“Anyone can make money playing poker”
I truly believed in this statement for a long time. I have come to realize that it is inaccurate.
Instead, there is an adjusted version of that quote that, in my estimation, captures the reality a lot better:
“Anyone can create a version of themselves, that can make money playing poker”
The difference might seem subtle, but captures the core of why some people crush at the highest stakes, and others struggle. So here are four reasons why YOU don’t make money in poker. To make this very clear right now: Neither me nor anybody or any program can promise you monetary results in poker.
1) You don’t have a strong “Why?”
In my personal inbox and through Raise Your Edge, we get thousands of messages from people sharing their struggles in poker. From my experience, 98% of those aren’t related to strategy (even though most are disguised in that manner). For many, these are fundamentally related to their relationship to poker; in other words their “why”.
Why do you want to improve at poker?
Why put in all that effort?
Why are you reading this article right now?
To get it out on the table without beating around the bush: If your “why” is solely focussed on making money, you will not make it. Poker is a brutal game, and if you don’t purely love the process of learning, discovering new strategies, or working with other people it simply won’t work. I went on a staggering $250,000 downswing recently. If I had any doubts about my “why”, I could not have stayed calm, stayed focused, and turned it around to win it all back within the next weeks.
Take a step back and figure out what really drives you. In those long nights of studying ranges and perfecting your strategy, you need a reason that you know to be true, that can keep you focussed and motivated, and that legitimises the sacrifices you have to make.
The Take-Away: You need to deeply reflect and then formulate your “why”. If you are in it for weak reasons, you won’t be a strong player.
2) You have not cultivated the proper work ethic
Some cliches are cliches because people have been saying them forever. And some of those have been around forever because they are true. This is one of them, and it holds arguably even more true in poker:
If you want to be successful, you have to put in the work.
The dedication required isn’t just about knowing strategy or math; you have to work on mindset, physical health, and the daily routines of everyday life have to be designed to specifically lead to peak performance when others are fading. Unfortunately for many, their egos can convince them they don’t need to do that extra work.
Consistency is the other key factor most are missing. Again, not just for studying poker but for all aspects that lead to success. To use another cliche, “How you do anything, is how you do everything”. Even if you feel like you are a walking talking SIM and can CRUSH your stakes, having a bad mindset due to not having a consistent method to work on it can have disastrous results. Losing focus because you are feeling tired due to bad nutrition or physical health during long sessions will net the same result.
So does this mean I’m saying you have to be Superman or Superwoman in life to win in poker? NO! However, knowing where you are weak at is a key characteristic of winning players. My best students have the ability to know they suck at certain spots therefore work on them. The way they work on them is the same way they would if they knew they needed to lose weight or eat better. They can put aside the excuses and accept they need help, use time management skills and use breaks effectively to re-charge and not just mindlessly surf through their social media accounts.
The Take-Away: You have to put in the time and effort. No shortcuts. Consistently. Sorry to break it to you, but that’s what it is. However, it IS possible and yes, you can do it too.
3) You are not in control of the “Dopamine Effect”
Let me ask you a question: How long can you focus on doing just one thing until the irresistible urge kicks in to check social media, visit random websites, play video games, mindlessly eat snacks…the list goes on and on. This is your body and minds way of getting that next dopamine hit; the pleasure response we all have.
I realized years ago that I needed to reduce the consumption of that dopamine effect. Did I become a monk and live a life of solace and no fun? OF COURSE NOT! I love life and all its pleasures. I also love playing video games and eating food that tastes great (but maybe isn’t the healthiest); but I realized good results come from consistency and smart work. In order for that to happen, reducing distractions is key.
Myself personally, I take a “dopamine vacation” every year where I essentially self-isolate somewhere remote with no distractions. It has helped me to reduce those dopamine- related activities and be able to put my focus where it needs to be.
Please understand, this is my journey. For you it could be simple activities such as daily meditation and mindfulness exercises, removing the distracting apps from my phone such as Twitter or having strict rules around electronics usage before and after sleep. The key is to not need this constant release, but enjoy it when you feel you have earned it.
The Take-Away: We are bombarded with impulses all day and have gotten used to instant gratification. Get a grip on your dopamine response to multiply your ability to stay focussed.
4) You aren’t crushing it away from the table
Floyd Mayweather is considered one of the best boxers of all time. One of his greatest attributes, and what makes him so deadly, is the calmness he walks into the ring with. His mental state is pure focus on the execution of the work he has put in for months. He says he doesn’t get nervous because at that point either he has done enough to win or he hasn’t, nothing from that point will matter so why worry about it.
As poker players we focus so much on the uncontrollable. The bad beats and suck out stories that everyone loves to share. When High Stakes Regulars are in pots that can mean 10’s if not 100’s of thousands of dollars the reason they can keep composure is they’ve done all they can off the tables. Which way the cards fall at that point are not within their control, everything before it was.
Only a fraction of your success in poker is actually decided while you play. Whether or not you have the ability to stay focussed, positive, and calm during high pressure situations, and through that stability are able to apply what you learned in your hours and hours of studying, depends largely on what happens away from the tables.
I talk a lot about daily habits such as meditation, nutrition, exercise, mindset practice and so on. Superficially, these might seem to be disconnected from playing poker, but they make ALL the difference. I was and still am able to crush high stakes after over a decade of playing poker, because I cultivated a system of habits and practices, that keeps me sharp, at ease, and focused. Now don’t get me wrong, I study A LOT. I put in more hours than 99% of other people, guaranteed. But all that studying would be pointless, if I couldn’t keep up my focus for an extended period of time. Or if I would go on a tilt if things go south. Or if my blood sugar would drop after an hour of play because I am feeding it with junk food.
The Take-Away: Your ability to stay focussed, calm, and positive depends largely on your everyday habits. They can literally transform you, so create a system that works for you!
Let’s circle back to the main question: “Can anyone make money playing poker?” I think the first step is shifting the question to the much more relevant: “Can YOU transform yourself into someone who can be a high stakes crusher?”
And the answer to that is YES!
However, there are no shortcuts, no blue pills. I take a lot of heat for putting material out there that keeps the masses from wanting to play more poker. I don’t do it to discourage anyone; I love this game and I want it to keep growing. However, it’s also important to me to be honest about what it takes and if that helps even 1 person to push themselves forward then it’s worth it.
Look into how you approach the game today, are you wanting to be a pro but do the things recreational players do? Is this truly a passion or just something you think is easier to make money in than a 9 to 5 job?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with playing poker for fun or as a semi-serious hobby. It’s a great way to challenge yourself, have fun, and be social; but if you are serious about being a winning player then do ALL the things that others don’t to win. What have you got to lose? None of those things will make you worse off in life! CRUSH LIFE, CRUSH YOUR HEALTH GOALS, CRUSH MINDSET and #letsCRUSH POKER!
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