcast. Shawn Stevens and Jade Harrel do this podcast and they talk about everything health related. Not just physical health but mental health, spiritual health, financial health, relationship health, etc. http://theshawnstevensonmodel.com/podcasts/
In a recent podcast #256 with Jairek Robbins I learned something really interesting. He talked about a really interesting idea that totally made this concept hit home with me.
When you’re in a war situation and are captured by the enemy, what do they do with you? The first thing they do is take away your sleep. They play loud music, throw buckets of water at you and make you sleep standing up. It’s basically psychological torture by not letting you sleep. Because of this, your mind doesn’t work like it should and you’re more prone to giving them critical information.
The next thing they take away is nutrition. All you get is a moldy piece of bread and some dirty stream water. This deprives you of the nutrients your body needs to function optimally.
The last thing they take away from you is your movement. They lock in a tiny little 5 x 5 cell, you don’t get any exercise nor sunlight. This degrades your body, sapping your strength and your will to live.
This is exactly what we do when we claim we’re too busy to eat healthy, get enough sleep or take the time to exercise. We’re torturing ourselves.
I get a lot out of The James Altucher Show. James talks to super successful people and you get to learn from them about the things they do that brought them their success.
In a recent podcast he interviewed Ray Dalio, the legendary hedge fund manager. In his latest book called Principles, Ray Dalio gives an equation for a successful life:
Dreams + Reality + Determination = a Successful Life
Dreams: knowing what you want from life, your true aspirations and desires.
Reality: accepting the world around you. Sure, you have limitations, but the world is full of opportunity.
Determination: this is where you learn how to deal with reality and develop the habits that it will take to achieve your dreams. Hard work and determination will get you there.
I love reading books. These ones are so good that they each deserve to be read by you.
The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (podcast episode #3) – shows you how you can make progress by tackling the one most important thing everyday before anything else.
Mindset by Carol Dweck (#74) – discusses the importance of mindset for improving skills, knowledge and your life.
The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod (#13) – helped me make some great changes that led to getting more done every day.
Soon to be read: Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: Choose one of the podcasts or books I recommended and listen or read it. Work on yourself by learning from others.
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
Johnny Scarlet picked up a copy of my Smart HUD. Destroy ’em, Johnny!!! Pick up your own Smart HUD here.
I discuss making SMARTER goals to achieve your dreams in 2018, along with developing the habits that will drive you toward them.
In episode 168, I discussed the importance of getting enough sleep, eating healthy, moving more and improving your mind through some self-improvement techniques I follow.
“Set your goals high and don’t stop till you get there.”
– Bo Jackson.
I discussed SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) in episodes #2 and #121. But I recently learned of a new way to make goals, a new formula called SMARTER Goals. I learned this from Michael Hyatt, best-selling author of Your Best Year Ever and Living Forward.
SMARTER is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Risky, Time-keyed, Exciting and Relevant.
A specific goal is made very clearly and says exactly what you’re shooting for.
Bad Goal: I am going to move up in stakes
SMARTER Goal: Play consistently at 50NL by April 1st
Measurable means that we can assign a quantifiable and trackable number. These goals are better because you either hit them or you don’t.
Bad Goal: I am going to increase my bankroll this year
SMARTER Goal: Increase my bankroll by 20% to $6000 this year
Actionable means that your goal begins with an action word (verb), not what you want to be.
Bad Goal: I will learn more from podcasts
SMARTER Goal: Listen to one podcast per day, take notes, and put into action one thing from each podcast
Risky goals are hard to hit because they push you beyond what you’ve done in the past. Hard to hit goals command more of your attention. They force you to get creative, to focus more and to put forth so much more effort. These goals take you out of your comfort zone and put you into your discomfort zone, which is where all the magic happens.
The discomfort zone pushes you beyond the limits of what you know you’re capable of. But, you don’t want to get into the delusional zone. I’ve made this mistake in the past. I used to make goals of playing 300K or 400K hands, when in the prior year I played less than 100K hands. So, a risky, discomfort zone goal for me might be 150K or 200K hands.
Bad Goal: I will play more hands than the 2,000 hands per week I’m playing now
SMARTER Goal: Play 600 hands each day, Monday through Friday, with weekends available to get me to 4,000 hands or more per week
This means that you give yourself either a deadline or a specific time frame to achieve the goal.
Bad Goal: I will create my poker vlog this year
SMARTER Goal: Record, edit and post 13 episodes of my new vlog called “Vlogging the Dolphin” once per week starting January 1
You want to set goals that you are pumped to achieve and that you have an internal drive towards. These are goals set around things that you just love to do, and maybe you can’t see yourself doing anything else.
Bad Goal: I will play in a high buy-in local tournament this year
SMARTER Goal: Play the $5,000 PLO at the 2018 WSOP
Being relevant means it fits in with the season of life you’re in. So, I have a wife and 2 kids to support. Deciding to go off and become a traveling tournament grinder just is not in the cards for me right now. What I can do instead that fits with where my life is right now, is to grind all the PM online tournaments every Monday and Tuesday.
Bad Goal: I will study every day for one hour (but you have 2 kids, a job, commitments and other hobbies)
SMARTER Goal: Study 30 minutes Monday through Friday by waking up 45 minutes earlier than the kids do
If you’re using the SMARTER framework for your goals, you won’t be hitting all of them. You’re going to fail sometimes. The biggest reasons these failures will be because they’re Risky and Time-keyed. Another reason for failure is because you may have been excited at first, but once you dove in you realized it wasn’t really what you wanted.
Your job, once you fail to hit a goal, is three-fold:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit.”
How are you going to achieve your goals? Goals aren’t accidentally hit. It takes intentionality and action to achieve goals. Those two things are related to the habits we have, and good habits help you achieve your goals. They are the driving force behind great achievements.
What are habits? Habits are routines that we do on a regular basis that we feel compelled to do on a subconscious level. There are bad habits like smoking, eating too much sugar and staying up far too late every night. And there are good habits like exercise, drinking a daily green smoothie and studying poker every day.
As I told you in the last podcast, I’m currently writing my third book that might end up being 50,000 words long. So, what kind of habit can I work to develop right now that will help me achieve my 50,000-word book? I think the habit of daily writing would be most helpful. If I write 500 words per day, then it’s only gonna take 100 days to hit the 50,000-word mark. That means in just over 3 months, the 1st draft will be ready for review.
Let’s say there are two magical poker numbers that lead to mastery of our beloved game:
Two great habits to develop to get to these magical numbers are 2 hours of play per day, and one hour of study per day. If these were your habits, you’d hit these numbers after 2,500 days. Sounds like a long time, but it’s less than 7 years. I bet most of you have been playing for 7+ years. If you had these habits for the past 7 years, you’d be a poker master right now.
Habits are tough to break and you need to be understanding when you revert back to your old ways. Be kind to yourself when this happens and don’t chastise yourself. Just recognize your mistake and bring your focus back to what you need to be doing. Maybe try to adopt a new healthier habit to replace the bad one.
SMARTER habit to adopt: bankroll management. This could be playing at 40 times your buy-in, 50, 100 or even 200. The level you choose is up to you. Once you’ve chosen the level, commit to it.
Bad habit to break: jumping up in stakes to try and win it back.
SMARTER habit to adopt: don’t withdraw money. Keep it in your roll and keep it building until you hit your goal.
Bad habit to break: withdrawing money to buy frivolous things.
SMARTER habit to adopt: always listen with a notepad and pen. Keep it with you whether it’s at your desk, on the couch or going for a walk.
Bad habit to break: listening while doing the dishes or another activity where your hands aren’t free.
SMARTER habit to adopt: plan your play schedule at the beginning of the week and block the time on your calendar
Bad habit to break: nightly Netflix bingeing
SMARTER habit to adopt: schedule your weekly video creation. For example: Idea Monday and keep a list of ideas; Record Tuesday; Edit Wednesday; Post Thursday. This schedule keeps you busy Monday through Thursday, and frees up your weekends for play and study
Bad habit to break: procrastination.
SMARTER habit to adopt: save $5,000 over the next 30 weeks by saving $167 per week
Bad habit to break: the habit of never saving and maybe the habit of living paycheck to paycheck
SMARTER habit to adopt: commit to waking up 45 minutes earlier than you do now
Bad habit to break: not having a sleep schedule and going to bed at different times every night
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: Take the time to draft 3 SMARTER Goals for yourself RIGHT NOW. They can be poker or life related. Make sure to run them though the SMARTER filter. Are they Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Risky, Time-keyed, Exciting and Relevant? If the goals that you set fit all of these 7 criteria, then you’re good to go to attempt achieving that goal. Also, work to add any habits to your life that will help you achieve them.
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
German Rincon picked up the Poker Mathematics Webinar. This guy’s serious about study! Click here to see the list of webinars available and use code 5OFF to receive $5 off any webinar.
Jack Benge and WM each purchased their own copy of my Smart HUD. Get ’em!!! Pick up your own Smart HUD here.