Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2010) in Poker Player newspaper.
It’s difficult to win at poker if you’re fighting your own attitude. I teach that, if you’re going to make poker a lifetime winning pursuit, you shouldn’t expect it to be like skipping through a flower garden.
Unless you change that mindset, you’ll have moments or grandeur, tarnished with deep disappointment – the word that serves as the topic for today’s self-interview. Let’s get started…
Question 1: Do most pro players encounter more triumphs than disappointments?
Probably not. And that isn’t because they lack significant triumphs from the perspective of an outside observer.
It’s because they expect to fare better month after month than what is realistic. Of course, it’s a good thing to have high expectations. You’re never going to reach the pinnacle of anything if you don’t believe in yourself.
But the majority of poker professionals that I know expect too much glory. They envision themselves winning too many tournaments, obliterating everyday games time after time, and proving their excellence to the extent that no doubters remain.
This only happens to a few players, and usually for short periods of time. What remains is disappointment.
You simply can’t prove your poker superiority in a short time. You’ll get drawn out on. Or worse, you’ll call with the worst hand and look foolish to some.
A friend who plays poorly may outshine you for weeks and brag about it. You may go years without winning a tournament.
Disappointment piled on disappointment. And when things do go your way, you’re apt to take it in stride and believe that’s how it’s always supposed to be. So, your joy is limited.
Question 2: Is there a lesson in that?
Of course, otherwise I wouldn’t have said it. You need to be realistic in your expectations. You need to realize cards will run poorly.
You shouldn’t expect that you’ll ever win the World Series of Poker main event, even if you’re the best player alive. You can put yourself through the challenge, but don’t be disappointed by falling short. It’s too much of a long shot, unless you’re planning to live several thousand years.
By being realistic and knowing that you’ll have good runs and bad runs, you won’t be disappointed. If you play well, be proud.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks on those nights you get broken and battered. You know how you played. And that’s the only thing that matters.
Expect whatever happens to happen. Accept that outcome. Play well, and don’t be disappointed unless you fail to make good decisions.
Players with great skills can be lifetime losers if they can’t handle disappointment linked to results. Results are just results. Good decisions are what your job is all about. Whether you get paid tonight or not isn’t your main concern. Just do your job.
Question 3: What are your biggest disappointments in poker?
Okay, you’re right. Despite what I said, there have been personal disappointments.
I regret not having played the earlier World Series of Poker events, when the field was small and I had a greater chance of winning some bracelets. I regret having played so few tournaments through the years, WSOP or elsewhere.
I didn’t correctly calculate the importance that observers would put on my number of tournament triumphs, so I pretty much sat it out. So, I’m kind of disappointed about having done that.
It’s funny, though, thinking that I won the first two tournaments I ever played – exactly one year apart. Both draw poker. There weren’t really many tournaments back then, so I was off to an amazing start. They were dinky little tournaments, though – $100 buy-ins or a bit more.
I was looking at an old newspaper clipping the other day and realized I also won the first hold ’em event I ever entered. It was at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. I won seven out of my first 27 events, before I stopped keeping track, which was almost 30 years ago.
Without a win
And then I started playing more often and went about 60 events without a win. I was second several times, but that did my ego no good. I hated second.
And that was all prehistoric stuff, before the Internet. Modern history begins when the Web went mainstream. Except for large historic events, most stuff that came before that remains unrecorded. Almost everything that happened afterward, though, is reported in minute detail. Now I’ve wandered off topic. Sorry. We were talking about disappointment and poker.
When it really mattered, I just sat on the sidelines – and in the conspicuous TV events I played, I didn’t fare well at all, taking bad beats at the wrong times. So, I’m disappointed in that.
Some of my biggest disappointments came when I was a young, reckless player who would play at an established limit day after day and build a significant bankroll, then lose it all in one session challenging players with bigger bankrolls in huge games. I stopped doing that 30 years ago, too.
My philosophy changed. And now I’m only disappointed if I play poorly. And I don’t. So, poker can’t disappoint me anymore. You can save yourself a lot of agony if you adopt my way of thinking. It keeps you off tilt, too.
The correct winning method is simply to be content with making correct decisions and never regret the outcomes.
Question 4: Do most poker pros eventually learn to handle disappointment correctly.
Not a chance. Most are big crybabies in that regard.
If crying works for them, fine. But I’m betting it actually costs them money. It never worked for me.
Question 5: Do you go out of your way to hide disappointment at the poker table?
Absolutely. And it’s a powerful psychological technique.
Opponents are very luck conscious and once they sense that you’re feeling unlucky, they pounce. They play better against you in particular, because your expressions of misery have made you a target. They buy into your mood and think you’re someone they can beat.
It’s your poker job to intimidate opponents through optimism, not to be intimidated by appearing miserable and making yourself a target. — MC
Next self-interview: Pending