December 26, 2010
What's up degens?
As always, here's a sick song that you should definitely check out. Weezy's part is the best imo.
Before I say anything else, I want to show you a quote that I found in a Golf instructional book written by Tiger Woods the other day that has a lot of relevancy for what I'm going to write about today.
"I refuse to let anyone outwork me. That's the reason I log so much time on the practice range. Besides, hard work is the only way to maintain a competitive edge, and I enjoy the process. The key, though, is to practice with a purpose.
My philosophy has always been to identify the weakest part of my game and to focus on turning it into a strength. That approach will work for you, too. Make an honest assessment of your game, and determine where you're losing most of your strokes. Whether it's the driver, irons, wedges or putter, simplify your instruction to get better. Find a professional to help you identify your flaw and provide the correct instruction to fix it. Then tailor your practice sessions so that most of your time is spent on improving that part of your game. That's the fastest way to get results."
I like this quote because I think it provides a solid blueprint for improving your game. As a poker coach, one of the most common questions I get from students is, "How the hell do I improve my game the fastest?". Well, since each players learning style is completely different from one another (some learn the best by watching videos and reading books, others learn more by putting in volume and discussing HH's with other players etc.), there really isn't a concrete one-size-fits-all answer. Instead of focusing on how to improve your overall poker game, I think it's infinitely more +EV to focus on the individual areas of your game that you struggle with the most, or more specifically, the areas that you feel the most discomfort in.
I'm going to tell you a story to reinforce my point. Since he was a child, my best friend Tyson's dream was to become a fluent Spanish speaker. A few years ago when he was a Junior at CU, he decided to study abroad in a city in Southern Spain called Seville for a year. Before he embarked on his life-changing voyage, my brother Jim (who also studied in Seville, and recommended Tyson study there as well), strongly urged him to create as much distance as possible from all of the Americans and English speakers the minute he walked off the plane. Jim explained, "They'll try to party with you, and will most likely resent you for not wanting to associate with them. But if your goal is to become a fluent Spanish speaker, you have to immerse yourself in the culture and detach yourself from the familiar."
Tyson and I used to talk on the phone or see each other every day since we were 10 years old, but when he went to Europe, I didn't talk to him for over six months. Then one night at 2am when I was working at the hospital, I finally got a call from Tyson, and we had some time to catch up. Euro-sex parties, Amsterdam trips, and the many cities he had traveled to outlined the conversation. Eventually the conversation drifted into the topic of how living in Europe impacted his personal development. Somewhere in the middle of it I asked him, "So have you changed a lot? How have you changed? What's different now that you've been in Europe for over six months? Got any life advice for me?".
"Your brother was totally right man. I'm glad I've only befriended Spaniards. Hanging out with Americans and English speakers would've encouraged me to remain in my comfort zone and never branch out. I never would have had the opportunity to expand my horizons and immerse myself in another culture. When I first got to Seville, I was really cocky and felt like I was practically fluent already because I was always the best Spanish speaker in my classes at home. But it was humbling when I first got here, because I was completely out of my element, and since the accent is so thick and they talk so fast, I could barely understand what the barista at the coffee shop was saying to me. To be honest, I felt extremely uncomfortable all of the time, everywhere I went. And then one night, I realized that the only reason I was feeling uncomfortable in all of these different social situations, was because they were using language patterns and vocabulary that I hadn't learned in school. I came to the conclusion that if my dream was to master Spanish, I needed to seek out every uncomfortable spot I could find, until I got to the point where I was never uncomfortable speaking to any person under any circumstances. I figured that once I reached that point, then I have achieved my goal. "
What Tyson said that night about seeking out situations where he experienced discomfort still resonates with me today. He was willing to do whatever it took to achieve his goal of becoming a fluent Spanish speaker, even if that meant sacrificing his pride, ego, and short-term comfort level. What I've figured out after several years of meeting and getting to know thousands of players, in addition to personally coaching almost 100 others, is that many players aren't willing to make the aforementioned sacrifices.
In fact, I’ve found that many players do the exact opposite; they’ll go to great lengths to ensure their comfort level isn’t breached. And truthfully, I think it’s one of the main reasons why many players (myself included) plateau at a stake, and never move up. I mean... Let’s be honest for a second. Moving up in stakes is really fucking hard. Once you elevate past the micros, the amount of time, effort, and emotional output needed to carry your bankroll and skill level to the next stake increases exponentially every time you advance higher.
What I’m saying, is that most players fail to move up because doing so takes them out of their comfort level. If you’re one of the better regs at say, 200 or 400 PLO, and you can make a solid, stress-free living from stacking donks and ripping a bong at your computer all day, then where’s the motivation to put in the countless hours of work away from the table that’s required to move up to the levels where there’s fewer fish, better regs, and bigger swings?
Herein lies the conundrum for today's poker player. One of my favorite sayings is "you have to make sure the juice is worth the squeeze", and I think a lot of players experience anxiety because they're unsure of whether the juice that's yielded from squeezing the poker fruit for a year or two will taste good enough to make it all worth it. I certainly don't pretend to know everything, but one thing I do know is that regardless of whether your goal is to be a 100PLO grinder, scoop a bracelet, or to play HU against Gus in Bobby's Room.. If you're not wiling to do whatever it takes to get there, then the juice almost certainly won't be worth the squeeze in both poker, and anything else you aspire to be in life.
Anyhow, I’m obviously not saying that you have to be in a perpetual state of discomfort in order to be successful in poker or in life. Far from it actually. But just realize that even though your brain likes what’s the same, it learns from what’s different. And if your goal is to achieve any level of success playing cards (which I’m assuming is the case given that you’ve landed here at DC), it’s important to channel the ability to recognize the weaknesses in your game.
Most people outside of poker harbor the belief that poker players are lazy individuals with no realistic aspirations for achieving greatness in their lives. Although I strongly disagree with this perception for obvious reasons, you can find evidence that refutes this belief in almost every player's blog on this site and many others. Blog titles such as "2011 Goals" and "Moving Up In Stakes!", reflect the ambitious attitudes of today's online poker player.
Of course, there are certainly players that embody the "lazy-poker player" persona, but typically I've found that most players (particularly the ones that frequent training sites) are quite ambitious. Most people outside of poker fail to grasp the amount of work it takes to be successful in this game. For example, my PokerTracker says that I have only played 94 hours of poker this month, but for each hour I play you can guarantee that I've done at least an hour of work away from the table to turn that profit.
Reading pdf's, going over hands with friends, watching videos, and posting on forums are just a couple of things I do away from the table to try to improve my game. I don't have any empirical data to back this up, but I'm pretty sure that only a very small percentage of people that play online poker actually end up in the positive. So even if you're only a break even poker player right now, then give yourself a pat on the back and try not to be so hard on yourself.
Identifying weaknesses, mapping out a clear path to improving those weaknesses, and then following through with the plan is what separates those who achieve their goals and dreams, and those who do not. One of the most common causes of depression and anxiety in humans originates from having uncertainty about something. The average layperson likely assumes that the bulk of stress and anxiety for a poker player comes from lengthy periods of bad luck, along with the prospect of financial ruin. But from my experience, most players that take a serious approach to the game have come to terms with the “luck” factor present in poker.
Another proven cause of anxiety in humans is the lack of a purpose, goal, or direction. But in my opinion, this isn’t the cause for most poker players anxiety either, because judging from experience, it seems that the goal of almost every poker player (particularly the ones reading this), is to improve their game, move up in stakes and make more money. So where does the anxiety come from then?
I personally believe it comes from not knowing the path to realize your potential as a player. Almost every player I’ve encountered believes they’re capable of greatness, which is an aspect of poker I’ve always loved. There’s a lot of tangible hope for prosperity readily available for those that are willing to embrace it. Knowing you want to become a sicko and crush donks for a living is easy enough, but how the hell are you going to get there? Amassing a bankroll from scratch and taking on the poker-world is a daunting task.. But as the saying goes, you can’t build a house without laying the first brick either..
I've already rambled on long enough, so I'm going to stop there even though I've written a bunch more here. To save myself from tl;dr, I'll just make it into two entries. Next time, I want to talk about methods that I've found to be effective for spotting leaks. Hopefully everyone had a great Christmas! JC's bday is one of the best nights to hit the tables, so off I go!
PS - If you're looking for something motivational, then I suggest reading this blog entry by copywriter John Carlton.