No Game For Robots

Owais Ahmed, who, after a successful year, has lost all motivation for playing poker,  wrote: “Its like I’ve hit the ceiling – all I can accomplish at a poker table is doing more of what I’ve already done. Looking forward to a future where I should grind cash daily or a few nights a week doesn’t seem that fun. When is enough enough?”

A PERSONAL STORY: A Grande Vanilla Latte

On a hot summer morning in Laguna Beach, California I stopped to relax at Laguna Beach Coffee. I love the sensation of caffeine on an empty stomach and basking in the Orange County sun. There I could get both for $2.

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Playing Too High

Poker has afforded me so much, it’s only fair I give something back to the community.

In this mini series I will share the knowledge and skills I have acquired from years of playing, traveling and talking to the world’s best players. Following each post, I will be offering further advice and answering any questions on the subject.


We’ve all done it and we all know we shouldn’t, so I’ll skip the lecture. Instead, I’ll focus on how to change the behavior.


The purposes of goal setting are plentiful: provide motivation for playing our best, make the game more fun and stimulating, track progress and liberate us from the burden of choice. The lure of a big game is that one can win a lot of money in one session. But if I know that this month I want to play 100 hours and make $10,000 (assuming I expect to earn $100 per hour), suddenly, I am less compelled to take shots to get there. When I have a goal that is motivating and challenging yet attainable, I alter my priorities toward a long term focus.

Instead of over emphasizing the monetary aspect of my goal setting, I assume that I’m going to reach my target. It will not only helps me to stay on course, but also to play with confidence and ease. 

It’s important to constantly revaluate and be fair with my expectations.

Saying I want to earn $500 per table hour is unrealistic if I’m playing $10/$20 No Limit. If it’s too difficult, I’ll be overwhelmed and quit. If it’s too easy, I’ll be likely to jump back into that big game.

I make my objective short term and record each session to track the progress. Never mind if I don’t get it right the first time or am a victim of variance. It will get better.


If someone asks how I am doing in poker, my answer is the same: I am even. The logic is this. Right now there is only the present moment and in this moment, there is no change. Whatever downswing I had or hand I lost is in the past.

How does one interpret the phrase “I’m winning?” Does it refer to today? A week? A year? I can always be up or down. The answer is arbitrary and changes depending on how I define the time frame. Thus, the streaks only exist in my mind.

I know you are doing this correctly when I don’t lament over folding for 10 hours. After all, if I am always even, then each hand is my first hand.
The only time I should take a streak into account, is how my opponents may perceive them.


How do I know if I’m playing within my means?
I want the game to be comfortable enough where I will not think twice about pulling a check-raise bluff on the river, but still sting a little bit if I lose.

If I can’t do this, it means I am playing too big. When I successfully play with indifference I do not root for certain cards to come. Doing so implies favoring an outcome, which could affect decision making.

My job is to process the information and use it to make the best decision possible: not to care about it.

Cheering and wanting to win are different. I can want to win without being emotional. I am free to cheer after the session is over. I am also free to care.


* Please share if you have any other effective strategies that work for you or ways to improve upon mine. I will also be answering all of your questions .


On Risk: A Magic Ninja

“You say I’m washed up but you never learned to swim/ If I drown beneath the ocean, its cos I didn’t save anything / for the way back”
- Alexei Martov

It began with a dream. At 6:30 a.m., after another all night poker session, the sun shined in through the window. Martin “MagicNinja” Bradstreet got into bed, and turned on the TV. A Muse concert was airing. “I remember thinking how playing on stage would probably be the most awesome thing in the world,” Martin, aka “alexeimartov“, recalls in his post  “Chasin shootin stars” on the website TwoPlusTwo. It was then that he had an epiphany. “There was no fundamental difference between the person on the stage and myself. If I wanted it bad enough, I could do that.” There was only one problem. Martin couldn’t sing or play the guitar.

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Arabian Nights


Ranked 18th in the world in most competitive tourist destinations
Near the bottom of historic sites and natural beauty
3rd in friendliness to international tourists
10th in public safety
1st in marketing
Everyone speaks English
Dubai is surprisingly affordable
75 degrees: the average high in winter. In summer, it exceeds 120.
gallons: The amount of water the fountains of the Burj Kaliffa spray simultaneously
4 Dirham ~ $1

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. There was something uneasy about him; the slow, calibrated movements, the feigned understanding, the quick responses. It was as if I was already guilty.

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A Passion for Poker


Two events significantly changed poker: UIGEA and Black Friday. When an industry suffers two asteroid impacts, only the strongest survive. Thus, it’s no surprise that the games have got a lot tougher to beat.

Old school pros have been run down by a new breed of internet wizards; ones who have done the work, know the numbers and are hungry to be the best.

Last week I played the PartyPoker Big Game in Vienna. I had the unfortunate challenge of playing with some of those players. Sam Trickett, Phil Laak, JP Kelly, Daniel “Jungleman” Cates and Andy Moseley. It was the toughest line up I’d ever faced and I often felt outclassed. Many times I shook my head or tapped the table and thought, “they’re simply too good.”

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Know When to Hold’em

A two part article on knowing when to walk away.  Part Two: “Know When To Fold’em” will be online on Friday, April 13th.

A PERSONAL STORY: The Never Ending Session

It was Sunday afternoon when I finally quit. Sixty eight hours ago, when I started playing, I never dreamed that I could win more than a thousand dollars in a single session. I also never thought it was possible to feel that tired, exhausted to the point of delusion. I simply could not continue. When I walked out of the poker room, I looked back at the table. They were still playing.

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Counting Every Moment


A PERSONAL STORY: Counting Every Moment
The “Economist” just released an article titled Counting Every Moment in which people tabulate various activities in their lives.

Coincidentally, I began doing this last year to keep track of my habits. How many books I read, how many movies I watched, how much alcohol I drank, how many times I worked out, etc.
Aside from learning the facts, what I noticed was the simple act of recording made me more conscious about the activities I do. If I had a drink, I had to mark it down. I couldn’t lie to myself. My iPhone notepad was constantly hovering over me.

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The Game of the Future

As discussed in Part 1, poker needs to be rebranded. But dressing well is just the beginning. In order to effectively implement change, we are going to need help from the rest of the world.

The Problem: The Stereotype

1) More on Perception

First impressions are huge. The reason poker players are perceived as degenerate gamblers is we act like it. We show up to televised events and make our statement to the world by saying, “I’m too lazy to shave or dress up.” Just because we can stroll into the Bellagio in sweats doesn’t mean we should. Nowhere else in the Casino do people dress like they are homeless. It’s not professional and it’s not classy.

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