Man Doesn't Win Poker Tournament

Possibly our biggest fan boy so far, Matthew Pitt over at Betfair, has written another blog around our book. This one was pretty personal to me, and recounts a story of my own that appears in The Mental Game of Poker. Basically it was from the moment where working with Jared Tendler probably forever changed my entire outlook on poker, work, and life. Rather than recounting my story, I’ll see what Pitt says about it:

“After reading The Mental Game of Poker a couple of times something really struck a chord with me and that was co-author Barry Carter's story. I won't relay it word for word but he discusses when he first spoke to Jared Tendler and was asked what his image of a winning poker player was and Barry says that the image he thinks of is a poker player sat behind a huge pile of chips, proudly showing off their winning hand having won a major tournament. But the problem was that Barry was not playing in many tournaments so how could he ever become, in his own eyes, a winning poker player.”

“When I read that I was thought they had got into my own mind and were writing about me. I think it is a common problem with poker players who work in the media because most of their time is spent writing about players winning major tournaments and reporting live on the various tours around the world. Behind every poker writer and blogger is a frustrated poker player, trust me on that one.”

It was a huge moment for me when Jared made me realise my own perception of success was skewed. Every Monday for the last 3 or 4 years I find myself reporting on the story ‘Man Wins Poker Tournament’ and as someone who plays the game, but is yet to win a live tournament (a proper one, not a £10 rebuy), it did really quietly and sneakily distort my view of success and my own game. I barely ever play tournaments, I prefer short sessions and thus SNGs and cash games, but the textbook image of success for me was always the image of a man holding two cards up at the end of a tournament he won.

So I was judging my own success based on a metric that didn’t even register in what I was actually doing, I was getting pissed off at not winning a live tournament even though I wasn’t playing any. Once Jared made me realise how silly this was, it really freed me from poker in a sense. No longer do I subtly beat myself up for not having a ‘1st’ on my Hendon Mob database. I think this not only helped me take extended breaks from poker to pursue other interests (Including writing a book) it also helped me enjoy poker again in the social context it should be enjoyed.

I like Pitt’s other comment of ‘Behind every poker writer and blogger is a frustrated poker player, trust me on that one’. I could not agree more. A journalist in any other walks of life is able to distance themselves from the people they are writing about. I couldn’t write about Wayne Rooney smashing a wonder goal in from 30 yards in the Champions League and beat myself up for not doing the same, but most poker bloggers could very feasibly buy into whatever tournament they are covering. They are also privy to all the good fortune and misplayed hands of the eventual victor, which can skew their perception on whether they could have, and should have, somehow won the tournament themselves (I wrote a blog on it yesterday as it happens). This is not the exclusive domain of poker writers either, anyone who is good friends with successful poker players can feel this strange inverted kind of jealously 


Jeff said...

Barry, do you and Jared recommend any "tricks" to take advantage of this knowledge? Any ways to "trick yourself" to see a tough spot as someone else's problem?

Barry Carter said...

Not sure what you mean there, but tough spot, do you mean like mine or matts own anxiety about tournament success?

I know the trademark answer from Jared (and me mostly) is not ever to really 'trick yourself'.

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