Saturday, March 18, 2023

BLU BLU ‘Lectric BLU

Back when I started this blog almost 15 years ago I thought of it as a Dear Diary which I assumed nobody else would ever read. Over time I learned the hard way that was an incorrect assumption, and I had to start thinking about what other people might like to read (probably not me moaning about bad beats) and might not like to read (me naming and shaming them for inflicting a bad beat on me). 

In recent years more and more of my writing has migrated to other sites: strategy to and Cardschat, and op Ed’s and trip reports to VSO. That’s led to long periods of neglect for this blog, as all it leaves is personal Dear Diary "here’s what I’ve been up to lately" entries. 

So I finished a 15 day intensive study and play period built around the Unibet Spring Poker Championship Tournament on Monday where I studied and played online every day. I ended with a very profitable sessions: highlights were another Irish Open seat on Paddy Power (my eighth) and two thirds in bounty builders on Stars and GG, and a fourth in Title Fight on Unibet (congratulations to my good friend Daragh Davey who took that one down). 

Overall a very profitable couple of weeks and I think my game improved quite a bit so I’m looking forward to taking the improvements into live poker. I did return on Wednesday for an even better session taking third in the Big 109 on Stars and the WSOP Circuit Bounty Builder on GG. 

I’m shifting my focus for next few weeks to health and fitness, content creation, coaching (apologies to my students who I’ve been neglecting: hit me up if you want to book in another session), working on the next books, some live poker (the next Irish Poker Tour stop, the Action Poker Tour launch game and of course the Irish Open), and a live Play and Explain session for JakaCoaching on March 28th

And yes, get a damn haircut!

David and I have kept busy on the Chip Race front. We have a big Irish Open special coming up soon but in the mean time check out our latest Lock In with Lon McEachern. Among other topics, the thorny subject of RTA came up, and I gave my full frank and honest views.

Friday, February 3, 2023

On the occasion of my son’s wedding

(The following blog is an expanded slightly polished version of an off the cuff speech I recently gave at my oldest son’s wedding)

I first met Paddy 33 years ago. Those of you who know Paddy’s age (38) are probably thinking 

“What a terrible father, not bothering to see his son til he turned 5”

The reason though is when I met the woman of my life, his mother Mireille, Paddy (or Aurelien as he was called at the time) came as an outgoing hyper friendly bonus. I anticipated some difficulties getting him to accept a weird 25 year old Irishman he had nothing in common with, not even a language, but Paddy gave me the benefit of the doubt. Even at that age, he was the most forgiving person I know alongside his mother. When I fucked up, as I often did in my role as new father or nouveau pere, he’d simply shrug, smile, and suggest we play a computer game together. I won him over with many hours of Accolade golf and GP racing on my first PC, as he sat on my lap cheering me on in German. He spoke French and German but no English at the time, and when Mireille heard how bad my French was she forbade me from butchering it in front of him, so German it was. My German was terrible, much worse than my French, and he was 5, so we didn’t have enough words between us for many long deep conversations. Those came later once his English improved. 

Paddy made new fatherhood easier than it could ever possibly be, but I still fucked up constantly, so his ability to forgive and forget was vital. Shortly after his arrival, we went for a walk along the Dun Laoire sea front where we lived at the time. Paddy was always an adventurous boy, and he therefore thought climbing down some steep slippy rocks to take a closer look at the sea was a great idea. As a clueless nouveau pere, I saw no possible problems here. That changed when the tide started to come in and he came to the conclusion he couldn’t climb back up the steep slippy rocks. As I gazed down helplessly at him mentally preparing my “honey our boy drowned” speech, a young girl of 9 or 10 passing by offered to help. In my cluelessness, I decided that I was pot committed here and one drowned kid wasn’t much better than two, and told her to go for it, now adding a “and another kid who went to help also drowned” addendum to the speech I was mentally rehearing for my beloved and, I anticipated, the authorities.  The girl turned out to be quite the little acrobat and motivational speaker, and she got the job done. As Paddy and I trudged home to play computer games, we had our first shared life lesson: men are the weaker sex and when in doubt its best to turn to a female to bail us out rather than muddle on in our stupid masculine bull headed way. 

At the time, we moved every few months for my work. This made it challenging for Paddy (or Aurelien as he still was at this point) to make friends. The name didn’t help either, apparently unpronounceable to Irish kids, and a visible stamp of foreignness. When he expressed frustration at both these points, I suggested they could both be resolved by a simple name change. 

“Next time we move, just tell them all your name is some Irish name”

“Can I choose it?”

“Of course. More fun for you, less hassle for me”

“Ok. I choose Paddy”

I bit my lip and suppressed the impulse to tell him to pick a less stereotypically Irish name for the love of God. From that day forth, he was Paddy O’Kearney. 

His ability to connect with anyone and everyone was evident from the start. Apart from getting dragged around due to my work, I was still in my chess phase so he found himself dragged to tournaments most weekends in the early days. His restlessness and adventurous nature meant he tended to wander off given half a chance. On one trip to London, we thought we left him sleeping soundly for the night, only to arrive back to find him perched on the front reception desk explaining to the utterly charmed receptionists in broken English that his parents had disappeared. He’d drawn surprisingly accurate pictures of us on hotel stationery for search party purposes. 

On another trip to Tipperary, he forced us to go room to room in the hotel searching for him. We eventually found him literally in bed with the reigning Miss Ireland, Siobhan McClafferty, showing her how colouring worked, in German. She seemed very disappointed when we took him away. 

Other than his wanderlust, he was such an easy child to be a father to I took up bragging. When I poo poohed friends complaining of their own parental difficulties they invariably said

“Wait til his sister is born”

“WaIt til he’s a teenager”

“Wait til he turns 16/18/21”

All those milestones came and went without any transformation other than a gradual positive one into the kindest most emotionally intelligent man I’ve ever known. In a family of prickly quirky individuals Paddy has always been the emotional centre through which we can all relate and have our differences explained and tolerated. The calm empathetic glue binding us. The happy carefree forgiving boy turned into the man who cares deeply about everything and everyone, but forgives us all our prickles and flaws. His ability to relate to everyone has always extended way past family. 

On one trip to Vegas he shared a car to the grand canyon with me, and two poker friends older than me. The age difference didn’t faze him in the slightest. The fact that the other two were a committed nationalist from Northern Ireland whose brother had been a hunger striker and an English Maggie Thatcher loving football hooligan who had run guns to the loyalists in Northern Ireland made for an explosive car cocktail. I’ve often thought since that Paddy’s presence alone averted disaster. 

Paddy and I started with almost nothing in common and even now we couldn’t be more different. He lacks the competitive drive completely, still very much the kid who prefers to cheer on others and be happy for their success. He lacks any trace of materialism or drive for personal conventional success, yet despite this he’s done more for the good of humanity than anyone else I’ve ever known, at least in my extremely biased opinion. He’s incredibly good with his hands, able to build, fix, fashion or make anything. In a post nuclear apocalypse he would be the most important man on the planet. He has marched to his own recycled drum through an eco warrior phase, an urban farm phase, and many other worthy projects where the motivation is never money but making the world a better place. I’m intensely proud of the man he is. It annoys me beyond words when others criticise him, thankfully an infrequent occurrence. When he drew criticism for his environmental protests I went on national radio to argue with his critics. When one of them conceded “well, at least he’s proper Irish, not like all those new age German hippies” I chuckled inwardly at the thought that the name on his passport is still Aurelien Schmeltz, born in Germany. 

In my negligible, um….I mean extensive research for his wedding speech, I discovered there are only 72 O’Kearney’s in the world. It is with great pleasure I welcome the 73rd, Niamh. In her Paddy has finally found the strong active type we both realised was our type that day he had to be rescued in Dun Laoire. She is wonderful in every way but one: the wretched siren has lured our son to San Francisco. He leaves today. We will miss him terribly, but visit him often.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Review of 2022

 It’s been my custom in recent years to start every year with a blog reviewing the previous year and I see no reason to break with tradition this year. So here goes, a totally personal account of my year that was.


This came back in force this year. I got back to playing my usual volume, including EPTs Prague, Barcelona and London, a Unibet Open in Malta (followed by Battle of Malta), the WSOP and the WPT World Championship in the Wynn, as well as all the normal stuff in Ireland. From an experience point of view the highlights were Malta, London and the Wynn. 

I also greatly enjoyed the return of the Irish Poker Tour, particularly the Cork stop in the Macau, and the one at the start of the year in Limerick (my first time ever playing there). 

From a results point of view, I cashed with my usual consistency, but the really big one eluded me, and I had a pretty miserable WSOP which all added up to one of the most lacklustre years of my career on the live felt. I recorded 25 cashes on the Hendon mob, a new personal best and in the process became the first Irish player to pass 200 cashes lifetime. Highlights were the last cash of the year, a 4th in the team event with David Lappin in the Wynn, and a four way chop in the EPT London Seniors event. 


In the first half of my career almost all my income and most of my time came from and went to playing online. It was incredibly lucrative and enjoyable. Over the second half of my career, the trend has been to play less and less volume online every year. There’s a number of reasons for this. The banishment of HUDs from most sites means I’ve had to scale down to the number of tables I play. The gradual growth of my coaching and content creation has also reduced the amount of time I can devote to online. The financial incentives are not the same: in addition to more of my income coming from other sources, the hourly achievable playing online has dropped considerably. 

I also think I just can’t grind 100 hours a week like I did at the start of my career. I can do it in bursts for online series or whatever but when I tried to go back to doing it full time at the start of the pandemic I quickly found myself burning out. 

My focus with online has switched away from being something I do purely as my primary source of income to something I do primarily to keep my game sharp. 


I’m very happy and proud to continue my role as ambassador for Unibet and Cardschat, two companies I strongly believe are positive forces in poker. I am also happy to have joined the Irish Poker Tour as their strategy expert, writing an ongoing series aimed at teaching beginners and improvers the most important foundational concepts. 

Chip Race and other content

The Chip Race and it’s YouTube sister show continued to flourish in 2022. It’s a real pleasure working with David.

I also wrote a considerable number of strategy articles for various sites, and started writing regular articles and logs for VegasSlotsOnline. I also produced videos for Cardschat and Barry’s YouTube channel


Every year I say I’m getting out of staking, and every year I report that I didn’t manage to. The death of my latest staking partner Jan Suchanek late in 2022 might provide the impetus to finally exit the arena. The sheer joy of working with Jan and talking to him every day was a big reason I got pulled back in. I miss Jan and our daily interactions terribly. 

2022 was my biggest ever losing year overall on the staking front, something else which might encourage me to finally quit. 


2022 was my busiest year ever on the coaching front, and the most successful for my students on the felt. On the coaching my approach has changed a bit down the years. Initially I thought my only job was to teach people how to run the sims but I’ve come to the realisation that most people don’t have the time or inclination to spend 100s of hours doing that. So these days I largely just take relevant solver output and explain it conceptually (the why) so students can implement it. I also have analysis software that can be used to identify leaks you might not even be aware of.  I use Zoom to record the sessions so students can watch them back afterwards.

Like all the other things I do I enjoy coaching there’s a happy balance as far as how much of it I do. It’s not something I could do full time 8 hours a day, or even 4 hours, so I’m forced to limit the number of students I can take on (I only take on those I think I can help enough for it to be worth both our whiles).


This year I joined Faraz Jaka’s training site, initially as a guest coach to deliver webinars on satellites and ICM, but have now joined to produce one webinar a month. To sign up, use the link https://Jaka.Poker/Dara and enter the code DARA15 for a 15% discount. I recently did my first ever live play and explain session where I played online and explained my thought process in real time to students, and will be doing another one of those every few months. 


Studying is an ever increasingly important part of the routine of any poker pro who wants to stay profitable online. In recent years my own study has mostly revolved around specific topics for content I’m making, the books or webinars, and work with students, but I definitely want to put more time into my own independent study and training in 2023.

For training I still predominantly use DTO, and for study 2022 was the year GTOWizard replaced PIO as my main study tool.


In 2022, I did commentary at the Patrik Antonius challenge in Tallinn, the Irish Open, the Battle of Malta, different Unibet events, different events in Rozvadov, and a GG Millions final table (with Kevin Martin).

Kicking off 2023 I’m joining my Chip Race cohost David Lappin to do commentary on a Merit event in Cyprus. 


November saw the release of my fourth collaboration with Barry Carter, GTO Poker Simplified. I was genuinely concerned there might not be an audience for this book so have been blown away by the response. Not just the sales figures (it became our fourth #1 best seller in poker on Amazon and at this stage looks like it could potentially eventually become our biggest seller yet), but also the reaction and reviews like this one.

Barry and I both greatly appreciate anyone who takes the time to write a review for us. As self publishers we don’t have a big publishing company to push our books for us so we rely almost entirely on word of mouth and reviews. 

The list of languages the books have been translated into continues to grow:

Poker Satellite Strategy - French, German, Spanish, and coming soon Japanese 

PKO Poker Strategy - Italian, Spanish, Czech 

Endgame Poker Strategy - Italian, Spanish, Japanese (by end of year)

GTO Poker Simplified - Spanish soon

Onwards and upwards 

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone for their continued support and interest, and wish you all a happy new year. Hope to see you all at some point at a live table in 2023!

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Eating and drinking in a Wynnter Wonderland

 I already wrote a blog covering the poker aspects of my recent trip to Vegas for the WPT World Championship for Vegas Slots Online so I won’t repeat myself here. Instead a few people asked me to write about where we (David Lappin and I) ate and drank and went.

First I have to say we were pretty lazy on that front. We were staying in the Wynn Encore. We ate the vast majority of our meals there, and rarely left the hotel. The farthest south we got was the Venetian (across the road) and the farthest North was Circus Circus a couple of blocks up the strip (where we went to film some content for the latest Lock In). Part laziness, part because Lappin moaned about his bad back every time I as much hinted about heading for an exit, part being very busy, but big part there’s so much choice in the Wynn there’s no real imperative to leave it. 

Siegel’s Bagelmania

This was where I had my first breakfast in Vegas this trip. Marc Brody picked us up from the Encore and brought us there for breakfast (after which we headed back to the Wynn sportsbook to watch Argentina versus Croatia).

The food is as good as American breakfast gets, and the portions are also very American (which is to say huge enough to feed a village in Europe). Marc ordered French toast and they killed an entire loaf for his breakfast.

Coffee is very good (a key consideration if you don’t want to be dealing with a sniffy grumpy Lappin), so much so that the second time we went there and there was a queue Lappin ordered the coffee immediately and got started on it before they sat us. 

I’d say first meal except that technically that was…


Vegas used to be a 24 hour town but no more. I got there so late the first day we couldn’t find anywhere in the Wynn that was open. We set off for the Venetian to the sound of Lappin complaining about his back. The only place we found open was Walgreens. There’s another about the same distance from the Wynn in the opposite direction we went a few times. Both are very good options if you just want a quick sandwich or a gallon of water for less than a small bottle costs in the hotels. 


This quickly became a favourite, probably because Lappin declared it the finest coffee he’d ever consumed in Vegas. An excellent breakfast menu meant we arranged to meet quite a few friends there. First up was new Irish Open ambassador Chris Dowling, at what Lappin dubbed the ambassadors breakfast. It almost didn’t happen because when we got there there was a longer queue (or line in American parlance) than normal. 

It’s something of a mystery to both of us how there seems to be a line for everything in America, and Americans just accept this. Lines in Ireland tend to be self limiting because if people see more than a couple of people ahead of them they just give up and go elsewhere, which we almost did after Lappin declared this was at least an hour long line. 

As he did so an American lady made the major mistake of stopping to ask if we had been told how long the line was, and choosing grumpy Lappin to direct the question to. Looking at her like she either had two heads, or zero heads, he waved at the line. 

“It’s that long”

“But in minutes…”

“Lines are not measured in minutes. Are you familiar with the differences between time, space and matter?”

Feeling sorry for how sorry she now looked to have asked the question I interjected we had been given no estimated time, and she wandered off to ponder the differences between time space and matter some more. 

We also brought Aidan Quinlan and Sam Dobbins there one dinner break, and Lappin brought along a table mate who wrote for South Park and Mike and Molly’s. Jamie Kerstetter also dropped by to tell us how she was going in the Ladies. 

We also spent our last afternoon in Vegas there with Vanessa Kade who is always good company and seems better equipped to deal with our Irish eccentricities than most North Americans. 


The Italian in the Wynn was another place I went more than once. The first occasion was a rushed dinner break catch up with Pokerbunny (Paulina Loeliger) and her boyfriend. The food was decent and more importantly prompt. Paulina is always enjoyable and thought provoking to spend time with: genuinely one of a kind. 

Second time was a more leisurely affair with Lappin and my buddy Kevin O’Donnell on our last night there. Lappin was less than impressed by the gluten free options declaring “no cooking was needed for my dinner: they just had to take stuff out of packaging” but Kevin and I were a lot happier. Lappin was less than impressed by the table on the edge of the restaurant, saying he felt like he was eating on the casino floor. 

SW Steakhouse 

This was probably the best meal we had in Vegas. The occasion was the WPT media dinner and I got a good seat draw beside the always charming and interesting Jennifer Newell. Team Chip Race loves steak, particularly free steak, and Lappin was in great form when the waiter didn’t blink at the request to make his blue. His mood darkened when they brought it and it was clear there was a gulf between what he and the chef thought blue was.

His mood darkened further when a “guess my age?” game broke out and Jen went very high for Lappin. Things soured further when several Americans made inflated claims for the quality of their steaks in comparison to other countries, something a gourmand as snobby as Lappin couldn’t let pass at the best of times, much less when his youthful looks and demeanour have just been impugned. 

Wynn Buffet

We had very fond memories of this from the Unibet Open there a few years ago so we went to breakfast one morning. The food was decent but not quite as good as I remembered, and we were less than impressed by the line we had to wait in. We were offered the opportunity to join a shorter line for 5 bucks, but we decided we’d prefer to keep the 5 bucks. Once we hit inside it was difficult to see why there was even a line, let alone two. There were enough empty seats inside to accommodate everyone in both lines several times over. Americans, please explain. 

We came for the food and didn’t come back because of the lines. 

VIP room

In truth this was probably the second best place we ate. WPT really know how to treat their qualifiers and you were guaranteed great company every time you went in. 

Lobby bar (Encore)

Only went there once, with our friend Soheb “payjump” Porbanderwala after he bust the main. Has a nice friendly feel to it and the waitress was very funny. Some random dudes tried to buy Lappin’s pants so they could get into a nightclub but ended up staying for a drink, and Robbie Strazynski and Dankness made cameo appearances. 

Deli at reception (Encore)

Don’t know the actual name of this place and was only there once for coffee with Smidge after we both bust the main. Lappin joined us when he busted shortly thereafter for a communal sulk as we glared angrily and enviously at people still in the tournament enjoying their break. 


I’d been here once before. Poker tourist Asif brought me there at the start of my WSOP 2015 campaign which he never fails to point out was my most successful. I brought Lappin there hoping for similar run good this time. He wasn’t that impressed but I was (a lot of things are easier and better when you can tolerate gluten). We’d definitely have gone back there had Urth not been a lot nearer. 


I have many fond memories of this Chinese beside the poker room in Encore. I was less impressed this time, and Lappin even less so. He was ok when we ate there on our last full day there, but he was in a lot worse mood the next day when we returned because it was one of the few places we could use our poker points for comps. Yes we may have won 5k between us the previous night in the team event but goddammit we're poker players and spending our comps is always a priority. His verdict this time: “I wouldn’t feed this to my dog”. All the more damning given the fact he doesn’t even have a dog, and never has as far as I know. 

PGA Grill House (airport)

By the time we got to the airport Lappin was in as bad a mood as I’ve ever seen. It didn’t improve when he was told he’d have to join a slow moving British Airways bag drop line which he was pointing out to BA staff is an oxymoron as I abandoned him to go with the already checked in Jack Hardcastle. 

Jack and I ended up here mostly due to a bewildering lack of alternatives in Terminal 3. No idea what the food is like as we stuck to the beer, regaled by Lappin telling us about the revolution he had fostered in the bag drop line when he eventually showed up.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Tools of the trade

 One of the most frequent questions I get asked is how to get better at poker and what tools I use to study/would recommend. Here they are in order of how much I use them myself and recommend them to my students:

1. GTOWizard

This is a one stop shop for preflop ranges (both normal and ICM) and post flop solves of thousands of different spots. It’s constantly being added to and comes with its own trainer. Barry and I made this video on the particularly powerful Aggregate Reports feature. I wasn’t that impressed with this tool when I first saw it over a year ago and used the more expensive Odin instead. However it’s come on in leaps and bounds and is now the main tool I recommend to students (and use myself). 

If you do want to give it a try if you sign up using this link you get a 10% discount. 

2. DTO

The original and still the GOAT training app, DTO is perfect for drilling yourself in any spot that gives you trouble on your phone, iPad or computer when you have a few minutes to spare. If you want to purchase, go to and use code CHIPRACE for 20% off.

3. Holdem Resources Calculator 

Perfect for analysing preflop spots particularly when ICM and/or bounties are a factor. You can enter any stack sizes, payouts etc and it does the rest to answer the question “what hands should I play/shove/call a shove with in this specific spot?”

ICMiser has the same functionality and is also very good I’m reliably informed (I’ve only ever used HRC and go on doing so primarily because of habit/familiarity). 

4. PokerSnowie

An AI tool rather than a solver, this means it has suffered a little from the scoffs of GTO snobs that “it’s not GTO” (strictly speaking, neither are any of the other solvers perfect GTO). It also means it’s gotten stronger and closer to GTO over time, and it can give you a reasonable answer to any poker spot, no matter how weird or multi-way. It also has a very useful mass import function which can be used to quickly identify leaks in your game. It has its own trainer function. This list is aimed at the type of person who has an hour or two to devote to study, but if you only have a few minutes a day I’d move this one to the top of the list (along with DTO). Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, as the old Italian proverb says. 

5. PIOSolver

If I was writing this list even a year ago this would have been on top. I still love PIO, it’s still the gold standard when it comes to running your own solves but the reality is with the newer tools out there there’s a lot less reason to run your own bespoke solves. What takes 20 minutes to set up and a few hours to run in PIO can often be located in a few seconds in something like GTOWizard. If you want to delve deeper and run your own node locked solves though you still need PIO. Or if you think you’re up against very different ranges from GTO ones.  

6. PokerTracker 

If I was writing this a decade ago this would have not only been top of the list, it might have been the entire list. Back then most of my edge came from being to quickly analyse statistical data in real time to identify likely leaks specific opponents had, and work out how best to exploit them. That was online poker back then: most of the weaker player had massive egregious leaks that could be quickly identified if you watched them for a while, or with the help of PokerTracker or other HUDs if you were playing too many tables to pay attention to specific opponents. 

Since then a couple of things happened. Firstly, a misguided belief that HUDs were cheating took hold in enough recreational minds that sites started to ban them. In reality the only thing they did was allow pros to more tables simultaneously, which believe it or not was actually a good thing not just for the sites collecting rake on each one but also for recreationals as it meant they were competing against pros only able to give their table 1/24th of their attention (or whatever number of tables they were playing). The disappearance of the HUDs (or more precisely them being driven underground) on most sites had some unintended consequences. Not only did it reduce the number of tables pros could play simultaneously (with a knock on effect on prize pools and the overall online ecosystem, something the industry tried to compensate for by allowing reentries, another thing which is way worse for the recreational bottom line and deposit lifecycle than HUDs ever were) but it accelerated the drive to GTO and solver learning. Recreationals with egregious leaks lost their money faster than ever unless they hit the lab themselves. Those that did stuck around, those that didn’t drifted away, and overall standards rose to where they are now. Of course the better players still have an edge over the weaker ones, but there’s been a general convergence in playing styles and you just don’t see as many total outlier playing styles any more. These days the talk of the town is less specific opponent tendencies and exploits and more “population reads”. 

All that said, HUDs have not disappeared completely. Some sites like Stars and ACR still allow them, and even if they are less useful as playing aids these days because of the ecosystem changes outlined above, they can play a vital role in the general improve your game drive we are all on. These days they’re used more to try to identify and fix our own leaks than to exploit specific opponents, and also to help identify population tendencies. 

The book

If you follow me at all you can’t help but have noticed that my fourth book with Barry Carter,  “GTO Poker Simplified”, is finally out. I gave the full pitch in my VegasSlotsOnline piece so I don’t repeat it here. 

Instead I’ll just say that I have four books out people have started asking me what’s the best order to read them in. It’s an interesting question and here’s my suggested order:

(1) “GTO Poker Simplified”. This is the most general of the four books and the only one that applies across the board to whatever type of poker you play. Most of the examples are from NLH tournaments but the principles apply across the board to any form of poker

(2) “Endgame Poker Strategy: The ICM Book”. Only if you’re a tournament player. If you are then everything in this book not only applies to you but learning ICM is the single biggest thing you can learn to improve your profitability 

(3) “Poker Satellite Strategy”. I would say only if you play satellites but a few players have told me that the general ICM principles in this book helped them enormously even in normal MTTs. This is the only one of our books available as an audiobook (currently free at at time of writing)

(4) “PKO Poker Strategy” but only if you play knockout tournaments. 

The latest book is off to a quick start both in terms of sales and reception from readers. The early reviews are all amazing and if you do enjoy the book enough to want to help myself and Barry out, the best thing you can do for us is to leave a review of why you liked it at Amazon or wherever you bought it. As self publishers we rely entirely on reviews like this and word of mouth in general to sell enough copies to make it worth our time writing books.  

Faraz Jaka coaching

I'm pleased to announce I've joined Fara Jaka's training site as a guest coach. I've already done some webinars on ICM and mystery bounties which you can access replays if you sign up. I'm often asked if I'll ever join the Twitch streets and I always answer no as it seems too time consuming, but for those who really want to watch me play a session in real time and explain my thought process I'll be doing one of these every few months on the site, the first of which is scheduled for December 7th.

If you sign up through this link and use the code Dara15, you get a 15% discount!

The rest of the year

I have quite a bit of live poker scheduled in December including a couple of Irish poker tour stops, a trip to the Macau in Cork at the end of the week, and biggest of all the massive $15 million guaranteed WPT in the Wynn in Vegas. David and I fly over the 11th and arrive back the 22nd. Quite a few Irish have already satellited in online so it should be a great event.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Life is good: the Jan Suchanek story

Perpetual Czech 

I first heard or rather saw the name Jan Suchanek when I was in Melbourne at the Aussie Millions. It was at the peak of the "blog wars" which had started when Lappin and I had written answer blogs to a blog by a prominent pro who was castigating certain types of players as a cancer on the game. Our blogs went viral which meant I woke up every day to hundreds of Twitter notifications from people weighing in on the subject. In this sea of opinions, one name started to emerge as the most articulate and well informed. I imagined him as a fiery young online kid from eastern Europe who had no time for the old guard's insistence that their cartoon book personality type was the only one acceptable in modern poker.

When he slipped into my DMs I agreed happily to meet him at a break. I got there first, and eyed the crowds milling out for this guy who called himself PerpetualCzech on Twitter. When a tall guy about my age in a sports top appeared, I dismissed him as a candidate. He must have similarly dismissed me too, because he circled the area a few times before tentatively asking "You're not Dara, are you?"

Introductions out of the way, he launched into a tirade against the pro whose blog we had responded to, based on several encounters at tables in Vegas where he quickly formed the impression said pro was an entitled narcissistic bully hiding behind a facade of bonhomie. I quickly discovered that Jan was none of the things the leading pro was castigating: he was certainly no introvert, and he was most certainly no nit. What he was was someone who appreciated diversity and personalities of all sorts, who realised that the best thing about poker is that people are different, and any attempt to bully them into conforming to your own norms of personality is not only doomed to fail but fundamentally wrongheaded. Above all, he detested bullies and liars.

We bonded instantly and that day started an online friendship that meant that for the next three and a half years, we exchanged dozens, sometimes hundreds, of Whatsapp and Twitter messages every single day. Most of my days since then have started and ended with me reading and responding to a message from him. He lived in New Zealand so his morning was my night and vice versa, which added an interesting dynamic to the ebb and flow of our conversations and our tendency to take opposite sides on almost everything. 

The background story

Jan was born in Prague in the mid 60s. By his own account, he wasn't much more than a babe in arms when the Prague Spring happened. As the rest of Prague celebrated the liberal reforms, Jan's shrewd cookie of a mother looked eastward to Russia and decided "They won't let this stand". So she looked westward to Canada, decamping the family to Toronto (where Jan grew up) just in time before the tanks rolled into Prague. He described himself as a lanky awkward outsider who didn't feel he fitted in anywhere.

After high school, Jan studied economics in university and joined the workforce. He quickly realised the 9 to 5 answering to a boss life wasn't for him. He returned to Prague and drifted into sports betting. An intelligent out of the box thinker, he quickly found some specific exploits he could use in the early days of sports betting there. A master networker, he assembled what he called "brighter minds than mine" around him as he built his empire.

After meeting the love of his life Tatjana he relocated to New Zealand. In Melbourne, he invited me and Mrs Doke to his superbowl party in his hotel suite. Mrs Doke wasn't keen on the idea, having little interest in poker or poker players and even less in NFL, but grudgingly agreed to 15 minutes. When we got to the penthouse suite, she started to bristle a little, expecting some baller show off poker player determined to demonstrate how successful he was. Jan was more than ready though: he instantly charmed her with his self effacing manner, and wooed her with the finest wines known to humanity. As he fussed and fawned making sure everything was to her satisfaction, she whispered to me 

"Is this really the rich betting guy, or is it his servant?" 

When I told her the 15 minutes were up, she looked down at her Veuve Cliquot and caviar before scowling at me insistently

"We are staying!"

I gather Jan had more money riding on that game than most people make in a lifetime, and I gather it wasn't going well, but it didn't seem to bother him. His main concern was that all his guests were kept topped up and happy as he buzzed around, the consummate host. He endeared himself to Mrs Doke to the point that her first response to every proposed meal or drink thereafter was 

"Is Jan coming?"

Jan was so unassuming in both his attire and manner that most people would never have guessed how successful he was. At the first dinner he came along to, he insisted on picking up the bill. After he'd left, my brother in law castigated us for letting him pay.

"The poor man doesn't look like he could afford to pay for his own dinner let alone all of ours"

Meanwhile, Jan was on his way back to the highest stakes cash game he could find. 

The player

Always modest by nature, Jan described himself as a whale who splashed around with the proceeds of his sports betting. When I said to a pro I knew in the high stakes games I knew one of the whales, he asked me which one. When I identified Jan, he quickly informed me

"That man is no whale. He's winning in those games"

He expressed similar "I'm a donk" sentiments when it came to tournaments. He took great delight in bragging about hands he'd punted, or tournaments he'd busted before the first break. What he never mentioned was the fact he had cashed for more on his Hendon Mob than me. He also never mentioned his 8 game Aussie Millions ring, or the fact that he'd been headsup for a bracelet against Bryn Kenney in a 10 game mix event, or that he'd once won three tournaments in a row, or that he chiplead the WSOP main event with 100 players left once before taking a horrendous beat with 50 left for all the chips. He took that beat like a champ and when I asked him about it he described the moment:

"I remember it vividly. It was surreal. I went to my rail as we waited for the river card, and everything slowed down, and I thought whatever happens I'm ok with it, it doesn't really matter. I almost wanted to get one outered, just to see what that would be like"

He had a high variance high pressure style that yes, made for a lot of early bustouts, but also yielded many top three finishes and victories. He played all the games, and he was equally at home in a 10k in Vegas and a 100 home game in New Zealand, where he loved to play.

Fast friends

After Melbourne we were friends for life. A natural contrarian, he loved to argue, and in me he found someone willing to indulge that side of him. We argued both sides of practically everything, not so much because we genuinely disagreed all that often but just to hold our views to the fire and see what stood up.

He became an instant fan of my blogs and the Chip Race. He was maybe our biggest fan, something which didn't stop him from criticising every single show we put out rigorously. He wanted his friends to shoot for the stars, aspire to the highest standards, but when they failed to meet them he was instantly forgiving.

"It'll be better next time"

He relished his Twitter spats and feuds, and that year we Chip Race boys gave him much to work with. When Jonathan Little branded us and our entire listenership as "low lifes", Jan insisted we lean into it, dubbing us "team low life".

I saw him next that summer in Vegas. He wandered around the WSOP looking like a homeless person scoffing hot dogs, the most unassuming high roller in the place. He introduced me to his friend Rob (just Rob) at the hot dog stand like he was just some guy he knew from home. After Rob left, he informed me that Rob (Campbell) was a crusher who was in the running for Player of the Year (he ended up winning, pipping the pro Jan loved to hate). Jan had that very male characteristic of insulting and criticising you to your face, then telling everyone how great you were behind your back.

One night he tagged along with us as we walked Jen Shahade back to the Palms after she bagged in the main. That night we saw a different side of him, as he was clearly a little starstruck and shy when we stayed for a drink with her. It turned out the reason for this was he was a much bigger chess fan. He loved intelligence in all its forms.

As we walked back to the Gold Coast, Jan who had decided he'd walked enough for one night ordered a limo. We insisted on walking, and as his limo passed us he opened the window, leaned out and screamed "low lifes" at us as the limo screeched by.

The pandemic

After Vegas, he told me he wanted us to room together at WSOP Europe. He ended up having to cancel, and the planned reunion shifted to EPT Prague. He didn't make it to there either but assured me he'd be over for the Irish Open. And then the pandemic happened, and the Irish Open was the first casualty.

Above everything else, Jan hated being told what he could and couldn't do. Unsurprisingly given his back story, he had a lifetime distrust of institutions and government. His inner politics was conflicted between libertarianism and a belief that we should look after everyone in society. He was the most generous tipper I ever met. He self identified as a libertarian capitalist, but all his natural instincts trended socialist. 

He was very perturbed by lock down. His distrust of authority led him into vax hesitancy, which became the main focus of our arguments. In this I had a very selfish agenda for once: I wanted to see Jan again at the WSOP, and knew he wouldn't be able to make the trip unless he got vaccinated. Ultimately though, I respected his decision as his body his choice.

Although it was frustrating not to see him in person, we facetimed and Zoomed constantly, a development accelerated by the fact that we became business partners in staking and some other stuff. We made plans to go visit him next January. When the restrictions in New Zealand were finally lifted, he was on almost the first plane out of there, embarking on a grand European tour that was supposed to culminate with a grand reunion at Unibet Malta in ten days. I was so giddy at the prospect of seeing him again I could barely contain myself on a recent Lock In.

The end

At the start of this month I committed to a 7 day a week online grind for all the series going on. That didn't leave much time for much else, and when I went a whole 24 hours without messaging him he sent an enquiring message if everything was all right, pointing out this was our longest silence. A few days later he told me he was ill in bed with stomach problems. 16 tabling at the time, I told him to be careful, reminding him we were not young men any more. We chatted a bit about the forthcoming Polish translation of my books (he was keen we translate into Czech) and then he went silent again, save for one message on a group chat saying he was in hospital. I messaged asking for an update every day, but there was no reply.

By now, I was very concerned and managed to contact one of his friends back home in New Zealand. The response devastated me: Jan had passed away two days earlier in Belgrade.  An obviously devastated Tatjana confirmed all the details when I managed to contact her. I was in shock: the thought that I'd never speak to him again left a giant Jan sized hole in my world.

There are optimists and there are pessimists, and then there was Jan who seemed to fuse both together into a very personal stoicism that no matter what happened, it was fine. His most repeated phrase was "Life is good". He used it as an affirmation when something good happened, a counterpoint when something bad happened, a general philosophy, and an admonishment against self pity. His favourite song was Monty Python's "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life". He sent me videos of him singing it gleefully with his son.

Once in the furnace of our arguments on COVID and lockdowns, he attempted to explain what he saw as the root cause of our differences. He said that public policy viewed death as the worst thing that can happen, but he did not. He went on to explain 

"I've already lived longer than the average person born 100 years ago. I've outlived my father and his father. I view each birthday as a victory. 

I love life too! But I don't view death as a negative. I just view it as neutral".

This seemed to encapsulate Jan's philosophy. He lived and loved to the full, but whatever happened, that was fine by him too. Whether that was getting one outered for the chiplead with 50 left in the WSOP main, or death, it didn't matter. Life is good.

Given that he didn't fear death or even see it as a negative, we shouldn't feel sorry for him. He lived his life on his own terms, admired and beloved by all who knew him well. He enriched the lives of everyone he cared for, and they were many. But even if I don't feel sorry for Jan (and his passing was mercifully quick and painless), I do feel sorry for myself, and everyone who knew him, because I and we have to spend the rest of our lives missing him. 

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Overdue catchup

 This blog started out as a Dear Diary I assumed nobody was reading. These days it seems to be going back to that, as the vast majority of my written content appears elsewhere at sites like VegasSlotsOnline, PokerStrategy or Cardschat. However, I'm not giving up completely on my own blog, so for now I'll use it for stuff like life updates that don't belong elsewhere.

No rest for the wacked

I've been extremely busy since Vegas and Barcelona. September is peak time online with all the series going on so I'm trying to get in as much volume before I head to Malta on the September 26 for the first live Unibet Open in over 2 years, after which I'll stay on for the Battle of Malta. After a week at home I head to London for the UKIPT, then it's back to Dublin for the IPO.

The fourth book

Barry and I have been working flat out to complete our fourth strategy book together. We have settled on a title that miraculously doesn't include the words "poker strategy", "GTO Poker Simplified". It's aimed primarily at recreational players who want GTO poker explained in concrete terms to them. There are already some excellent book out there on game theory and poker, most notably "Modern Poker Theory" by Michael Acevedo, and "Play Optimal Poker" (parts 1 and 2) by Andrew Brokos, so you might very well ask why we felt another one was needed.

The answer is that I have frequently recommended both books to students of mine who want to get a good grounding in GTO principles, but more often than not recreationals have come back with lots of questions, The goal of our book therefore is to answer those questions and more so as to provide readers with a good enough understanding of the topic that they'll then benefit greatly from reading Acevedo and Brokos.

Anyway, the book has now gone out to selected alpha readers for final feedback, and Saron is designing the cover. Once we get the feedback and decide what changes to make, the book will go for final edit. We are hoping to have it available on Amazon and the other usual places by November (December at the latest).

Barry tweeted looking for suggestions for the cover image and we got some interesting ones and some "interesting" ones. In the latter category, we definitely won't be using this one from MoreTBC.

Irish Poker Tour

I was greatly flattered and honoured recently to be appointed Live Strategy Coach for the hottest new grassroots tour, the Irish Poker Tour. I had already attended a number of stops and been impressed by the turnout, the atmosphere and the new faces the tour is attracting.

My role there involves writing strategy pieces aimed primarily at beginners (the first one on Position is up already) and producing some video content.


I am also delighted to announce I have signed a one year extension to my contract as an ambassador for Cardschat, the world's friendliest online poker forum. For those of you who don't know already, I regularly update my Ask Me Anything thread there.

Faraz Jaka coaching

I've started doing strategy webinars for Faraz Jaka's training site. So far I've done webinars on ICM, satellites, mystery bounties and multi-way pots. 

Other apparitions

Lappin and I are interviewed on the most recent episode of the excellent "Stealing The Blinds" podcast. I also did a couple of recent interviews which aren't out yet, including one for the BBC World Service morning show.

My own website!

Finally shelled out for my own domain. To keep up to date with all my content and other stuff, visit


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