The Mental Game of Poker Holiday Sales

As it's approaching Xmas, we have put the Mental Game of Poker on sale (Which may continue in January too as everyone is skint at New Year). It is now retailing around the £16-£20 mark for softcover, and £7.12 for Kindle.

Amazon are awesome, but some things about how they work have been annoying. Most notably that when they are out of stock, they put a massive 'Out of Stock' sign up on the book page, even though there six other amazon traders selling it, including one which is fulfilled by Amazon themselves - so for all intents and purposes it is very much NOT out of stock.

Anyway, we hit a post-black Friday 12 month sales target yesterday with the book, 5 months early, so I am happy enough. I say post black Friday because the goal for the year obviously rapidly changed, when we launched the book on historically worst day in the history of poker to release a book.

Towards the end of the year, we will finally work on Book Number 2. We had so much material we had to leave out we knew a second one was in the pipeline, hopefully the response will be just as good for the next one.

Buy It Direct Here

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Buy It On Ebay

PokerStrategy.com Column - Poker Talent Hotbeds

Pius Heinz
Is Germany the
next talent hotbed?
First published on PokerStrategy.com

There is a superb book out at the moment called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. It charts the success of high performers in just about every discipline you can think of, and completely dispels the notion of natural talent, as it proves time and time again the correlation between intense practice and success.

One of the most interesting recurring themes in the book is something called 'Talent Hotbeds', which refers to the fact that often the most successful people in certain field are from the same school or training centre.

Such examples Coyle cites include Brazilian footballers, the Spartak Tennis Camp in Russia, the art Renaissance in Italty, skate boarders in Santa Monica, and the Punahou golf school.

We can also probably think of countless examples ourselves in popular culture like the Seattle grunge scene, Motown or even the Disney Club in America that created many of today's pop icons.

The proximity of all these masters in their craft is usually either put down to either fluke or genes. Coyle brilliantly argues that the emergence of these hotbeds is, in fact, inevitable.  What we call talent is actually a direct result of the level of practice that takes place in them.

The reason why Brazilian footballers are so majestic is nothing to do with genetics. It is because most Brazilians grew up playing an indoor version of the game, futbol de salao. The ball is smaller, and heavier, which means that a greater degree of control is developed.

The reason why the Renaissance in the 14th century created so many talented artists is equally as predictable, in hindsight, because artists like Da Vinci and Michalangelo all spent five year apprenticeships working under similarly revolutionary artists.

The Spartak Tennis Club, which has produced most of the top ten ranked female tennis stars in the last decade, was so successful because they literally spent hours a day focussing on every minutia of technique to the smallest of details, literally practicing daily in slow motion to develop skill.

Pius Heinz
The Brits are enjoying
a lot of success for a
small nation
Natural talent is a vastly overrated concept, these hotbeds prove that how you practice is the key to success.

Poker Talent Hotbeds

The concept of talent hotbeds clearly exists within poker, and proves what many of us have always thought about the game. The most successful players tend to have with them an entourage of like-minded friends who quickly replicate their success.

In the early days of the poker boom, it was no doubt the Scandinavians who were leaving their mark on the worldwide poker scene.

Another great example is the TwoPlusTwo community, who have developed hundreds upon hundreds of successful players, in particular the early post boom internet whizz kids, stemming from their hand analysis forums. Here is an example of a talent hotbed that exists online, rather than in a specific geographical location.

Right now it is the young British players who are the latest hive of talent in the game, taking down a disproportionate number of bracelets, EPT titles, and triple crowns for such a small nation.

A great example within this hive is triple crown winner Jake Cody winning his bracelet this year, and his best friend from school, Matt Perrins, taking down a triple draw bracelet the very next day. Most would chalk this down to an unlikely fluke, but it actually seems a certainty when you think of what no doubt preceded it.

What these talent hotbeds all have in common is that the people involved practiced their craft in a different, more effective way, something Coyle calls 'Deep Practice'. What I think this translates to in poker is simply the act of discussing hands with other players.

As I understand it, Cody and Perrins both started playing cards at school, and no doubt have spent every waking minute since then discussing the game together. There was no wonder they both became so successful.

Ask just about any poker player who is successful what the key to their improvement is, and they will at some point mention that discussing hands with their friends played a massive part.

Whether it's from one on one coaching, hand analysis forums, or just discussing it in person during tournament breaks and travel, it seems the most effective tool we have at our disposal is community.

Pushing the Boundaries

Pius Heinz
Like-minded friends
One of the fundamentals of deep practice is to challenge yourself to the point where you actually fail.

Just like a weightlifter who lifts a weight they struggle with, the process of attaining skill first requires you push the boundaries of what you are able to do.

This is where having like-minded friends probably has such value. Unlike just about every other form of poker practice, discussing hands with other players comes with it a powerful bullshit detector.

Because of variance, it is very easy to justify to ourselves that we made the right play, if we win the hand we can tell ourselves we played it correctly, if we lose the hand we can say we got unlucky.

But having your game critiqued by your peers inevitably challenges you to a point you perhaps could not do on your own, it takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to think of your game in a different way.

We don't really have to look far for a talent hotbed in action. If you are reading this, then you have stumbled across one already. Pius Heinz was of course a PokerStrategy.com free $50 player before he became a world champion, and no doubt the videos, coaching, forums, and community of the site had a great impact on helping him along the way.

It certainly won't surprise me if we start seeing more homegrown PokerStrategy.com players taking down major titles in the near future, following his lead.

Poker can be a lonely isolating game if you are not careful, it can be very easy to shut yourself off from the rest of the world. Take a tip from the poker talent hotbeds and get out more, get talking to people, and get involved in the many opportunities to be part of a community that poker can provide.

by Barry Carter

PokerStrategy.com Column - Deal Or No Deal?

"Shall we just split it
9 ways, guys?"
My latest column for PokerStrategy.com. Please check them out for more of these, as they always appear there first. 

There is a big secret in poker. Everybody is doing it, but nobody ever admits to it.


I was talking to someone about the Main Event yesterday, about the possibility that the final three men in the tournament did a deal.

The guy I was chatting to felt they played just like they had made a deal (ie. early fireworks), but thought that it was not allowed in the Main Event.

I didn't catch a great deal of the footage so couldn't really speculate, but I did mention it happens a lot in WPT/WSOP/EPT events, but never gets reported.

He was surprised by this, but I followed up by estimating that most 'big 3' main events end in a deal that wasn't reported.

I felt inclined to back up what I thought that I knew. I have reported on hundreds of events in the last few years and know that it happens quite a lot, but wondered just how much. I reached out to my friends, in particular tournament organisers and the guys who report live from these events, to get their own estimates.

I felt that at least 60% of live tournaments end in a deal, and probably closer to about 70-75%. Almost everyone I asked confidently told me it was much higher, closer to 80-85%. This didn't shock me at all.

It never gets reported, but it happens all the time. If you are watching the live updates from a tournament and all of a sudden a 10 minute break is announced (in particular if it's reported that the players decided among themselves to have a break) that seems somewhat unscheduled, then they are usually discussing a chop.

Why Are Deals Never Reported?

It seems in just about everybody's interest to keep deals quiet. The players usually keep pretty quiet because they would sooner appear to have been 'playing for the win' and often deals get derided by the poker community as minus EV.

Peer pressure is very strong in poker; rarely is a deal made public without certain corners of the poker community ripping it to shreds. The deal is usually very good for at least one of the players, but there is always someone else who is percieved to have made a mistake.

The tournament organisers don't like them being reported because it is in their interest to showcase a huge first prize. Someone taking home a seven-figure score is much better PR than three guys walking away with similar six-figure purses.

The TV stations have the biggest interest in keeping deals quiet, because they have stories to tell and drama to create. A heads-up match becomes significantly less exciting when you know that both guys took $500k each and are just playing for $20k and a trophy.

But with such a high proportion of players demanding deals at the end of live events, surely it is abundantly clear that we are getting the payout structures wrong?

Nobody wants to admit to wanting a flatter payout structure at the start of a tournament. When it gets to the business end of a tournament, for most of us our instincts kick in.

Human Nature

pius heinz
Did Pius chop?
We probably will never know.
There are countless studies out there that demonstrate it is human nature to protect what we already have, or perceive ourselves to have, rather than taking risks for a big payoff.

You only have to watch the game show Deal or No Deal to see this in action. Most of the deals that are made are massively minus EV near the end of the game when they still have a big box in play, because they want to protect a perceived amount that is theirs.

They have decided an amount they want or need, and will pass up great chances to win more to protect it.

Likewise, those players who lose a massive box at a critical moment go the opposite way, and behave recklessly, in an attempt to regain what they believe to be their rightful winnings.

Everyone is 'going for the win' at the start of a tournament because it seems so far away, but when it gets down to the big money, many of us start mentally earmarking the amount we want to definitely walk away with.

Tournament poker is extremely high variance. We all want to make every decision on its long term merits only, but realistically most of us could never get a reliable long term sample of live poker tournaments, there simply are not enough of them.

It is understandable why all these deals go on. It is not like online where you can refuse a deal and load up 100 more MTTs that week without giving it a second thought. A lot of time, travel, expense, and frustration comes with live tournament poker.

Now at this point a lot of tourney grinders and pros will be wanting to tell me that they never deal, that dealing is minus EV, they always play for the win, and that it is the fish that tend to deal.

There are of course plenty of players, strong ones at that, who do refuse deals and more power to them. But with such a high percentage of tournaments ending in chops, it is clearly not just the fish that make deals.

Thankfully even though many tours claim they do not allow deals, or at least any deal must include an amount to still be played for, almost all of them do let it happen. The players paid the buy-in and the rake, so they should be entitled to have a say in what they stand to win.

It is obvious that live poker tournament payout structures are not flat enough, but do we need to change things and should the deals be made public?

The only reason the deals should perhaps be a little more transparent is for those people with a genuine interest in the winnings outside the tournament - in other words the tax man and backers.

Of course this is the responsibility of the players, and an attempt to cheat another party by not informing them of a chop could backfire, if the player actually goes on to win, but takes down a lesser prize.

But other than the backers, I happen to think that most of the poker community would actually be much happier leaving the system the way it currently is.

In other words, maybe everyone would be much happier to keep the prize pools as advertised, and deal behind closed doors. Tournament organisers get to boast a massive first prize, TV producers get to showcase the drama of massive pay jumps and the players get a prize they are happy with - without having to face the derision of forum trolls.

by Barry Carter

Mental Game of Poker - Readers Survey

The Mental Game of Poker has had some amazing feedback that really has exceeded our expectations.

It took a very long time to write, largely because we had so much more material that didn't make it into the first version, so we always knew that we were going to do a second book, or at least get that material out there in a different format.

We are now planning that next stage, and are asking anyone who has read the book to help guide is with what they would like to see with project two. If you have read the Mental Game of Poker, please spare a few minutes to help us with this:

Please click here to complete the survey

2000 Twitter Followers

It felt like forever to get to 1000 twitter followers, but getting to 2000 only took 3 months. I think that just makes sense, snowball effect and all that.

Onwards and upwards, next milestone is 5000, which should take a hella long time.

PokerStrategy.com Column - Which FTP Repayment Option Would You Pick?

full tilt poker
What will the new
FTP look like?
Originally published by PokerStrategy.com

I certainly don't want to get overly optimistic about the Full Tilt saga, because we have had our hopes crushed several times already, but at the moment there looks like there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

It took a while, but recent news from the Groupe Bernard Tapie camp is suggesting a deal to rescue the site, and reimburse the players, is back on the table.

This week the best news to date was that GBT and the US Justice Department had struck a deal, allowing GBT to approach the FTP shareholders with an offer to take over the site, reimburse non-US players, and arrange a repayment fund for US players with the DOJ.

Incredibly positive news I think we all agree, but although it is looking more likely now that the players will get their money back, it still looks to be a bumpy ride.

That is because last week it was revealed that a French Magazine linked to the GBT has been canvassing players across Europe, asking what their preferred option for repayment would be from the following list:

  • Cashing Out Immediately with an Unspecified Penalty
  • Cash Out the Full Amount, released over a year.
  • Buying Shares of FTP with their funds, which they can sell back at a later date.

This would be to help get the rescue plan off the ground, as clearly GBT do not have the funds to (or just do not want to) takeover the site and pay the players back in full right away.

Poker is never easy, and if these are the options presented to FTP Players (It would be interesting to see if these options were for everyone, or just the high rollers) it would be a sense of two steps forward, one step back.

But it's a fascinating dilemma, what is the best repayment option, if those are the ones in front of us?

Immediate With Penalty

Like most great questions in the poker, the answer as to whether this is a good option is 'it depends'.

The penalty is likely to be substantial, otherwise it probably wouldn't be on the table as an option. I'd guess at somewhere between 30-40% penalty for taking your money back right away.

Any penalty bigger than that would be a definite no I feel, 50% is just ridiculous a settlement figure. A penalty less than 20% should be a fist-pump call, after all with everything that has happened, most of us will be pretty happy anything, so a penalty less than 20% we can just treat like tax or hefty rake.

So in my opinion we are likely looking at getting back 60-70% of our original funds. If that is the case, I think this is the option for anyone who has a significant portion of their life rolls stuck on the site, those players who really have been left in limbo since the site went down.

Full Amount Over A Year

In my opinion, this is the best option for most players, in particular if the money did not mean the world to them. If they had funds elsewhere, only played for fun, or otherwise did not rely on their FTP rolls.

After all, they will have been waiting for a long time anyway, by this point no doubt another year won't seem too bad.

However, before picking this out as the best possible option, there is one major consideration. If this scandal has taught us anything, it should be to be much more careful with whom we are prepared to entrust our money.

Before choosing this option, I would want to know who is policing the new look FTP and Groupe Bernard Tapie. I want to know who is policing these repayments, and who the new regulator is.

Obviously (or at least hopefully) the former shareholders of FTP will no longer be there, so I am not for one second implying that GBT are going to be as crooked as their predecessors.

But what they are doing is very ambitious and could well prove a big financial risk (Especially when you consider they are also currently proposing an equally lofty $30 million guaranteed live tournament next year at Wembley Stadium) - so I would want to know in what way my investment is being protected over this 12 month period.

Equity Share of FTP

Team Full Tilt
No more Red Pros?
It is amazing how things can change in an instant. 7 months ago if someone offered you a stake in Full Tilt Poker in exchange for your bankroll, you most likely would have gone for it without hesitation. Today, I think I would sooner invest in magic beans.

Once again, GBT are not the original shareholders and should not be treated in the same vein. The problem is that Full Tilt Poker will never be the same company again.

There are some positives. The software is still one of the best in poker and enough to entice a lot of people back. With GBT's French routes, there is potentially a lot of liquidity from that market too, which is massive right now.

But the damage has already been done to a great extent, some people will never forgive FTP even with new owners, and other new players will forever associate it with the word 'Ponzi'.

So rather unsurprisingly, one of the first things that is likely to happen is a mass withdraw from the site by players desperate to get their money back. GBT will not be taking over a new business with millions of dollars of player funds ready to start generating rake, much rather they will be almost starting afresh with massive losses for repaying the players.

The biggest impact will most likely be the absence of the American players. Pre-Black Friday they made up about 60% of the total traffic on the site, but they no longer will be able to play. Unlike our friends across the pond, players in Europe have a massive range of choice of what poker room to choose, and will not be desperate to play on FTP like a US player may have been.

Likewise the biggest marketing element of the site, the massive stable of 'Red Pros', surely cannot be sustainable any more? Most of them were American anyway, and I cannot see the players looking positively on the new FTP for sponsoring players when there is so much money still owed.

GBT obviously saw something investable in FTP so don't take my word for it, but if you are going to be considering this option, I think you have to consider it an incredibly long term investment at the very least.

I'd love to get your opinions in the comments boxes, if presented with these options for repayment, which one would you go for?

by Barry Carter

LOL at what is outselling us

Its nice to be climbing the rankings on Amazon for the search term 'poker' and an honour to be currently outselling such a great book like HOH2 - but lol at what is beating us right now. 

PokerStrategy.com Column - A Sense of Entitlement

First appeared on PokerStrategy.com

A couple of videos are doing the rounds on the poker forums of Tony Hachem, brother of main event champion Joe, conducting himself in a less than humble manner.

In these videos (below) you see him acting pretty arrogantly in the WSOP main event. This has led everyone to ask the same question, who does he think he is?

The quick answer to that one is - Joe Hachem.

Tony is getting a lot of criticism on the forums for his delusions of grandeur. He is acting like he is a world champion himself (a not very gracious world champion), when really, what has he done to justify the behaviour?

In fairness, he has got a pretty decent looking record, lots of cashes, lots of finals, a couple of wins, and one six figure score. His total live tournament earnings are well over $500,000, which I thought was impressive.

Until I discovered, at the time of writing, that 1,666 other players have over $500,000 in tournament winnings, according to the Hendon Mob database.

It's still impressive of course, it's more than you are ever likely to see on my own record, but when 1,666 other players can boast the same, does that justify the behaviour?

The reality is nobody should be sounding off like Hachem is here, but they look all the more ridiculous when they don't have much evidence to back it up.

It used to be that the only noticeable ego in poker was that of Phil Hellmuth. He built his reputation, his brand, and became a one man industry with his trademark displays of arrogance.

It used to be just Phil that would get labeled egotistical, but I think most of us are closer to the Poker Brat than we might care to admit.

Whether its poker, or anything else for that matter, people these days seem to feel a sense of entitlement towards just about everything. Everybody believes they deserve success and happiness more than their peers.

Phil HellmuthConstant media exposure of successful people makes every dream seem achievable and easy, reality TV turns nobodies into stars overnight, and advertising makes us believe we must have more and more expensive luxuries.

We are led to feel we deserve all the trappings of success, but rarely are we reminded of the hard work that is required to get there.

Premature Exposure To Success

Poker is no different in this regard, in fact if anything the sense of entitlement is accelerated. Variance means that we can all experience what it is like to be an elite player momentarily, without having to do the work required to get there.

If you want to be a Doctor, you have to spend most of your twenties in higher education and working every hour of the day, if you want to be a champion poker player you can literally do it overnight if the cards fell your way.

Such an early exposure to success is probably why we all stuck with the game,  we most likely all ran like god in our first few months to have kept up the enthusiasm to learn the fundamentals.

But too much early success can be very damaging if you do not recognise the role variance played. It creates very high expectations, which lead to frustration, stops you working on your game, and even puts you in games you can't beat.

I have seen multiple figures quoted between one third, to three quarters, but whatever the number, a high percentage of lottery winners end up broke. This is because they find themselves with all the results of success, without the successful mindset needed to get them there, and maintain the lifestyle. This is a great metaphor for poker, which highlights what early success can do to a player.

In the case of someone like Tony, that early exposure to success might not have even been from his own actions at the tables. Being the brother of a highly successful world champion must surely have rubbed off on him and had some influence on future his behaviour at the felt.

I can completely sympathise with that too, it cannot be easy being in the shadow of a world champion. Jealously can play a massive part in your demeanour as a player, I know that first hand.

I have lots of friends who are highly successful players, and I regularly interview the best in the world. Because at times they can make it look easy at final tables, it used to create an incredible sense that I should be able to do what they did too and need to catch up.

It felt unfair, and I felt I deserved it too because I would see them winning a tournament by playing ace-king the same way I would, or even worse by sucking out on someone. What I failed to notice, and what most of us never see, is all the hard work they would put in away from the tables to put themselves in these positions.

Because we only see the results and a small sample of hands, and never see the work that led up to that point, our perception of what we and other people 'deserve' is greatly skewed.

We Are All Poker Brats

And before you discount yourself from thinking too highly of yourself, ask yourself this question, how often do you use the word fish? Most of us are guilty of labelling the competition as fish, referring to fish as being victims of our superior skill, and generally berating players who get lucky against us like they do not deserve to win.

It may be much more subtle in its manifestation, but this sense of entitlement over perceived lesser players is no different to Hellmuth saying he deserves to win every tournament.

I'm not saying an ego is a bad thing either, assessing your edge against the competition is the fundamental skill in game selection, which is of course one of the fundamental skills in poker.

But most of us greatly overestimate our edge, we all claim to be in the 5% of players that see a profit, and we all claim to be unluckier than most. Tony Hachem is embarrassing himself in these videos, but we are probably all guilty of acting the same way on a smaller scale at times in our poker careers.

Of course if we really do deserve to win more than others, I am sure the big man upstairs will help us out.....

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