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Almost Snapped My Streak

Posted by Leatherass

I suppose it's just the nature of online poker being a lot harder now than it has ever been before, but it took some late month heroics for me to continue my month end winning streak. I have never had a losing month in my poker career, spanning 64months now. I had a huge scare in February where it took my best day of the year on the 2nd to last day of the month to squeak out a $9,000 profit. Late into August, I was stuck about $18,000 when I finally got hot over a 3 day span when I won nearly $30,000. I had a couple of other nice days after that to end the month up about $19,000. It is my 2nd worst month since sometime in 2006, but it still felt good to come up with a win.

All in all the year has been pretty disappointing in terms of results. I'm up around $350,000 or so on the year, so it's not like I'm doing awfully, but I certainly has expected more starting the year. I can't say i feel bad about my results nor do I feel like my game is off. I am so much better of a player than in 2007 and 2008 when I could practically make a million dollars a year with my eyes closed. But the thing is, there are now a lot of other good players and the bad players are now where near as bad as they used to be. It's pretty amazing when you think about it. In 2007 there would be 5/10nl seats with legitimate fish sitting in them that would sit open for 5-10 minutes sometimes. Now if even a kinda bad player sits the table insta fills and the waiting list gets jammed. Sometimes I wonder what happened and why it is so hard for me to win at poker the way I used to. Sometimes I will get pretty down about it for a little while and feel like maybe I'm playing crappy poker or something. But I always soon remind myself that it is just basic economics at work here.

Online poker right now is kind of like the real estate market here in the US right now. Early in the decade everyone was making a ton of money in the housing market. Mortgage brokers and Realtors were doing great. So then naturally there was a rush to become mortgage brokers and realtors. Then as soon as everyone and their brother got into real estate, the housing market collapsed and then there were too many brokers and realtors and no where near enough inventory to sell. So the strongest survived, while the newbies and many of the mediocre ones faded off into the distance. Poker is the same way if you think about it. There was a huge rush to become a pro. Everyone wanted to teach their friends to make the easy money. Then once everyone and their brother taught each other how to play for a living, the UIGEA comes along as well as a general decline in high stakes action and now we are left in a situation where many will die off and only the strongest will survive. Once that happens, the "market" will become more balanced. It is just a basic economy sort of sorting itself out, no different than lots of other economies.

Either way, I am happy to have had my 64th consecutive winning month, even if it wasn't what I was hoping for. I got to have a nice little vacation for a few days last week in California as well. I had a great time there and played a little golf at my old club. I got to see a ton of people I hadn't seen in years which was a lot of fun. Golf wise I played OK. Not great, but decent anyway. I did get a LOT longer over the past 4 years. I was hitting the ball 15-20 yards past where I used to drive the ball. I flew a 3 iron over the green for my 2nd shot on our 7th hole which is an uphill 510 par 5 that used to take me two pretty good pokes to get there 4 years ago. I also drove it 95 yards from the green on our 11th hole which is a 410 par 4 that I can't remember ever being less than 110 yards into. It was a lot of fun to hit it way out there and make some birdies. I shot 71-72 for the 2 rounds and won a skin in our little money game we play (like a $20 buy in. I may play poker for $20k, but in golf I play for $20 lol).

On Friday I took my uncle to Vegas and we hung out for a day. It was great to get to see him and I am glad we got to hang out. He had some issues health wise earlier in the year that had us all scared, so it was good to spend some time with him.

Well, that is about all I've got. Tomorrow my wife and I leave for a couple of days to go to a hotel in the Willamette valley wineries and spend some time there. This is our 4th anniversary which seems kind of amazing when you think about it. Before I met my wife, I never went out with anyone for more than a year. So to think we've been together over 5 years and have a baby who is near her 1st birthday blows my mind. Next year I turn 30, so wow, yeah time is flying. I guess I'm not a kid anymore, which seems weird. I still don't think of myself as a grown up, but I have a child now so I better start trying haha.

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It’s My Turn to Release a Book: Poker Math That Matters

Posted by QTip

I’m proud to announce that I’ve joined the ranks of the DTB coach authors. I’ve just completed my first poker book, Poker Math that Matters. For now, you can find it on As many of you know, I’m always thinking of decisions in terms of the two keys to good poker: accurate assumptions and making the best decision. This book focuses on knowing how to make the best decisions based on your assumptions and gives you shortcuts to be able to do it quickly at the table. There are over 100 quiz questions to help you practice the skills and gauge your grasp of the material.

When I first started learning the maths of poker, I had a terrible time. I couldn’t find anything to help me. Most books just gave me useless numbers and others buried me beyond my math skills. This book is designed to leave no reader behind. I start with the basics and work up from there. It’s just what I needed when I started, and I know it will help others in the same shoes. You can find the table of contents at

The book will be ready to ship by September 3rd. However, you’re welcome to place a preorder through my site.

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Thoughts on Phil Galfond’s Blog

Posted by Jared Tendler

Phil wrote a blog a few weeks ago where he gives the advice that long-term pros or those planning on becoming one should, “be playing in tough HU matches all the time.” I think he makes a really interesting point and want to share my thoughts and give another perspective that might help you make use of his advice.

First off, I haven’t met Phil, but what I’ve heard about his reputation in the community fits with how I’ve seen him in his blogs, as a guy who loves the game, talented as hell, works hard and is genuine in his interests to help other players. I’m also not going to talk on the merits of this from an overall ev, earnrate, or other pure poker terms, and I want to focus just on the psychological and learning reasons why tough matches can be great for your game. Also, his advice can apply to anyone who wants to improve, not just pros or aspiring ones, with some more info about why.

The reality is that when talks about every nosebleed player playing in a lot of tough matches on their way up, you can say the exact same thing to every sport, or form of competition. To beat the best you have to play against them, bottom line. There are many ways to improve as a player, but until you can actually sit across from a tough opponent and either hold your own or beat them you can’t. Thinking/dreaming that you can before that point is just a goal or an idea that represents you potential. Potential that is real only when you can prove it.

Playing against a tough opponent forces you to step up your game. The pressure to perform can give you just the right amount of challenge and focus to kick you into the zone. THE only way you have a chance is to play your best, and since you’re best is a moving target (see my blog on Finding 110% for more), this is your chance to step beyond what you were previous capable of doing and into what you’ve thought was possible.

You’re able to do that because the pressure fuels your focus to pick up on details of the game that you previously couldn’t see. Your opponent’s action forces you to think in different ways and your deep focus allows you pick up on details you can’t really even explain. One of the most common descriptions of the zone includes being able to be so good that you can’t explain why. Here’s why that is:

As I’ve talked a lot in my videos, and specifically in the “Playing Your ‘A’ Game” series that’s still up on CR, the adult learning model begins with a stage called unconscious incompetence – which basically means you aren’t yet aware of something that you’re really bad at. As it applies to the zone, it also means you aren’t yet aware of something that you’re really good at. In this case the incompetence is in not knowing why you’re so good.

It’s these details that make up the zone. Without them you can still play really well, just not at your absolute best.

How this applies to tough opponents, is that eventually you will figure out what it was in that tough match that made you play so well. Or you’ll figure out more about the details about your tough opponent’s action that made them better than you. In both cases, it’s playing in tough matches that makes you better because you learn what you need to learn to step up your game. It won’t be totally clear right away, but as you review that match, post hands, talk with other players, watch videos, think on your own, do some calculations, review the match again, rinse/repeat, you’ll start to be able to explain those details that you previously couldn’t.

The bottom line is that Phil’s suggestion to play in tough games is something that can benefit any player who wants to improve. I say can because there’s never a one size fits’ all strategy that’s going to work for everyone. So before jumping into this, here are a couple other things that are VERY important to consider:

1) Playing against tough opponents can also mean that any mental game issues, like tilt, confidence, performance anxiety, etc, will become worse when you play. On the one hand that might motivate you to spend more time working on your mental game, it also might be too risky and thus not a good thing to do.

2) Playing against tough opponents, is very similar to a tough workout. Let’s say you hire a personal trainer to push you. The force and effort to get in those last few reps when your body is exhausted is massive because it is when you are working the hardest that you have the most to gain. ONLY if you rest. Muscles worked out in the gym, grow when resting. Think of playing against a tough opponent as a workout.

3) Keeping with the workout analogy, the gains are also only possible when you aren’t pushing yourself TOO hard. If you can only bench press150lbs once, then pushing yourself to lift 200lbs is not only impossible you can also injure yourself trying. In poker that principal also applies to playing tougher games. So don’t just play anyone, play someone who’s going to challenge you to step up, but only a step you have a chance of actually taking.

4) Another of Phil’s points was that you aren’t going to get any better by just playing weak opponents all the time. That’s actually not true; you get better at playing against weak opponents playing against weaker opponents. If I were designing an ideal training regiment – it would include you playing against weak opponents with the same intensity as a tough one so you can also INCREASE how well you can play against weaker players. Since those matches also challenge you to think more deeply, it’s another way to improve, which makes you better overall and thus able to play better against tougher opponents.

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Treating my poker like a business II: Taxes

Posted by zerosum79

Every year poker seems to be the reason that I do not get my taxes done by the April deadline. Doing your taxes as a non-professional player is a total pain.

If you do things correctly, you should keep a thorough record of you session wins and losses. However HEM does not output SNG results by session the way it does for cash games so as a result I had to import every tournament into a spreadsheet, then take subtotals of every day to get my session wins and losses.

The grim reality is that even if you only won a few thousand dollars you may have a net win of tens of thousands of dollars and to properly report you have to take the total gains then later on subtract the total losses rather than just use the net figure. If you have $10K in net winnings you may put yourself into a stratospheric tax bracket by having to report $100K in gross winnings as income before you can reduce your income back with the net losses. This can also put you into a serious bind as far as the alternative minimum tax.

Thankfully I didn't play enough this year for it to be a problem and by next year I believe my activities will earn me the right to be able to file as a professional poker player.

However it reminds me that keeping careful notes on playing and coaching income is extremely important. As I was digging back through my old HEM database on a now defunct computer I realized that I need to place a lot more emphasis on doing some of this work periodically so that I don't have to do it all at the end. It takes time but if I work to keep up during the year, I am hoping that by next year I can file at the regular tax deadline and avoid paying interest on the taxes I owe.

It also reminds me that I need to be voluntarily withholding some poker income so that I don't have to cut a big check at the end of the year.

Of course Dusty's book again covers this topic and I found myself thinking about it as I spend almost 10 hours getting this info together. Anyways, another year done. Hopefully my accountant can sort out the rest.


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Hand of the Week

Posted by GiantBuddha

I've just started a new free video series called Hand of the Week. As the name implies, each week I'll make a video of one interesting hand and post it on my website I'll try to pick some interesting situations but don't worry, I'll save my most detailed hand analysis for paying members here at DragTheBar. Watch Hand of the Week 1 here.

In other news, I'd like to thank my Taekwon-Do colleague, Instructor Ray Mannion for writing an excellent review of Way of the Poker Warrior on his website Aside from being a great instructor, practitioner, and writer himself, Ray can do backflips! I have a good number of talents, but that's something I never had the guts to learn. Read the review here.

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Paperback Writer

Posted by GiantBuddha

I received a package slip from UPS two days ago. "Could it be my book?" I wondered. As I hustled downstairs, I employed a tilt-avoidance technique described in Way of the Poker Warrior. (I developed it for poker and martial arts to prepare for the full range of possibilities, but it's just as effective for avoiding wrong-package tilt.) There was a decent chance that this was not my book. In fact, I had three separate packages, and not one of them was my book.

It was six weeks ago that Way of the Poker Warrior was officially published, but the hard copies were not printed until last Wednesday. The ebooks went out immediately, but there were delays at the printing house. Still, in the publishing business, 4 months from inception to production is outstanding. I can't complain. Today I can finally hold one in my hands.

If you ordered the printed version, I hope you have your own copy by now. I apologize for the delay, and if you send an email to [email][/email], we'll more than make up for it.

So I've got a stack of 20 books ready to be distributed among my friends, family, and teachers. All I have left to do is figure out which page I'm supposed to sign, what pen to use, and what to say. There was a Seinfeld episode about this.

Nothing makes you feel like a writer so much as holding a book with your name on the cover. And now I feel like a writer.

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A Memorable Week

Posted by Leatherass

The past little while has certainly been memorable for a lot of reasons. Some good, some bad. Last week I took my family on vacation to the beach. We went to Seaside, Oregon, which turned out to be a huge disappointment. We made the best of it and had a good time, but wow, apologies if you live in Seaside, Oregon, but that city is a dump. Not only is it a dump, but it may very well be the largest congregation of morons I have ever seen. The people there just blew our minds. We would go to a restaurant and the best result we had all week was 3 mix ups on our order! No joke. We had between 3 and 7 mix ups every single meal! And that was if we even got one. One time I went to a restaurant and asked if I could place an order for take out and they waiter said, "Yes" and turned around and walked in the other direction. It was like he thought he answered my question and that I was not implying at all that I may actually want to place an order haha! I never was able to track him down again, so I ended up leaving without even ordering.

While the hotel we stayed in was pricey and had a spectacular ocean front view, the hotel service was awful. Unlike any other hotel I have stayed in, the housekeepers were all male. Not only were they males, but they were creepy looking dudes. They knocked one day to provide housekeeping and my wife answered the door and said no thanks and we did not let them in at any point during our stay. It is just not a comfortable situation when you have creepy looking dudes knocking on your door. I hate to say certain genders own certain types of jobs, but what the hell I'm going to say it anyway. Dudes should not be doing housekeeping. If you are a hotel manager and you have a bunch of dudes working for you in housekeeping, you are making a huge mistake. The women staying at hotels HATE men coming in their living space whether they are present or not. No one feels comfortable.

Oh that reminds me, while we were on the trip we went to see the movie "Inception" with Di Caprio. He's the best actor in the biz right now if you ask me. It doesn't hurt that he gets all of the great roles, but man he is good. Anyway, when we were at the theater we went up to the concession stand to order something and the guy standing behind the counter asked us if we would like anything. We started by asking if we could get 2 bottles of water. He said, "Yes, we carry bottled water." We then looked at him and we were both thinking, "Yeah, we aren't just asking if you have any, we are placing an order here." He just stared and stared and finally we said, "We would like to order two bottles of water." He said, "Oh, ok. I thought you were just asking if we had any."!!! I mean, how on earth do two different people on that trip just assume that we are only asking for things out of curiosity and not to actually place an order? It's like they put a large dosage of brain dead in the water over there in Seaside, Oregon. That's definitely the last time we are going to that town.

One very memorable thing was that I got to have dinner with the inventor of N.E.T. N.E.T. is an acronym for Neuro Emotional Technique. I will avoid trying to explain exactly what N.E.T. is since you can google it and learn all about it if you are interested, but that technique that I have used with his protege, Dr. Demaris here in Portland, Oregon has dramatically improved the health of myself, my wife and is responsible for the life of my daughter, Lennon. Shortly before my wife became pregnant, she was told that she would not be able to have children due to medical issues she was having. They said becoming pregnant would be next to impossible. Dr. Demaris asked if he could do some work on my wife and see if he could fix the problem. Through a combination of N.E.T. and natural supplements, several months later my wife became pregnant, to the complete shock of her gynecologist, who defined it as a miracle. We knew better of course, since we did not tell him we did work through Dr. Demaris, but it was a pretty sweet surprise nonetheless.

So to get an opportunity to meet Dr. Scott Walker, the inventor of N.E.T. and someone whose work was responsible for the life of my daughter, was pretty incredible. I view him as someone who will go down in the history books as one of the most important figures of the last 1,000 years once his work becomes accepted as mainstream. Right now there are plenty ok skeptics on N.E.T., but take it from a poker player that deals in probabilities all day, the likelihood that N.E.T. is a pseudoscience like some docs will suggest is almost nil. It has worked so perfectly for the 2 years I have used it that it is several million to one against that all of the benefits my friends and family have experiences from it could be due to randomness.

This month has really sucked poker wise. Worse than that is my luck with computers. I literally had all 4 computers I own go to **** on me. All 4 needed to be repaired within the last 2 months. In fact the brand new computer I bought won't even boot I am returning it today to the company and getting a new one. Unreal! I thought the fact that I have run $400,000 behind all in EV according to my Holdem Manager over the last 28 months was monumentally unlucky, but it's got to be a close race between having all 4 computers you own become unusable at virtually the same time. I'm not going to lie, being $400,000 behind EV and not being able to get your computers running properly has had me wondering if I should do something else with my life, but that could open a huge can of worms that I don't want to get into today. For now I think I will just wrap up this blog and hit the tables and see if I can't start getting a little luckier and chip away at that massive EV deficit. Man would it be nice to actually run good for the first time since early in 2008. Getting on a nice run would sure be nice, but I guess whether I run badly or not, I get to play a game for a living, so I am pretty lucky right there.

Lastly, I wanted to let all of the smaller stakes and recreational players know about a wildly popular event going on at Poker Stars. The PokerStars Lamborghini Freeroll has become so popular that they are actually restricting people to one entry per day because so many people were entering it that others weren't getting a chance to play. That is not something I have ever seen in poker since the year that so many people entered the WSOP main event that they had to turn players away! Well, I'm headed to the Poker Stars tables here in a few minutes to fire up a bunch of cash games, but definitely check out what is going on at Poker Stars because apparently everyone else on earth is!

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Insomnia and Projection

Posted by GiantBuddha

Throughout my life, I've suffered from various forms of insomnia. When I was young, I had nightmares of witches flying through my bedroom window. More recently, my dreams tend to focus on alien invasions and zombie-mashing. I've always felt like sleeping was a massive waste of time. There's so much to do! Sure, when I'm depressed, I can sleep all day. But when I hit my manic phases, I can't sleep a wink. It's just go-go-go.

My father used to help me with peaceful visualizations. I would play along and pretend to fall asleep, because I knew how hard he was trying. Sometimes I'd actually trick myself into slumber. But most of the time I'd just lie there and picture cozy trees on a hill.

A few years ago, I found a magic sleeping tonic: The Golden Girls. Yes, I own all seven seasons. Technically, my girlfriend owns them, since I got them for her as a Christmas gift. But if we broke up, I'd have to buy my own set. Put them on and I drift right off. I can't sleep without my Golden Girls.

Last night as I went to bed, I had Frasier on instead. Of course, this prevented me from becoming unconscious. But along with a recent forum post I read, this show about shrinks reminded me of a very common poker error: projection.

Projection is a term for perceiving your own thoughts and feelings in another person, instead of recognizing their true home: you. In poker, a sort of projection can be a useful way to read hands. If your opponent plays like you, simply put yourself in their shoes, and you'll know how they'll play different hands. But not all opponents play like you. And when your opponent's style and thought process differs from yours, projection is a dangerous thing. You need to think how your opponent is likely to play their hand, not how you would play it. In fact, you're never going to make any money off of someone who plays all of their hands exactly the way you would.

I'm not too worried about projection myself, as I tend to assume that most people don't think quite the way I do. I am worried about insomnia, though. In fact, I'm going back to my Golden Girls tonight to see if I can catch some shut-eye.

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It’s Poker Season!

Posted by Stosh McConnell

So, I've always had some weird theories about poker. One of which, I'll share today. The first part of my theory is that casual players (fish) have little interest in playing internet poker during the summer months. They'd much rather be outside doing whatever. This is completely understandable, most of the time, so would I.

For this reason, I spent much more time than usual away from the virtual felt this summer. Last year, it felt like I was banging my head up against the proverbial wall during the summer months. Games were infested with good regulars, and it didn't seem worth my time. So far, I'm glad I made that decision. I feel fresh, and ready to take on the 2/4 through 10/20 NL games like usual. Poker-wise, not all was lost this summer. I made myself much more competent at PLO 6-max. It's not a big enough sample to definitely know I can beat the game, but I feel fairly confident sitting in the 1/2 PLO 6-max games now... baby steps my friends, baby steps.

Now it's mid-August. First of all, the NFL is back (American football for all you Europeans). When the NFL season kicks off, it also signals the start of another season, internet poker season. In my opinion, a direct correlation exists. Some of my best monetary days have come during NFL Sundays.

I always imagine the "Average Joe" sitting on his couch watching the NFL and playing internet poker. He's got one eye on the TV, and one eye on his fantasy football team. Unfortunately for him, that leaves little room for concentration on the poker game, in which, I'm robbing him blind. Don't get me wrong, I'm guilty of scoreboard watching on, etc. So, I'm not perfect in that regard. In my honest opinion, I rarely let it affect my poker game.

In all, I'm just happy the journey of the "poker season" is starting again. I hope to keep climbing the poker ladder, little-by-little. I'm pretty optimistic about poker, and life in general right now. A summer spent with little stress, and much leisure time will do that. Hopefully I can keep the same outlook when the coolers and doomswitches inevitably are thrust upon me.

By Stosh McConnell

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Posted by GiantBuddha

Lately I've been dragging the bar a lot, working on my No Limit game in conjunction with writing a strategy book with Dusty Schmidt. It's been fun, educational, and a little bit frustrating. While my NL game is improving by leaps and bounds, I'm still weak at the actual mechanics of bet sizing. For instance, I recently bet $51 into a $30 pot when I meant to bet $15. I tried the slider bar and wound up with some similarly oversized (but less dyslexic) bets. I've also timed out more than once while trying to get a raise exactly right. I know these issues will go away with a little practice, but sometimes a man just wants to click the button.

It was less than six months ago that I recorded the first Limit Holdem video here at DragTheBar. You can tell by the name that DTB wasn't conceived with limit poker in mind. Nonetheless, we've already got over 50 videos, 3 coaches, and a great community in the forums. Not bad for less than half a year's work.

As we move into the second half of our first year, I'm particularly excited to have a well-rounded coaching staff. The addition of Dustin "La Peste" Cook provides a great perspective into beating smaller-stakes Limit Holdem for a living. One of my pet peeves is higher limit players making sweeping generalizations about how the lower limits play, when they haven't played those limits in years. Games change over time, so having a coach that's currently beating up on those games is a huge asset.

Also debuting this month is Emil "darkhorse" Jonsson's series on Game Theory. I highly recommend this series not only to Limit Holdem players, but players of all poker variants. His presentation of the material is the best I've seen. It also provides a great counterbalance to my more typically exploitative style.

I'll be wrapping up The Sixth Star, Buddha's Dojang, and The Sauna before the year is done. I've also got a few dual commentary videos/series up my sleeve that may debut in the next couple months as well. My video plans for 2011 include some much more advanced material along with some absolut beginner material. (No, that's not a typo.)

I've got a lot of book left to write, but I'm still gunning for Supernova Elite this year. I'm pretty far behind, so look for some crazy grinding/prop bet action down the stretch.

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Winning the Mental Game

Posted by Jared Tendler

It’s obvious when you’ve won something in poker, your chips, bracelet, title, money, account balance is starting you right in face, but it’s not that way with the mental game. The mental game challenges you to define winning on your own, and especially for goals that take a long time achieve, sometimes you’ll win and not even realize it.

I was talking with a client yesterday about this. He’s among my oldest poker clients, over two years, and he was talking about increasing the hours he plays from 25 to 30 as though he was pissed at himself for not being able to play 30. He’s a full time player, so there’s no excuse in his mind. Except when you put 25 hours in the context of where he’s been, 25 is a solid accomplishment and he didn’t even realize it. Basically he’s wanted the same thing in cycles for over two years. When he was only playing 8-13hrs, he wanted 20, when he got to 20 he wanted 25, and each time along the way forgetting the progress that had been made before.

The point is, that when you fail to recognize the accomplishments you’ve made in the mental game, not only do you not get to enjoy it, you also fail to validate the means or the process that got you where you are now. Leaving you instead feeling unfulfilled, and with less energy to go after what you want NOW, and less certain about how to get there.

I don’t often talk about my own mental game, it’s not purposeful, I just never have too much I think, as poker players you’d be interested in. Unintentionally, I think that’s lead to some of you thinking that I don’t struggle myself. It’s because I do that I understand so much and am motivated to learn more.

I have a live interview coming up on a morning radio talk show that broadcasts through Michigan at 8am (Listen here - about 6 min long mostly about golf) and last night I was feeling a nervous about it. Back in my golf days nerves in big tournaments was what I struggled with most. I’ve put a ton of work in over that time and along with knowing that my unconscious competence is really solid, a lot of my nerves are gone, but some of course remains. There’s two side of it for me, the excitement nerves and the nervous nerves. In doing some writing last night I realized my nervous nerves were a fear of looking stupid. I’ve definitely looked stupid before so this isn’t a completely irrational fear, just one that doesn’t account for how strong my core knowledge is.

The speed at which I was able to move through and past my nerves is one thing of note; the other is something I don’t really know what it means. In the past my nervousness was always centered in my stomach and last night it was in my chest. Given the first point, I knew I’d accomplished something being able to compare it to the speed I could resolve issues in the past, and the second point added further proof since it must mean something, I just don’t know what.

So in a way, I see the interview a tangible reward for my work and helped me to measure my mental game progress.

So this got me thinking that I need to create the mental version of Hold’em Manager. There’s so much value to being able to track progress in the mental game, and since our minds and emotions need to be trained to see that progress and not lose perspective, some kind of software would be great for it. What do you think?

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Going Deep Again at the WSOP

Posted by ChipSteela

So last time you guys got to hear all about my frustration as I made an attempt at actually having a decent live score in the $1k WSOP event. Well even though I was bummed that this tournament didn't pan out like I hoped, I was still excited that because I busted I got to play the 3k triple chance tournament that started the next day. It's called the triple chance tournament because players are allowed to choose to either get all their 9k chips at once, or take them 3k at a time and gamble a bit more since they could get their other chips whenever they wanted. Usually in a tournament like this I take all the chips I can get at once because then if I get myself in a good spot to double against someone who also bought the maximum in chips then I will end up with way more chips. Makes sense? Well I arrived a little late to start the day and was surprised to see several well known live players who had opted to buy in for the minimum, including Pokerstars (and Go Daddy!) pro Vanessa Rousso and Full Tilt pro Mandy Baker. There were also a few online regulars that I recognized, but as a whole I wasn't too worried about my table draw. Unfortunately due to the fact that our table was positioned directly under a massive air vent our whole table was moved to the cash game area over fear that the cards might blow around, and then broken about 4 hands after we moved. This whole process seemed completely ass backwards, but its the WSOP so I wasn't too surprised.

At my new table sat everyones 2nd favorite Canadian poker player Gavin Smith, and UB Poker pro Matt Graham among others. It wasn't long before I got into a massive confrontation with Gavin when I picked up A-A and 3-bet against his open raise knowing good and well that he is incapable of folding to one reraise preflop. As expected he came along for the ride, and we saw a 9c-8c-5d board. Needless to say this flop wasn't the greatest for my hand, but against Gavin I still couldn't really imagine folding with all the flush draw type hands hes capable of having, as well as overpairs I'm sure he would get it in with as well. I wasn't too happy when he check shoved all in on me, but I stuck with the plan and called to find that I was ahead but he was very live with the 4-7cc for a straight and flush draw. Miraculously I was able to fade his abundance of outs, and double up while sending him to the rail at the same time.

After this hand I pretty much went into god-mode, winning the majority of the pots I played including a big hand where i flopped trips and rivered a boat to bust Matt Graham. I was feeling good and stacking em to the top, as I basically took over as the table captain for the next few hours. I even remember a Middle Eastern man calling me a shark in his broken English everytime I opened a pot. That was a little awkward. I really started to pick up the aggression toward the end of the night as I knew many players were going to tighten up so they could safely make it to day 2, and there was one player at the table who I could tell was getting tired of it and I had a feeling that a big pot was bound to occur sooner or later between us.

It turned out that my instincts were dead on as he opened a pot from mid position and I looked down at J-J. Against this player I really had no problem with getting this hand in preflop knowing that he was getting tired of being pushed around and was bound to play back at me. I was in the cutoff and decided to put in a small reraise that could easily look like I was just trying to steal another pot from him, sure enough he put the rest of his 40bb stack in preflop and I snapped him off. I was indeed way ahead as he had snowmen, 8-8, but that didn't last long as an 8 materialized on the flop and I had to sit and watch in disguest as the biggest pot I had played that day was shipped away from me. Winning this hand would have put me in the top 5 in chips to end the day, but sadly it wasn't meant to be. Still, I didn't let it get to me and I finished the day strong, bagging up around 55k at 400-800 blinds.

The next day I got up a little early (anytime before 12 is early to me), and decided to hit the gym to get the blood flowing for the day. I honestly have to say it is completely absurd that you have to pay $20 to use a poor excuse for a gym for one day when you are staying at most hotels in Vegas. I suppose most poker players don't go to the gym though, so you wouldn't understand. Regardless after the workout session I was ready to go to war, as I sat down at my table to see tons of familiar faces of people I play with all the time online. Thats not usually a good sign, but I got the day started well after rivering a boat with T-T in a pretty weird pot against K-K and getting paid off, and then winning a pretty big race with 9-9 against A-K. It seemed like everything was in place for me to make a deep run with how well I felt I was playing on top of how good I was running. Then the madman Tommy Vedes, who recently won a WPT this year, sat down was a chip stack that was so immense it nearly collapsed the table. I wasn't really looking to play a big pot with the man, but these things just happen. I picked up K-K in early position and made a standard open and wasn't the least bit surprised when he put his big stack to work and decided to 3- bet me. Now I could obviously flat here and trap, but I'm not really looking to play this pot with a positional disadvantage against a very good, albeit slightly crazy post-flop player. I decided to put in a small 4-bet to try to induce a shove, but instead he decided to just flat. Weird. The flop was Q high and I was pretty much ready to get it in so I made another small bet in an attempt to induce a raise, but instead he mulled it over for nearly 5 minutes and then folded. I'm nearly certain he was hollywooding, Vedes likes to take as much time as possible to make every decision from what I saw. He actually almost busted his massive stack right before the money, but instead in true Vedes fashion binked a 2 outer to stay alive.

Soon after this hand we were in the money, and somehow I was still in good shape to actually have a worthwhile live performance. I wasn't too bummed when I was moved to another table of mostly all online guys including John "Sketchy1" Eaton and Bradley "Fatsofat6969" Craig. I decided that at this table I could use my tight online image to do some work, and I was able to chip up a good amount by making a couple moves here and there. Sadly all good things come to an end, and this one came to a quick one as I was uprooted from this table and moved to the table of doom after only a few orbits. I knew that it was the table of doom because Jared "thewacokidd" Hamby let me know immediately as I sat down. This table was full of very aggressive players including Pokerstars pro Florian Langmann, Fulltilt pros Adam Junglen and David Singer and online pro Ryan Welch who actually went on to take this event down. The action was fast and furious, and it didn't help that I was as card dead as possible. I did try to raise a few marginal hands but was quickly met with resistance. Finally I picked up a real hand in A-Ks with 140k at 4k-8k blinds. A player in middle postion opened and I knew I had to go with this hand so I announced I was all in. It wasn't a good sigh when it didn't take long for thewacokidd to announce he was also all in over the top of my shove. I was hoping for the best as I asked if we had the same hand, to which he responsed "Probably not" as he flipped over his A-A. Talk about your coolers. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get any help from the board and I was out in 42nd.

Although it came to such a bitter end, I really enjoyed playing in this event and I felt much more comfortable in the live environment this time around. I also thought it was pretty awesome that I went from 2 lifetime cashes in live events to 2 cashes in 2 tournaments in a row. Now I feel like it is only a matter of time before a breakout live score. I have to say congratulations to Ryan Welch for winning his first bracelet in this event, and also congrats to Jon "Sketchy1" Eaton who took 2nd for a nice payday as well.

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Insight into Emotional Control

Posted by Jared Tendler

I woke up this morning with what I sense in my mind is some major insight. I may not be able to explain it well enough yet, writing this blog is as much for my learning as yours, but if you stick through it, and it sparks a conversation, I think it can have great value for your game.

I’ve been thinking about the word control for a while now, and this morning realized something that helps to improve the problems I’ve had with it. In the eyes of some people, I’m definitely way to nit picky/tough about certain things. I just have a hard time accepting conventional wisdom that doesn’t make sense to me and put a lot of work into to really understanding things I think are really important and uncover details that weren’t known quite as well before.

For the past year or so, control has been on my list of things that I continue to pour over, trying to better understand. Control annoyed me because it infers controlling, and in a way I felt controlled by trying to be too controlled. (Obvious connection to my own desire to be pick on small details). The thing about controlling that really bothered me was that there’s so much beyond our control, but if you try to control what you actually can’t, you get pissed off, anxious or lose confidence and motivation when things go poorly. PLUS, since you’re spending more time focused on what you can’t control, variance or other players, you spend less on what you actually can control.

So in now focusing more on what we actually do control, I first swung way too far the other way and said that we have none. I know it doesn’t make sense to even say that now, but I can’t remember my exact reasoning right now. Basically what I figured was the closest we can get to control is that we can have an influence or make an impact on a situation in much the same way an asteroid would have an impact on the moon - it makes itself known – but doesn’t actually alter the orbit. Influence and impact – at first I really liked the idea, and so did a good friend of mine, Cameron Moore, who’s a tennis coach making his way up the professional ranks. He has 3 guys he’s working with in the top 500 and one who just won the first US Open qualifier to get into the wildcard draw for the main event!

At first Cameron loved the idea too – that control can’t be had entirely and your job is instead to go out and make the greatest impact you can and encouraged his players to go out and do that in every practice and match. But steadily my thoughts and our conversations sort of naturally worked back towards control having a prominent place in performance. Plus the idea of influence and impact sounds weak, and now I see why.

What I realized this morning, I think really helps to put this in better context and settle the issue of control…at least for now.

Control is about action. When you have control, it’s something you are actively doing. You’re taking control of the situation, you’re in control of the hand, you’re in control of your emotions or your thoughts. In order to be in control you have to be actively doing it, that’s the whole point. If you relax you lose it…unless you own it.

Unconscious competence, procedural memory, mastery, ownership – all things that related to skills or knowledge that are automatic and require no thought whatsoever and if you were to think about them – which would also mean you were being over controlling – you’d get worse. Think about how you walk and you become worse, potentially even tripping, something that would never happen if you just walked. So control doesn’t apply to unconscious competence. In fact control makes it worse.

On the flip side of the Adult Learning Model you have Unconscious Competence: the stuff you don’t even know you’re terrible at & Conscious Incompetence: you’re now aware you suck, but don’t know yet how to fix it – which too often players think that when they become aware of something they’ve mastered it and totally mind **** themselves because they’ve tried to run before they could walk.

So that just leaves Conscious Competence: now you’re getting good at it, but you need to think about it in order to be good, otherwise you return to sucking. You need to think, and thinking is a major form of control. That’s the conclusion - you need to control what you have the opportunity to control, which are only things that you have a good enough understanding for to even know HOW to control it.

It is fundamentally impossible to control something you don’t understand. Which is one reason why players who talk about emotional control as something that is easy to do, who don’t actually have much understanding of emotions, really just don’t get it. Emotional control is a skill that is developed like any other – it has to go through the stages of the Adult Learning Model. As my point goes today, in order to be in control of your emotions you have to have enough skill in understanding them to even be able to.

So if that’s true, and control can only happen with something that you have a good understanding for but haven’t yet mastered, that means that the term – be in control of what you actually control is really misleading in an environment when there is SO much information available about poker. It is really really easy to become Conscious of areas of your game where you suck. But just because you can become aware that you suck at say controlling tilt – it does not automatically mean you can control it and if you think that you should – you have now set yourself up for disappointment, likely more tilt, and to believe that you are less likely to be able to fix your tilt.

Another big one is variance. You can’t control variance, but you can increase your understanding of variance and by in large the poker community as a whole sucks at understanding variance beyond the obvious. It generally assumed impossible to ever really know variance to 100%, which I agree with, but that still leaves a lot on the table. As the game continues to evolve and competition gets stiffer, improving your skill in knowing variance can provide you a MAJOR edge if you work at it. I don’t know the specifics of how, but I do know that it’s possible because it like any other skill falls into the Adult Learning Model. Up until a few minute ago, many of you were unconsciously incompetent to that reality, which means you stand at the threshold of an opportunity to gain control of variance in a way that previously was not seen as being possible. You still can’t control variance, but your reactions to variance emotionally and in the quality of your play, can improve exponentially by increasing your skill in recognizing it in real time. I think there’s an idea for a video here…

I know there is more here, and I’ll probably write a follow-up at some point. Generally what are your thoughts? does it make sense? what do I need to explain better? what do you think I’ve gotten wrong?

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When Opportunity Knocks This Hard, I’ll Answer The Door In My Underwear

Posted by GiantBuddha

It's no secret to anyone that knows me that I have a tendency to overextend myself. For instance, my plans for August included:
[*]Promoting my book Way of the Poker Warrior
[*]Making about a dozen videos for DragTheBar
[*]Catching up on my Supernova Elite grind
[*]Moving into a bigger apartment
[*]Recording a single with Villain's Lament
[*]Starting a record company
[*]Doing some light writing for my next book
That's a fairly ambitious list and fails to include stuff like forum posting, martial arts practice, band practice, and having fun. Throw those things in and my schedule's looking pretty full.

Despite all of these commitments and plans, when I got a call from Dusty Schmidt asking if I wanted to work with him on his new book, my decision was a snap call.

I can't divulge the details of the project, but it's going to be a strategy book for No Limit Holdem. Dusty supplies the expertise, and I drop it on the page as eloquently as I can, throwing in a student's perspective and maybe some combo analysis here and there.

Penning a book with such an illustrious co-author is obviously huge for my writing career. I mean, who's not going to buy a strategy guide written by a guy who's crushed the everliving hell out of mid and high stakes No Limit for four years? It's also huge for my poker career.

In my quest to become a more well-rounded poker player (and someday to play $4k/$8k in Bobby's Room), I've been working hard on my No Limit game. The best part of working on this book is that I get to talk NL strategy for two or three hours a day with a world class player. I feel like I've learned more about big bet poker in the last three days than I had in the previous three years. And if I'm learning, that means the reader will, too. I guarantee that this book will make you rethink some things that you previously took for granted.

Don't worry, though. Limit Holdem will always be my home. Sauna 10 has just been posted here, and Sauna 11 is recorded and on its way. Sixth Star IV and Buddha's Dojang V are on their way as well, along with some super exciting news that I can't tell you all about yet.

Stay tuned!

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