Wednesday, November 3, 2021

An eternity of a blink

As I walked into the Bonnington for my first live tournament in 20 months, my mind flashed back to February of last year when the Unibet Open followed the European Deepstack. The pandemic has messed the very fabric of time for all of us, and it simultaneously felt like the blink of an eye and a lifetime separated me from that event where we talked about the looming threat of COVID-19 and what it would mean. Looking back it’s clearly there was a lot of COVID in the room (lead commentator Henry Kilbane went down with it, but he was clearly the top of an iceberg that took a couple of weeks to reveal itself). It’s also fair to say most people including myself greatly underestimated what the effect would be. Most people scoffed when it was suggested the WSOP might not go ahead that summer. I’m pretty sure nobody in the room could have imagined that not only would that come to pass, but that it also wouldn’t happen the following summer, and that it would be 20 months before the next live event in Ireland. 

When we did all meet up again, we were wearing masks and sanitising our hands frequently (kudos to the organisers for the ingenious idea of using sanitizer bottles as buttons, encouraging us all to sanitize once an orbit). Nevertheless everyone seemed to be thrilled to be back, and the general atmosphere was one of the friendliest I’ve ever witnessed. 

Online day 1

I’d played the online day 1 and made it through as the shortest stack (2.5x starting stack). I was surprised by the number of people who asked if I’d fire again because I was “short”, or didn’t ask but just assumed I would. I’ll never see the “logic” of forking out another buyin when I’ve already got over 2.5 in equity. Best case scenario I bust the second bullet. That’s not a typo or a brain fart. If I bust the second bullet I’ve only blown a buyin in equity, whereas if I get through with more and have to surrender my first stack, I’ve lit over 2.5 buyins in equity on fire. Not to mention the negative hourly on the time wasted on the second bullet.

Super High Roller

Having made day 2 that freed me up to play side events until day 2 on Sunday. First up was the 1k “Super High Roller” which attracted 63 runners. I had a good day one getting up to 2.5x starting stack at a tough table that featured Max Silver, Seamus Cahill and Johnny McCullagh. I lost a few standard all ins against shorties to end the day back at starting stack, and bust early on day 2. My bust out came on the feature table: Craig Burke opened in the hijack, a shortie shoved for 5 bigs in the cutoff, and I find black aces in the small blind with 18 bbs. I decided to flat for a couple of reasons: I wanted the full double from Craig, and I have some hands that want to flat the shorty shove but will fold if Craig shoves. He didn’t, electing instead to flat. 

The flop wasn’t exactly what my black aces were hoping for: KQ4 all hearts. With an SPR of one though I’m never folding so the only decision is how to get the rest in. I elected to bet another 5 bbs to give Craig room to get worse hands in. He shoved a not worse hand: a set of 4s. A queen on the turn gave me a couple of additional outs but it wasn’t to be.

Recovery runs

I recently coached Daniel Dvoress to his first ultra race, a 50 mile adventure race in the wilds of Canada. When David asked him on the Chip Race what surprised him most about the training, he replied the amount of filler recovery runs. Most people’s intuition on how to train for a long distance race is to just try to run hard and long every day. It turns out that not only is this not good, it’s very very bad. The proper way to train is to focus on either speed or distance in your hard runs, and to recover from them with an easy run the following day. You should either be training at high intensity, or recovering at low intensity. The in between zone, where you’ll invariably end up if you just try to run hard every day, achieves nothing in practise. It’s not hard enough to improve you, or easy enough to help your body recover from a hard run. It’s a bit like only ever betting 10% of pot. What’s the point?

I also advised Espen “Shawshank” Sorlie who was training for a 10 km prop bet (he won). Training poker players is fun so if you are training for something athletic feel free to hit me up for advice. 

Since I started balancing poker and running almost a decade and a half ago, I’ve tried different ways of combining them. After much trial and error I’ve decided :

(1) Long runs are a good way to basically reset and shrug off a major disappointment 

(2) Short recovery runs are a good way to recover from minor disappointments like a live bust out 

(3) High intensity speed training is a great way to get your body and mind hyper focused before a big tournament or session 

So I went for a short recovery run around the pitches across the road from the hotel to clear my mind.

Commentary

After a quick shower and change of clothes, I headed down to do some commentary with The Tower on the Super High Roller final table. It was one of the more fascinating FTs I’ve commentated on. Mark Buckley came in as chip leader, and anyone who knows Mark knows he’s guaranteed to drive the action in those circumstances. He didn’t have it all his own way with Martin Olali and the talented Gary T in particular fighting fire with fire and giving as good as they got. Ivan Tononi, probably the most technically adept and ICM aware player at the table, played a patient waiting game and eventually claimed the win in a style reminiscent of Martin Jacobson’s WSOP FT.

Book Signing

Barry and I found time to do a book signing for qualifiers claiming a free copy of the book as a bonus for qualifying for the main event on Unibet (and anyone else who wanted to buy a copy). I also took great pleasure watching Barry scurrying around to bring me books to sign while I was playing, and delivering them to other players.

Barry’s main role in the books has always been to act as a proxy for the readers: to ask the questions they would ask and to make me keep explaining my answers until they make sense to him (and by extension them). In recent times I’ve become concerned his skill level might be getting too high to fill this role. I needn’t have worried, based on what people who played with him reported to me.  For example, Luckymo:

“Who is the English lad with The Chip Race patch, Doke?”

“That must be Barry, the guy I write the books with, Mo”

“Lovely guy. Really lovely”

“He’s not bad”

“Yeah. Really lovely guy. But....shite at poker!”

“Well...”

“Really really shite. Like I thought he’d be good because of the patch. But he’s absolutely shite”

Day 2

I started day 2 roughly half average, but not for long when my aces coolered queens and held. I kicked on from there through the bubble to be well above average with 50 left, but then I barely won another hand, ultimately busting in 27th. No particularly interesting hands. Overall I was happy that I still remembered how to play live poker.


High Roller

I max late regged this the following day. After an inauspicious start where I lost a third of my stack very first hand (and to add insult to injury the table immediately broke), I recovered to be well above average and looking good for another cash. A couple of lost all ins later I was short nearing the bubble, and my AJ losing to A8 finished me off. That just left the....

Mini Main

Another late reg saw me on a pretty sick table with Paul “uwannaloan” Delaney, Paul Carr, Keith Tuohy and Paddy Power streamer Tom Parsons. Paul Carr had been given a ticket for the seat Keith was in, so they had to switch. Keith was then immediately coolered, much to the amusement of Paul who realised he’d have been gone first hand but for the switch. Keith took it in good sport: he’s good craic to talk to.

One table move later I found myself at a new table featuring another man with an Irish Open final table, Dixie Dean, and a French lady with a glare almost as piercing as my own French lady. She made a good fold with aces when I turned a straight and she gave me the full glare down. 

I played my most interesting hand of the weekend against Dixie. After a good young English guy raised under the gun, Dixie flatted in mid position (he was playing almost every hand) and I called in the big blind with 65 suited in clubs. The flop was J73 with two clubs, so I have a flush draw and gutter. After I checked, the opener cbet third pot, Dixie raised big, and it’s back to me. I had just over three times Dixie’s raise behind, so it seemed like a good spot to shove with lots of fold equity and equity when called. 

The opener folded quickly, while Dixie went into the tank. He asked me if I had a set of threes (no comment), saying he was dead if I had. He went on probing, then switched tack saying he had a flush draw and I could have a worse one. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, so I just sat there while he ruminated. After counting out the call from his stack to see what he’d have left, and looking at the clock to determine he’d still be average if he did call and lose, he eventually called with AQ suited in clubs. He started celebrating the call when I sheepishly turned over my hand. His celebration was dampened when the turn was an eight making me open ended, and when I missed it on the river he took a while to realise the innocuous looking five made me a pair which beat his ace high.

I continued to chip up until the legend that is Mick McCloskey moved to the table to my immediate left. When he opened under the gun and it folded around to him, I joked that he never could resist the temptation to raise my blind before I looked at my cards. Black aces again, the hand of the weekend. I threebet, Mick shoved and groaned when he saw the aces. He tabled kings muttering to himself how unlucky he was. Cue the king high flop to general groans at the table, cut short by Mick’s “It’s not over yet”.

As the dealer counted down the stacks to ascertain I had fumes left, I thought back to a similar spot deep in the European Deepstack in 2008 that Mick brought up several thousand times over the next decade. Maybe Mick’s did too, as he looked at me and said “Look, nobody did anything wrong”, as if to pre-empt a decade of retaliatory moaning. Truth is that’s poker though, sometimes we dish out the beats, sometimes they are dished out to us, and if someone in that seat is destined to suck out on me, I’d prefer it to be a friend like Mick rather than a foe.

Final thoughts

One thing was very clear: after 20 months without live poker, the Irish poker public are gagging for it again. People you wouldn’t expect to see at the IPO like Max Silver and Eoin O’Dea played the 1k, and Steve O’Dwyer fired two bullets at the 500. When someone at my table remarked it was amazing someone who was 12th in the all time money list was playing it, I pointed out that if he won he’d.....still be 12th.

A big thank you and congratulations are in order for Nick O’Hara, his team and all the dealers who made the event a huge success. David and I are off to the WSOP on the 8th if we can fade getting COVID. Wish us luck!

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The ICM book

 There’s a saying in sports that it’s much harder to stay at the top than to get there, to retain a title than to win it for the first time. I certainly found that to be true in my running career. I never successfully defended a title, and if I’m honest, I have to admit that the motivation to repeat a former success was never as strong.

When I wrote my first poker strategy book with Barry Carter, “Poker Satellite Strategy” I hoped it would sell well (mostly for Barry: I’m a professional poker player for whom this was a side venture, but his livelihood is writing so I wanted it to sell well enough to make it worth his while) and be well received. I felt absolutely no pressure though: had it flopped miserably I’d have shrugged and just moved on to the next thing. I think one of my strengths is that I don’t mind failing so long as I’ve given something my best effort, and I don’t dwell on failures. Folding is an underrated skill in poker and life: knowing when to accept you’re just not destined to win a hand or a pursuit, and just cut your losses, fold and move on to the next one. 

However, the first book was a success beyond my mildest dreams, and I did feel a certain pressure with the follow up “PKO Poker Strategy”. Mostly I didn’t want to disappoint the thousands of readers who had messaged me to say that the first poker book was one of or even the best poker book they’d read, and one that had made a massive difference in their poker lives. 

The success of the second book rolled the pressure on to book number three, “Endgame Poker Strategy: the ICM book”. A ton of work went into this book running thousands of sims and trying to distil them down into communicable concepts. Barry thinks this is our best book yet, and the early feedback has been very positive. It’s certainly the least niche: ICM is (I believe) the most important concept in tournaments and the one that’ll make the biggest difference to your bottom line. 


It takes a village

Barry and I have always gone the self publish route, figuring a traditional publisher wouldn’t generate sufficient additional sales to compensate for taking most of the profit. That’s worked out well for us, but it does place the onus on us to do everything ourselves. However, we have been incredibly fortunate at the number of people who stepped forward willing to help, whether it be content review, proofreading, promotion or whatever. These are all thanked in the acknowledgements section of the book (although I’m quite certain I forgot a few) but I’d like to pay further tribute to some of them here. It takes a village to help two village idiots write a book.

I would really like to thank all of our advance readers for their feedback and suggestions, including Sameer Singh, Daniel Dvoress, Conal Prendergast, Danny Sprung, Kevin Snelgrove, Katie Swift, Paul Romain,  and Jennifer Shahade. Sameer, Daniel and Danny deserve special mention for going above and beyond in the thoroughness of their review and the excellence of their suggestions. Danny did the first and final proofreads on the book, turning it around in under 24 hours in both cases!

I would also like to thank some of the people that helped us get this book over the line, including Kat Arnsby and Saron Harford. Thank you also to everyone at Unibet Poker, ShareMyPair, Cardschat, RecPoker, GambleOnline and PokerStrategy.com for their support over the years. Thanks kindly to K L Cleeton whose excellent app Range Trainer Pro helped us produce some of the hand grids in this book.

A special thank you to my friend and Twitch phenom Kevin Martin, who invited me on his stream to talk about the last two books. Several of the “gorilla maths” methods in the newbook arose from in depth discussion I had with Kevin who always asks the best questions.

Thanks also to thank David Lappin for being our unofficial hype man and ‘5th Beatle’ for the last three books. David also gave us feedback on the first draft, although this looked suspiciously like an exact copy of his feedback on the last two books, “include more anecdotes”. However, we took this advice to heart and if you liked the anecdotes to illustrate and break up the heavier strategy sections, you can thank David. If on the other hand you think rambling anecdotes have no place in a strategy book, please direct your abuse towards him.  

Finally I dedicated this book to Sean Ua Cearnaigh, my father who passed away last year. He instilled his love of learning and words and cards in me from an early age. Starting even later than me, he ended up publishing over twenty books in his lifetime, so I have a long way to go to catch up!

A special message for the Irish

Unfortunately we discovered Amazon are struggling to send paper books to Irish customers. We are working on the issue but until then, you can get it from the French Amazon almost as quickly as you used to be able to from the UK. We will have some copies at the IPO this month in Dublin if you are going.

Promotion

The timing of the release ended up being somewhat fortuitous in that it came out just as I came out of a period of playing online almost every waking hour for six weeks because of the various online series that were happening. While the grind went very well (I had one of my biggest upswings ever, which I only partially ascribe to positive variance. I think the hundreds of hours I spent studying sims in the final push to get the book out bore fruit by considerably improving my game), a period of playing less was just what the doctor ordered. Promoting the book has been the main priority as well as catching up on other fronts that got neglected like coaching and content creation, so I’ve done a bunch of podcasts and a Twitch appearance (I’m open to doing more in the next few weeks so hit me up if you want me on your pod or stream) and interviews. I won’t bore you with a list of them all (that’s what my Twitter is for) but I will say this one conducted by Lappin was a lot of fun. 

As I said above, when you self publish, you have to drive the promotion yourself. This has been my main focus since the book came out, and will be for the next few weeks. So far it’s going very well, with the book climbing to the top of the Amazon charts following in the footsteps of the last two books. 

One thing that helps massively on this front is earlier reviews so a big thank you to those of you who took the time to do this, and keep them coming!


On that front Barry and I will be doing a book signing at the.....

IPO

Live poker returns to Ireland on the 22nd of October, the first event since March of last year. That was the Unibet Open in the Bonnington, so it’s fitting the first event back is another Unibet sponsored event, the IPO. Lappin will be making the trip from Malta, while Barry is coming from Sheffield, and I’m looking forward to catching up with scores of others I haven’t seen in 18 months. Satellites and feeders are now running on Unibet. Hope to see you all there at some point in the weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2021

I’m not a doctor

I’m not a doctor. I think most kids go through a phase where they think they want to be one, but I’m pretty sure I never did. The thought of only seeing people when they’re sick held no appeal for me, and I’m squeamish about blood and a lot of other body stuff doctors need to be able to take in their stride.

When it came to choosing a career, my only real criterion was what would get me a well paying job. My careers guidance teacher looked at my results and noted I was very good at maths and science, so he suggested accountant, actuary or engineer. Accountant sounded like a very boring thing to 18 year old me, so that got ruled out. There’s a saying the actuaries are people who can’t handle the excitement of chartered accountancy, so I ruled that out too. I wasn’t entirely sure what an engineer did, but it sounded vaguely exciting and futuristic, so off I went to university to become an engineer. At the end of first year we had to commit to a specific type of engineering. The options were (in reverse order of my preference)

(1) Agricultural. I ruled that out straight away as it sounded like it involved tractors and being on farms, two things I hated. Also it was widely known that almost nobody chose this one, so it became the preserve of the unfortunate bottom ten per cent in the first year exams

(2) Civil. This wasn’t a popular choice either, it was seen as old school. To me it sounded like it involved being on construction sites in a hard hat, a situation I never had any desire to find myself in, so I put that down as my second least preferred, and hoped my exam results wouldn’t consign me to a career on building sites 

(3) Chemical. This was a little sexier, but also summoned up images of chemical spills and fume filled factories. When my lab partner almost blew one of her hands off in the lab, that sealed it for me as third choice 

(4) Mechanical. This was initially third choice because it sounded like it might involve designing tractors, or at least other machinery, which held zero appeal. On the other hand, you seemed more likely to remain two handed than chemical engineers, so it went down as the reluctant second preference

(5) Electrical/electronic. I wasn’t thrilled about the electrical option, it sounded like it might involve getting electrocuted a lot, or having to work for the ESB, and I wasn’t sure which sounded worse. Electronic on the other hand sounded sexy and futuristic as fuck, so that was the first choice (at the time, you didn’t need to decide which exact type of elec engineering you wanted to be until the end of second year)

My first choice was most people’s first choice too, so to make the grade I had to get into the top 20%, no mean feat because engineering at the time seemed to attract the smart kids from every school in Ireland, or at least the ones who didn’t want to be doctors or accountants or actuaries. I think I just about scraped it, and when the time came scraped into the better side of the electrical electronic fork.

Ironically, by the time I got through the course and knew what electronic engineering actually was (designing circuit boards mostly), I hated it, and didn’t want to be one any more. Instead I blagged my way into computers when I got out of college, starting as a programmer (that’s what we called coders back then) and eventually ending up as a freelance consultant. This paid insanely well by the standards of the time, so well that I basically couldn’t say no to anything I was offered. 

The late 90s were a boom time for people like me as corporations started to panic about the millennium bug, and saw me effectively triple jobbing on three different projects. One of them was for an American bank in the city of London and I had to commute three days a week (from Dublin!). The other four days were spent at home, every waking hour going to working on the other two projects. Needless to say, this was a pretty stressful schedule, and I quickly got run down. A permanent cold became a permanent cough, and then I started coughing up blood. This was an alarming development, but who had time to go see a doctor who would presumably just tell you to take some time off? Not me, that’s who not. So I struggled on. Now not only was blood coming up, but also weird sticky gunk that lodged in my airways cutting off my breath. On one occasion this caused me to pass out at 3 am in the bathroom of the flat my brother shared with his girlfriend in London. But for her quick thinking and knowledge of first aid it could have been a very ignominious end. Suitably chastened, I went straight to the doctor.......section of the nearest book store where there were “self diagnose what might be wrong with you” type books with flowcharts where you followed your symptoms down the chart to some horrible disease like lung cancer or brucellosis you could potentially have. 




One of my work colleagues helpfully told me the bank hired a top UK doctor one afternoon a week for their non NHS covered American employees, and got me an appointment. The doctor told me to go to his private practise in Harley Street where he did an X-ray and decided that while coughing up blood and gunk wasn’t good there didn’t seem to be anything seriously wrong with my lungs apart from my asthma. He was at a loss to explain what was causing the symptoms, so he referred me to a hospital. After months of further tests and other specialists, several more doctors were at a loss and nobody was able to shed light on what my problem was beyond working too hard. My symptoms gradually subsided, but I started getting others like heart palpitations and fasciculations. I still had the self diagnosing book, and had started scouring the early medical web sites like WebMD, trying to figure out which horrible neurological disorder I was now developing. In the absence of prescribed medication, I started gobbling all sorts of herbal medicines various web sites recommended, and upped my dosage of ones I’d been using for years like garlic and echinacea. The latter in particular was touted as a near miraculous panacea on all the herbal medicine sites so I was taking the maximum recommended dose. 

My wife eventually suggested I return to our old doctor in the place we used to live, as he always seemed to have a good handle on me. So I took the train and paid him a visit. He spent almost an hour listening to my tale of woe and many theories as to what I might have, and after a quick physical inspection he said

“I think the problem is you’ve seen too many doctors in the last year and read too many medical websites. I don’t think there’s actually anything wrong with you at this point”.

A cloud lifted, and I immediately felt better. It was all I really needed, to hear that it was all in my head at this point. To this day, I’m not sure what caused the initial problems with the coughed up blood and gunk, but I did find one article that suggested that all the symptoms I experienced could be an allergic reaction to echinacea, something that apparently is reasonably common in asthmatics. So it’s possible that all the time I was gobbling down echinacea to “treat” my problem I was actually exacerbating it.

Over time that part of my life faded in my memory. It returned recently when I saw the debates raging on social media between the vaccers and anti vaccers. I see a lot of my earlier self in those who did a “deep dive” into the topic with the help of a search engine and came out of the experience thinking they now know more than people who, unlike me, didn’t mind the idea of only seeing sick people and weren’t squeamish about blood and went off to college and got a real medical education.

A few of these have tried to draw me into a debate. I always politely demur on the basis that I’m not a doctor. When it comes to medical stuff, I’m the guy who kinda knows the hand rankings, and nothing else, and not even. I’m not a doctor, and neither are the people who want to debate it out with me, because actual experts don’t try to engage noobs like me in medical debates, in the same way that high rollers don’t go looking for people who barely know the hand rankings to debate poker strategy. 

Did I mention that I’m not a doctor?



Friday, August 20, 2021

Chatting cards and implicit collusion

It’s been a funny old summer. Since I took to poker at the young age of 42 in 2007, I’ve spent most of my summers in the desert chasing jewellery. I first showed up in Vegas bracelet hunting in 2008 and until the pandemic went every year (except 2012 when a desire to watch the Olympics conspired with a lack of desire to lose the 25k that I’d lost at the series pretty much every year until then to convince me to sit that one out). 

This summer has been largely similar to last summer, except we remained in lock down through the start of it. After a period of solid grinding the various series that were on, I was feeling a little burned out with online poker, and a lot of other stuff on my To Do list had piled up still undone, so I decided to scale back my play to a couple of days a week to allow me to catch up on the coaching, writing and content creation while enjoying the Euros and the Olympics. 


Satellite Master Class

In addition to the third book, Barry and I have been working on a satellite master class course for LearnProPoker. 

This is the course for you if you prefer video content to books, or if you enjoyed the satellite book and want to take your satellite game even further.

If you have previously read the book we cover a lot of the same foundational material, but we go way beyond it. It features 30 videos and includes a lot of content we simply could not put in the satellite book because of the format. This includes post flop strategy, live sessions and hand reviews. We didn’t leave anything on the table with this, everything is covered. We also have way more hand examples in general than in the satellite book. 

If you bought the satellite book just to brush up on your satellite skills and you learn well from reading, you probably don’t need this course. The book more than covers the fundamentals of satellites. If, however, you want to make satellites a regular format you crush or if you learn better with videos, I highly recommend this course.

If you use the signup code DOKE you get $20 off.




The third book

My third poker strategy book with Barry Carter is now basically finished, subject to final revisions and edits. This one is on ICM, and should be out in the next few weeks.

Cardschat

When my first book came out, one of the things I did at Barry’s behest to promote it was start an AMA thread on Cardschat, the world’s friendliest poker forum. I quickly realised that wasn’t just a tagline, and it was the start of a beautiful friendship. I was still answering questions there when the second book came out so we just kept going, and I was both honoured and thrilled when they asked me to become a full ambassador for the site this summer. In addition to the usual ambassador duties, I’ll be creating some exclusive video and written strategy content for them, so if there’s anything you’d like me to tackle on this front, let me know. 




Poker concepts I understood before poker

On my recent appearance on the People Who Read People podcast, Zachary asked me what things I took from running into poker that proved useful. That got me thinking about concepts I learned purely from poker. I could think of surprisingly few. It’s maybe a function of how late I started playing, but I think I’d learned most of the important concepts like equity, Ev, bluffing and balance elsewhere. In fact, even something as specific as implicit collusion.

Implicit collusion in poker is where a number of players realise that’s it in all their interests to cooperate in a hand rather than simply maximise their individual chances. For example, when the shortest stack moves all in on the bubble of a satellite, a group of players may decide to check the hand down to maximise the chances the shorty busts. 

One non poker example comes from my refereeing days. I don’t talk about these very much, largely because of all the things I’ve tried and done in my life, refereeing gave me the least pleasure and most unpleasant experiences. It really is a thankless task that requires levels of masochism beyond any I possess. That’s another story though, and not my point here. One of the few pleasant memories I have from the two years I reffed is the Special Olympics. The last match I refereed there (which turned out to be the last match I ever refereed) was a semi final between Israel and Saudi Arabia. 

I doubt you need me to tell you this particular pairing caused considerable trepidation among the organisers to the point they considered splitting the teams and putting them in different semis. I was called to a meeting the day before and asked if I thought this was a good idea. I didn’t. Apart from the inherent unfairness to the other teams of manipulating the draw in this way, I advised them that if they did, both teams were likely to win their semis, as they appeared to be a class above the opposition. If that happened, splitting them now was just kicking the can down the road, and a final that had to be canned would be a much bigger deal than a semi. So the draw stood. I asked what the situation was if one or both teams refused to take to the field. 

“Immediate disqualification”

So it was with considerable trepidation I approached the manager of both teams before the match. They were socially distancing before it was in fashion, eyeing each other warily. The Saudi manager was first to break the silence.

“My team cannot take the field”

“Why not?”

“Political reasons”

At this point the Israeli chimed in

“The same goes for my team”

Both men seemed hesitant, even sad, about the words coming from their mouths. I looked at the two sets of players eagerly warming up, apparently unaware of the storm brewing.

“What happens if we both withdraw? Do our players get bronze medals?” the Israeli asked hopefully.

I shook my head. 

“I’m afraid the rules state any team not taking to the field is disqualified”

Both men looked at their sets of players, then at each other, their shared sadness obvious. An awkward silence followed.

“The match is scheduled to start in five minutes. Are both your decisions final or is there someone you can consult with?”

They looked at each other.

“I can try to phone my association. But I’m not optimistic”

The Israeli mulled this over.

“I can try also but it’ll take a while to get to a phone”

He glanced at the Saudi who concurred.

“Yes, it would take me a while too”

“Ok, well, see what you can do”

Both men pulled me to one side. Both said exactly the same thing.

“If I’m not back in time, start the match. If I’m told to pull my team, I’ll do it during the match”

Then both men left, and returned shortly after I’d blown the final whistle. If I didn’t know better I’d say they both watched from a discreet distance, waiting for the final whistle. 

Both lodged an official objection to the match having gone ahead, but thanked me privately for having done so. 

Implicit collusion, clearly.


Thursday, June 24, 2021

FAQ: Vegas and WSOP tips

 Normally at this time of year I’d be in Vegas, in the midst of my WSOP campaign, hoping this is the year I bink a bracelet. I’m still optimistic of doing so later in the year, as I know are many others. Many of these are going for the first time, the pandemic has reminded people that you can’t take bucket list items for granted. I know because many have contacted me with specific questions or looking for tips, so I decided I’d write this blog summing up my advice.

Istvan writes:

“Good evening Dara, I need your advice. As u may know Wsop is coming back at the end of September, and if travel would be allowed, I decided with another 2 friends to head over to play few events, and some satellite for the main event... I would really appreciate if you could give us much more information about best way for accommodation, what part is better to fly and stay in Vegas, minimum bankroll requirement, for a 3 weeks stay, and ruffli cost of the transport, what is better uber are taxis? And food wise as well, and any other important things what we should know, like the visa requirement, what is the procedure and the cost of it, we have to declare the money what u travelling with? Thank you very much.”


Accommodation 

This is one where there are lots of different approaches, all with different pluses and minuses, which means it’s kinda personal which one works best for you. House, condo or hotel? Strip, adjacent to WSOP, or out in the burbs? Alone or sharing? 

I’ve pretty much tried them all so here are my thoughts.

I personally enjoyed the house experience more than the hotel one, you feel more like a normal person. However, the flip side is a house usually means commuting, and any saving in cost quickly disappears in Uber or cab fares. Being able to cook for yourself is both cheaper and more pleasurable than eating every meal in a restaurant (or god help us, a buffet). The commute can be a pain, or a welcome slice of down time depending how you look at it. 

One year I combined the best of both worlds sharing a condo across the road from the Rio with Mrs Doke and some other Irish lads. Overall my thinking is that hotel is fine and more convenient for anything up to 2 weeks (3 weeks tops) but if you are there for longer you’re better in a house or a condo. As far as hotels go, the Gold Coast right beside the Rio is the best and cheapest option with very good (and reasonably priced by Vegas standards) restaurant options. The Rio itself is a depressing place to be with very poor restaurant options. When I told Lappin recently my friend Carlos is living there at the moment, Lappin’s response was “I think I’d rather be homeless”. 

Where you want to stay is largely a matter of personal taste. Preferably I prefer being near to avoid commuting, but some people find it oppressive being in the same spot all the time. 

Sharing with someone is less costly and lonely, but you need to make sure it’s someone you won’t want to kill if you’re spending 24/7 in their company. Vegas and the WSOP are high stress experiences that end in disappointment most of the time, a recipe for disaster if you’re sharing with someone who gets on your nerves. I’ve seen many close friendships disappear faster than a puddle in the Vegas heat. 

Budget

It’s possible to live relatively cheaply in Vegas. I generally budget to spend $100 a day (excluding accommodation). It’s definitely possible to do it cheaper (and a lot more expensive if you’re more baller than me). 

Transport

Do not get in a taxi unless forced to at gunpoint. Before Uber, pretty much the most unpleasant part of all my Vegas trips was having to deal with Vegas cab drivers. Not only is Uber an order of magnitude cheaper, the drivers are way friendlier and more interesting (to the point I’ve written several blogs on my Uber trips). Average Uber trip comes in around ten bucks, about three times less than comparable taxi rides. 

Food

Vegas has great food options at a variety of price points. Even without doing your own grocery shopping, it’s possible to eat well (and healthily) for about 50 bucks a day. In terms of cost and health, most of the best options are Asian. 

Visa

No visa required from Ireland (or most European countries) but you do need an ESTA which you can apply for online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov and lasts two years. Last time I got one it cost 50 bucks.

At time of writing it’s not possible to fly direct from the EU to the US, you have to spend 2 weeks outside the EU before they’ll let you in. Some of my friends have done two weeks in Mexico, but hopefully that restriction will be lifted by the time of the WSOP (if not, I’m not going).

Declaring money

If you’re bringing in less than $10,000 you don’t have to declare it. I generally bring just under the limit in cash to avoid hassle at the airport, but this doesn’t always work out. Sometimes they get suspicious if you’re just below the limit and insist on counting it to be sure. I almost missed my last flight because of this. I used my card for most tourney buyins last time. There’s a fee (4% I think) but it saves hassle and queueing time

Dublin airport

If you fly from Dublin to the US, you clear security in Dublin, which is great once you get to Vegas and can just sail thru customs, but you need to allow 3 hours to be safe in Dublin. Usually you’ll get thru quicker, but routine inspections can get lengthy. Be aware they have the right to go through all your mobile devices and look at everything on them: I know one girl who was refused entry when they found messages on her phone suggesting she intended to stay in the US with her boyfriend, and an Irish poker player was refused entry after they read a WhatsApp conversation between him and his weed dealer!

Tax matters

At one of my tables last year, hearing I was from Ireland, one of the American players said

"So if you win this you'll have to pay it all in tax, right?"

"Um no"

"But most of it?"

"No"

"How much?"

"Zero"

"That can't be right. You have taxes, right?"

"Yes but not on poker winnings"

Looking dubious my interrogator asked

"So who am I thinking of?"

At which point one of the others at the table, who it turned out was an actual taxation consultant

"America, buddy. We are the ones that pay"

There then followed a lengthy discussion of federal, state and city taxes which made it abundantly clear that Americans pay a lot of tax on their poker winnings. So, of course, do many European countries, but not the UK or Ireland, something the WSOP knows but many of the other casinos in Vegas don't. This is deducted at source on all cashes over the threshold (10k last time I checked, although someone recently told me it's actually 5k profit which apparently is why the WSOP main min cash is exactly 15k). To avoid it, you need an ITIN number 

The wonderful people at the WSOP will handle this all automatically for you if you're lucky enough to have your first cash in the US with them. They'll need your passport and proof of residence (so bring a bank statement or utility bill), but they'll do all the necessary paperwork to get you an ITIN. More importantly, they won't withhold 40% of your cash as tax, and as an added bonus they'll keep it on file so you don't need to go through the same procedure every time.

Other casinos and series are not as helpful. Some of them won't even know you're exempt from tax. Even if they are, they will withhold tax anyway unless you provide them with an ITIN. A few years ago, one Irish player who cashed big in the Venetian cornered me in the Rio saying they'd withheld 40% as he had no ITIN. He was flying out in a few hours so couldn't get one in time, but we were reliably informed he could claim the money back from Ireland. I'm not sure how cumbersome this process is, but it's one you'll want to avoid if at all possible. 

The one upside to all this is that American taxation law has inadvertently led to many a favourable chop for those of us from less taxed countries. On one of my first trips to Vegas, I heard about an Irish player who despite being the shortie by a long way secured the lion's share in a five way chop with four Americans all motivated to keep their payout below 10k. So if you find yourself in such a situation, it's worth educating the American players you'd like to chop with on taxation matters. Similarly, if you're one of the Americans reading this, be aware that chops in which the Euro nominally takes first prize (and possibly disburses some of it to his more taxed American buddies in the parking lot, something which I'd obviously never condone but know for sure happens) can have very beneficial effects on your bottom line.

Mental preparation

I've often said that if you want to see the biggest change in a group of people in a short period of time, go to the Rio in the first week of the WSOP, then come back for the last week. At the start everyone is buzzing and bouncing around, happy to see all their poker friends from all over the world, and convinced that this is their year. By the end, most are so stuck that only a very deep run in the main can get them out, as they shuffle like zombies through the corridors of the Rio, desperately waiting for their flight home.

A WSOP/Vegas campaign is essentially the equivalent of a Sunday online, stretched out over six weeks. Online players wake up every Sunday feeling great and ready to go, hoping this is the Sunday they bink a major. Usually, they end the day wanting to cry into their keyboard, having bust their last shot at 4 AM or whatever. In Vegas, you can very easily bust 6 tournaments in a day without making dinner break. Obviously that's not the aspiration, but you have to be prepared for it, because losing trips are far more common than winning ones if you're a tournament player. It might seem defeatist to anticipate failure, but it's a far more useful approach than just assuming everything will be great. The problem with positivity is it doesn't prepare you for setbacks when they come, as they almost inevitably will. I've written before in this blog on the Stockdale Paradox, which states that pessimists respond to adversity better than optimists. So be pessimistic, and if it turns out great, be pleasantly surprised.




Wednesday, February 24, 2021

So you want to be a sponsored pro...

I get roughly 50 unsolicited messages a day about poker from people I don’t know, or just barely know through social media. The vast majority of these fall into one of three categories starting with S.

The first category is strategy: generally hands where people want an opinion, which I’m always happy to give, sometimes after some solver work. The second category is staking: usually after some polite pleasantries, my correspondent wants to know if I still stake people, and specifically will I stake them. I’m hoping people thinking of doing this will read this blog because I can say here the answer these days is always no. 

The final category is sponsorship. Whether they admit it or not, most professional and many recreational players crave to be a sponsored player. Some because they see it as free money, and others because they see it as some sort of validation or recognition from the industry. In reality it’s neither, but that’s a topic for another day. In this blog I want to give whatever practical advice I can to players interested in being sponsored one day.

How do you get a deal?

Unibet is my third deal. I basically won the first one in a special promotion. An Irish skin of the Cake poker was sponsoring the Irish live rankings at the time, and they decided to have a special tournament for the top ranked players, with the winner getting a 6 month sponsorship deal. When we got down to three in what was winner take all, chop talks broke out. We all thought chopping the equity was best, but couldn’t agree who would officially take the deal. Now you might be thinking yeah that makes sense, everyone wants to be the sponsored pro. In reality none of us did, for two reasons which probably only make sense to that most rational and least romantic of creatures, the poker pro. While recreational players dream of glory and trophies and acclaim, the poker pro mindset reduces everything to pure Ev. Therefore we saw two problems with being the one to officially take the deal. First, it was basically a negative freeroll to pay the other two guys off before a penny was received. Back then, poker sites went out of business even more frequently than they do now. Second, it presumably involved additional effort and duties for no extra compensation. 



I ended up being the one to agree to pay the other two off. I did this partly because a deal was unlikely if I didn’t agree to be that guy, but mostly because I thought the risk and additional effort could be made up for by the possibility however slim that at the end of the 6 months I’d have persuaded the sponsors it was worth their while extending the deal.

My line was looking very sub optimal after my first meeting with the sponsors in which they made it clear they had zero intention of extending the deal and they saw it purely as a one off prize with some one time PR upside for them over just giving me the cash up front. However I’ve never been anything other than stubborn, so I did everything I could over the next 6 months to deliver value, and was rewarded by a couple of extensions until they were forced out of business by problems on the Cake network.

My next deal was acquired a little more typically: an Irish-facing skin on another network (Entraction) decided they wanted a pro with a high profile in Ireland. By now I had established myself as one of Ireland’s most profitable players both online and live, was contributing strategy to a number of poker magazines, had the most read Irish blog, was the first Irish pro on social media, all of which combined to a high national profile, so they decided I was the man for the job.



Once again, I set demonstrating value as one of my main priorities, and was rewarded by having my contract renewed a few times until the site was forced out of business when Entraction shut down. 

The wilderness years

Over the next couple of years my international profile continued to grow slowly. I was touted for a couple of different deals with major sites, but in each case lost out to an Irish rival. My age was generally seen as a major strike against me. I remember being asked at the time by Stars to recommend an Irish pro:

“We need someone who wins online but plays live too. There can’t be any whiff of scandal around them. He has to be able to talk and engage with people. And he has to be under the age of 30, preferably good looking”

This seemed to be the consensus by now among the sites as to what a sponsored pro should look like. They’d moved past hiring someone on the basis of one big bink, having been burned too often hiring someone who turned out to be a surly one hit wonder with no social skills. 

I remember these years as a time when my hopes of ever being sponsored again not only receded, but also became less important to me. I’m nothing if not a realist, and if I was swimming against the tide of my age, so be it. I’d also reached a point in my career where any supplemental income would necessarily be a smaller percentage of what I earned from poker. Staking and other interests were flourishing. I also remember this as a period where rightly or wrongly I felt some sites were stringing me along to a certain degree, wanting to keep me happy and uncritical. On the most recent Chip Race, Vanessa Kade talked about how leading female players are very incentivised to avoid criticising anyone in the industry if they ever hold out hopes of being sponsored. This is undoubtedly true, but also for men, albeit to a much lesser degree and with some qualifications. It’s much easier for a man to carve out a role and a brand as a squeaky wheel. But that has to be your image from the get go. Lappin and I have often remarked that he can get away with saying almost anything about anyone because that’s just Lappin being Lappin, but people seem to get deeply upset if I say anything even mildly critical. There has never been a time when I said something positive about a site or an event that I didn’t believe because I was hoping to curry future favour, but there have certainly been times when I’ve bit my lip and adhered to the maxim that if you have nothing positive to say, say nothing. 




2015 was a pivotal year. My biggest live score moved me to a point financially where chasing sponsorship didn’t seem like a productive use of my time. I maintained a high profile by starting the Chip Race with Lappin, and I stayed active on social media, but the goal wasn’t to get another sponsor. The following year’s Barcelona EPT was another turning point. As I wrote at the time, the festival was a new low in recreational player experience, and I despaired for the future of live poker if this was the new normal. A Stars insider told me that it was: that owners Amaya were pushing a paradigm that insisted profit in all things, to the detriment of customer experience and acquisition. At the end of the festival, over late night tapas and wine with Lappin, I told him I’d decided to go into full attack mode, sacrificing any chance I might have of ever being sponsored by them. I had in any case come to the conclusion that I was being strung along with promises of a deal “next year for sure” to encourage me not to say anything overtly critical of Stars. I therefore told my cohost I’d made the decision to write a full and frank criticism of what I saw as the problems with Stars live events, and warned him to be ready for some crossfire. Lappin not only agreed with my vision, but said he was planning to pen his own critical piece, so we were burning bridges together. 

After the blogs went viral, some unexpected things happened, as well as some expected things. People we were genuinely friendly with who worked for Stars felt betrayed. Some industry figures who may or may not have been in the pay of Stars came after us on social media. Recreational players and pros alike were overwhelmingly in agreement with our view. And we attracted the attention of Unibet, who shared our view of how the recreational player experience should be, an alternative vision of the future. To our surprise, a pair of blogs that we anticipated would torch any prospects of future sponsorship ended up leading to a deal with Unibet, which was recently extended into its fifth year. 



Shifting paradigms 

When I started in poker, the way you got a deal was you won something big and got a patch and a deal as a bonus. But as I said above, sites quickly found that wasn’t a good approach (strangely this idea that deals should be bonus “rewards” for performances on the felt has lingered among a lot of players: the most common wail I hear from players is “why am I not sponsored already? I won tourney X/win more online than sponsored pro Y”). New cars lose a lot of their value the moment they’re driven out of the showroom, and new sponsored pros suffer a similar fate the moment the novelty of their signing has passed and all the “Pro X signs for site Y” articles have been published. A Full Tilt employee told me that once the sites realised this, the model switched to one off deals: sticking a patch on someone who made a big televised final table and giving them a once off payment. Over time the sites realised that wasn’t particularly cost effective either, and after Black Friday big televised tables were few and far between. 

The numbers of sponsored pros dwindled dramatically until the paradigm shifted again with the rise of content. Content creators were suddenly in demand, be they Twitchers, bloggers, vloggers, podcasters or whatever. Around this time I was asked by Stars to recommend an Irish Twitcher and I told them they should hop on Fintan Hand, a superstar in the making. When Unibet came knocking, this shift suited us: both David and I had very widely read blogs, produced other written content, and had a podcast we could revive. As in my previous deals, I was determined to demonstrate value, as was David, and we set about being what Pads very kindly described on Twitter recently as two of the hardest working ambassadors in poker. 

But enough about me....how do you get sponsored?

When you ask footballers what they’ll do after retirement, they nearly all give one of two answers: management, or punditry.  The problem is that for every 100 retired footballers, there’s less than one manager, and less than one pundit. Poker has a similar dichotomy: almost every successful (and many unsuccessful) player wants to be sponsored, whether they openly admit it or not. 

I’ve written this history of my own sponsorships to give you an idea of what I’ve done to improve my chances in this particular lottery, and also to convey that it’s far from a free lunch these days. So what else can you do to maximise your chances?

Create content

We are still in the era of content. A creator that reaches an audience through Twitch, a blog, a vlog, a podcast, social media or a Facebook group offers far more value to a sponsor than a loud spoken opinion pro or a genuine crusher. Even if it doesn’t ultimately lead to full sponsorship, sites often offer other rewards and incentives to creators on a more informal basis. 

Know your demographic

There are very few genuine superstars in poker who reach and appeal to almost everyone. But that’s ok. Someone who reaches a small but loyal niche audience is more useful from a marketing perspective for a site than someone everyone knows about but nobody cares much about. Players are generally signed to appeal to a specific demographic. Here, some players have a natural advantage. It’s better to be from Brazil than Latvia.  It’s better to be female than male. It’s an advantage to be younger. Tournament players are much more likely to be signed than cash game players. Holdem players have a wider reach than mixed game players. It’s a big advantage to speak English if you come from a non English speaking country. 

Don’t be shy

It never ceases to amaze me when players express a desire to be signed or dismay at not having been already so I ask them for their social media and they reply “Oh I don’t do that”. That’s their prerogative , but if you want to be sponsored you don’t don’t do social media. You not only do it, you do it full heartedly, and you genuinely interact with people. There’s a handful of players who are big enough to not have to talk to people they don’t know, but the rest of us don’t really have that luxury. Here we are back to the small but loyal beats large but fickle idea. Players who are seen as relatable and approachable are more valuable. There’s no easy hack for this: it really helps if you enjoy engaging with people, as I do. I get about 50 random messages from people I only know from social media a day and try to answer them all (if I don’t it means I probably missed it so feel free to ping me). I enjoy talking to people at live events. I also enjoy sitting there silently focusing on the game, but that’s a luxury that largely disappears when you’re sponsored. If you don’t think you’d enjoy that sort of attention, or don’t think you can find the time to answer a guy who wants your opinion on a hand he just played, the life of the sponsored pro may not be for you. 

Which brings me to...

Think about who you are representing

I personally would never represent a brand I found reprehensible. Not everyone feels the same and think they’d happily shill for anyone if the price was right. But this isn’t a purely ethical question. If you represent a brand that is unpopular, or does unpopular things that piss players off, they will tell you. They will associate you with the actions of your sponsor. They may berate you about them on social media or at the table. Several of my friends signed up to join brands they believed in, but lived to regret it when an unpopular change of direction brought the condemnation of their peers. Others signed up to brands they didn’t really believe in and instantly regretted it. So at the very least ask a few more questions than just “How much?” and “Where do I sign?”

Now, if you excuse me, I have about 50 messages I have to answer....

Monday, January 4, 2021

The year everything changed and nothing happened

The further I get into my poker career, the more difficult I find it to match events to the year they happened. Was 2008 my first WSOP, or was it 2009? Did I sign my first sponsorship deal in 2009, or was it 2008 or 2010? Did Lappin enter the picture in 2012, 2011, or 2013? Did we start the Chip Race in 2015 or 2016? You get the picture even if I don’t. 

When it comes to 2020, I don’t see myself having that problem. It’s a year that stands alone like no other. The year both nothing and everything happened. The problem with 2020 looking back I think will be trying to find any significant memorable events. One Irish writer used to refer to a particular year as “the year I had a bath”. I think I’ll look back on 2020 mainly as the year I stayed at home and met nobody. 

Live poker

I actually started the year on a run of form live. I followed up a cash in the Dublin Grand Prix main event with another cash and deep run in the UK Millions main event at Dusk Til Dawn, where I played the hand against Krissy Bicknell that is the subject of the latest Chip Race strategy video, and also maybe got COVID-19 (more on that later). After I added two more final tables and three cashes at the Unibet sponsored European Deepstack festival, and then another final table at the Unibet Open, I remember Lappin predicting I’d break the record for most live cashes in a single year by an Irish player that I set a few years ago. 


And then the world changed....

COVID or not COVID, that is the question...

There’s a very strong likelihood I had Covid-19 before we even knew it was a thing. I came back from Nottingham feeling poorly. I told Mrs Doke it was the strangest flu ever: no sore throat or runny nose, just a bad cough, extreme fatigue and I’d lost the senses of smell and taste. One day I went out to do a long run and ended up walking back to the house less than an hour later. A few days later Mrs Doke went down with the same symptoms and was unable to get out of bed for a week. My co-author Barry who I hung out with in Nottingham told me a similar tale from the Carter household. 

For most of the year I felt weirdly fatigued and somewhat fuzzy and uncertain in my thought processes. At different points in the year I ascribed it to age starting to creep up on me, or pandemic blues, until suddenly in early December I felt a new bounce in my step on my runs, a return to previous clarity of thought, and the ability to put in 16 hour online grinds returned. So now I think it’s likely I was struggling with the after effects of COVID-19, so called long COVID, for most of the year. 

Online

If you look at my Hendon mob for this year, you’ll see seven more cashes I didn’t mention above, all from the WSOP. That of course was after live poker moved online, starting with the Irish Open (which I also cashed), and like everyone The Hendon Mob shrugged and accepted the new reality. 

As long time readers of the blog (I like to pretend such exotic creatures might exist) may recall, I started out as an exclusively online player. As my career developed I added more and more live poker to the mix, but I’ve continued to see myself as a predominantly online player who uses live poker to break up the monotony. At least that’s the live positive view: at other times I’ve seen live as an annoying disruption distracting me from achieving my full potential as an online player. At different times I’ve definitely wondered what might be possible if I didn’t have that distraction and disruption to my routines every few weeks. So I went into lock down thinking this was the opportunity to find out. 

The short term answer was “like gang busters”. I crushed the start of lock down as I game slipped back into a routine of playing online every evening, and results were so good that I joked to my in group one night that it was a bad night because I was “only 1k up”. 

That comment came back to haunt and jinx me as I immediately seemed to enter into the biggest downswing of my online career. I came through that though to finish the year very strongly, and though there were no standout six figure scores to report, I ended having my best year online in several. 

More importantly, I feel my game reached new heights and is stronger than ever. I put  this down mainly to a much more regular study routine that has seen me putting into 30-60 minutes most of the days of this year, with some longer study sessions thrown in. I think I’ve also streamlined and focused my study much more effectively on the things likely to have the most impact. In particular in the second half of the year I drilled down on ICM. This is an area that was historically my strongest, but I probably took for granted in reasons years. It’s also the area I think that makes by far the biggest impact in the bottom line of any tournament player. I’ve always preferred solvers to humans when it comes to strategy guidance, I was often frustrated and unmotivated in the era before solvers where the done thing was to ask the five strongest players you had access to what they’d do in a spot, and then made a judgement call on which of the five different opinions you received to believe. With post flop solvers like PIO and Monker now ICM aware, that’s given me fresh motivation to run more sims and study the results. 

The other big factor in my success online this year even in the absence of any one big year changing scores was my switch over to PKOs as my main game. Having put tons of study and run thousands of sims for my second book on them, it was good to be able to put the knowledge I gained not just into the book but also into practise.

Which brings me on to....

The difficult second book

After the success of our first book, “Poker Satellite Strategy”, Barry and I knocked a few ideas around on what to tackle next. We initially started with another idea, before settling on PKOs, because of the absence of existing books and other content on them, and the fact that they’re becoming increasingly prevalent online (to the point of dominance). 

The process took a lot longer than we thought. With satellites, the challenge was condensing everything I knew inside out into something useful to general readers. PKOs on the other hand I was still very much learning myself, so the process was more about running the right sims, drawing the correct conclusions, and arranging it all into a useful framework. 

"PKO Poker Strategy" was released in late June and I'm very happy with how it was received.



We are already well into the process of writing the third book, which should appear at some point around the middle of 2021. Barry and I also have another non literary collaboration in the works, and I’m kicking around a few autobiographical ideas for a book, so watch this space. 

Coaching

2020 was also the year that everyone found themselves with more time at home to fill, and a significant number of those decided “I know what I’ll do, I’ll get some coaching from Doke”. My coaching has changed over the years from tentative efforts to improve the guys I staked as part of the Firm through focusing on guys trying to go pro or climb the stakes to what it is now, a mix of wannabe pros, a healthy dose of recreationals who want to improve but never want to go pro, and some real ballers.

I did a lot more coaching this year and finally figured out how I can add most value to recreationals who come to me. Many of the players I coach ended up having better years than me online: between them there was a SCOOP Main event chopper, two WCOOP champions, and 5 Sunday majors.

Writing

I was a bit lazy or rather uninspired this year on the blogging front, writing only nine new ones all year, two of which were a review of 2019. The sameness of my schedule once live poker stopped made it difficult to think of anything worth writing about. In previous years I’ve tended to use my downtime on planes and in hotels abroad to write.

I did write a number of strategy pieces for PokerStrategy.com, and kept up my free strategy newsletter, which you can subscribe to if you haven’t already using the link in the header to this blog. 

Podcasts

Every year David and I think we have peaked with The Chip Race, yet every year it gets bigger. We recorded 39 shows in total, with The Chip Race episodes consistently hitting over 20,000 downloads. We made the ITunes Charts in 26 different countries around the world, and in most of those we are the only poker podcast on the charts. 

At the start of lock down we launched a new YouTube show called The Lock In. The original concept was a looser longer version of the topical chat between David and myself that kicks off every Chip Race episode. After a couple of episodes we realised that we were going to need guests to keep it fresh, and the show steadily gained an audience to the point where most of the episodes now attract about 2000 viewers on YouTube and a further 6000 downloads on ITunes. 

Speaking of YouTube, the strategy clips continue to be our most popular content there. We put out 12 new strategy clips this year, and they notched up about 35k views collectively. The strategy clips as a whole continue getting views, and accounted for 70% of the 100k views the channel got in 2020. 

In addition to the Chip Race, I also appeared on a number of other podcasts, including Thinking Poker, Chasing Poker Greatness, Chasing Passion, Talking Global Poker, The Poker Mindset, Fish To Final Table, RecPoker and Cardschat (not released yet). 

Hopes for 2021

Being at home for most of the year, I’ve been able to maintain a much more consistent study routine, doing at least an hour a day and 3-4 hours once or twice a year. I genuinely believe this has resulted in greater improvements to my game than in any other year in recent history, and even though I’ve had a great year online I honestly think it could have been a lot better given some run good at the vital times. So I’m very optimistic going into 2021. I don’t have any specific ambitions other than to keep doing what I’m doing, and I’m definitely looking forward to the return of live poker at some point.

I hope to see you all at some point in 2021!

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