Going Pro in Poker

poker Jan 23, 2019

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Going Pro in Poker 

Be honest and check in with yourself if your ceiling is truly high in these 7 things. If you can’t judge your own ability of where your ceilings are in them, ask your close friends/poker players and let them judge you for these.

1. Strategy Games 

Poker is a game; a lot of the rules are constrained in this single environment. What I've noticed throughout my time in poker is that many high stakes poker players have had some background in some kind of strategy games/computer games. Having that mind to obsess about a single game and be really good at it is extremely important for you to really succeed in poker.

2. Mathematical Ability 

Poker is clearly a lot of math. When you look deeper into game theory and you use solvers/softwares/simulators, it’s all about the numbers. Understand how you can create strategic dominance in your game. If you’re someone who thinks you’re not good at math, pause for a second. Dig deeper into your limiting belief. If you could play poker in the first place, your math isn’t that bad.

3. Emotional Mastery 

Poker is a game where a lot of it is about managing your emotions. You go on tilt when you lose/get bad beats, there’s a lot of uncertainty/variance. Sometimes you don’t feel like showing up when you have to show up. How you manage these emotions instead of letting them manage you is very crucial to your success in the game.

4. Noise : Signal Ratio 

Poker is an infinite game. There are people at the table doing different things. You have many options all the time. For all of that noise, what is the truly important factors that are right here? The factors that if you figured out, you could truly increase your win rate. How good are you at truly differentiating noise and signal?

5. Feedback Implementation 

You get feedback all the time in poker. If It's bad feedback, you don’t have to implement it. When you get good feedback, do you just cognitively understand it or do you truly implement it in your game? If you can truly implement it in your game and constantly take positive/negative feedback that help you and put them into your game, your ceiling in poker will be higher.

6. Discipline Level 

We have bad days where we don’t want to show up to the poker room. If your ceiling in this is low, I will urge you to reconsider whether poker is for you. In poker, you have nobody to hold you accountable or discipline you. There are two things – your average discipline level and your ceiling in terms of your discipline level.

7. Networking 

This is a controversial topic. How good you are at networking is a huge factor in terms of how much you make in poker. The more you can network/the better games you can get into/the better poker players you can spend time with or learn from – these truly change the quickness at which you can rise up in your poker career. 

 

Exercise (Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 for each factor) 

First column: Where are you right now? 

Second column: What is your true ceiling in this?

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Going Pro in Poker 

Be honest and check in with yourself if your ceiling is truly high in these 7 things. If you can’t judge your own ability of where your ceilings are in them, ask your close friends/poker players and let them judge you for these.

1. Strategy Games 

The reason strategy games are important for any professional poker player is because poker is a game. A lot of the rules are constrained in this single environment. Of course, there’re many factors in poker and it’s an infinite game, but what I've noticed throughout my time in poker is that many of the high stakes poker players have had some background in some kind of strategy games/professional games/computer games. Having that mind to really obsess about a single game and be really good at a single game is extremely important for you to really succeed in poker. It is a game and it takes a certain level of obsessiveness in order for you to get there at the highest levels. Many of my close friends that have succeeded in poker have had some success in other games before. Or they have had deep interests in having a lot of these games. That would be my factor #1 for you to consider your ceiling in – how good are you at strategy games in general. 

2. Mathematical Ability 

Poker is clearly a lot of math. Pot size/bet size are all numbers. When you look deeper into game theory and you use solvers/softwares/simulators, it’s all about the numbers. Understanding how to make good approximations, understand when you can sacrifice some EV in order to simplify your strategy. Understand how you can create strategic dominance in your game. These are all numbers/stats/game theory related things. That’s a factor for you to consider whether your ceiling is high in. I have spoken to some of you and one thing I hear quite often is ‘I’m just no good at math’. That really puzzles me. Your mathematical ability – the number 1 thing that is correlated to your success in math is actually believing that you can do it. Many studies have shown, if you prime people to think that their math is not so good – whether by race/gender, people have their math test results drastically affected by these things. If you’re someone who thinks you’re not good at math, pause for a second. Dig deeper into your limiting belief. This limiting belief is not serving you in terms of poker. If you could play poker in the first place, your math isn’t that bad. If you’re even thinking about going pro, your math is good enough for you to get good at poker. Poker doesn’t require in infinite high level of math, it just requires a pretty decent understanding about the math of the game. Many successful poker players that I know – whether midstakes/highstakes/nosebleeds - their math doesn’t have to be that good but at least a 6-7/10. I truly believe everybody can reach a 6 or 7 in their math ability. 

3. Emotional Mastery 

Poker is a game where a lot of it is about managing your emotions. You go on tilt when you lose/get bad beats, there’s a lot of uncertainty/variance. Sometimes you don’t feel like showing up when you have to show up. All of those are emotions that you come across. How you manage these emotions – instead of letting them manage you, your ceiling in your emotional control is very crucial to your success in the game. Take myself for example, I experience negative feelings sometimes when I play poker. I recently played the $25k PSPC, I made a bluff, I busted in the main event. There’s a big prize pool at the top. I made a big bluff and before I busted in the tournament, I had a period where I was sitting there – not really feeling too good about it. It’s not fun to lose majority of your stack. The thing I asked myself is – should I let the emotions I feel control my decisions or should I be playing my best game? It distracted me a bit and got me a bit out of focus when I lost that amount of chips. I dropped from my A to my B game. My focus levels dropped but I wasn’t feeling like I had to play badly because that action happened. I put in a lot of effort into spending almost no time in my C game. This is all about your emotional control – understanding that it’s okay to lose. There’s nothing you can do about it – it's over. All you can do it focus on the now and play well now. 

4. Noise : Signal Ratio 

Poker is an infinite game. There are people at the table doing different things. You have many options all the time. For all of that noise, what is the truly important factors that are right here? The factors that if you figured out, you could truly increase your win rate. This changes from player pool to player pool. Learning how to exploit your player pool is something I would consider a signal. How good are you at truly differentiating noise and signal? Your ceiling in this would really dictate how fast you can move up in poker and whether you can succeed as a professional. 

5. Feedback Implementation 

You get feedback all the time in poker. Feedback loops are small. You play a hand, you call/fold on the river. If you call, you get to see results. You play a session, you immediately see your results especially if it’s a cash game. From a yearly standpoint, the amount of feedback - the amount of data you receive from poker is very high. There are a lot of coaching videos/training courses/coaches & friends helping you. If It's bad feedback, you don’t have to implement it. How well can you judge feedback? When you get good feedback, do you just cognitively understand it or do you truly implement it in your game? If you can truly implement it in your game and constantly take positive/negative feedback that help you and put them into your game, your ceiling in feedback implementation will be really high and that is pretty correlated with your ceiling in poker. 

6. Discipline Level 

We have bad days where we don’t want to show up to the poker room. If you’re somebody who has always had bad discipline levels and your ceiling in this is low, I will urge you to reconsider whether poker is for you. Poker is not like a 9-5 job. In a 9-5 job, you have the huge amount of pressure for you to show up, otherwise you get fired. There are people to hold you accountable and ‘discipline you’. In poker, you have nobody to hold you accountable or discipline you. You are the only one who can discipline yourself. Truly think about how disciplined you are. There are two things – your average discipline level and your ceiling in terms of your discipline level. You at your most disciplined – how disciplined were you? How disciplined can you be? Consider that as another factor in terms of thinking if you should go professional. 

7. Networking 

This is a controversial topic. How good you are at networking is a huge factor in terms of how much you make in poker. For many, whether it is becoming good at poker or making a lot of money in poker, having that ability to network and get out of your comfort zone – put yourself out there and talk to people/speak to better players/speak to rich businessmen that like to play poker/speak to the best players in the world – this is an extremely important and underrated factor for you to get better in poker. It’s very obvious that you should get mentors to help you through your poker journey. Did you think about your ceiling in this? Frankly, the average person networks very poorly. It isn’t that hard to network. It is a factor in which if you spend a bit of time to get better at, can truly improve very drastically. I personally spend a lot of time improving my networking - i wasn’t good at it before. I had to spend a year or 2 to think about it in order to become pretty good at it. I believe you can do it too. The reason networking is important – it is not like your 9-5 job where you can show up, work for your boss and do okay. When you’re working for someone else, it isn’t as correlated as when you’re working for yourself. The more you can network/the better games you can get into/the better poker players you can spend time with or learn from – these truly changes the amount of money and the quickness you can rise up in your poker career. 

 

Exercise (Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 for each factor) 

First column: Where are you right now? 

Second column: What is your true ceiling in this?

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