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


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Six Pack abs said...

It was the Mayfair Club, where he settled down to play poker on a regular basis. It 'been a hotbed of poker talent, time, Erik Seidel and Dan.

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