Saturday, February 21, 2015


I must admit I've been somewhat lax on the blogging front recently. The main reason for this I guess is the fact I have other writing gigs at the moment. Gigs that have monthly deadlines and people who will shout "Where is it?" if I don't write them on time, which moves them up the list past this blog. There's also the question of what to actually put here, with trip reports now earmarked for the Full Tilt blog, and opinion and strategy pieces for Bluff. That pretty much just leaves more personal stuff, which is what this blog started as way back when nobody else read it. I completely understand if that no longer tickles your fancy as a reader so I certainly won't be offended if we part ways for now. We've had a good run.

I've been pretty busy on all fronts: playing, coaching, live trips and off the table work. A lot of training videos, podcasts, and I got through Moorman's book.


I like to think the mental side of poker has always been my major strength as a player. It meant I was a winning player right out of the gate, before I had much of a clue technically, and also allowed me to persevere through some tough patches. However, I've never been one to rest on imaginary laurels so I'm always on the lookout for any additional (legal) edge. I recently listened to an interview with "poker hypnotherapist" Elliot Roe with an unhealthy degree of scepticism. I've always been sceptical of things like alternative medicine (I'm very much in the "If it actually worked it'd just be called medicine" camp), and admit I knew little about hypnotism or hypnotherapy beyond a few stage shows I'd seen.

What impressed me about Elliot was he didn't make any miracle cure type outlandish claims (and at one point actually said most stage hypnotist shows are faked), so he came across as a serious professional. I decided to give his pre session mp3's a try, and have been surprised how much they seem to help get me in the right mind frame before every session, so I heartily recommend them.

Rankings schmankings

Another interview I listened to recently was with Olivier Busquet. I've been known to vent at how ridiculous most poker rankings system are since it's total cashes rather than profitability that is measured. Olivier made the same point in his interview. The kind of ranking lists you see on the Hendon Mob and Global Poker Index (as part of their nonsensical drive to "sportify poker") are at best harmless fictions, at worst a deliberate skewing of the reality of what it actually means to be a successful poker player. Given limited programming skills and unlimited bankroll, I feel confident someone could programme a bot that would top the online GPI rankings in no time. Limited programming skills because there would be no need to programme any poker strategy: just set the bot to register every big online tournament and then click buttons at random. Since the rankings are based on your 40 biggest scores over 2 years, by sheer force of numbers and volume the bot would rack up 40 big scores. Unlimited bankroll because the bot would lose a ton of money on its brainless ascent to the top spot.

You might think this is a stupid or unrealistic example since nobody in their sane senses would actually implement such a plan, but on a smaller scale, there are lots of real life examples of players losing fortunes chasing inflated live or online rankings.

You might go on to ask why does this even matter? It's certainly not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it's not entirely harmless either. Status in poker has traditionally been accorded on the basis of big scores (rather than overall profitability). This impacts on things like sponsorship and staking deals, and invites to freerolls like TV tournaments. All of these things are becoming less important (sites and TV producers are far more interested in hooking up with sports stars and beauty queens these days), but from talking to what I would call normal poker fans, I still get a very strong sense that their perspective is still very skewed by ranking lists and the "What's your biggest score?" criterion. Things like the Hendon mob and GPI propagate the myth that not only is there a clearly defined pecking order in poker (as in any real sport), but the upper echelons are occupied exclusively by those who play the biggest live buyin tournaments. Never mind if the vast majority of these guys are playing other people's money when they do so, and that they may not be profitable over a lifetime if you knock out their single biggest score. A lot of the time, at best you're watching a variance jockey freerolling on someone else's dime. At worst, you're watching the death throes of a career that was kickstarted by one massive luckboxed live score, which is gradually being given back one buyin at a time as he clings to his fading status.

Again, you might think this is all harmless, but in offering up this view of poker, they give aspiring young players false Gods to worship and false paradigms and dreams to chase. Any kid entering the game now would be hard pressed to have any view other than the route to the top is to get a live score, get a backer, play every big event they can, and win an EPT or a bracelet. By sheer law of averages a few will live out this dream, but when they end up bust and in a few hundred k of makeup at age 30 with no other skill set, what then?

Another problem with falsely accorded status (also highlighted by Busquet) is it can be used to tap people up for loans. I've been as stupid as anyone else on this front and learnt the hard way more than once that just because someone is top of the online rankings or has a few massive live scores doesn't mean they are a successful going concern, and they should be treated with the same suspicion as any stranger or acquaintance asking you for a loan or a stake out of the blue.

A few months ago a friend told me about a new site, Poker Winners, that had set up an online ranking system that was based on profitability. I duly forgot all about it until I saw a tweet about the site recently. Curious as to how I'd stack up in the rankings, I signed up, duly supplied all my online screennames, and was very pleasantly surprised to come in at number 1 on the rankings, the min rankings (for smaller buyins) and the overall money list (where I benefit greatly from the fact that satellites are counted: about half my lifetime cashes are in satellites). I don't expect to hold on to the top spot for very long as more profitable players go through the sign up procedure, but for all the reasons already stated, I'll still be delighted to see a proper list based on profitability.

The site has a really good community feel to it with a daily roundup of members scores from the previous night. The nightly grind of the online mtt player is a lonely one filled with disappointments and frustrations, so it's important to take positive reenforcement anywhere we can find it.

Running good

I'm back in pretty heavy training for running for the first time since I quit competitive running a few years ago. Since then I just ticked with 3 or 4 miles 3 or 4 times a week, but a few months ago I decided to see if I could build up my mileage and intensity. I'm now doing one long run a week (usually on Wednesday or Thursday), one hard speed session, sometimes another easier speed session, and 2 or 3 easy runs a week. I've gradually increased the length of the long run, from 8 miles up to 30 miles this week. This was the first time I've run 30 miles in training since I quit competitively, and I was pleased at how easy it felt (and the fact I was able to run again the following day).

The reason I quit competitive running was I found it impossible to balance with poker and everything else. I could just about keep doing the training, but I just felt tired all the time, and when race day came, the tank always seemed to be empty. Something had to give, and since poker could pay the bills and running couldn't, it was running. Since gearing up my training again, I've actually felt more energetic and less tired overall. There's enough anecdotal evidence to support that a few fallow years can be the precursor to a successful competitive comeback in really long distance running, so I'm still open to the possibility of some sort of return to competition. Even if that doesn't work out, I think I'll be happier for having tried, and fitter for having done the training. I think I've coasted on the stamina I built in running in poker and other areas for the past few years, so I think now's a good time to put in some more training.

Overall, life is pretty good right now. Oisin is happily settled in his new place, and Mrs Doke is a lot happier as a result. She came with me to Deauville (where I played just one event, the FPS main, and cashed) and will join me in Vegas for the first time this summer. The schedule is now out, and my plan is to get there in time for the Seniors two days after my 50th birthday, then play some more side events, then fly to New York to visit some non poker friends there. Mrs Doke will join me there, and then return with me to Vegas for the main event. She hates the very idea of Vegas, but sure she has to try it at least once.

Related reading

Given that most of my writing these days appears in places other than here, I'm going to end my blogs with a new section containing links to my most recent stuff.

Paul Seaton's interview with me for PokerWinners
My Bluff Europe piece Gordiju's remarkable Sunday triple win (and general reaction to same)
My Madchester trip report, also for Bluff
A strategy piece on talking at the table (Bluff)
My tribute to Liam Flood (Bluff)
Two parter strategy piece on live leaks, part 1 and part 2 (Bluff)
After my original piece on HUDs provoked a number of interesting reactions from Rob Yong and others, I wrote a response (Bluff)
Strategy piece on how to actively use your image (Bluff)
My first Full Tilt blog, introducing "The Firm"
Atlantis trip report (Full Tilt blog)
Some reminisces from the Fitz (Full Tilt blog)



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