Must Read

Discussion in 'Psychology' started by Urkel, Nov 12, 2005.

  1. Urkel


    I dont post much but this is a must read by a WINNING high stakes tournament poker player (One of the Best)

    This post is in response to Irieguys Post "The Difference Between Success and Failure." Here is the link

    When I read Irieguys post I wasn't planning on responding, I rarely respond to posts, because most of the time I am the dissenter, and frankly, it isn't good for my long term financial situation. As I started reading the responses I soon felt obligated to respond. He is so close, but travelling in the wrong direction.

    The wording he uses in the text lets me know where he is at on the "path," so to speak(the very beginning). Let me start with the words success and failure. These are words that mean such different things to each individual that to use them to label your accomplishments, or lackthereof, is setting yourself up for a long ardurous journey, that most won't finish. Success and failure are just ideas created by society to improperly judge others against ourselves. There are no successful people, or rather, using these words, I should say that there are no failures and everyone is a success.

    Everybody will eventually run worse than they thought was possible. The difference between a winner and a loser is that the latter thinks they do not deserve it.

    This statement is truer than anyone can know(even though I think most of you do know, it just seems impossible for me to believe that someone else can understand). What he says about winners and losers though, will keep you from attaining a more complete game. There are no winners or losers, to think that, is to let yourself be affected by negative variance. If you are not in the positive for the day, then you therefore must be a loser, and so the downward spiral begins. All of those negative ideas must be eliminated from your mind, or you will not perform to your potential. The trick is recognizing these negative ideas, since there are so many and so commonplace in our society, it is a large task indeed to sort them out as real, or just ideas created by the masses. Our labels for winners and losers simply identify individuals who play the same game a different way. Just because one person doesn't achieve the same goal that I strive for, doesn't make that person a "loser." Everyone is the same, and everyone has the same potential, some just direct their energies in different directions. The sooner you can get that into your head and really believe it, the sooner you will start to have a real understanding of the game.

    I am beginning to realize that most people don't have the psychological fortitude or spiritual perspective to manage the vicissitudes of this game. I also believe that of the very small number of professional poker players who have been successful for more than a few years, most of them are actually quite lucky. I believe that there are many pros who will fail once they begin to experience average luck.

    I really believe that everyone has the "psychological fortitude" to manage the vicissitudes of the game. It is simply a choice. A choice to change the way you think about results. Stop thinking in terms of winning as good and losing as bad. The two concepts should be grouped in your mind exactly the same. When God "blessed" man with shame, failure became a real entity we had to deal with. That is what we are trying to achieve when we label a person as a failure, we are attaching shame to A meaningless act. Throughout my life I have been around alot of people that most would classify as "failures" and not one of them seemed any different than myself.

    The problem comes to life when a person starts their downswing, which we classify as "losing," they begin to suspect that they may "fail" and rather than become susceptible to the shame that comes with "failure" they decide to quit. They stop because they fear things that aren't even real. The people who come to realize these negative labels aren't real, either concretely or intuitively, are the same people that do not give up, no matter how bad things seem to be running. Eventually they become the "professionals" in whatever walk of life they choose.

    You have to find your own way to deal with these thoughts that have been brainwashed into your mind for your whole life. Identifying every negative thought as it creeps into your mind is a start, it takes practice to monitor your thoughts, but you cannot eliminate what you do not recognize.

    I try very hard not to allow any negativity in my life, ask my brother(ship_it_tome) how upset I get when he is at my house, playing, struggling, for hours on end, and finally says "I can't win." We get along very well, but I get very irate with him when he utters those deadly words, as I am sure you all have muttered them at one time or another.

    I think you can learn how to avoid this trap of psychological betrayal. I think I'm beginning to learn it myself. It involves turning your noise filter all the way up.

    Turning your noise filter up will work for a time, but eventually it builds and seeps through at one time or another, and everything that has been blocked comes pouring out at once, which creates the very worst tilt imaginable. Believe me, I have been there many times. I have come to realize that it is much better to acknowledge the negative or angry thoughts as they arrive, that doesn't mean just noticing their presence, when they approach, actually talk to your mind and announce their arrival, and then identify the reasons behind them. As your mind comes to realize how trivial and meaningless these thoughts are, it will eventually stop creating them in the first place. It takes alot of time and effort to do this, but the long term results will be well worth it.


    The game that most of us play is really very simple. You get 2 cards, 5 cards come up, and you do a little betting here and there. Best 5 card hand wins.

    With a game this simple, why do so many people have so much trouble ending up ahead of where they started?

    The real game is about people, not the cards in your hand. If you know a person well enough, you can read their hand, and once you know what they have in their hand, the game becomes a cakewalk. The problem is, we have all of these predisposed ideas of who a person is based on ideas that have been placed in our heads by our society. You have to be able to eliminate all of these ideas. Once you train yourself to be completely judgement free, you will become a more complete player. Anyone can read a persons hand based on his actions and seeing common tendencies, ie., a beginning player will commonly bet small when on a draw, and bet big when he has a made hand. What about more experienced players? What does it mean when they bet 2/3s of the pot one time, and than bet pot the next? They are certainly experienced enough to know not to bet the same pattern for the same types of hands. So how can you figure out what they have? Well, get to know him, watch him play. Try and figure out what he is thinking, he has to be thinking something. Put yourself in his spot, what kind of hand would you have if you were betting like that?

    Now do this for every hand for every player that is in the hand, for every player at the table, for every table that you are playing at. Try and eight table while doing this exercise. Put effort into every single hand that is played out at your table, not just the ones you are involved in, every single hand. Every time there is a showdown, and the losing hand is mucked, open up the hand history file, and see what he had. Go through the hand again and see if you can figure out why he willingly showed down a losing hand(something that should rarely be done.)

    I call this an exercise, but this should be done on every single hand that is played out at any of your tables for the rest of your poker career. This is how you become a real player, then you can ignore the "sng" formula and really start to play. Post flop is where the real game is at, and it is fun to play. Use your bets to pull information from your opponent, and then when you know what he has, trust your judgement 100%. If you think he is on second pair, but will not fold unless you bet your whole stack, then bet your whole stack(unless of course you have a better hand than second pair, which is unlikely since players like us can rarely beat bottom pair), even if it means your tournament is over if you are wrong. Practice trusting yourself, you will be wrong enough in the beginning to doubt yourself, but don't let that stop you.

    There is a strong possibility that I am the most active player in the world, and I can honestly say that this is something that I do on nearly every hand. Imagine, 6000 hands a day on average, just watching and learning, with no predisposed judgements of the other players. This is what it takes. Bad beats are no longer bad beats, they are just the cards coming out randomly, evening themselves out over time. What is really important is learning the thousands of languages that different people speak through their actions at the table. Believe me, it isn't some spiritual science, it is listening and learning without prejudice.

  2. nitro


    I too enjoy and benefit from the similarities of studying the success of superior gamers and how that could translate into trading success, or success in general!

    I find this article to be especially rewarding, but sadly most won't understand it because chess is way less popular than poker. However, the gist should not be lost on anyone.

  3. I once read that Jim Cramer likes this book
    on horse racing

    "Picking Winners", by Andy Beyer

  4. It's been noted that an excellent poker player will actually suffer more 'bad beats' than a mediocre or poor poker player will.

    Why? Because the excellent player is constantly playing for the small edges and avoiding the unintelligent plays.

    When he wins, odds are more likely in his favor or he wouldn't be in the pot --- and when he loses to an amateur, it is more likely to be a suckout on the amateur's side. A good player is much more likely to get beat by runner runner flush or straight than to make a poor odds play like that himself.

    But this tendency for good players to take bad beats from poor players is a great thing... it's what keeps the fish in action, hoping to get lucky. Even better, the fish get lucky often enough to keep coming back. In this sense, the skilled player is like the casino, taking occasional beats and collecting his edge as vigorish over time (An observation from this book, an amazing read.)

    I've been playing poker regularly for less than a year, so I'm not much more than an advanced novice... but from what I've seen and read and studied, I question the value of this statement:

    How much "deep reading" can a professional player really do? In cash games, the stream of opponents is constantly fresh; they are playing new faces just about every day. And in tournaments, their real competition is other pros. How well can you get a bead on guys like Chris Ferguson or Phil Ivey or Dan Harrington? Might as well be reading a statue...

    There is no catwalk when a) your edge is never more than a single digit percentage, b) you are constantly seeing new faces, and c) your true competition is often as good as, or better than, you.

    In my (humble) opinion, the overstress on reading one's opponent in poker is similar to the stress on personal psychology in trading. Both are useful and important, but both are also subject to "Grailitis," i.e. the foolish elevation of one factor's importance over all other factors of the situation. (I just made up that term on the spot, but it fits... if ET were a singles bar, grailitis would be the herpes equivalent.)

    Is it just the cards? Heck no... but nor is it just a "read" of your opponent(s). It's the cards, the position, the order of betting and folding, the pot odds, the size of your stack, the size of your opponents' stacks (including the ones behind you), the level of the blinds (if playing in a tourney), your reputation and history of play at the table, your opponents' reputation and history of play at the table, and then, maybe after all that, skill in reading the facial tics / hand movements / breath cadences of your opponent IF anything is available (and oftentimes it is not).

    Like trading, there is far too much to learn to become great quickly. Like trading, it doesn't matter if you read three dozen books -- what matters is the time it takes for you to internalize all that information and successfully apply it in real time. Like trading, it's a long journey in which clarity is improved little by little. There is a large gap between understanding the theory of excellent play and being able to consistently deliver excellent play.

    And you indeed have to love the journey, measuring yourself on internal benchmarks and getting a sense of accomplishment from the grind. I feel far better about a losing night where I know I played well, than a winning night where I did something stupid or rash and got paid off or otherwise avoided what I deserved.

    For ex. a couple weeks ago I went all-in with a guy and took half his stack. On the next hand I got AJ suited and, knowing the guy was pissed, went all-in again to see if he would call me out of spite. That's exactly what he did -- called with 54 offsuit. When he sucked out by pairing his four I had to chuckle. The fact that he won with rags was a statistical fluke. I gained further confidence and was pleased with my play, even though I lost the hand on a silly suck-out, and my opponent's bad habits (playing crap cards out of emotion) were reinforced.

    The chess article is great too. What is intuition really? As far as I can tell, it's basically the combination of knowledge, memory and experience. The more deeply you understand a concept, the more rapidly you can access it without engaging a conscious thought process -- because the "pattern" of understanding is stored and served up wholly intact, like a fully assembled lego creation. In contrast, figuring on the fly is like trying to snap the legos together as fast as you can.

    This is why I'm so high on clarity -- understanding the reasoning behind the action on as deep a level as possible. The value of the understanding is far more than academic. It guides future decisions, leads to future insights in a million subtle ways, and builds up real-time intuition.