Alex “Assassinato” Fitzgerald: $3.7 Million Tournament Winnings, Author, and Legendary Poker Coach
Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 038
Alex “Assassinato” Fitzgerald on social media:
My guest today is the amazing Alexander “Assassinato” Fitzergald.
Alex has cashed for over $4 million in online and live tournaments, is the author of 2 poker books (Exploitative Play in Live Poker and The Myth of Poker Talent), and has almost certainly done more private coaching lessons than anyone else on the planet (Found online at PokerHeadRush.com)!
Alex has accomplished all of this despite a self-professed “lack of natural poker talent”.
How is that something you can overcome, you might ask? Grit, hard work, finding your tribe, and always, always, always understanding the “why” behind the plays you’re making at the tables.
It’s safe to say there are GREATNESS BOMBS aplenty in this episode from:
– Why it’s actually a GOOD THING that you get berated at the tables when playing smaller stakes
– How coaching whether you’re currently winning or losing can help you ascend and reach your poker goals faster than you think is possible
– And why we should all regularly pick up new hobbies to learn so that we can get comfortable knowing we don’t know everything about everything.
You’re also going to learn:
– How a life disruption motivated Alex to become the best version of himself.
– Why live poker doesn’t evolve and change as quickly as online poker.
– Alex’s favorite memory traveling and playing cards (Which almost feels like a scene straight out of a movie).
– Why just playing cards, win or lose, makes Alex feel alive.
– And MUCH more!
So, without any further ado, here’s my conversation with one of the best and brightest poker minds in the world, Alexander “Assassinato” Fitzgerald.
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Brad: Yo, what is happening, Enhance your Edge nation. I’m your host, Brad Wilson and welcome to the Chasing Poker Greatness podcast. Today is a highly requested episode straight from the chasing of poker greatness audience. My guest is Alexander “Assassinato” Fitzgerald, who has cashed for over $4 million in online and live tournaments. He is the author of two poker books, Exploitative Play in Live Poker, and the Myth of Poker Talent, and has almost certainly done more private coaching lessons than anyone else on the planet. Alex has accomplished all of this despite a self-professed lack of poker talent. How is that something you can overcome, you might ask. Grit, hard work, finding your tribe, and always, always, always understanding the whys behind the plays you’re making at the tables. It’s safe to say there are greatness bombs of plenty in this episode, from why it’s actually a good thing, that you get berated at the tables when playing smaller stakes, how coaching, whether you’re currently winning or losing can help you ascend and reach your poker goals faster than you think is possible, and why we should all regularly pick up new hobbies to learn so that we can get comfortable knowing that we don’t know everything about everything. You’re also going to learn how a life disruption motivated Alex to become the best version of himself. Why live poker doesn’t evolve and change as quickly as online poker, Alex’s favorite memory traveling and playing cards, which almost feels like a scene straight out of a movie. Why just playing cards, win or lose makes Alex feel alive? And much, much more. So, without any further ado, here’s my conversation with one of the best and brightest poker minds in the world, Alex “Assassinato” Fitzgerald.
Brad: Alex, my man, how we doing this morning?
Alex: I’m doing well. How you doing, sir?
Brad: I’m doing great. It’s awesome to have you on the show. And I wanted to start off our talk about your tournament in Prague. Can we get into detail there, now that you just slam down this shot that you’re taking at 9am?
Alex: Espresso shot, espresso, no liquor, sure. So, one of the cooler things when I was traveling to play poker is you get to see locales you’d never get to see. So, if we’re just talking about traveling stories, I think one of the, I think probably the coolest place I’ve ever played poker was the final table of WPT Prague back in 2016. It was everything you dream of, when you’re 15. Looking to play poker, it was a smoky Eastern, or now they would clarify Central European, not Eastern European. Central European casino. And there’s 30 people watching you play, everybody immaculately dresses. Of course, all the women serving your drinks are six feet tall, Eastern European model looking tides, right. Every moment was so tense, and so studied. And
Brad: Let me, let me stop you before you before you go in.
Brad: How did you get to Prague? How did that trip come about?
Alex: How did Prague come about? Well, I always wanted to take my family on one European trip, because that’s something that would have seemed like a bridge too far when I was younger. We didn’t, my family didn’t have as much money as, I, a lot of people would say this, we didn’t have as much money as we’d like. But it was pretty rough for a few years. And I just decided I’m going to take my family to Prague. So, I flew them out.
Brad: What’s your family consist of?
Alex: Market like family members?
Brad: Yeah, that you took to Prague.
Alex: My mother and my sister. Great, great question. So, I took my mom and my sister out. I flew up from Costa Rica, flew my sister from Seattle. I flew my mother from Seattle because that’s where they reside. And Airbnb has really opened up everything. You can just rent a condo for a month in some of these European countries for very little. So, I was just cooking breakfast every morning, hanging out with my family and then going to play high stakes poker every night are as high stakes as you could get with the tournaments at that particular day. And it was a blast.
Brad: Nice. So, you come over there with your mom, your sister, show them a good time in Prague. And now there’s 30 people left in this casino, right? Your mom and your sister watching?
Alex: Yeah, there’s a it was the final table. There’s, all these people watching all the tournament directors and my mom and sister didn’t go out because they’re just like, that’s Alex going out to work. I don’t even understand poker. Right?
Alex: Yeah, they’re not into it. I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve been doing it since I was 15. So, to them, it’s like yeah, whatever.
Brad: I’m at a WPT final table. I took you to Prague and you can’t even show up.
Alex: They don’t care. They’re just, they’re just, whatever. I said it was literally, I’m off to work and they go, okay, we’re going to go see the Nutcracker.
Brad: Oh, the Nutcracker.
Alex: Yes, it’s yeah, it’s around Christmas time at that time. And yeah, it was I didn’t do much in the tournament. I can’t, I literally as I said here, I couldn’t tell if it was seventh or eighth. I finished that. But just that experience. It was so film noir ask I’m not typically partial to the cigarette smoke in the 10 stairs. But there was a part of me that appreciated it. As far as a traveling store.
Brad: Yeah, just like on a movie set.
Brad: I don’t love the, the smoking either. But I could see how it adds to the you know, it adds to the visual aspect.
Alex: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. And being an American, I appreciated all the accents. It was very, what was that James Bond movie where everybody’s playing cards. And of course, it’s cooler after cooler after cooler. But Mads Mickelson has his accent it felt, it felt like everything I was looking for when I was 15 getting into this game, and it’s so funny. Once you finally got it. You realize it’s another day in the office. Right?
Brad: Yeah. That’s typically how it goes whenever you catch your rabbits.
Alex: Yes, sir. Well said.
Brad: Yeah, they’re less fulfilling than you thought. But, you know, the journey, I think is the fulfilling part. And it’s fun. I, like, I think it all always starts out as an adventure, right? Like, at least, you know, I was 19-20 years old when I got into playing cards. And it was just like this adventure. I can travel around, I can live somewhere other than where I live right now.
Alex: Yes, sir.
Brad: Get Paid playing cards, like are you kidding me?
Brad: I couldn’t imagine a better life.
Alex: Nor could I man. And also, you can do it ‘till your 80s. I know a lot of former athletes. And that is such a brutal game, because, you just blow out your name and they go, there goes your life’s work. Good. That’s it. 28 you’re done. Go get a job doing something else. And for you and I as long as you know, God willing, our brain keeps ticking. That’s just not a consideration. You got to keep playing cards.
Brad: Yes, God willing the brain keeps ticking. So, you know, you’ve made millions in online tournaments. But from, in my research, I’ve learned that you didn’t ever really consider yourself a crusher. And you kind of moved towards the coaching aspect. And I wanted to ask you about humility, and having this realization that maybe you were meant to be a poker coach versus grinding, you know, 60 hours a week?
Alex: Yes, sir. I, so when you tell people, hey, I’ve got 4 million in caches from tournaments, what a lot of people don’t realize is maybe $3 million of that is buy ins. And then a million of that is profit, which sounds fantastic until you realize the guy’s been playing for 10 years. And, so that’s $100,000 a year. Don’t get me wrong. That’s fantastic. But as, as we all know, as poker players, sometimes all that money doesn’t come in at the same time. Sometimes you have a fantastic year and other years, you don’t have much coming in. And where I got into the coaching side was having some of the lean years. I have a few more financial responsibilities than maybe the average poker player. I do take care of my mother and things of that nature. And I didn’t really think of coaching but what would happen is one of my friends who was 100 times better than I am would be trying to explain a concept to another friend of mine. And they would explain in their terminology and because they’re so brilliant, perhaps the terminology would be adjust, a touch above what my friend could get the first blush through. And then I would essentially translate from my friend who was freakishly good poker player. I go, yeah, the way he explained it, to me didn’t make sense either. This is what I got after two weeks. What I ended up finding out was because I didn’t really have many of these guys who are fantastic poker players just have so much horsepower under the hood, have just such a crazy IQ, I never had that. So, I always had to explain things to myself in extremely basic terms, and then build upon that. It never occurred to me till maybe around 2010, that I could actually market that because my friends kept saying, oh, the way you put it made perfect sense to me, you should actually do some of this. And I started doing my first lessons. And I can actually remember my first, I can remember the guy’s name, I can remember the first time I was on Skype doing it, I was so scared, I was going to do a bad job. And at the end, he said, this was amazing. I never thought of any of these things in this way. People do appreciate the humility as well, because I would always say, look, remember, this is a starting point. You’re not going to learn how to play the piano in one hour. But somebody can show you where you’re going to trip up. And as I got into that process, and as I started studying how to help people become better faster, it really became an addiction. Because I got very into the numbers, I got very into using all the poker tools at the time. And the more I got into it, the better I was doing in all facets of my life. And my poker game improved. And yeah, it’s 10 years later now. I guess it’s been going all right.
Brad: Yeah, there’s definitely a communication barrier. Depending on who your poker coaches, like, they’re, you know, it’s the same in pretty much any endeavor, right? There’s amazing players, amazing competitors. And, but explaining something and teaching and helping someone is a different skill set that not a lot of people have mastered. And it you know, you can pay tons of money to get coaching from and I’m just using this as an example. But Phil Ivey, but if he can’t communicate to you what you need to hear and meet you on your own paradigm, where you’re at, so that you can take those incremental steps, then it’s not going to be valuable to you, right? And I think paradigms where it’s at, you need to hit people where they’re at in their poker career. And imagine how they think so they can take the next step. Because I think that a lot of times, you know, we’re human beings, right, we want results fast. We want, we want to just boom, just go to sleep at night and wake up. And now we’re just an A Crusher, but that’s not how it works for, for anybody. So, if you skip a bunch of steps in the middle, you can really trip, trip some students up.
Brad: As it relates to poker coaching, how did, how do you feel that affected your poker game over the years?
Alex: Oh, god, it’s been fantastic. It’s, I never knew why I did a number of the things I did when I’m starting. My best years were, of course, right around the bone. And I couldn’t really quantify why certain things were working. And more importantly, when you don’t know why certain things are working, you’re not going to identify when they’re going to stop working. So, something that was fantastically interesting at the beginning was if you look at what a person average flops, excuse me, when you look at the average flop on flop Zilla, maybe 20% of the time the guy has talked her better, I didn’t understand what that meant. Until I realized back in the day, people would not call a triple barrel bluff. If they did not have top pair better and 2008 some guys would top pair top kicker would just always fold especially deep in tournaments and I’m 20 years old. I just think triple barrel is funny because at 20 you don’t have brain cells rubbing together, right?
Alex: And I couldn’t figure out why I was developing all these stacks. And that was because my triple barrel would just get through 80% of the time. So, I either developed these gigantic stacks at the beginning of tournaments or I was off to go see the movies in Las Vegas. And what ended up happening was when I was at 22, people started hitting the call button, they started going, this guy never has it, I’m going to start hitting the call button. And if I had actually prepared and understood why my play worked at that time, once I started seeing their calling percentages go up, and that that percentage is skyrocketed since that time. The average person does not like to fold the river at all anymore. If I had been prepared for that I could have adjusted, I could have seen it coming, I could have improved my game. But instead, I actually went through a lowly period in my career, because I kept trying to implement this dated poker strategy onto a game that had moved on from it. But when you’re reading the numbers, you can be ahead of the game. It is fascinating. And really, it becomes addicting. If you’ve ever read a book like Moneyball, or anything by Michael Lewis, or anything of that nature, looking at analytics, analytics are just what does the average guy do here? Let’s pull up hand history after hand history after hand history and just dig into the ticket statistic after statistic after statistic and find out what does the field do in this situation, because when you’re playing in tournaments, primarily you are dealing with field reads, oftentimes you only get 2030 hands with the guy. So how does the average guy tech in 2020, and just figuring out how you can manipulate that I love playing live poker. Now, our online poker now because 99% of the situation’s feel so fluid to me, and I know what I want to do. Whereas in 2009, when I was starting, I was very insecure to, it, just in my I went pro in 2006 when I was 18. And I was extremely insecure, because I wasn’t sure why I was doing each play. I just knew it tended to work, but I didn’t know why. And that made me extremely unnerved as to when it would stop working. And now I know I’m going to be ahead of the trend if I just keep working hard. And that feels immensely gratifying.
Brad: I can imagine, you’re vulnerable when, you’re vulnerable when you, you know some things, you know poker is going to evolve. Number one, this is just, this just happens over time players adjust, the field adjusts. And number two, you have no idea why, why this is going through. And so, the combination of that leaves you to uncertainty in the future. And I know that’s a very, like, simple example of just triple barrel bluffing, but like, there are these situations that come up with regularity all the time, like seabed defense ratios, how often are guys like sizing’s on the flop, like different lines, all these, things like they change and like you need, you really need to know like, I love, so Berkey’s been on the podcast and like Solve For Why, I think I love the name of his brand, because it’s just, it encapsulates poker in such a such a great way. But like always Solve For Why because if you know why, you can make adjustments, you can understand what’s happening that much better. And like you said, stay ahead of the curve. I do find it interesting that like, you know, just think looking back at it like the triple barrel bluffs going through for you. It’s like thinking about the field. A lot of times they raise the flop or the turn with like their sets or their two pair and their big hands. So, the range on the river was actually fairly weak, not comprised of too many strong hands. So, based on how they’re playing their range, you’re just smashing them by tripling, tripling it off on the river.
Alex: And people back then, a big fold was not, well if you did a big call and you were wrong, everybody just gave you a hard time. If you play poker now, nobody gives you a hard time about a big call that goes well, you’ll be playing a World Poker Tour event, final 30 and a guy just calls off all of his chips on the river and I’m sitting there going, you know, what one that what, what did he just do? And everybody at the table said oh yeah, he had jack seven in the big blind but board was jack. How could you not go broke and I know what there’s a big part of me that goes what planet am I living on? Because I remember, I was the super aggressive player or every dumb guy was the super aggressive player back in 2006-2007 because we opened audacious hands in early positions such as jack nine suited. Now try to find me a guy who can fold this jack nine suited from early position. It is extremely difficult to find. The game has opened up and they say people are getting better at poker. I don’t find that to be true. In all instances, I think people have just, the gloves are off, if they want to open, they’re going to open, if they want to call, they’re going to call and you’re going to have to adjust, it’s going to have to be a much more value intensive game, and you’re going to have to be much more cutting with the bluffs.
Brad: Exactly. Like that’s the adjustment, right? Like, that’s the evolution. When everybody opens it up, they’re playing more hands. They start studying, they start opening the jack nine suited under the gun, the 667 students. Now, you get a situation where folks are maybe playing too many hands. And so, you have to rein it in, and they’re, they’re paying off to light. So, like you said, more value heavy game. You just change strategies to adjust to the field like, like we, we’ve said. I’ll never forget, a friend of mine was he’s a cash game crusher. And you know, there was a time when people’s three bet fold percentage was like 82%, right? Like, like, some guys, you’re just printing money through betting the bejesus out of them. And then like, the four bet, the small four bet gets implemented and people start using that. And then it’s like, oh, what do we do versus default small four bet? And like, then over time, my friends just like, what, like, what’s going to be like the next step? Or we just got to be like, five beds shoving every hand like, what’s the next step in the evolution? I’m like, No, you just, you just play needier, like,
Alex: Well, and if you want to know how people play poker, this is my honest contention. You should read Thinking Fast and Slow in studying neuro economics and read the book your money and your brain that because we all thought that evolution was going to take place, right? Five betting, six betting, seven betting whatever it is, what we’re finding out now what people want to do is they want to open preflop because God forbid the flop misses them that way, or excuse me, God forbid, they would have hit the flop. And they would have played, right. If you three bet them, they’re not going to fall because again, that flop might hit them. And then when the flop comes out there, if they’ve hit something they’re not folding, because loss aversion is a real thing. It’s the same reason when you’re in a movie, and you know, it’s going to be a turd 20 minutes in, you don’t walk out of the movie theater, nobody walks out of a movie because they’ve already invested their money. God forbid, this actually turns out to be a great movie. It’s the same thing, right? They hit something on the flop. I don’t want to fold. Okay, let’s go. But if they miss the flop, that’s okay. Because at least they got to see the flop. And nobody wants to be bluffed. Because again, loss aversion is a huge deal. There’s a, what is the, everybody at home if you’re watching this Google, I think it’s called the Asian disease problem that’s in Thinking Fast and Slow, that essentially humans are presented with options, and one is they’re presented with a loss. And they can either accept a loss or they can gamble to possibly get out of a horrendous situation, right? And if you look at the equity, you’ll see what’s the right answer, but what they found out is humans will gamble almost always to get out of that. People do not want to consent to a loss. And I think we’re getting to the point in poker where people are just playing the way they want to play. I don’t feel as if, you don’t see the men for bets as much as he used to, you don’t see people folding the three bets as much as you used to you don’t see people trying to make tight folds, the gloves are off. If I want to call you I’m going to call you. And that’s about it. That’s as far as, I focus mostly on low to mid stakes. Obviously, high stakes is just absurdly developed and good these days. But that’s what I observe with the average person playing poker.
Brad: And I want to get back to, I want to touch on something that, that you just said about you didn’t think players were necessarily getting better.
Brad: Could you expand on that?
Alex: Sure. I have not seen live poker players get better in years in a lot of these low to mid stakes fields. It’s
Brad: What’s mid stake to you?
Alex: Like mid stakes, let’s talk about like tournaments. It’d be like $1,000 a cot, like even a 3500 WPT you see some. If you’re playing in Atlantic City or playing in Baltimore, you’ll still, you’ll still see guys lame call 8x, you’ll still see absurd stuff like that. And that was the stuff we dreamed of in 2003. Right, it’s still out there. You just have to bomb a little bit, right? Now, if you’re playing in Vegas, you’re playing in a lot of places in Europe, you’re not going to see that, people have gotten much, much better. I will give that, I will say that essentially the people who are good have gotten much, much better, good players are fantastic. Now, you’ll see many immensely talented pros, whereas it used to be much harder to find them. But the average got I. It’s just great. If you get out to some of these smaller tournaments, let’s not even call it mid stakes, let’s call them small stakes. If you’re playing like 300, 500, $600,000 tournaments, even if you cherry pick some of these 3.5k WPTs. I’m not seeing people merge their ranges, I’m not seeing people learn that they should turn their third pair into a bluff on the river, you still see people, if you take the lead. It still blows my mind that a guy will open anything, you’ll throw that in position, they’ll just let you take the lead. And they’ll tell you what they have, they’ll raise when they have it. They’ll fold when they miss, they’ll call when they have something. If you keep expecting that big bluff to come out there and it just doesn’t cut. Now, let me clarify my statement a little bit. If you’re playing in Vegas, you’re, you’re going to find a lot more guys who can play then back in the day. And when I was playing in Prague, I was lucky enough to play their EPT and all their events, too. You would find some guys in the $1,000 events, Eastern European guys, I’d never seen in my life that could play their ass off. They were so good. But if you cherry pick a little bit, I don’t think people are getting better.
Brad: There’s definitely going to be ROI in live tournaments.
Alex: Yes, sir.
Brad: You know, the single tournament that I’ve played in recent memory, which I was very shocked, coming from, coming from playing some higher stakes cash games online, to playing like a 1500 live tournament was quite the experience. I was like, is this real life right now? Like we’re, like five limps into the pot. And then somebody’s like 10xs and like everybody calls it’s like, what, what planet is this?
Alex: That’s like going from Premier League to like rec league indoor soccer in New York City, right? It just, it’s not even similar at all right?
Brad: Yeah. Yeah. So, like I, I will say like 100% tournaments, live tournaments. There’s value there. Like if you can make it to the venues and you’re a decent player, I think that there are going to be plus EV. You don’t even have, you don’t have to be like great a crusher or anything like that. You just have to be pretty good, right? Like, you can break even online your way plus EV in those guys.
Alex: Oh, of course. And let me ask you this. So, finding soft games online is extremely difficult. Now, it can be done, but you got to bomb hunt pretty severely. But, have you played 1-2 live or 2-5 live? Because that’s what most of the world plays, and most of my focus is on how can I help my students the most because they’re the people that support me so much. And a lot of them say they want to play 1-2 live, 2-5 live and I said okay. So, a few years ago, I started at a lot of these tournament stops making myself playing more live. Those games have not gotten better. Eight, nine years either. That’s still seven limpers you raise to 20x. You get one call. And I, I know guys who are making six figures short stacking. Because
Alex: Yeah, because they’re obviously they play more than anybody, anybody should ever play. Right? And let’s say six figures over more than a year, right?
Brad: Why short stacking?
Alex: Because these guys will just get pissed off and call the 50x jam with whatever, once the liquor gets going right. And they can’t, they can’t understand that the guy is just knitting it up, right? They just
Alex: They don’t get it. And obviously, the guy is picking his games extremely well, but I didn’t believe it until we started talking. He was showing me his results and everything and then other people were talking about it work, and but, short stacking can, okay, not even specifically talking about that. But if you go and play at the Borgata, you’ll still see nobody folding ever so you can play a very tight strategy and still do fine.
Brad: Oh yeah. I coach a guy. One of my students plays 2-5 and 5-10 exclusively and his 2-5 hands are sometimes pretty funny. Like
Brad: Very, I think the expression that I like to use about live poker compared to online is live poker is more primitive. Like it just, it has it, because in fairness, you can’t collect data, right? People that primarily play live poker, you can’t look at a database, you can’t analyze the situations historically, you can’t do like run a mass database analysis design, how guys are playing and in the adjustments you should make. So, it’s just a little, it’s just harder to get better without a coach, without playing online, without doing any sort of studying, right? The more you play doesn’t necessarily correlate to the better you’re going to get.
Alex: Now that’s true. A lot of times experience can be very misleading. If you think about it. Didn’t everybody believe the solar system revolved around the Earth, because experientially that made sense If you looked up into the sky, it was, it was tilting around, right? It was only through scientific inquiry, they found out what was actually the truth. And, yeah, it’s extremely difficult with live poker. I’ve made attempts to collect databases on live poker hands, and it’s so immensely difficult to spreadsheets and keeping everything clarified in what you’re getting is just fractions of a percent as to what you’re getting online, where you can literally look at just 10s of millions a hands, and if you see something consistently through that, you can really create an excellent counter strategy to it. So yes, I completely agree with you on that, on that factor.
Brad: I think it’s interesting that somebody that plays like 50NL online that has a pretty good win rate is going to like smash
Brad: They’re just going to smash it. Maybe not 1000NL in some locations. Maybe not in like Vegas, or Los Angeles, or
Alex: Hell no, yeah.
Brad: But in some places, you know, they’re, they’re going to hold their own butt, butt 2-5, they’re going to smash there. That’s, that’s a different league.
Alex: And that’s the beautiful thing about the United States right now. Everybody’s broke and opening casinos, right. So, you got a lot of people, you got a lot of cities that have never had casinos before. All of a sudden opening up these games, and it’s, it’s just insane.
Brad: Yeah, that’s massive. That’s a massive, you’re diffusing the poker talent across America by opening these casinos in different spots. So, when they run big games, well, you just can’t have that many crushers in the game.
Alex: That’s a fantastic way of putting it, diffusing it. I like that. Yeah.
Brad: Diffusing the talent,
Alex: Breaking it up, breaking it up, I like it.
Brad: And speaking of live like a, there’s a pot limit. Omaha game is a home game. And me and my friend were laughing about it. Because the rule was like, if somebody limped in, they’re playing that hand. Like they’re in for 10. They’re in for 2000. They wouldn’t care. It’s like, pot, pot, pot, call, pot all in, call, call. Like, they just, I mean, in some cases in some spots, like, that’s just how the game is.
Alex: Okay. I thought it was a house rule, or
Brad: No, no, no. It’s not a rule. That’s just how they played like, that’s just yeah. sighs Yeah, they’re just not folding. Like they’re in for 10. They’re in for 2000. Period.
Alex: Yeah, a lot of poker these days is, because people don’t fold, I’ll be honest, back when people fold in poker was a lot easier, for obvious reasons, because you don’t need a hand when you’re bluffing. But now it’s so much more of like, how strong is your stomach? It’s going to be a gut check every time because obviously you’re playing that PLO game, you’re going to need the bankroll and you’re going to need some chutzpah, and you’re going to need some focus, and you’re going to need some drive in two and a half weeks ago, you better than drinking your green tea,
Alex: And eat well, because you’re feeling like you’re getting punched in the face, repeatedly at that game. Right?
Brad: That’s another thing that I wanted to explore. You’re all about taking care of yourself, taking care of your mind your body. Can you expand on that and, and relate the importance of doing well in poker?
Alex: Sure. So, I used to be from at age 18 to 25-26-27. I, I was in the distance running, I literally ran 10 miles a day, five days a week at some point, right. I was super into and I didn’t do it for trying to stay in shape reasons it was more I want to eat everything I want. And I don’t want to gain weight. So, I’m going to do this. And what I didn’t realize until I got into a life situation where I couldn’t work out as much is all that distance running was helping my focus dramatically on later stages of tournaments. I had so much more focus and there was, many times playing tired is a different skill. Sorry, were you going to say something?
Brad: I was just going to, I was going to ask how. Like, I know that it may not be super important, but like as to learn you know, I think the why and the what are more important than the how, but how did running allow you to have more focus deeper in the tournaments?
Alex: Oh, sure. It’s just a, you’re not caring as Trisha Gardner does a much better job of explaining how exercise affects performance, but they’re actually finding it facilitates neurogenesis, which is just, if I’m not getting this wrong, it actually allows your brain to grow, and you have a lot less nervous energy, you’re not burned out as well, you’re very loose. It’s the same thing with staying hydrated, and things along those lines. And the thing that amazed me the most was the lack of nervous energy and how that felt. And then the way I found it, if you’ve ever tried to run, when you’re a few pounds overweight, and you feel really tired, it’s the same thing with tournament poker, or a long cash game session, you are really feeling it, come 5am. And some of my biggest wins came at 5am, 6am. And everybody else broke down, but you’re able to keep taking the standardized test at a certain level. And they’ve done a lot of testing with that I believe the book is Spark, Spark Actually, it’s an extremely nerdy book, but it focuses on how exercise facilitates better cognitive performance. And they’re actually, they’ve dramatically improved some public-school test scores. Because the first hour of the day, they have real personal trainers hammering these kids, and they’re trying to get their mile time up, and they’re trying to get them to lift weights and just test scores have skyrocketed. And oddly, nobody’s talking about it. And if you wanted to talk about how to do it, right, like what specifically leads to better performance?
Brad: I was just curious as to how the correlation between
Alex: Oh, for sure.
Brad: The distance running in, in the high levels of focus for a sustained periods of time.
Alex: Yes, sir. And I would also say right now, I got to a point where distance running didn’t work for me. It seems to happen to men when they go into their 30s. I really recommend strength training for anyone who plays poker seriously, three times a week, especially for men, your testosterone levels kick up, it just makes you feel a whole lot better. And just really try to stay away from processed sugar as much as possible. I don’t find I get hurt much by eating fruit. But processed sugar just seems to be like the devil and white grains as far as energy because it gives you those glycemic spikes, and then you just crash. And if you’re playing tournament poker or long session, that’s really going to hurt you. Stick to the avocados, the cashews, the almonds and stuff like that. Drink tons of water, don’t put any sugar in your tea or coffee.
Brad: It’s such human nature to bypass the physical training, and take you know, drink a shot of espresso. Drink, drink coffee all day long. You know, get, get coffee at 8pm to keep yourself going in a tournament like, hello, that’s not going to work out super well, for tomorrow, right?
Alex: Yeah, when you sleep, you’re just burned out, right?
Brad: You’re just done. And, you know, I’ve wondered about this a long time. Or I did wonder about this a long time. I’ve spoken about it multiple times on this show. But the brain consumes 20% of your body’s energy. So, while you’re playing cards, yeah, it’s an energy hog the brain is. So, while you’re playing cards for 12 or 14 hours, when you find yourself feeling like a zombie. It’s because you’re burning so much energy, through focus and playing cards, that there was a study released on chess players who yeah, who lost weight, like they, they after like a five-day thing. They, their nutrition was so bad that they I think they had to cancel the event. Because, or they would lose like 15, 20-25 pounds, because intense focus burns calories, intense focus burns energy, and that’s why in our 13 of a poker tournament, you’re feeling dead, right? Because you are. You just don’t have any energy left in your tank. And as a hypothesis, I also know that when you work out like say you, you know, your peak level fitness as like a professional athlete, right? They naturally need more energy to get through a day, because they burn more energy. So, like how much energy you burn is related to how much energy you have because your body wants to survive on a day to day basis and it wants to be efficient. So, like there just so many benefits to burning calories, going to the gym, burning energy so that you have more energy the next day, so that you don’t have to be addicted to caffeine, so that you don’t need that sugar, so that you can play cards better so that you can make more money and take care of your family and live your dreams.
Alex: No, that’s absolutely right. I used to be a complete, I’m drinking the espresso shot right now. So, I can be especially alert for this very important interview podcast, right. But I used to be just an addict to caffeine because you’re right, my body wouldn’t naturally produce energy, it just wasn’t able to do so when I was heavyset, or even, I’ve been 200. And I’m six feet tall, I have been 245 pounds while I was a poker player, and I’ve been 150 pounds while I was a poker player. And I can tell you, at each end of that spectrum, I had zero energy because my body was not creating anything. So, I was a caffeine addict. And it’s only recently that now I’m like 210, I feel really good. Get to lift regularly, just feel amazing. I don’t need more than two cups of coffee a day, my body naturally creates the energy. But you’re absolutely right back when I wasn’t feeding myself enough, or perhaps I was feeding myself too much, my body couldn’t naturally create that energy. And that’s not so much of a problem day to day. But when you really need to turn those jets on at 4am live, somebody is putting their stack away, and it’s time to wake up and figure out if this guy just finally lost and wants to go home. That is not the time you want to figure out that your energy stores are depleted.
Brad: Yes, that is when it’s absolutely necessary. Because most likely, that’s why you’re playing at 4am. Because somebody has ran up some massive stack, you know, they’re going to give it away. And you want to be the recipient of that gift. You just have to stay awake until, you know until the game breaks. So, like you need energy. I think it’s you know, this is something that can improve people’s poker game, improve all facets of their life, not just poker. And you don’t even have to study, right? You just put,
Alex: Yes, sir.
Brad: Put in the work at the gym.
Alex: Its good for everything. Yes, sir.
Brad: It’s good for everything. And one final thought on this nutrition topic. Coffee specifically, like caffeine is a drug, right? Caffeine is a drug. I find that when I’m taking drugs, whether they be you know, caffeine, fruit sugar, testing out some nootropics, whatever that might look like. I like testing out different consumption rates. So, like with coffee, specifically, if you drink one cup, how does that make you feel? Now if you drink one cup a day for a month straight? You’re not going to get the same effects at the end of the month. So, like what’s the right sequence? Drink coffee two days in a row, take a break, take two days off. Like basically cycling on and off caffeine for maximum effects, I think is just something that people probably don’t think about. And probably don’t
Alex: That’s a good point.
Brad: On a, on a regular basis.
Alex: Oh, absolutely true.
What is up, my loyal chasing poker greatness listener? Coach Brad here and I just wanted to take a moment to ask you a simple question. How many times have you heard my guests and I speak passionately about the benefits of poker coaching? You get to expand your poker network, receive expert feedback you can rely on, and have your burning questions answered by a trusted mentor. Which brings me to the poker Power Hour, a series of 100% free live one-hour poker webinars, master classes and hand history breakdowns that kick off each and every Wednesday evening at 8pm Eastern Standard Time. The poker Power Hour will be led by me, coach Brad, as well as some of your favorite chasing poker greatness guests. It will be your weekly guide for helping you plug your leaks, skyrocket your poker growth, expand your network of crushers and inevitably win more money on the green felt. The poker power hour is premium content and live only. There will be no free replays or view on demand and the content will eventually be released as paid training only. So, head to enhanceyouredge.com, opt in to the poker Power Hour, and get for free today what you’ll have to pay for later. Once again, to catch the poker power hour every single week head to enhanceyouredge.com and join the email newsletter. Now, back to the show.
Brad: So, what would you say is the most unexpected thing that’s come from your poker journey?
Alex: The most unexpected thing that’s come from my poker journey would probably be, I don’t need the money anymore to feel really successful. Don’t, don’t get me wrong, the money is nice. But I always thought of poker as I wanted to be a writer when I was younger. And the thing about writing is not many people actually make good money from it. So, you need to have another profession. And I thought, the thing about writers is, you don’t have to be the best technical writer, as long as you have something to say, see, you have to actually go out and live some kind of life worth living, some kind of life that gives you some kind of excitement and perspective, and I thought, playing cards around the world, you’re going to see everything, right. But I always wanted to make a ton of money, and then play poker recreationally. But more or less quit. What I never expected is that I would just love the competition so much that it didn’t really get to me if I wasn’t making as much money as I wanted to. I thought I was going to be in and out of poker pretty quickly. And instead, I just find myself loving this game more than ever.
Brad: Why do you think that is?
Alex: Why do I love poker more than ever? I think that’s because, well, there was a time I wasn’t sure I could compete at any level, because I wasn’t taking care of my health, I wasn’t taking care of myself, I wasn’t taking care of my personal life. And it really occurred to me how precious it was, to me to compete, because when I’m in competition, I’m not thinking about anything other than the task at hand. And I almost find that to be a form of meditation. And it’s so special to me that anybody can compete at poker because I really miss playing sports when I was younger, even though I wasn’t that good. I just love competition. I love the fact that black, white, Asian, Latino, gay, straight, male, female, 80 years old, 18 years old, this game is open to everyone. You don’t have to speak the language, this game doesn’t care if you work in a fast food restaurant, if you show up with the buy in and you can play cards, you can make it. That, that is beautiful, too man. I just love fighting with everyone and using my mind to be in competition. It’s what I love. And I don’t think I’m ever going to stop playing the game for those reasons.
Brad: That flow state, right.
Alex: Yeah, that’s the best way to put it. The flow state. It’s just being present. And I, I just love the thrill of playing. I don’t even mind losing because it reminds me I’m alive because most of life is fairly routine. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just, it’s so happens that paying your bills and doing the dishes. And if you work in day to day job, going to work often times and sending the paperwork up the corporate is not fairly exciting. But when you’re staring at a guy just moved all in on you and you got to figure out at that moment, is he full of it? And can you take this guy out of that tournament? Just that minute of weightlessness being in that tension. Like that’s what I live for win lose or draw.
Brad: That is a beautiful thing, sir.
Alex: Yes, sir.
Brad: The flow states. Yeah, it’s, it, it’s beautiful. I was thinking about this. A few months back, as far as what do people play poker like a recreational player? Why do they play? What is it casino? Like, what are people buying in a casino? And in my opinion, I’ve learned that the casino sells possibility. It sells that moment when you’re a dog, and you get lucky. And that feeling of being alive, right? Like, that’s what, that’s what we chase because life can be very mundane. And we don’t feel that on a daily basis. But yeah
Brad: If you’re, if you’re battling in a poker tournament, you feel it. And it’s the same for me playing sports, right? Like if I’m playing, you know, even something like an adult softball league, you’re present, you’re in the moment, you’re paying attention. you’re battling, like it’s a flow state, when the ball is in the air, and I’m chasing it down. There’s two things in the world. There’s me and that ball, and I’m going to go get it. And that to me, you can’t replicate it. It’s just an amazing, amazing feeling. And, yeah, poker is really great for infusing excitement into people’s lives and giving them something that they don’t typically get on a daily basis. Assuming you know, you’re not like a grinder. Like does the tournaments all the time,
Alex: Right. No, it definitely depletes a bit when you play a time, but you can work hard to get that feeling back. And you’re absolutely right, though.
Brad: What is your process for regularly improving your game look like?
Alex: It’s a whole lot of asking my friends who are much better at poker, hey, what am I doing wrong and really paying attention when we talk or whenever? It’s a whole lot of getting people who have been there to tell me what their process is and what I should be doing.
Brad: How do you find these people?
Alex: A lot of them, when I was coaching, I would talk to people that had worked with them before. And we would network our, I’ve made them at poker tournaments. Actually, I had a number of players. I found this so you want to go back to humility. I had a number of guys who are much better poker players than I was, who would hire me as a coach because they just wanted to say like, hey, you’re an overachiever. You did a lot of things without talent. What are some of the what are some of the edges? You found it? And they were into it right? And then eventually we got to be friends and
Brad: Talk about a backhanded compliment.
Alex: No, I mean, I mean, I fully admit I do not have a lot of talent when it comes to this game. I, I would say the one thing I can do is outwork people. I just, I love that intensity as well. I love 3am. Going back to the original question, how do you get better, just poring over numbers and finding something somebody is doing wrong? Or perhaps a group of people is doing wrong, I live for that. It’s kind of a hunt. It’s kind of, it just it gets me into a zone. I didn’t know I would enjoy so much. But in my free time, I read books about like hockey analytics and soccer analytics and baseball analytics, because I, our books about how they catch serial killers are books about how they caught the guy who ran the Silk Road because I love the chess match. I love just trying to outsmart someone that is, that that’s a high like I have never felt before in my life. And I get really into that. And I really love having my collaborators as well that I’ve been lucky enough to me.
Brad: It’s funny that you, you mentioned that specifically because so I love the Watchmen on HBO this last season, because it’s like a mystery. I love mysteries, Knives Out was one of my favorite movies of the last year because it’s like a puzzle. And because of the way my brain works, like there, there’s a puzzle on the table. There’s a time limit, like in Knives Out, because you’re going to fit you’re going to find out what happened. And so like, can I figure this out, and there’s enough clues to figure it out. And like I get out of the movie. Like I just have a, you know, big smile on my face. Like, I tell my wife how much I loved and she’s like, yeah, of course. You know, you love puzzles. Like, this is why you love poker. And I’m like, oh,
Alex: You got me, honey.
Brad: Yeah, you’re right. I do love puzzles, like logic puzzles, word puzzles. I just love figuring things out. I think that’s just a part of my personality. And it’s likely a part of many successful poker players personalities that they just, they’re very intensely curious. And they like figuring stuff out.
Alex: Yes, sir.
Brad: What do you think is the most high impact action players can take to improve their own games?
Alex: I think the most high impact action you can take to improve your own game is to look through your database with someone who understands what each number means. And when there’s a number that’s dramatically off from perhaps what it should be. Take a look at why that is, it’s possible you have actually come up with an incredible adaptation. For the game you’re in are, what more likely is happening is you’ve stumbled upon a play you’re doing impulsively and emotionally, that is just draining your bank account. That is the fastest way to see what you do wrong. Because you’re not going to find, let’s say deep in a tournament or deep in a cash game session you have, you’re doing a terrible job of just trusting a guy has a pair after you see that into a very passive straightforward guy. And he’s really not likely to fold on turn a river, you might not see that that often. So, it’s going to be really hard to realize you’re doing that. But now if you see that number go, wow, that’s odd. You’re double and triple barrels really high. Or your turn, see that river see that is pretty high. And then you pull up all the specific hands and you watch yourself 20 times try to bluff a guy off when he’s clearly not folding. And the truth is what they’ve found with the way people are motivated is people are twice as motivated to avoid a loss as opposed to getting a whim. And if you can just stick yourself with the pain, make it vividly stand in your brain how bad you’re cursing yourself with some of these plays and just watch it again. And again, your play is going to change like that the next time you play because maybe you’ll over adjust the other direction, which is not fantastic either, but at least you’ll know what you’re doing wrong and you’ll be aware of it. And you can start finding a better calibration in that specific facet.
Brad: And specifically, looking at your database, doing database analysis, like you said, with somebody, that’s an expert, right? Somebody that’s, that’s been in the arena that knows what things mean, that knows where things should be. We have a tendency to tell ourselves stories as poker players. I think it just as human beings, this is how we make sense of life is through storytelling. And in poker, it can be extremely detrimental, if your stories are bad, if your stories are incorrect, and this is something that I run into with a lot of my students is they’ll tell me a story. And I’m like, well prove it. Prove
Alex: Show me the evidence.
Brad: Show me that these guys are calling with nothing. And then sucking out on you. Show me these coolers. Show me these hands. Because it’s one thing to believe something, but it’s another to prove it. And you have to disrupt these stories that are bringing negativity into your game that are causing you to react in certain ways that are, are not good, that are negative plays, they turn people into a negative poker players if you don’t examine these false stories.
Alex: Oh, it’s so true. And you need the right friends to be around you. I was really lucky when I was just starting when I was 21. I lived with, I had multiple German roommates and something about their culture is it just seemed like they didn’t really have a tolerance for BS. And I would have these stories like you just said. And I would say and they would just rip me limb from limb just you know, that’s BS, show it to me. I don’t think you have the data. I don’t think it’s right. You know, and it was just eventually, their voice gets in your head and you have this fantastic BS filter. But you can also surround yourself with people who enable you oh, yeah, man, you run terrible. It’s awful. It’s coming, blah, blah, blah. It’s like, hey, man, that’s not helping me. I can’t improve. I cannot improve upon, I’m running bad. Tell me what I’m doing wrong.
Brad: Some people are resistant to learning. In fairness, I definitely. I’ve definitely been around people that, you know, maybe in a live setting where they tell me hands and we talk about it. And I’m like trying to help them out. And then like, they, they go play and they do the same thing for like, two months straight. And eventually it’s like, yeah, you’re just running, you’re just running bad. Like they, I don’t I don’t devote tons of attention to them anymore, because they’re not taking action on what I’m saying. Which basically means what I’m saying is invaluable, which means I’m wasting my time.
Alex: That’s extremely true. I think everybody should try to pick up a hobby, they’re a complete beginner at on the regular, because then you’ll realize, hey, maybe I don’t know everything about everything. And also, to get comfortable with that feeling of looking like a doofus when you’re trying to look when you’re trying to do something that is complicated.
Brad: Everybody looks stupid playing poker at some point, every single person I have. I have so many hands, you know, in my database, I look back at it. And I’m like, oh my god, what was I doing? Like, was I drunk? I don’t even drink but I think I may have been drunk when I played this hand. It’s outrageous.
Brad: At least maybe that’s like, understandable because it’s polarized. It’s like, I’m trying to make somebody like fold the second nut flush. Like, it’s like, I know they have it. And I’m still like going to battle it’s like, what are you doing Brad, like, snap out of it. But like, you know, everybody has these embarrassing vulnerable moments in poker. You can’t avoid them. You just got to you just got to work through them and try to do better next time. When you think about joy in your career, playing cards, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?
Alex: Joy, the first memory that comes to mind honestly, if I’m being perfectly honest, my last couple of years in New York. I really have experienced joy because I have complete freedom and how do I work. How often I work when I feel like playing a lot I can play a lot online, if I want to play live it’s, Atlantic City is very close. Baltimore is very close, DC is really close. Montreal, I guess wouldn’t be close per se, but you can get there fairly quickly, like an hour plane flight. When I want to play a lot, I play a lot when I want to take a break away for it, from it. I focus on my teaching, you know my business, I get to do a lot of creative work, and New York City as far as just doing fun things. Every weekend. There is something going on here. It is just amazing. All the stuff you can do in this part of the country, whereas I grew up outside of Seattle and it was, don’t get me wrong. Seattle is beautiful in its own way, but it’s a little bit of a city, sleepier city Bothell, Washington. If anybody’s ever been there, it’s a, it’s almost like a retirement community. And, you know, there’s that, there’s one football team. And that’s a, you know, there’s a lot of times like, there’s one thing going on every a couple of weeks. And if you miss it, it’s gone. Whereas New York City, just every night, there’s something going on the fact that I have the freedom to experience what I want to experience and do what I want to do as far as work that really fills me with a lot of joy.
Brad: I can imagine, the made, that that’s one of the major perks of poker, you can, you can do things. If you, if you work, you know, if you work hard, you do well, you can take, take the time to be flexible, go experience stuff, and you know, live a fulfilling life.
Alex: Yes, sir.
Brad: When you think about pain in your career playing cards, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?
Alex: I think of when I became really obsessed with the money and just trying to make enough money. That’s actually, that’s a very difficult question. When I created a culture around myself with the people around me where everything was focused on money. And I had to be bringing in so much in order to keep promoting that life. And I focused on money at the expense of everything else, at the expense of my personal relationships, at the expense of my health. I cannot describe the pain that you feel when you lose all that stuff anyway, and you look down at yourself. And now you have problems having to do with, I guess, addiction, even which is food addiction is a thing. And of course, as far as other far worse addictions, and you can, caffeine we just brought up earlier, that was a huge thing for me. I was just, I was large, and I was sick. And I wasn’t feeling good. And I always might, I always had a runny nose. And I was just drinking coffee nonstop. And I was angry all the time. And I look back, I don’t even recognize that person. Because I’m in such a good mood most of the time these days, because I finally put together everything I wanted to put together.
Brad: What’s the breaking point? What, what led you out of that?
Alex: My divorce to be perfectly honest with you. I got divorced with my ex-wife back in 2016. And it was, it really occurred to me, of course, it’s always very convenient in those situations just to place blame on others. But it was really clear to me I have made a number of mistakes. And a lot of those were my own doing. And I just decided I got to turn this around as fast as I possibly can. Because this is one of those things, I really believe projects are, the way projects work, they can either take three months or four years, depending on your viewpoint, depending on your work ethic. So, what I did was I just sequestered myself. I moved to a completely different part of the world. I was living in Costa Rica and moved to just outside from New York City at that time. I was actually living in Newark, New Jersey, to be perfectly honest, because I wanted to get back to like gut check time. Let’s get this together. I rented the cheapest apartment I can find. It’s main features where it had super-fast internet, and like a triple locked bulletproof door. And that was pretty much it. I paid next to nothing for that apartment. The apartment was the size of my office right now. I lived, slept and ate in that apartment. And it was pretty much weight room and work every single day of the week up until, I literally worked from 10am to midnight, every time and then I lost the way and I got in my I got into a different headspace and I got my life together and that was really immensely gratified, gratified for that.
Brad: How did it feel after, after the divorce moving back to Jersey in that apartment? And like, just what, what were the thoughts going on in your head? Like getting things back on track? You’d already won millions of dollars playing poker tournaments and like we said, you know, about a 100k a year plus you, I’m sure you’re a very well-respected coach, teacher. You had you had written books at that point. Like, what did it feel transitioning to you know, kind of ground zero, right? It was kind of like, what do you consider it starting over?
Alex: It’s going to sound like the acid is one of the best things I’ve ever felt my entire life. I felt like myself again. I wanted to prove I could still do it. It felt, I won’t lie, there were definitely times I was like, oh my god, what did I just do to my life? I just turned 30 years old in Newark, New Jersey, right? And, but every time I was in that weight room, it was like this relief like and I went from 245 pounds down to 190. And then I put on 20 pounds, I wouldn’t say exactly a muscle, I had to start eating a lot more than before. But just, it puts your mind in a zone, I did not know I could get to, again, because it was so do or die when I was 18 that I didn’t even think about the process. But your prefrontal cortex is much more attuned when you’re 28-29. And you’re so much more aware of what you’re going through. And combining all the things together, the intermittent fasting, the dieting, the weightlifting, the building my business. I wanted to build a business at that point to put out info products, that was always an idea I courted, but I never executed on because I just didn’t, I didn’t believe in myself, I guess. Putting all of those together at the same time and playing again and going out for WPTS and being back in the states and playing again, it was it was one of the best feelings in my entire life. I, it sounds ridiculous. But I’m extremely happy that I went through it.
Brad: To me it doesn’t sound, it sounds perfectly reasonable. And I think a lot of times when you have a disruption in your life, and you can recalibrate, you stop going through the motions of just doing things just because you do them, you realize you have another chance. You have a chance to do better. And there’s still time left. And so yeah, I can, I can certainly speak from experience in that that aspect as well. What’s something that you feel folks chasing their poker dreams don’t spend enough time thinking about?
Alex: I feel like what people focus on too much when they want to chase a poker dream is playing poker. People get addicted to just playing poker, they’re not, people do this, then you can learn a lesson in 15 minutes of looking at the numbers or listening to someone who is smarter than you that you are not going to get from 100,000 hours of playing if you just, I fully admit I am not attuned to pick up some of the edges that some of my friends can pick up. But if you study the right materials, if you study the right numbers, you can pick up that skill in 15 minutes, if you really dedicate yourself to it. Now, obviously, the application is going to take years to cement but that tool will be in your arsenal. Whereas if you’re trying to chop down a tree with a butter knife, it doesn’t matter how hard of a worker you are, how many hours you put in, you’re still going to look like a damn fool at the end of the day. Go ahead and get yourself an axe. They’re out there. The great thing about poker is I can watch Kobe Bryant’s jump shot, I’m never going to get it. But I can watch, not watch a fantastic player play but I can learn from them. There’s so much more material out there than there ever was before. You can really get something from that and implement it and get yourself an axe and chop down that tree and make the clear and for what you’re trying to create.
Brad: And that’s the great thing about live streams and
Alex: Oh, yeah.
Brad: You, you can see what people are doing. You can reverse engineer why they’re doing it. You can put yourself in their position figure out why, what must they be thinking, what must they have seen. And then you improve your game in the process. You’re, you’re watching guys perform at peak levels. And then you can reverse engineer what they did and implement it into your own game. It’s a, it’s a beautiful thing.
Alex: Oh, that’s so true. I used to, I used to watch who is at California to six a day. And I just watched him and just if you saw something the first time I reverse engineered something, I was just like, oh my god, this is amazing. That’s like the greatest feeling ever. You’re so right.
Brad: Right, the light bulb goes off.
Brad: And it’s interesting too, that in almost any endeavor, people seek out coaches; business, sports, just most anything, or education, right? They go to university, they get a degree, they’re trying to learn a skill they, they invest money. But in poker, there’s more hesitation to investing in to learning and coaching and education and I think that you can expedite by spending you know how much ever it is a few $1,000. You can expedite the process of learning to where you save yourself three years of bumbling around. How much three years of bumbling around versus years of playing well worth to you? It’s like hundreds of 1000s of dollars. So, why do people skip it? I don’t understand.
Alex: I don’t, you know I spent years my poker career not getting better, and I couldn’t, I think what happens is people get stubborn. They just, they want to think I, it’s so hard for people to admit, I don’t know. And you know, what’s really difficult for a lot of guys who were successful, they got to admit, you know, I was pretty lucky at that time. I had to admit to myself, I didn’t know what was going on. It just so happened, my idiotic 20-year-old style was perfect at that time. And it’s not perfect anymore. And I have no idea what I’m doing right now. I need to hit the books again. And yeah, that’s almost humiliating to some people.
Brad: And my students in skype group would ask questions sometimes. And I would just say, I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. And they’re like, wow, they’re like, they’re like, I didn’t expect you to say that. I’m like, what do you think like, you think I have all the answers? Like, I don’t have all the answers like, and I’m 100% willing to say, yeah, I don’t know. Let me research this. Let me look into it. Let me, let me absorb what you’re saying, go to sleep and wake up. And maybe I’ll have a fresh perspective. But like, I don’t know so many things. And like, I look at that again, as like a puzzle. If I knew everything, poker would not be as fun for me as, as it is that puzzle, that mystery of figuring things out. That to me is what draws me in. And also, there’s the correlation between coaching people, right? The, the mystery, the puzzle of helping somebody meeting them on their own paradigm, giving them information that’s going to help them move to the next level. I love that aspect of it too, like that.
Alex: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Brad: It’s time for balanced ranges. The game where you get to decide whether my chasing poker greatness guest is bluffing or telling the truth. Here’s how it works. I’m going to ask them at 10 rapid fire questions and they can either A, tell the truth, or B, try to run a bluff. If they fool you with a bluff, they get three points. If you think they’re bluffing, and they’re really telling the truth. They get two points. And if you read them like a book, they get bubkis. 24 hours after each new episode releases, I’ll be dropping Twitter polls where you get to cast your vote. Simply follow @enhanceyouredge to join the fun. One more time that’s @enhanceyouredge on Twitter and now balanced ranges.
Brad: Alex, you ready for balanced ranges?
Alex: Yes, sir. Let’s go for it.
Brad: Alright, question number one. Invisibility or super strength?
Alex: Super strength.
Brad: Ariel or Jasmine?
Brad: Texting or talking?
Brad: Favorite childhood TV show?
Brad: What’s the fastest speed you’ve ever driven in a car?
Brad: Favorite season?
Brad: Dawn or dusk?
Brad: Favorite ice cream flavor?
Alex: Mint chocolate chip.
Brad: Last Halloween costume?
Brad: So snap, snap answers.
Alex: That’s how I play man. You got to go real quick.
Brad: What type of, what, final question number 10. What type of milk do you put in your cereal?
Brad: There you go.
Alex: Let’s see what you all can get from that.
Brad: What do you think folks spent too much time thinking about?
Alex: Who is better than who in poker. There’s a lot of like, is this guy really good, is that guy rip. There is a, I believe this is a phrase from journalism, which is there’s good people and there’s bad people. But there’s no bad information. When you’re looking at a poker player and you’re looking at something they’re doing. It doesn’t really matter if the guy’s a good or a bad player. It’s just is that play in isolation if you were to co-opt it and apply it to your game, would that play work? And there’s, there’s many guys who perhaps have run well, who cares, right? You hear a lot of people talking about that. Perhaps they’ve run extremely well and you don’t like their personality. But that doesn’t really matter if they have one play that is just lights out good at that time. It doesn’t, it doesn’t matter how intelligent you are, how beautiful your theory is. It matters how It does when experimented upon, right? It matters what the data is, without data you’re just another person with an opinion. And I think it’s far more important to look at the data how a play actually works out as opposed to do I like this person or to I? Is this person good at poker let it’s much more mature, I think, to just go, look, this is poker, we’re dealing with a lot of eccentric people, a lot of numbers, guys are a little up in their head. When I go to, it’s just like, if you were working in Hollywood, you are going to deal with some eccentric people. You just have to show up and go, this is my job. And my job is to get what I can get from this person and not to, I want, I want to be the ultimate narcissist, I want what I can get from this person without caring who they are, what they’re doing, right? Wish them the best of luck, whatever they’re succeeding at, I wish them well, but not just writing them off because I personally do not like the person.
Brad: I love that. And that bias of whether or not you, you know, that bias of how you feel about someone, a poker player personally. We, let’s go back to the Phil Ivey example, what if Phil Ivey is not a good coach, but you just like Phil Ivey, right, and you hate said, you know, Daniels Negreanu or Jonathan Little, or whoever, you hate them. So, you gravitate towards a guy that you like, that may not be a good coach that you’re not going to get much from? That’s not, like you said, be the ultimate narcissist. Look at it. I mean, try to, try to maximize the information from the, from the people that resonate with you, and maybe Phil Ivey does resonate with you, or, you know, it’s like, I think that’s a personal, that can be a personal thing, too, as far as teaching methodology, but just personality bias, probably not going to serve you super well. And at the end of the day, who cares if somebody is better than some other person, right? Its like, does that mean that that other person can’t help you more like it’s a, it doesn’t really, it’s subjective. For one thing, you, you can’t really know.
Brad: Just worry about, worry about yourself. And being the best self, you can be today, and tomorrow and the next day. And if you do that, you’re going to be okay.
Alex: You’re trying to beat the person you were yesterday, that’s the person you’re trying to be exactly, you focus on that, you’ll be just fine.
Brad: Yeah, that’s the person you’re competing against, yourself yesterday. What’s some common poker advice you hear that you completely disagree with?
Alex: I find, well, I’ll tell you, what I personally find is, when I was playing in Europe, I focused on balance a lot. Because if you’re playing against really good players, and you start see betting every flop, they’re going to learn really quickly, you see that too much. And that’s when the check raising starts enhanced, start getting turned into bluffs, and it gets really hairy, really quick. And whereas if you just balance that out, you don’t face that as much. You start earning a few folds. But I noticed that a lot of my students will really get on other players that are playing low stakes or mid stakes about balance, balance, balance, balance, balance, you’ve got to be balanced perfectly. And I go, wait, hold on. Was this guy folding anything, no? So, what do you do? Well, I raised the 8x with aces. And he called out the big blind. And I’m like, not balanced at all, completely, completely obvious to everyone at the table. It’s totally going to work. That was awesome. Well done. How big was the pot, right? And I, I find that when you’re dealing with bad players, if a guy calls too much, just relentlessly value back. If a guy folds too much, just relentlessly bluff. I’m not as worried about balancing as maybe I should be, especially if you’re moving into the higher stakes, you are going to need to understand the GTO aspects intimately. That is going to become extremely important. If you want to move on and become the best poker player you can be. But there’s many situations where if the guy is bad, or the guy is a very unbalanced player, you just play their hand and how you think they’re going to play their hand. And don’t worry so much about what the really intelligent poker player to your right is saying when you do that, because you’re not going to play that way versus them.
Brad: I love all that you said there and they’re like it can be so self-defeating to internalize this balance, balance, balance. And there are spots where you get to the river. And there are spots where I get to the river. And I know this guy is not folding, he’s not folding, so exploit ably, I don’t bluff like that there have been times like when I was, you know, balance is all the rage. And I’m like, well, I do need to have some bluffs here. And then like I would bluff, and like it would get snapped off. And like, my gut is telling me are you fucking stupid? Why did you do that? Like,
Alex: I do that a lot.
Brad: This is my, this is my best bluff. So, I do need to have some bluffs here. And then it gets snapped off. And you’re like, I know he’s out folding. Why did you do that? Like so then? Then it just becomes like, don’t do that, like
Alex: Exactly, buddy, save your money,
Brad: Save the money. Like, let’s not, let’s not torch money, in the name of just, you know, big able to go on a message board and say, well, I was balanced here. What can I do, right?
Brad: You get some social clout from people on the message board, like who gives a shit about that.
Alex: Yeah, that isn’t paying my bills at the end of the year, I can’t feed my mother off your props, man. I need the money right
Brad: No. And if you think about it logically to, like, you know, you have balance, and then you have exploitability. And if you’re playing against worse opponents, like when you when you employ an exploitable strategy, you can exploit them and they can in turn exploit you. If you’re playing against a bad player, what do you think the odds are that they are going to start exploiting you by over folding, or by under calling, or by making the right adjustment, it’s just not going to happen? You know why? Because they’re not very good like that.
Brad: It’s really as simple as that. So just take the exploitable strategies and execute them, especially in a live setting, you’ll make so much more money. Like, you’ll make so much more money that when you want to move up to stakes, you can pay coaches to help you implement more balanced strategies or GTO strategies into your game to compete at higher levels. But first, be successful. And maximize your win rate. Don’t, don’t torch money in spots that where you have no hope.
Alex: Yes, don’t just try to stay in vogue. Master the, the basics is, hey, there’s bad guys in your home game. How do they play? Exploit them. And then as you move up, first master the basics. Then as you move up, you can start balancing and turning hands into bluffs and merging ranges and all that really neat stuff.
Brad: Right. And then I think that at that point, like, make money. pay for coaching. Like that, that’s the point where you get a coach and you expedite the process. We touched on the book, but do you want to you want to go back to thinking fast and slow? If you could get one book to all poker players?
Alex: If I could gift, one book to all poker players. Oh, that’s a really good one. I’d probably it didn’t occur to me. It couldn’t be a poker book. If it
Brad: Yeah, yeah. Of course.
Alex: Yeah. Oh, man. Actually, the book I would gift everybody would be, The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis. The Undoing Project, this was written by the same gentleman who wrote Moneyball, if you saw that movie, and you enjoyed it. This was the writer. He also wrote The Big Short, if you saw that movie, and enjoyed it, he wrote The Undoing Project. And that was about the creation of, I guess what they would call neuro economics, behavioral economics in Israel in the 70s. And it takes a lot of the best studies from Thinking Fast and Slow and puts it in extremely enjoyable journalistic terms. So, it’s a very light read. And a lot of it will really change how you view the world because what you’re going to find out is, these guys actually won a Nobel Prize, because they statistically prove humans do not behave logically at all. And not only do they not behave logically, they systematically behave illogically. There is a method to how they behave logically. And if you can master that you can see how people are systematically irrational. The game is yours. And I’m not just talking about poker, I’m talking about all of life.
Brad: For sure. And it’s, it’s interesting. They don’t act logically, but they act predictably, illogically.
Alex: Yes, we’re all animals. We’re, like, truthfully, we all are,
Brad: Of course, we 100% are and like, like we said about, you know, storytelling, and how that can drive behavior. And a lot of times the stories they get imprinted on us at like three years old, and we don’t even know why we do the things we do.
Alex: They have one study in a book, I’m not going to give it away but they, they prove to you, you tell stories in your book in your head and you overestimate how likely they are and when they get you, it is so intensely frustrating to realize how dumb we can all be right. And it’s, I love the book because it’s just, it’s just a punch to the gut over and over again. And also, if you’re fascinated with the history with it, it’s very interesting to hear where these two men came from, why they were so interested in and they both served in the Army in Israel, and what kind of toll that took on them and what it was like for them in the United States and what it meant to them to do this kind of work. And this, if you want to understand finance, or politics, or sales, or poker, are pretty much a lot of the different ways that you are being manipulated every single day. This book is immensely powerful.
Brad: I think you did a pretty good job selling the books sir. I want to go download it on the Kindle right now.
Alex: Michael Lewis, I expect my check.
Brad: That endorsement costs money, Michael Lewis.
Alex: Yeah, exactly. Right.
Brad: If you could erect a billboard, every poker player had to drive past. What would it say?
Alex: It would say you’re not that important. That wouldn’t be what the billboard would say. Because I think one of the biggest problems we have in poker right now, it everybody has is guilty of this at some point, I have been guilty of this, at some point, is just a lead as I’m acting as if you’re holier than thou at the table and making it very uncomfortable for new players to show up, typing in the chat box, insults, a much shorter lane at someone when they table their hand and making them feel unwelcome. Guess what, they’re never going to play with us again. Right? If that’s what happens, you got to be telling, you know, don’t be condescending, but you do got to make this game fun for other people. You do have to play the game somewhat. A lot of people go to play poker, because it’s their recreation for many senior citizens is the best way for them to socialize. If they’re talking about a basketball game, ask them who their team is. If they are talking about their hobbies, ask three follow up questions. It doesn’t have to be that big a deal. And then you can go like, sorry, forgive me, it’s get intense. Now I got to be a scary poker player said with a smile. I can’t, I can’t keep talking sorry, headphones going in. I got to be scary poker player. Now. Everybody will laugh, and you’ll go on with it. But you got to make it a welcoming environment for these people. Because I cannot tell you how many people I talked to who used to recreational play, the recreationally play poker who say I’m just not into it anymore. I go there. Everybody takes forever on every decision. If I do anything slightly out of the ordinary, everybody mocks me. I don’t want to do it. And I’ve noticed people have started getting better at this. I think it’s also because a lot of the moneymaker boom kids are starting to enter their 30s and they’re realizing, oh god, I really got to turn. I got to be a different person now that I’m older, but we, I still think we need to be a little bit more accepting of new players.
Brad: And I want to share a story about my life. So, I lived at the commerce casino. I played cards 60 hours a week to 10-20 and 20-40 no limit games this spread and never berated once. Really, at those stakes, people, the professionals are very mindful of
Alex: Oh, they didn’t berated you
Brad: Nobody berated me. Nobody. And very rarely did I hear another player berate another player, because I think at those steaks, players are more mindful of what you just said. And I came back home just messing around. I went to play a small steak. So, 1-2 game, I was there actually to see a girl to communicate with the girl who became my wife. And I got berated three times in like three hours. Like a silly 1-2 game like there, people are just like talking trash. And like I wasn’t even just punting. But I just, it gave me this experience of like, oh, like, and also, I know, like psychologically, like Dunning Kruger effect is a real thing where the less people know, the more they think they know. And at low stakes specifically. I think that’s, that’s a pretty big issue. Like I just laugh like, I’m like, you know, it doesn’t affect me at all. But somebody new to the game that does something like that and gets berated. Yeah, that’s going to have a major effect as to whether or not they come back next week and it, and I do want to make the point like, there’s no need to be patronizing to folks, there’s no need to fake it. Like, people escape for whatever reason they play poker as a hobby. And most of the time, in my experience, they’re extremely successful in some other area. And if you listen to people, you can hear their voice, get excited when they talk about a topic, and just follow up with curiosity, to learn about what they’re an expert at. And that makes people feel welcome, it’s beneficial to everybody. It’s not condescending, it’s not patronizing. It’s just getting to know a fellow human. And guess what, that player, I can stack them five times and it doesn’t like they still want to come back. They want to play because they want to talk and they you know, they want to have a good time or escape or whatever it is. So, like, it’s just so beneficial in so many areas to be a reasonable human being when you’re playing live poker, and online.
Alex: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. And also, one more note, before we get off of that question, if anybody is listening to this, and they feel a little shy, because people mock them at the table, you got to remember it like low stakes, mid stakes games, the vast majority of the people you are playing against are losing players. So, if you are not courting attention, in some fashion, you are playing in a style that losers find pleasing, which I would not call the greatest way to play. And
Brad: I love that.
Alex: Yeah, that’s it, that hit me like a rock one day, because when my students started getting mocked at the table, that was when they were doing pretty well. So, it’s almost you have to get out there and try something new. And the other thing I was going to say is, your network is your network, I, you were saying when people get excited, listen to what they have to say, I met the guy, the guy who fixed my back, who fixed my health and got me to lose all the weight and put on muscle I, I met that guy, that personal trainer through a poker player, right and now he’s one of my good friends and he helps me, we you know, we, we work in a, in a professional setting. And there’s lots of other business tips I’ve gotten from these guys, because you got to remember, you might be the poker pro, but to them, they’re the life pro, they’ve done really well in life. And they’re, there’s so many times poker players have helped me find a doctor, helped me find a lawyer, helped me find a number of professionals to help me out. Or I’ve been able to call and just ask a question about something and not have to pay $120 for the hour, you want to meet these people, there is no better place on earth to meet successful people than poker games at times. Because for some reason, really motivated men are really into poker, right. And a lot of those guys can really help you and motivated women as well. And that’s just a fantastic place to be in.
Brad: It’s always struck me as hilarious, playing cards with a but like playing cards and like scanning a table of highest at higher stakes poker, and seeing like these successful businessmen who maybe are retired now and play cards as a hobby. They’ve worked their whole lives to play cards as a hobby. And then some of the more the, you know, the professionals who are just super unhappy with poker and want to get out of poker, and they’re doing everything in their power to get away from the poker table. And like it’s just, it’s always struck me it’s just hilarious how
Alex: That’s really funny.
Brad: Yeah, the poker player will do anything to get away, the businessman does anything to get, to be able to sit.
Alex: Whoa. And that’s the thing. If you want to get away, a lot of these guys still own their businesses that are hiring right?
Brad: There you go.
Alex: I mean, maybe don’t be such a jackass to them. And maybe, if they ever want to work with you on anything, show up on time, be pleasant. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s the fastest way to get ahead in life.
Brad: Yeah, and there’s, there’s downtime in live poker too, like you, you can have a conversation, you can chat, you can be personable. I just think it’s one of the biggest things you can do. And like, like we said, surrounding yourself with poker players, if you’re a cool dude, if people like playing with you, if the pros enjoy talking to you and playing cards with you, they’ll invite you to go play ball, they’ll invite you to go out, they’ll invite you to go to dinner. They’ll spend time with you and you build these relationships and you never know when these relationships are going to be super beneficial in some facet of your life.
Alex: Yes, sir.
Brad: A couple more questions and then we’ll get you out of here my man.
Alex: For sure.
Brad: What’s your current big goal related to poker?
Alex: Oh, my current big goal is I’d like to win a major live title. That would be something I really search for. But I guess my bigger life goal is just to settle down. Probably buy a small condo, spend a little bit more time writing, make it, right now, living in New York City, it’s extremely fun to just be go, go, go all the time. I got all my friends who are in the business, all my friends who were into poker, and it’s really fun just going all out every day. But the big goal would be and before I’m 35, I’m 32 right now, so I guess, like a few years just to settle down and get the small place out, maybe out in the country a little bit. I’ve, I’ve lived in cities for like 17 years now. And I did spend a brief amount of time in Costa Rica living up in the mountains. And that was a that was immensely gratifying. So yeah, just to, not retire, but maybe slow down just a little bit. Enjoy life, focus on family, establish that kind of financial freedom.
Brad: Totally understandable. And when you say major, what’s a major to you?
Alex: Like, a World Poker Tour, WC priceless? Some something like the hardware, you know what I mean? I just, I want to sit there with all the chips. And that would be immensely, that’d be very gratifying to me right now.
Brad: Yeah. The cherry on top?
Alex: Yes, sir.
Brad: Great career. What’s a project, and doesn’t have to be poker related, you’re working on that’s near and dear to your heart?
Alex: I guess what I was just talking about is kind of like my big projects right now. But I’m really excited about, I have a daily mailing list. You can sign up for it at pokerheadrush.com. And if you sign up right now, you’ll get a free pack. It’s just a three, four-hour lesson on me teaching you how to free up people that open too much and how to exploit them. That’s just free for yours if you sign up. And yeah, the newsletter, I send out things every day. And that’s really near and dear to my heart. Because it’s a, it’s really fun to see what kind of content you can come up with every day being an article, a podcast, a video, and keeping that rhythm up. I really like establishing that relationship with 1000s of people because if you think about it, a mailing list is far more involved than say Facebook or Twitter or something like that, where you can only get a couple of paragraphs off with the daily discipline of teaching people throughout all the text and the hundreds of pages, you can really educate a guy up. And that’s really fun to me, because when I was starting, I didn’t have, like when I began, I didn’t have a pot to piss in our window to throw it out of it. Being poor in the United States isn’t as bad as being poor in other places. But I lived for Tommy Angelo articles because it would just take my brain to another place where, hey, it doesn’t matter right now, where I’m at, if I can make it in this world, there’s no barrier, there’s no degree I needed to get. And it took me to another planet and it really helped me and all of Tom Angelo’s work was free. So, it’s really gratifying now to be able to pay that forward any help I get a lot of people emailing in that they’re, they’re from a country where it would be very difficult to buy even $100 info product or whatever it was right. But just them getting the daily training every day and discussing their results, be they from like Kurdistan or Paraguay or whatever it is. It’s so gratifying. It’s so enjoyable to have that because every writer, I always wanted to be a writer. I always loved writing and that was what I was doing before poker and I still love to write every single day. Every writer wants an audience but you don’t get given an audience. You must earn an audience. It is that kind of the success is rented and the rent is due every day. I love that project.
Brad: A lot of pressure, that feels like a lot of pressure, email newsletter every single day. I mean, that is consistency. That’s grit. That’s mental toughness. I’m secretly in my head conspiring once I get the pieces in place to move my podcast to a daily show. And I’m scared. But like I said, I’m getting the pieces there, were twice a week now. Hopefully going to be moving to five days a week and
Alex: Awesome. Very cool.
Brad: Let’s see how it, we’ll see how it goes but consistency and hard work and I just get give, give the URL again and by the way Tommy Angelo for those of you listening, also a previous podcast guest if you want to check out his episode.
Alex: Good job getting him. That guy’s always fascinating. He’s, he’s always got so many perspectives check out that guy’s listening and but oh in my URL is www.dotpokerheadrush.com to sign up. You get the free you get the free pack three, four hour pack I forgot the exact time and just teaches you how to three bet and win those big pots. Check it out.
Brad: Awesome man and final question. Besides pokerheadrush.com, where can the chasing poker greatness audience find you on the worldwide web?
Alex: You can find me on Twitter @TheAssassinato and that’s, you know that that’s the big one. Honestly, my newsletter is where I go into everything and all on YouTube. You can follow me at Assassinato Coaching. But if you sign up for the newsletter at pokerheadrush.com, you’re going to get everything delivered right to your email inbox every single day. There’s no need to look for it. And if you really want to make sure you get that content, add Alex at pokerheadrush.com to your contacts list and it’ll be right front and center every single day as opposed to being put in your promotions tab or something along those lines.
Brad: Awesome, man. I love it. Check out pokerheadrush.com. Alex, you’re the man. I’ve enjoyed this time we’ve gotten to spend together. Let’s do it again in the future.
Alex: Yes, sir. Let’s do it. This is awesome. Thank you for having me on.
Brad: My pleasure.
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