The higher the rake in BB/100 is, the more capped your theoretical winrate ceiling is. When the rake is higher, you're more incentivized to play 3bet/fold strategies in spots where you would typically have a flatting range IP e.g. BTNvCO open. This limits the numbers of hands you play in small pots where you pay a large % of rake at low stakes.
June 26, 2022 | 1:44 p.m.
#2 Some Thoughts on Tilt Resistance
When I first moved up to 1kNL, I ran good for my first week which allowed me to immediately establish myself as a regular there. I had made a lot of strategy upgrades in the previous few months, combined with the best consistency to my grinding schedule, and for the first time I truly felt like I had a strong understanding of the game. I quickly acclimatised to 1kNL and could show up and play my A-game day in, day out. As someone with a plethora of mental performance issues, this was massive for me. I was fully locked in and printing money, and got to a point where I actively didn’t want to break the cycle because of not wanting to drop off, so my productivity was stacking over itself.
All well and good, until some logistical issues with the site I was playing on prevented me from continuing to play there for the time being. Wanting to continue grinding, I accepted this L and moved some money onto Pokerstars to grind 200z. I became at peace knowing that the zoom pool was much tougher and my winrate was sure to be lower than the 10BB+/100 I had established for the last half a year, but was confident that I had a positive winrate there and the higher volume and rakeback volume challenge offer would serve to mitigate the winrate loss.
What ended up actually happening was I played and did fine for the first week or so, and then fell completely off the rails and watched my winrate nosedive. I ended up playing some of the worst poker I had played in 2021 and after only a few weeks abandoned my attempt at trying to establish myself as a reg there. I was shellshocked as to how the mental resilience I assumed I had built up around me was ineffective when I was playing 5x lower stakes, and I sat on this thought for a long time.
I realized that mental resilience is far more specific than I had previously thought. You don’t play a format, develop tilt resistance and then become impervious to any form of mental game stressor in anything poker related. The mental resilience you develop is so specific to the exact format that you play, and it doesn’t translate all that well when different variables change. I developed, not a mental resilience to poker, but a resilience to 4 tabling anonymous 1kNL NLH 6max no ante reg tables. I then moved to 3-4 tabling know pool 200z and expected to be as resilient. That’s like a powerlifter starting BJJ training and being surprised that he’s gassing out because his “fitness” is high. No, his fitness is high for the very specific discipline that he’s trained himself to become efficient in.
I would get tilted over very basic things that would never anger me at 1kNL. I would get paranoid about the fact that I was playing against regs in a known pool and started pre-emptively adjusting my strategy in uncalibrated ways that made my winrate suffer, and then would stretch to make crazy assumptions about what regs were doing because of previous history where I would make ridiculous bluffs/bluffcatches. All of this on top of the fact that you need to build intensity slowly to acclimatise to it, otherwise it will overwhelm you. Going from 4 reg tables to 3 zoom tables is a huge jump in intensity and I frankly over estimated my ability to perform at a high level without conditioning to that. I got paranoid about regs making specific adjustments over me because I was used to playing in an anonymous pool where this wasn’t really possible. I just never had the mental muscle for that specific skill trained because my environment didn’t have the equipment needed to train against that specific threat.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut to developing tilt resistance in the specific format that you’re playing in other thank putting the reps in. This applies even more if you’re moving not to another site/format/structure, but to a different game type, for example cash game reg transitioning to tournaments, or NLH reg transitioning to PLO. What’s the end goal here? I would define it as “holistic resistance”, this is where you have built format specific resistance in a wide array of formats that you start to develop an overall resistance to any new stimulus. The guy who only grinds Stars 100z and jumps into PLO will have to put in a high number of reps to start to develop mental resilience, but the seasoned pro who is adept at NLH both online and live, cash and tournaments, and PLO, will be much quicker to adapt when they decide to pick up HORSE.
This is not to say that you should push yourself to diversify formats for the purpose of developing holistic resilience. You only need to be resilient in the formats that you care about. This is just to bring awareness over the effects that can happen when transitioning sites/formats/game types/shifting between live and online, so that one can plan around this effect taking place and ease into a new format with less expectation.
June 26, 2022 | 12:29 p.m.
#1 Some Thoughts on Presence
The ability to be purely focused in the moment on the task at hand. Logical self-analysis, judgement, and premeditated action do not exist in this realm. You tap into instinct and either act through spontaneous creativity, or react without bias, to your environment. The processing of external factors disintegrates. Time loses relevance. Judgement loses impact. Performance loses expectation. Imagination loses binding shackles. Limits lose bounds. There is no discussion around optimal performance states. This, by definition, is the state to perform in, and the state that we should all be striving to generate everywhere. Monks will meditate for a lifetime to access this state. The structure of the modern world lends itself to falling prey to social media overstimulation, the comparison of ourselves to people internationally, the disconnected nature of our work environments, the lack of fundamental human movement patterns in our day to day lives, the absence of valued connection to our peers, etc. These, and other factors contribute to the accumulation of stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms that impede our ability to be fully present in any given moment, or specifically when under performance stress. Once a solid baseline strategy is established, I’d argue that optimizing your efficiency to tap into a flow state in sessions is going to provide a higher winrate upgrade than micro strategy upgrades. There’s a lot of players that are struggling at low to mid stakes that are strategically sound in the absence of performance pressure, but experience a complete technical breakdown when in challenging situations. Higher level strategic upgrades won’t fix them, but being able to contact your flow state will allow you to access the full scope of your technical abilities.
The Meaning Of Dance
Traipsing across the sandbar, the fierce sun peeking through the cirrocumulus clouds and penetrating the sleepy motion of the waves. Frigatebirds patrolling overhead. The palms waving graciously from the shore to the passers-by. Wading through the ankle-deep water between respites of islands of sand, she takes my hand and encourages us to float forwards, escaping the small island town in the growing distance. Moving further away from any semblance of humanity and embracing the natural world, save for the few other people on their own pilgrimage. I close my eyes and embrace her. Finally, the chemicals start their infusion and we step through the boundary into our augmented reality. The spot speaks to us, and we settle down. As we move towards the gentle descent into the waters, the ocean gradually consumes us. Shallow enough to stand, deep enough to be influenced by the currents.
I have never entered the world of dance before, not even been provided the opportunity to taste it. An entire fundamental artform I had never even experienced. Me, and a professional ballet dancer, someone so energetically driven by movement, the fundamental pillar in which her experiences itself are parsed through. Isolated from the judgement of strangers and the noise of the man-made world, and the presence of a gifted teacher imposing no judgement of her own, she monologued with great intensity about dance improvisation. It’s an expression of pure spontaneous creativity into the medium of movement. We construct ideas in the mind about how we want to move, act, or react in the moment and then manifest that imagination into the physical world. We’re transforming an abstract concept into reality. The movement that we observe when someone is expressing the thoughts of their imagination is never isolated. It’s a rolling projection of the mental reel that is forever shifting, morphing, melting, bubbling in the mind. Just understanding this makes observing dance a more engaging experience. Imagine, that solo improv is the manifestation of spontaneous creativity into the physical world, then sharing improv with another person, leading and responding to their movement, which is really leading and responding to the manifestation of their imagination, this is the only way that two people can fully link their consciousness together and share their creative space. I’m generating imagination with her. I have real company in my own headspace.
Mistakes Do Not Exist In This Dojo
There are no mistakes when improvising. I don’t mean to say that you can’t make a mistake because we’re in a loving, forgiving environment where nobody will criticize you. Being in a place where you are allowed to make a mistake is very different from being in a place where the entire concept of “mistake” ceases to exist. It literally doesn’t belong. I will use a musical example here. In the context of functional harmony, there are chord progressions that are outlined that are known to work in the context of a scale, and there are intervals that are known to work well under the context of a chord. Music theory only exists to retroactively explain why certain combinations of sounds work together, not tell you that “you should do this or else”. The commonly thrown around phrase is: “Music theory is descriptive, not prescriptive”. Functional harmony is the framework that most contemporary music is predicated on, because it’s a collection of bullet-proofed guides that have been tested over time to sound good, but the reality is that you cannot make a mistake by deviating from the confines of functional harmony rules, because every single note can work with every single chord, it’s just a matter of context. What is played before that chord? What follows that chord? How is the chord played? These contribute to the emotional expression of the voicings. Something very far removed from functional harmony may sound very aggressive, brittle, spicy, dissonant, but never incorrect or wrong. It’s just a matter of the context in which it’s played. When improvising, you cannot make a mistake: understand this fundamental concept and it releases self-judgement of performance.
All improv is fundamentally understanding that there’s an infinite number of variables that can be manipulated, and you have total discretion with how and why you play with them, purely as a means of self-expression. Anything internal or external that judges this process, impedes the pathway from unconstrained imagination to the processing of how abstract concepts would materialize in the physical form to the execution of that manifestation. The process is sensitive to disturbance.
Pressure through our palms, but light on the tips of our fingers. Eyes wide shut. Our shoulders caress each other for a brief moment, before I pull back, barely kissing our fingertips. A new sentence is written. The dialogue, shared in that moment, baptized by the glaring sun, witnessed by the frigatebirds, embraced by the ocean currents. Just for a moment in time, we created a moment of perfection.
Why was this the most present I’ve ever been? Well for a start, I was removed from the judgement of third-party eyes (not really, there were other people around but they were isolated in their own bubbles; nobody was paying attention to us). We were floating in the shallow waters off a sandbar on a remote tropical island. I was with a highly talented dancer, gifted at teaching (this could trigger insecurity about your own performance in a lot of people, but a great teacher expresses an energy that is absent from critical judgement). They provided a safe, nurturing environment that gives breathing room for you to grow your roots and to play around with concepts. A truly great teacher extends their hand of trust to the student. The teacher doesn’t need to direct energy towards a motif that isn’t working for the student, because they trust that the student has the self-awareness to recognize and recalibrate on their own. And finally, the water creates a physical barrier between my head (my mind) and my body. It removes the element of judgement of how my body looks when I direct it to move a certain way, but due to my inexperience, I can’t masterfully manipulate my limbs in the way that I wanted to express them. You’re reduced to pure feeling with how you move your body, the visual element is eliminated. The water also provides a fantastic training environment as the effects of gravity change, and poor footwork is much more forgiving.
All of these elements are reductive in nature. They’re not adding anything to my environment to allow me to be present. I have, and always will have the capacity to access presence, but we have countless barriers that we construct, through traumas/projections/insecurities that block our pathways to access presence. To access this type of presence in poker, we need to be able to cultivate the environment, the teacher (this is our relationship with how we communicate with ourselves), and the water (how can we focus our energy on the intentions of our actions without judgement over the execution).
The Elements We Need
The environment is going to be the structure of your life surrounding poker. Having a clean work environment, the big three: diet, sleep nutrition, organizing your pre-game and post-game routine, streamlining your study process, etc. Mastering these variables removes unnecessary pressures that may affect you in game. Allowing your performance to be capped because of life tasks you were too unstructured to finish is a frankly stupid and easily preventable way to hinder yourself. Planning and deliberate execution over these variables should eliminate these facets of your daily life to seep in and distract you while playing. It’s going to be more subtle than “I didn’t tidy my room and therefore I am going to be thinking about this while I am contemplating a river bluffcatch”, but it’s going to add a low level, almost undetectable stress which most likely will manifest in exaggerating the intensity of the default performance leaks you naturally veer towards.
The teacher is going to be how we communicate with ourselves internally with regards to our performance in poker. Our internal dialogue in poker is a reflection of how we talk to ourselves in all fundamental aspects of our lives when we are placed under performance stress, and these responses are going to be fairly consistent in all industries we find ourselves in. If you follow the breadcrumbs, you will find that they stem from childhood traumas that reinforce inaccurate belief systems, which express themselves as specific performance leaks (topic for another time). The teacher must never speak to their student in a way where the student feels pressured to perform, or else. A student who feels unsafe to make a mistake will break under pressure and revert to their baseline tendencies which results in performance breakdown. The judgemental internal voice that controls us when we play, that beats on us when we make a bluff that doesn’t go through, that scolds us when we misclick, or calibrate incorrectly vs a certain player, it prevents us from growing from the mistakes that we make. When the dialogue shifts, and we heal the relationship with ourselves, we communicate with our internal voice without the need for pressure or threat, as we allow ourselves to have agency to play in our sandbox, and to let go expectations of performance, for if we make a mistake, our internal voice fully trusts that we can recognize it and learn from it.
The water represents our ability to filter our actions from the judgements of those around us. You wouldn’t believe how many people have made calls or folds based on their fear of judgement from those around them. “I’ll look so stupid if I call and I’m wrong” to mind. I doubt many people believe that they’ve made such a rationalization in their history of playing, but I’m confident that it’s a lot more common than people will lead you on to believe. I’ve definitely done this many times. For me the dialogue that resonates with my performance imbalances looks more like “I will look so sick if this bluff gets through/I will look so sick if my wild bluffcatch is correct”. The judgement of peers can manifest in many ways than just this example. It can lead players to feel pressured to play at certain stakes, higher or lower than they should be, how they should study or how much time they devote to studying, how much volume they should play, and countless ways that this can manifest in real time in game. This is related to your connection to “the teacher” in the sense that your judgement of how others perceive you is a reflection of your own projections, and may be completely disconnected from the reality of how somebody actually feels. If we relax the need to prescribe value to what other people think of us when we are performing, no, what we are projecting that people are thinking of us when we are performing, then the remainder of our wavelength is dominated by the clarity of our pure thoughts, and not polluted by judgements.
Thank you, Joseph, for introducing me to the concept of presence, and to Jason Su for illuminating the depth of this performance rabbit hole. Our best state is eternally dormant within us, we just need the means to access it. The path for exactly how this looks will shift from person to person, but you will find what resonates with you as long as your macro compass is calibrated towards seeking the key to accessing your personal presence.
At the climax of the novel, the narrative had run its course. As we transition from water to land, I’m left with nothing more than a memory. The nature of movement is that it only exists in the moment. I sit down, the tide slowly creeps towards us, a gentle reminder that our time is coming to a close. I only had a memory of the moment to look back on, but this may be the most beautiful gift I could ask for. Whenever I want to recount what true presence feels like, I have this memory. One of, hopefully many perfect moments in the timeline of my life, but this is the one that I will choose to think about for now. Thank you, Hummingbird, for making a dancing man out of me.
June 20, 2022 | 3:18 p.m.
I’m 25 years old. I’m a university drop-out turned poker player. I’m an ex-Poker Detox student. I’m currently floating between 200NL-1kNL online and working on floating higher in the near future. That’s the objective details.
Really, I’m invisible. I’m a disillusioned poker player who is floating apathetically between success and mediocrity. I’m living in the superimposed, murky shadows of my idols, my family, and my own potential. I’m the warning that parents give their children of who not to become. I’m chasing the dragon of always being on the tip of the big breakthrough. That’s the real details.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and speaking about a lot of aspects surrounding poker with my close friends, and as of the last few months I’ve started journaling and writing a lot, something I’ve never really been all too consistent with before in my life, but now I feel I have a motivation to do.
If you want to hear someone at the top level give his dictations on how to "make it" in poker, and put up a pretty facade of certainty on how he talks about the process, I'd suggest closing this thread and checking out the plethora of other threads that fit that description.
This will not be a place for me to log my results, start a bankroll challenge, or discuss technical strategy. I just wanted to create an outlet for my thoughts on the soft skills and mental aspects of the profession of poker and the struggles that unite all players, and on a larger scale, people in all performance industries. When ideas dominate your mind, I’ve recently found that by immortalizing the expression of those ideas in writing releases the need to retain the idea and creates open mental space for more ideas. This is just a place for those thoughts. Most of what I will be writing about will be drawn from personal experience, opinions, conversations with friends, etc. I’m just sharing things that interest me, or are on my mind.
I would advise against taking anything I talk about here as objective fact. I’m just a retard with a bank account.