Andrew Brokos: Co-Host ThinkingPoker Podcast & Author of Play Optimal Poker
Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 068
Andrew Brokos on social media:
Today’s guest on the Chasing Poker Greatness podcast is the host of the “Thinking Poker” podcast and author of Play Optimal Poker 1 and 2 Andrew Brokos.
Andrew’s another one of those human beings who makes you consider your personal beliefs.
Recently on Twitter in a thread about the Daniel Negreanu WSOP software meltdown Andrew left me with a this statement, “One last thought for you specifically, very few people have chased poker greatness as successfully as Daniel Negreanu and this is where it got him.”
Which I equated to throwing a grenade and leaving the room.
With that thought in mind I just want to make absolute certain one person’s version of poker greatness does not have to be yours. It’s a personal aspiration that each and every one of us, myself included, should consider deeply.
I genuinely hope that through this podcast, if nothing else, you will gain the necessary tools needed to answer this question for you and you alone.
And it’s my ultimate wish that you take special care on your emotional, physical, and spiritual as you endeavor to chase your version of poker greatness.
With that said, in today’s episode you’re going to learn:
The surprising “why” behind the beginning of Andrew’s poker career.
Why Andrew has found poker attracts the kinds of souls he tends to enjoy spending time with.
An awesome tactic he uses to measure his level of play in live tournaments.
And much, MUCH more!
So, without any further ado, I bring to you podcaster, author, and thinker Andrew Brokos.
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Brad: Welcome, my friend, to the Chasing Poker Greatness podcast. As always, this is your host, Coach Brad Wilson and today’s guest is the host of the Thinking Poker Podcast and author of Play Optimal Poker, volumes one and two, Andrew Brokos. Andrew is another one of those human beings who makes you consider your personal beliefs. Recently on Twitter and a thread about the Daniel Negreanu WSOP meltdown, Andrew left me with this statement, quote, one last thought for you specifically, very few people have chased poker greatness as successfully as Daniel Negreanu. And this is where it got him. End quote. Which was basically like throwing a grenade and leaving me alone in a room. So, with that thought in mind, I just want to make it absolute clear that one person’s version of poker greatness does not have to be yours. It’s a personal aspiration that each and every one of us, myself included, should consider deeply. And I genuinely hope that through this podcast, if nothing else, you will gain the necessary tools needed to answer this question for you and you alone. And it’s my ultimate wish that you take special care on your emotional, physical and spiritual health as you endeavor to chase your version of poker greatness. With that said in today’s episode, you’re going to learn the surprising why behind the beginning of Andrew’s poker career, why Andrew has found a poker attracts the kinds of souls he tends to enjoy spending time with, an awesome tactic he uses to measure his level of play in live tournaments, and much, much more. So, without any further ado, I bring to you, podcaster, author and thinker Andrew Brokos.
Brad: Andrew, welcome to the show. How you doing, sir?
Andrew: I’m doing pretty well. Thanks for having me.
Brad: Yeah, it’s my pleasure, man. One of the original podcasters, you’ve been in the game for a long time. So, I’m honored to have you on. And I guess first question, this is a really long time ago. So, you may have trouble remembering. But how did you get involved in poker? Like what’s your journey look like?
Andrew: My I mean, my earliest poker memories were playing with, with my grandparents. My dad’s parents, both my grandmother and my grandfather played and we just, you know, we would, were fairly close with them growing up, and we would go over there for dinner, like several times a month, and often after dinner, there’ll be some sort of like a family poker game. So that was kind of where I like got a taste for it.
Brad: What were you playing? How old were you?
Andrew: I would guess I was maybe like seven or eight when we started playing. And then we continued straight on through high school. Even at the point where I was like organizing home games with my friends. I was still like also playing, playing games with my, with my grandparents. My grandfather was a better poker player. My grandmother actually was a very good card player. I used to play rummy with her and her friends sometimes. And she was, she was quite shocked. It’s impressive looking like I don’t even know that I fully appreciate it at the time. But looking back like now I have a better sense of like, what card skill looks like. She was actually a very good, a very good card player. But then by the time I was in high school, that was around when rounders came out. I was already interested in poker, but that certainly helped. And then I was, I had a home game with some friends. We play in my mother’s basement. College, that was a dorm game that I played, and I started playing free roles online, and then graduated college and I was kind of playing a little bit of poker online, just like small stuff, just looking for work and it quickly became clear that it was like 2004. So a great time to be playing online poker and it quickly became clear that I could just take the poker thing seriously and make more money than I was going to make it whatever jobs I was looking at.
Brad: What games did you play with your grandparents? I find this very interesting because I too played seven card stud penny ante with my grandparents and my family when I was you know, 7, 8, 6 years old, and I remember loving playing cards. And I didn’t understand like, like you said the card since the strategic aspect of it. That didn’t really come until I invested myself in the spades at like 14 but cards have always been a part of my life in some way. So, what did you, what did you all play?
Andrew: Probably a lot of that same stuff. I don’t think we played Hold em. I don’t think that was really on anybody’s radar at the time. We definitely played in a seven-card stud and then some of the wildcard. I do remember my grandfather hated wildcards and in retrospect I understand why but at the time it was fun you know, as I was wanted to play follow the queen and all that kind of stuff. Mostly draw games and stuck
Brad: Did he play cards like in cardrooms growing up, like
Andrew: I don’t think so. He, he was in the Korean War. I believe that’s probably where he kind of got started playing. I mean he, I do remember that he would, he had sort of like character as a deal. I guess we would rotate the deal but like he definitely dealt more than anyone else and he would be a little entertaining about it you know, it came up that was eight are from Decatur or you know, he had a little bit of panache when he was dealing and he must have gotten that from, from somewhere. He went to casinos. I don’t know, I think he usually played blackjack though. I don’t think he was really playing poker in cardrooms but I mean I wish I could ask him now. He was maybe 18 or sometime it was before I really liked was taking longer seriously when he passed away so I didn’t really like know to ask him about that kind of stuff but
Andrew: That’s a good question actually. I should, I should look into that.
Brad: I just, I remember my grandparents who were extremely conservative people in like all the areas of their life. Like, I remember them like him saying specifically like Seventh Street, down and dirty. Like, he knew terminology that as a kid it didn’t really resonate with me but when I got older I was like, where did that come from? Like were you playing in home games, like after work, like where was, your, his exposure to poker, right? Because it had to come from somewhere.
Andrew: I do find it amazing how much poker jargon, I mean that’s, that’s some more specific but the extent to which poker jargon and poker metaphors used to fuse the English language, I guess especially the language of politics. But like the buck stops here or
Brad: Fast and loose with the facts.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, all in is such a such a widely used term and lots of common often wrongly used, but nonetheless, it’s on people that very busy are injured, like bluffing, of course does, mean you bluff outside of poker, but still, I feel like the term is from poker first. And then, why do those other situations, I do five minutes, I guess, very useful. It just demonstrates pokers’ usefulness.
Brad: Yeah. It’s, it permeates a lot of our society in the way we speak and our language and we don’t, you know, people who are not immersed in poker, maybe don’t even realize the words they’re using, where they came from. But it’s interesting thinking about.
Andrew: And I do kind of wish, there are other times when I would like to, when I’m talking to someone that really, they don’t know anything about poker, but I’m tempted to say, oh, well, we’re already talking about it. Or you know, like, there’s other times when like, I have poker analogies ready to go. And, but I realized my audience is not going to understand it in those terms.
Brad: Yeah, not be too receptive.
Brad: So, going back to your journey, you make a run for poker as your profession. How old were you exactly? What did that really look like when you started investing yourself and applying yourself to this game?
Andrew: I would have been probably 21 and then like, turning 22. So, I guess I was 21 when I graduated college, and I had worked when I was in college, I went to the University of Chicago and I had worked with an organization called the Chicago Debate League, which I had been a competitive debater in high school, like on my school’s debate team, and it really enjoyed that. And when I was in college, I worked with this program that was supporting debate programs in public high schools in Chicago. And I was pretty involved and I was working like 20 hours a week with them by the time I graduated. And then when I, when I graduated, what I really wanted to do and move to Boston, and because that’s what my girlfriend was, and what I really wanted to do was start an urban debate league in Boston like the league that had been in Chicago but I didn’t feel like that was something I could just kind of do right off the bat. So, I was like, well isn’t work in the nonprofit sector and I guess get experience or whatever and one day I’ll start that that league I want to start. And I wasn’t really having any success looking for, for jobs. My philosophy degree was not in in high demand. And then. I was playing poker and I realized, well, if I, think I can make enough money playing poker part time, that I could just start that league now rather than look to get a job in someone else’s nonprofit organization to start the one that I’m interested in. And then you know, hopefully the league, you know, if if, it’s really successful, I can grow it to the point where that could actually be a job. And then the plan was never really like play poker indefinitely. The plan was like use poker as a way of feeding myself while I was trying to start this, this other organization that I wanted to become my full-time job. That organization did actually get so in. I started that in 2004. In 2010, or maybe it’s in 2009, it was at the point where we were ready to hire a full-time executive director. But by that point, poker was going like, much better than I had imagined possible in 2004. And I was like, I don’t know that I really want a full-time job right now. So, we actually ended up hiring someone else to, to run organization.
Brad: You did so well, that you did so well, that you didn’t want to quit to do the thing that was your goal in the beginning.
Andrew: Yeah, I mean, because when I was when I started doing poker, I was playing like $5 sit and goes, right, whichever you mean, you can make. I was making more money than I would have made at whatever Java when a guy would probably make 25, $30 an hour just like multi tabling $5 sit and goes, which is better than most of the stuff I could have gotten. There’s like a straight out of college in the nonprofit sector. And then, you know, by 2009, I was like, competed in the main event. I thought I had cashed in the main event three times, you know, I was playing like 5-10, 10-20 no-limit online. It was just like it was much better money than I would have thought it was like, of course that was like the apex of it. Or like the very height of like my hourly rate was at it’s like absolute highest at that moment when they had to make that decision about whether or not to take the job with the, with the Boston debate like but you know, poker still going well enough. The debate league is arguably doing better than it would have done with me as its director anyway. So, I think it all worked out in the end.
Brad: Probably so. And how is the debate league going now? Is it still in existence?
Andrew: Yeah, no, it’s thriving. That’s what I say. I don’t know that I actually would have been the best person to run it. We ended up hiring someone who was a little bit more experienced as certainly much more experienced as an educator than I was. And we’re now on the third executive director, myself being the first. And the third is much more experienced, like in the nonprofit sector with, you know, fundraising and capacity building and that kind of thing. It’s quite large. They have a multi-million-dollar budget. Now they’re in most of the high schools in Boston, they’re in many of the middle schools in Boston, they have, there’s both an English language and a Spanish, Spanish language division. They’re doing a lot of interesting, interesting, they’re working with several hundred students directly. And then they also have like a teacher training program, where they teach teachers to use debate in the regular classroom. So, it’s not just like the after-school debate program, but just for as part of like your regular coursework, debaters, I would argue, a good way for students to, to learn things so indirectly, and they’re working with thousands of students that were
Brad: That’s awesome man. So, you, you built the thing that you wanted to build. And it’s really like,
Andrew: Like, like, we were talking. I guess that was off air, but we’re talking about, it’s more satisfying to build something than to push money back and forth across the poker table.
Brad: It definitely is. It definitely is. So, you made the decision to stick with poker in 2009. What happened? Like what was, what led to the thinking poker podcast from you know, 2009 to 2012 when you started the pod? How did Black Friday affect you as obviously somebody who’s immersed in the game?
Andrew: Yeah, I mean, I played online poker, almost exclusively. The WSOP, I didn’t even play like a full slate of web stuff. I mostly just played the main event, a few events before the main event. I really didn’t enjoy live poker that much. I was playing online pretty much exclusively. I was friends with, I mean, I’m putting air quotes on this, because I didn’t know him that well. But I knew Nate Davis is my cohost on The Thinking Poker podcast. Through the two plus two forums, I just you know, I enjoyed this post on there. I reached out to him at some point. We met up during the WSOP and then that kind of became an annual thing that we would like, hang out at some point, it was like, you know, once a year, we would hang out together. But in 2011, both of us went pretty deep in the main event, I ended up in like the top 50, Nate was probably in the top like 150 or something. But you know, we both made day five. And so, we’ve been having dinner together every night, maybe starting day two or day three. So that kind of shared excitement of that and all that was really what like solidified our relationship was both of us having a deep intimate event that here. So, we had, we had that sort of like closeness. He encouraged me to start a solo podcast, which I recorded, like two episodes, I never released them, they were terrible. And then he was like, well, you know, maybe if we did it together, you would have more, you know, success or, whatever. And that was true. Like I think doing it by myself, I don’t know that I would have had the like motivation to stick with it. And once you’re doing it with someone else, then I feel like, you know, I’d be letting him down if I slacking off. And it’s just, you know, it’s nice not to carry the whole thing on your shoulders.
Brad: Yeah, I’m amazed at folks that can do the monologue style podcasts. Because when I do an intro, for instance, for the listener, who wants to behind the scenes take on like an intro, I ride it out in a document, and then I recorded, it’s typically one and a half to two minutes long, and it probably takes me 10 takes having a script to follow before, I’m happy with the end result. So imagine me trying to, you know, bumble my way through a 30 minute show with just me talking like, I can’t even imagine how long it would take me. It’s so much easier for me to have a person to talk to, bounce ideas off of them. It’s just, this is way better for me personally.
Andrew: Yeah. And just having to come up with all the content yourself. I mean, it’s, my guest is pretty easy. It’s, but I mean, you get the right guests. And they’ll just talk, you know that you barely have to do anything. You just like, ask them a question every four minutes. And then like, they’ll just go crazy. If you haven’t been responsible for generating all that content yourself. I mean, I have to assume people would just decide I didn’t have anything more to tell them after they’ve been listening to me for an hour, a week for eight years.
Brad: Yeah. We’re both, we’re both very similar in that respect, of I don’t have enough to talk about to do a solo show, one day a week for a whole year. Like, I would just be repeating myself over and over and over.
Brad: And that would be very stale. Not very fulfilling for me. And I assume not very fulfilling for the audience either.
Andrew: Imagine like a, I’m not by any stretch a Rush Limbaugh fan, but I think you have to be impressed by like, the ability to monologue for like four hours a day, every day. Like that’s insane.
Brad: Like, you have to be wired a certain way. I think to, number one, have the self confidence that you have something valuable to say, and hold people’s attention for four hours every single day. It’s, I’m not that interesting. I feel like I’m way too boring. But yeah, I do. I have respect for anybody that can do something like that, that has a day, that I have respect for Joe Rogan. Just doing his show on a regular basis. It’s like three or four hours long. Like he has guests that helps him out a lot. But it’s still, you know, coming into our pre-conversation before I hit the record button. You know, I told you that I’m wanting to move to like a daily show, which includes a guest every single day, and even having a guest you were like, yeah, that’s tough. You know, that’s, that’s a lot of hard work. That’s a big investment of time and energy. And you’re right, and that’s only one hour a day, much less four hours.
Andrew: Yeah. It’s a lot.
Brad: It makes me think of like Dr. Frasier Crane, and like the radio psychologists
Brad: Have their daily shows every single day, like how many of them are just dumpster fires, and they’re just awful. I would, I would like to ask them that question. Like, how many of these shows are you just not proud of hate?
Andrew: Yeah. I guess you comment that, that might be part of the Constitution of a person who’s capable of doing that, as they just don’t think in those terms. You know, they just they do it, and it’s behind them, and then evaluate whether good or bad. They just do it.
Brad: Right. But if you’re somebody like Dave Ramsey, these people, they have massive, massive audiences, you have to be striking a chord with somebody
Brad: Like somebody has to enjoy what you’re doing else. You don’t have an audience, you don’t have a career, right?
Brad: So yeah, so you started the Thinking Poker Podcast, 2012, you got your co-host, what was the goal? What was the driving force, your why, behind doing the, doing the Thinking Poker Podcast?
Andrew: We used to joke, although it’s not even entirely a joke that it was to have an excuse to talk to Tommy Angelo, which we’re both fans, and we’ve never actually met him or anything. He’s actually become a friend. I’ve hung out with him in person a number of times. So, I mean that that goal succeeded beyond our expectations. But honestly, we had no idea that or no, we saw the potential for it to go somewhere. But it was entirely possible that we would only ever put out five or 10 episodes and we didn’t, we wouldn’t find much of an audience or we wouldn’t enjoy that much. Now just be the end of that to have interesting conversations with interesting people. To have an excuse to talk to people. To have an excuse to talk to each other probably, like I don’t I don’t have a lot of friends that I just like call up and talk to on a regular basis. And it’s not that I don’t want to, there’s just no impetus for it. So, having an impetus to like talk to someone once a week. I think that’s good for us.
Brad: Yeah, for sure. It’s great getting to know people and having awesome conversations. I think, when I look back on my life, and the things that I enjoy, most are deep, interesting conversations with other human beings, and this is a great outlet to express that.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean that was that really was, was the central goal was just to have interesting conversations with each other, to have an opportunity and excuse to reach out to some interesting people. And in poker, I guess a little bit also to, to try to talk to people who maybe weren’t getting covered in poker media. We definitely talk to some people like Phil Galfond or so Tommy Angelo, like who are all over poker media. But we’ve also talked to some folks who are either on the peripheries of the poker world, or in parts of the poker world that don’t get as much coverage in the regular poker media, or just, you know, people who are, who are not in the poker world, really, but enjoy playing poker. And I actually I talked about rounders being an early influence. We’ve had Brian Koppelman on the show a couple of times. So again, like success beyond our expectations, in that regard.
Andrew: You know, to try and trying to find like, untold stories around poker.
Brad: For sure. And there’s a lot of untold stories, right, about, especially about the journey, you know, nobody goes to sleep at night on a couch and wakes up. And they’re at the final table of like a WSOP event or a WPT event. There’s a lot of failures and struggles typically in that person’s path before they get to the limelight, and find success in poker. And, you know, I think that’s one of the driving forces behind, behind the show as well. And I was lucky enough to have Brian Koppelman on for an episode a few months back during COVID. He mentioned you, actually. So
Brad: Mentioned Andrew Brokos and thinking about the broadcast
Andrew: Another life goal achieved.
Brad: There you go, life goal achieved. What’s been the most unexpected thing that’s come from your journey through poker?
Andrew: Through poker, specifically? Probably like the friendships that I’ve made through poker. I don’t think that’s why anyone gets into poker is like, I’m going to meet interesting people and make friends. But I do think that the poker table in the poker world, it attracts a specific kind of person that, that I like. You know, people that are a little weird or a little rough around the edges. There’s, even for people who really want to make money in poker, it can’t be like the very best way of monetizing your time, like there has to be some reason. Yeah, it attracts a lot of people that for various reasons, might not thrive in like a corporate or traditional environment. They don’t, don’t take direction well, or want to be their own boss, want to make copious use of drugs, like lots of, lots of reasons why they might not but even people that I wouldn’t, and this is part of I’ve started to enjoy live poker more, there’s also people that I probably wouldn’t want to be friends with, like not really people I’d want to hang out with outside of poker, but I see their value as people and I like that the poker table gives them a place to like, be as weird as they are. I think, I think there needs to be spaces for people to like, to get out there, like competitive urges and their desires to be weird. And it’s a way I mean, I do think for like slightly antisocial people that a lot of people maybe don’t enjoy being around. It is a way of sort of like forcing people to be around them. And I think that’s kind of a valuable, like a little bit as professional poker players. I think we’re doing a little bit of like social work or social service. It’s like, and it really it is a thing, like it’s not good for people to be isolated. And there are some annoying people out there that like no one really wants to spend a lot of time with them. And I don’t think it’s coincidence that they find their way into a poker room.
Brad: Yeah, I don’t think so either. And, you know, that’s, that’s the great thing about poker is it’s a meritocracy. And if you have the money, you put your money up, you sit down with everybody else, and you play cards. And through that, some of the more antisocial people, you know, maybe they can make friends, maybe they can make connections in their own life. And yeah, that’s a huge, that’s huge value for them, just as human beings. Nobody needs to be isolated and by themselves all the time.
Andrew: I do love too. I mean, I think it’s such a diverse in a lot of ways. I mean, so a lot of times we say diverse and we just mean you know, there’s people with different skin colors or something like that. And I mean poker actually, probably could use some improvement in like some of the more, like race or gender. But like, just like in all sorts of different ways. I mean, one thing is I just have a lot more relationships with people who are like significantly older than I am. I don’t think a lot of people from our generation are other than like, your parents or your grandparents or something. I mean, you don’t, like we have we’re so segregated and stratified by age. I don’t think there’s a lot of interaction like intergenerational interaction at the poker table happens all the time. And you did, like I just love seeing people where they just they look like they’re from totally different worlds. You see, like a 70-year-old white guy, and like a 25-year-old black guy with like dreadlocks and you know that they like hug when they see each other. And I’m like, how is this happening? I just, I guess there’s probably other spaces where that happens. But I do think the poker room and like casinos in general gambling, and it’s you can’t do it by yourself. And ultimately, like, gamblers want to gamble and they want to more than they want to enough to overcome whatever like barriers there are between them forming a connection with people who are different from themselves. Ultimately, it’s like, you want that side of the bed, and I want this side of the bed, we’re going to find a way to like, get together and make it happen and not override, basically anything else.
Brad: And it also allows us to at least get a different perspective than the ones that we’re used to. You know, and poker players, I think, by nature fairly curious. We want to know why the why behind the decision’s folks make at the poker table. And this bleeds over into the why behind, why are people religious? Why are people political? Why does society exist? Why is something happening? Like what is the process behind the scenes? Like, always just asking why and being curious. And when you have the opportunity to interact with folks who you otherwise wouldn’t, you get to share their perspective, you get to ask them questions and see things a little bit differently than maybe you would, if you were not exposed to them, right. So, in that way I think, I’ve never really thought about it that way. But poker is huge.
Andrew: Yeah, and you get to, I mean, because it forces you to spend a little bit of time around them. And I mean, I guess ultimately, if you’re, if you’re trying to make money, it also forces you to understand them. I mean, that’s part of being a good poker player, is you need to be able to get inside the person’s head and sort of figure out what makes them tick. But, and you’re doing that, obviously, for competitive reasons. But I do think it helps to build compassion or empathy, a little bit. And I can definitely, I’ve spoken a little tongue in cheek about like, annoying people with that kind of thing. But I can think of people that I’ve met at the poker table where they’ve done things that were clearly inappropriate, or, you know, like they’ve, they’ve gotten violently angry in a way that was like, definitely not okay, but when you understand the person well enough, it’s kind of hard to hold it against them, because I’m sort of like, I do see where it comes from. And I see that it’s something that you like, you don’t like being like this, and it doesn’t really feel like you can help it. I guess it’s just like, it’s a little hard, a little harder to hold people’s sort of negative traits against them, and a little easier to be empathetic towards them. Because you’re forced to, like, get inside their head and try to understand them. I think it helps to build compassion and empathy.
Brad: Yeah. 100%. And it’s just, it’s like a side effect of the competitive game, getting to understand how they think how they approach life, and then you start realizing like, yeah, okay, I kind of understand this person, where they’re coming from, and their story and their belief system. And I think this is good for us, as a society as a whole to bridge those gaps and to realize, like, yeah, somebody can have different beliefs than me. And that’s okay. And we can exist, and we can laugh, and we can have a good time. And we can gamble with each other. And that’s okay. Right?
Andrew: Yeah, I feel like there’s a little bit of a paradox here, even with the, and I’m sure you’ve heard this as well, the like, don’t talk politics at the poker table kind of thing, where on the one hand, it’s like, well, there’s, this space, it’s one of the rare spaces where you do have people of, you know, differing, among other things, political ideologies, like interacting with each other in, in a way that’s not necessarily just like butting heads, or it’s not combative. And that happens, probably because you are avoiding certain subject, like avoiding the subject is kind of what makes it possible to have the interaction. But then it also seems unfortunate, once you have the interaction to avoid the subject.
Andrew: Like they’re so like, important stuff, they’re like now that we have this relationship, like maybe we can try to talk about that important stuff. But then like that has the potential to destroy the relationship. I mean, I guess, like, the Thanksgiving table is the same, the same fundamental problem within families. But I do, that’s, think that I think about a lot.
Brad: Yeah. It’s easy to be emotionally triggered one way or the other when it comes to politics and religion and those types of conversations. And if folks would kind of just put those to the side and realize that Adam for Adam, we’re not all that different from one another. And so, keeping that in mind when other people have a different viewpoint, it’s just very important to me. Like we’re all humans, we’re all in this together. We’re all a part of our own story. And when there’s less fighting, less emotional, just emotional triggering, it’s just better for us overall, in my opinion.
Andrew: Yeah, I mean, I guess I still have that debater side in me of like, well, there’s value in bringing these things. Like I think I probably have a higher level of comfort with like disagreement or like, vocalized disagreement, our disagreement with people maybe then a lot of people do. But you know, I’m not fully interested in like, oh, we can get along as long as we just like, put this stuff aside and don’t talk about it. Because I think its important stuff to talk about. Like, I think it, it, it needs to be discussed. And I think it’s good to have a place where people can talk about it in a way like because if you’re on Twitter or something, it’s just like, it’s so antagonistic, and everyone has their, their lines drawn. And I don’t feel like a lot of like, good conversation happens there. And it seems like the poker table, it does kind of create the conditions for a good conversation. But it’s almost like, the only reason those conditions exist is because we have a rule about like not bringing subjects.
Brad: Right. Thinking poker podcast, you said five to ten episodes, could have gone on for five to ten episodes, and then you called it, you kept doing it for eight years. What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned with interacting, speaking with all these people? You know, having conversations with your audience, stuff like that?
Andrew: I’ve, we’ve gotten a lot of scripted. So, like the first couple ones we dare you know, we were writing down like list of questions, and maybe that was valuable. So, they sort of get over our nerves, the first couple of, neither of us really had experiences as interviewers. But we’re much more freeform now. I mean, honestly, part of that is just, it’s less work. I mean, not having to do that, those hours of perhaps, but I do think it’s probably better. In most cases, it’s better. There are times, the less that I know about a person coming into the interview, then the more research I’ll try to do on them in advance. But as much as possible, we try to read them. Every once in a while, someone will ask like, oh, can I get a list of questions that you’re going to ask us. And I’ll usually give them some broad, like, oh, here’s some things that I know that she that I’m interested in. Ideally, I’d learn a few things, I didn’t know that you that are interesting. So, I don’t want to limit it to just this, this topic. But yeah, we do try to keep it more like free flowing and take things where they go. We weren’t sure that there was going to be an audience for that, or that there was going to be an audience for like a long form conversation, especially since for it being a poker podcast. Like we have episodes where poker does not come up very much, you know, where the conversation doesn’t center very much on, on poker. And we weren’t sure how much of an audience that was going to be for that. We know is interesting to us. And our hope was just well, we’ll do something that’s interesting to us. And hopefully there’ll be an audience for that.
Brad: What’s been the response?
Andrew: To that there would be. It is pretty popular. I mean, we get like 10 to 20,000 listens per show. And that’s without a, we’re talking about this off the air. So, like that’s without really heavily promoting it. Like I think we found the solid audience that just likes what we’ll be doing then they are indeed have their arms twisted to listen to us. And it seems like I mean, the, the interactions that I have had with, with people when they’ve introduced themselves, when they see me at an event or when they contact me on Twitter, or whatever. A lot of my favorite shows are also their favorite shows, which, which I like. You know that, that’s rewarding to say, because it feels like then what I’m doing is speaking to people, right? It’s not, it’s not like, everyone likes the strategy shows, but I really liked to interview based on you know, the ones that are more interview oriented. It does seem like there is an audience for like, exactly the thing that that we enjoy doing.
Brad: That’s awesome. How does it make you feel when somebody comes up to you and mentions the podcast, sort of just out of the blue?
Andrew: It’s extremely gratifying, especially during the WSOP when it’s so, it’s like that’s what playing a poker tournament as I was, like most of you getting kicked in the head. So usually during the WSOP and like, sort of disproportionally if someone’s seeing me in the hallway, it’s probably because I could be on a break, but like, most likely, it’s because I was on the tournament. So, it’s a great way to taking the edge off of it. And I understand that like some people reach a level of celebrity where it gets like tiresome to have people coming up to them. I’m definitely not at that level. It’s just like, every time it happens, I’m like, oh, wow, someone do like likes the thing that I’m doing.
Andrew: That was great.
Brad: Yeah, it’s always shocking to me when I get feedback, like, oh, it’s my favorite podcast. I love your podcast. Oh, it’s Brad, like, I’ll hop into twitch chat when one of my friends is streaming and I’ll say something in the chat like, oh, hey, Brad, how’s it going? And \ I’m like, this is kind of weird that like, people recognize,
Brad: My name and who I am from the thing that I created, but weird in a cool way.
Brad: I did the same thing about the scripted questions. Like I have a template that I typically follow. And what I found was, like, if I asked somebody this question, after five episodes, it was like, when you think of poker greatness, who’s the first poker player that comes to mind? It’s like, oh, we got Doyle and Phil Ivey over and over and over and over again for the same exact reasons. So that’s not really a component question.
Andrew: So those wouldn’t have been in my top 10.
Brad: Yeah, well, you know. It, it is what it is, but like, it’s just the same answers over and over, right
Brad: And like, I love following my curiosity and that often leads me to a path that is completely separate from my template of questions that the audience tends to enjoy as well. So, I think it’s a method that keeps things fresh and new and not repetitive over the long term.
Andrew: So there probably would be my top 10 now that I think about it, but there wouldn’t be the number one
Brad: Yeah. What’s funny you know, the whole Bill Perkins and Jungleman thing, I did a tournament where I like seated everybody and Jungleman was like, four through seven ranked, Bill Birkins called him this seventh, like a top seven poker player and I was like, David, I should have just said I, you know, I had it right in front of me. But yeah, so when you think of joy in your career through poker where the podcast, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?
Andrew: I really like here. I’m calling. It’s, I often say I think it’s unfortunate that hero calling feels so good because it’s not really not often a good idea. And hero folding is sort of an underappreciated skill. It doesn’t feel that good because the pot gets pushed the other direction but it’s like at least as important as hero calling but the very first WSOP that I played in 2006. I really had no business playing the main event. I, you know, I, my, my total bankroll and maybe like $40,000 but I won a three hour ribeye on PokerStars and got a, got to sit in the main event, which was just like mind blowing by itself, I was a small stakes player, holy shit, I’m playing the main event of the World Series of Poker. And then it was very early in the tournament, I mean like level two or level three, I ended up making a river call for like 25% of my stack with King high. And, and it was right and so like that was just an amazing feeling of just like knowing that I had, that I like wasn’t intimidated by the stakes, I’m just like, capable of making good and I had 100% of myself and like selling off action or anything. And today it was, it was the whole, like I didn’t want the experience to be over. I had no thought that I was ever going to do this again, you know, so I definitely like didn’t want to turn it over on day one. I didn’t want to lose the money and it felt really good to you know, still be able to make a good decision and like be calm under pressure, which I think some of the best skills you can take out of poker is that ability to like keep a clear head despite having a lot at stake and you know, not being rushed for time.
Brad: You have said a lot of times that the times when I’m most nervous in poker are when my friend is at a huge decision and a giant pot.
Brad: Whenever it’s me, it’s like everything fades away and there’s just me in the spot and there’s really not that much nervousness. It’s cool. Can you describe how you feel when you’re out of decision for a big spot with, you know a hand that other folks would likely just chunk right in the muck instantly, like when these situations arise, how are you feeling in these moments?
Andrew: Immediately is skeptical of like because I know that I’m always looking for excuses not to fall and so I’m always like if I’m aware that like most people would just instantly follow this, I’m trying to tell myself like you probably shouldn’t say my fault. But in terms of being calm but when I thought I’ve actually we do at the WSOP this most recent year.
Brad: No. I don’t really go to the WSOP.
Brad: I’m pretty much a straight cash game player, so
Andrew: The cash games out there for you.
Brad: Yeah. That’s true.
Andrew: It was, there was an earthquake during the, during my day one of the main event and I was actually in that, it was the biggest decision that I faced all day. I was in the tank facing an all in on the turn in like a multi wave I one players already all in. I have a big draw and facing shove and so it’s already like decision, like it’s a tough decision. I’m thinking about it and then an earthquake happens like, how is this real? Like how’s an earthquake happening? Well so like in theory, like I’ve talked about this with other people since like other people who were there during the time who were like oh yeah, I got the hell out of the building right away and like nothing about that even I mean, I maybe if everyone else had started like fleeing the building I would have also, but I essentially just like put that aside I was like, I mean I’m going to have to make this decision before I deal with this all earthquakes. So, you know, as if no one else is like running out or like most other people aren’t running out, I probably don’t need to either. So, let’s just like forget about the shaking ground and like the shit that might fall off the ceiling and his
Brad: Herd mentality because what does anybody know? Like nobody, nobody knows if anything’s going to happen, right?
Andrew: Yeah, I mean, I guess I think that most people have a pretty high threshold against running out of the building. So, like, if everyone is running out of the building, then like, it’s probably really bad and like I should do.
Andrew: You’re right. It doesn’t go any other direction. Like it’s, it’s certainly possible that you shouldn’t be getting out of the building even though no one else is. But I do think if everyone else is, you definitely should.
Brad: For sure. So, you’re at this decision during the earthquake, what happened? What was the result?
Andrew: I ended up folding. And in retrospect, I actually was, was, I mean, for all my big talk about like thinking calmly, I actually realized after the fact I’d been miscounting my outs, and it was actually a more clear fault. And I’d appreciate it. I actually, I would have gotten there on the river in water. But so like, because I was an all-in player, I did get to see what the river card was. But yeah, it turned out I was not thinking as clearly as I, as I thought I was because it was not as close to the decision as it seemed at the time.
Brad: Yeah. I mean, this happens too, right, where you have some time to reflect off the table and you look at it differently than you did on the table. And I found that like, sometimes when I go back in a database and I’m looking at cash game plans that I’ve played and that are like super unconventional that tend to work out. I’m reviewing the hand and my thought is like, it’s hard to even get in the space that I was in while I was making the decision to even reverse engineer why I made the decision, whether it be like a timing towel, or just some bit of information based on metagame, historical, whatever, that led me down the decision tree that I went that that’s an interesting thing that I find in my own personal careers, like sometimes I do things and then I don’t even know why after the fact exactly what led me down that decision but I did it just because I typically trust myself maybe more so than I should in poker. But I just, I’ve always been the type that like, okay if, if I feel like I’m going to do something, like if something feels right and I’m going to do it. Win, lose, or draw, especially in a cash game setting. Tournament you have ICM considerations and stuff like that. Cash is just like straight up but yeah, it’s just I’ve always wondered if other people are the same you know. They feel that same calm come over them in these moments. My pulse quickens a little. I can feel like some adrenaline starts spiking that maybe I need a little bit more focus for this decision so that I can, you know really trust myself if it’s a fairly significant decision with a fairly shitty hand.
Andrew: And I can feel the difference you know, the times that I have played games that were big enough that like I wasn’t fully clear headed when I was making a decision. You know, I, I’m very strict about whether I really want to remain in that game and I’m careful about no matter how good the game is, I’m careful about how much money I put on the table because I don’t want to end up in a situation where I am thinking about it in any terms other than EA you know. I don’t want to be like oh, it feels like a good spot but I just don’t want to lose X dollars here. You know, like I don’t, and I think everyone has an X like I don’t know maybe there’s some real sociopaths out there who don’t, but like I think most people have an X so it’s just a matter of like not, even if it’s within your bankroll it’s still, it’s, it’s I mean, I’m at a point where my skills is you know, what’s keeping me from buying bigger stuff more so than my bankroll. So, it’s possible for me to end up in a game where like, even though I have a bankroll for it, the sheer amount of money that’s involved could be, you know, an uncomfortable situation. And I mean, in tournaments you sell actually try to avoid those situations. In a cash game, it’s more a matter of like, when you’re when you’re playing like an uncapped game, being careful of how much you choose to buy in for in the first place, recognizing that like, ideally, you’re going to double that. So, you don’t necessarily want to start like right out your pain point. Because you can’t take the money off the table later.
Brad: Exactly. Like there’s going to be a straddle. The game will likely get bigger typically in a cash game. So
Brad: At some point, it reaches a threshold where risk aversion comes into play and can affect our decision-making process. I, I’ve had conversations with friends where they’ve made the statement that a lack of risk aversion in poker is almost like a superpower to really talented poker players. And I actually believe that. It’s a win-win.
Brad: You’re not risk averse, and you are able to play with, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table, and still make clearheaded good decisions like that feels like a superpower to me.
Andrew: Yeah, I think that’s true. I think it definitely comes more easily to some people than others and some people, they’re probably just like whatever X they can achieve as their like comfort level is lower than it’s going to be for some other people. I do think, like a lot of the people that I coach are recreational players who are, they’re plenty wealthy, you know, it’s not a matter like if they’re just playing like a 2-5 game or something like that and the amount of money involved does not really affect their life, but they still end up being risk averse. And I do think that, I think there are things you can do to limit that. Like I recommend to a lot of my, even recreational poker players, like they should have a dedicated bankroll. They should bring enough money with them to the casino like, I like to say, I like to be able to have a bad night and still have room to have a bad night. Like I don’t want to just you know, if you only bring $2,000 to play 2-5, you’re playing with $1,000 buy in, you lose one buy in and all of a sudden you’re on Kiss Money, like it feels like $2,000, it’s 400 big blinds that should be plenty to play with. And like, it’s rare that I have a negative $2,000 knife playing 2-5. But I mean, you certainly could. And so, I think that, you know, you should bring enough money that you can afford to have that happen. I mean, at some point that starts to get logistically challenging. And that’s why there’s boxes at the casinos, that I think like, even for people who have a lot of money, there’s still a risk aversion that can come up just the result of sort of, like how convenient they can you put your hands-on money. And I think there’s a lot that people can do to raise their X in terms of like, what they’re going to be comfortable wagering. I mean, I do think there’s a superpower component to it. But I think there’s a lot that people can do to make themselves more comfortable with the risk involved also.
Brad: For sure. And it’s the lens in which you’re viewing the game. Like if it’s recreational, it’s a hobby, you’re doing it for fun. And you realize you’re likely to lose money, then, okay, you know. You show up with 2k, play your 2-5, and whatever happens, happens. If you’re taking it seriously, then you need to come prepared.
Brad: You need to be as prepared for situations as you possibly can. And you’re absolutely right, like, figuring out logistically, how do I get more money here? How do I put myself in a spot where I can lose a few buy ins and not really care, not feel like I’m out of action if I lose this buy in, right? Let’s go to the opposite question of joy. When you think of pain in your poker career, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?
Andrew: Probably mistakes I’ve made to get myself eliminated from the metadata of the World Series of Poker. I’ve been fortunate to be deep in it a couple of times. And every single one of them had, well at least three out of four have ended in a way that I don’t know that my play was like, unimpeachably bad, but it wasn’t unimpeachably good. I mean, I kind of say as much as people complain about like getting bad beat, I would love to just get bad beat out of the minimum. Like almost every year, I’ve been eliminated from the main event. There has been a component of like, maybe you could have done that differently. Like there’s been something to lose sleep over. I think those are often them. And I mean that, that is sort of what tournaments are engineered for. And especially the main event because it is like, you know, it’s a higher stake than when I’m usually playing. It’s, it’s also like the once a year, sort of opportunity of it, that once it’s over, it’s one of the times that I most enjoy playing poker. So, there’s sort of like the disappointment. And then when you are really deep, like you’re this year, I made day five, and you’ve got all these people, people listen to the podcast or follow me on Twitter, like there’s, there’s hundreds of people who are like, invested in this thing, who are you know, on day five, they’re like, oh, good luck, we’re going to be following you along. It’s so fun to have all these people like there for you. And so, it’s just an immediate adrenalin crash, when it’s over. All of a sudden, like, it’s been like five days on really more than that, because you have your days off also. So, it’s been like a week plus. All you’ve been focused on is just like, doing well on this tournament. Of course, on day one, you don’t really have any delusions about doing well. But you get to day three, you’ve got a lot of jet, you know, I could really do something.
Andrew: Or day four or day five, there’s all this excitement building up, all these other people excited on your behalf. And then it’s just like, snap your fingers and it’s over.
Andrew: And it’s just like it’s such a total, fresh. Yeah, that’s the
Brad: So, when it comes to reconciling that pain of making a questionable decision to exit a big tournament, you’ve been in this a long time, right? Like this has been a lot of your professional life is playing poker. For folks who are less experienced, that feel bad when they do something questionable to busts in a tournament, how would you suggest they reconcile that bad feeling within themselves?
Andrew: That’s a good question. Let me answer a slightly easier question first.
Andrew: Which is when you make a mistake and are not eliminated from the tournament, so you still have chips left but you know, you’ve missed player you suspect the misplay and you’ve done something, you’d really import to not ruminate on it in the moment, right? Like you want to learn from your mistakes. The main thing that I do is I’ll just write down as many of the details of the hand as I remember right away. And that’s my commitment to look into this later. And it also means that gives me permission to put it out in my head now. Because if you’re going to keep playing, you don’t want to be focused on that hand. You know whether you could have done something differently an hour ago, you need to be focused on you know, playing the cards that are in front of you right now. So, I find it useful to make a commitment to myself, I’m going to look into it later. That helps me not worry about it now.
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Brad: So, I want to go down the rabbit hole before you get the bigger question here. What does, when you say you write it down, to look at it later to make a commitment to yourself, what does it look like when you write a hand down? Like what are the elements that you’re trying to capture?
Andrew: So, I’m actually pretty good at remembering if it’s a significant hand, you know, I’m not going to remember, like a random, you know, small pot that I played. But if it’s, you know, a significant like that, honestly, I’m going to remember most of the details anyway. But you know, I’m going to write down what the cards were positioned. I might, you know, forget whether I was under the gun one or under the gun to like, that kind of thing. So, I’m going to write down those, those details. I don’t really find that I need to record at least if I’m going to look at it recently, I don’t need to record my process. Like, that’ll all come back to me when I look at it. I’ll remember who the villain was. And, you know, if he did something that, you know, he moved his hand in a certain way. And that affected my decision, or like, I’ll remember that kind of stuff. I don’t generally find the need to write that down. It’s more the details that are like a little bit relevant, but not that. But like whether the turn was a deuce of diamonds or the deuce of clubs. That’s the sort of thing that’s most important for me to write down.
Brad: And do you have an idea of like, where the main point is? Where the question that needs answering is on reflection, or do you write that down?
Andrew: Usually, no. It’s not that often that there’s like, multiple points and a hand where I’m like, oh, I really have no, I mean, it’s not that I don’t like make small mistakes frequently. But you know, something that’s big enough that I’m like, oh, I really need to look into that one. It’s pretty rare for that to come up twice in the same hand. So, I usually know like, there’s, there’s a reason why this one’s getting written down.
Brad: Right. And, yeah, I just, I think the audience might be a little surprised that like, so deep in your poker career, there’s still these questions, right? There’s still these uncertainties that you have, and then everyone has playing poker. I’ve said many times on the show that I’ve never played a perfect session, I’ve never played close to a perfect session, and there are multiple decision points every single session where I am unsure of what the right thing to do is, because we are making hundreds and thousands of decisions in every single poker session that we play. So, sort of leaning in to that uncertainty that yeah, you’re going to have questions. Sometimes they’re not even answerable questions, you have to accept this, if your path is poker, you have to accept that and they’re always going to come. So, don’t think there’s like a magic bullet solution that just rid you of all of these problems because it doesn’t exist, right? It’s part of the gig.
Andrew: Yeah, the, the introduction to, I published a book last year about game theory. And the introduction was about like, I think game theory is about as close as you can get, like answers to those questions and it still doesn’t answer them. But it’s as firmer footing as you can find for, for getting an answer to a question like, is it okay to shout here you know. It’s still can’t take into account the you know, that the guy twist his nose and maybe that meant you should or shouldn’t have shouted, but you can at least tell you like this is a reasonable end to think about shoving your, or you know, you better have had a damn good ready to make that shot because the solver says negative 20 big blinds.
Andrew: So yeah. I mean it can give you, but even then, like, it’s only as good as your inputs. Like there’s, there’s you don’t get answers to these things. And I do find for a lot of people, you know, they really, I think the way you put it up, you’re needing to embrace the uncertainty or lean into the uncertainty is important. Because I do lose some respect from people for people when they like, you know, they asked you what you had in a spot. Because it’s, it’s, it’s so much the wrong question to ask. And what that tells me is you’re just not comfortable with the uncertainty, you know, because you’re, you’re trying to pacify yourself with like a fake kind of certainty where you know, if I show you that I had it, that doesn’t mean you made a good phone, I could, you know, you’re playing against my range or even there, there is no certainty. You can ask them what you could ask me, what would your range be in that situation? I might lie to you. I might not know myself. I might be wrong about my range to be in that situation. There’s just, there’s no getting answers to those questions. You really just have to get comfortable with it. I mean, I guess the one thing that I, and this is another like Tommy Angelo is, is that like, that’s, it’s an opportunity to be better than other people, right? Like, no one gets answers to these questions. And so, an opportunity for you to have an edge with people you’re playing against is to be more comfortable with the uncertainty than they are. And that’s, you know, psychologically, that’s an advantage in the game.
Brad: For sure. And when you’re talking, I’ve realized something that’s fairly comical to me is that, like you know you said, maybe I don’t even know what my range is in that spot. And the best players of poker, sort of hilariously are able to produce ranges for their opponents that construct ranges that are likely better than the rate, then the opponent themselves can construct for themselves in these situations, right?
Brad: And that’s how they get a lot of edge. Because they construct the range, you know, I construct a range for my opponent, and I realize, oh, you don’t have any value here. So therefore, I’m going to, you know, call you down super light. They don’t actually realize that they are lacking value in this spot.
Brad: If they were aware, then they might not bluff, right? They might not actually pull the trigger. But just a little funny insight that I had.
Andrew: Yeah. No, I like that.
Brad: So, speaking of improving, do we answer the big question, by the way of like, how do we reconcile these doubts when we bust a tournament and do something?
Andrew: Oh my God.
Brad: Yeah. I’m going to come back to it.
Andrew: There was, there was something pretty concrete that I was doing for a while. It’s not really something I struggle with as much anymore. Except for them. I was like, really big spots, like, you know, day five main event kind of thing. But something that I started doing for a while was, I would have a particular skill that I wanted to work on in the session, like I want to work on value betting decisions. I don’t want to miss any value bets this session. And I put a little app on my phone called click counter, which was just it just, you know, sort of like a gym coach would use if you’re running track, or running, running around the track and wants to count how many laps you did. So, you just press the volume up button, it increases the count by one, press volume down, it decreases by one. So, every time that I play a hand perfectly, I, I’m confident I played it perfectly. I click, click plus one. The only time I get a negative one is if I mess up, the one specific thing is supposed to be my focus for the session. So, if I think I made a bad river call, or I’m not sure I should have called that river, whatever, that’s not the thing I was working on, it’s a zero. It’s not a negative one. Only if I miss a value bet or make a bet value better, whatever, that I’m like, am I getting the negative one. And the thing that, I think a lot of people will find useful about this is that getting seven deuce off suit is an easy plus one. You know, I like it, especially in the tournament, it can get frustrating, you get a bad run of hands, and it feels like because what you’re trying to do if you’re in that mindset of trying to win the tournament, instead of trying to make good decisions, then it’s frustrating to get dealt the run of bad cards usually, well, it’s hard to win the tournament when you get seven deuce every hand. But if you’re playing a quick counter game, you know that’s the best way to have a perfect half hour is just to get a bunch of bad hands like I very rarely misplay seven deuce. I miss my pocket aces all the time.
Brad: Yeah, that’s a greatness bomb. And it’s a way to positively reinforce yourself when
Andrew: I think I wanted some form of reinforcement that wasn’t tied to money, because the way money flows in poker, it’s such a, such a weak indicator of whether or not you’re playing well.
Brad: Right. You can make all good decisions, and get absolutely smashed day after day after day, which you know, causes you to question the meaning of life, it causes you to question like, do I know anything about anything. But this is our humaneness coming out. And that, you know, we’re not exactly designed to be able to navigate this game super well with our emotions and just our biases as human beings that have allowed us to survive all of these years. So again, it’s normal, right? All these feelings of inadequacy over time. It’s just, it’s a part of the process. And it is something that you said, I want to circle back to, you know, you’re talking about the re, the ranges and like, you know, you might not even know your range. The range changes based on silly things like emotional stability for the day. There’s a book, The Art of Learning, by Josh Waitzkin, where, you know, a famous chess player meditates before every one of his chess matches, and he does it for like an hour. And his goal is to understand how he’s feeling that day, so that he can use that in his chess strategy, in his chess match. So, like if he’s feeling aggressive, if he’s feeling more passive and more calm, like how does this affect the decision making process. And these emotions come into play in poker all the time, that dramatically change your range in very similar situations just based on how I feel. Like, am I having a bad day? Am I unfocused today? Am I angry about, you know, losing a sports bet that just happened on TV? Like, it’s kind of silly, but these factor in to the decision-making process.
Andrew: Yeah. One of my bests, like cues that I should, that I should quit, I think in general, I’m pretty good at keeping like emotional equilibrium. And I rarely find that I need to quit, because I’m, like, frustrated and not playing well. But if I really find myself having unkind thoughts towards, towards opponents, you know, where I’m like rooting hard for someone to lose, or like, trip when he’s getting out, you know, like that kind of thing. That’s a pretty good cue that I need to at least like, take a break and reset. Like, if I’m really like, angry at someone
Andrew: That something’s off.
Brad: That’s great for, you know, an awareness indicator that you’re not firing on all cylinders. It’s also important to keep in mind, you know, to watch for these indicators and the people you’re playing against just how they’re acting, their movements, how they’re talking, like, typically, if somebody is angry or off kilter, you know, on tilt, you can tell and take this into consideration when you’re making decisions like, should I be bluffing somebody that’s on raging tilt? Probably not. It’s probably going to lead them to having a wider call range and spots depending on how they’re constructed. Some people go on tilt unfold even more. This is kind of the beauty of poker. And what I’ve always loved about the game is there’s all these variables, having a perfect strategy is impossible, it’s going to change, even knowing whether or not you made perfect decisions is impossible to know. So, it’s just an aspect of the game that I’ve always loved and found challenging is navigating these variables in the best way that I possibly could.
Brad: What’s something you think folks who are chasing their poker dreams don’t think about enough?
Andrew: What their poker dreams actually are. You know, I ask, when I start working with a new coaching student, that’s usually, one of the first questions I’ll ask them is like, what are your goals? What are you looking to get out of poker? And I rarely accept an answer, like, I just want to, I want to be one of the best or something like that. I mean, I just, I don’t think most people really do. And if you did, like, you wouldn’t just now be getting coaching. You would have been to do it on that a while ago. I think that’s like an easy answer for people who haven’t really thought about what they’re trying to accomplish. But like, what it really takes to be the best is like you’re I mean, if you’re not a professional poker player, that’s not even on the table for you. Like if you’re, if you have a day job, and you’re just like playing poker, even if you take it somewhat seriously, 10, 15 hours a week, like being the best can’t possibly be your goal. Because like, you would need to be playing much more than 10, 15 hours a week if you wanted to be the best. So, I mean, there’s being the best I can be or something like that. That’s still a little vague for my tastes. But I think, I think it would do a lot of people good if they would think a little bit more about like, why exactly they enjoy poker, what their goals actually are, that can influence your game selection, it can influence decisions about how much you buy in for, how often you play, how long your sessions are, I think there’s a lot of things people could do that would probably cause them to enjoy poker more and actually play better. If they were a little more upfront with themselves about, even most professionals. Like, like I said earlier, it’s, it’s not the single best way to make money. Like there’s some reason why you want to make money in poker, as opposed to making money at derivative trading or something. You know, like, why, why poker for you specifically? And I think ironically, the people who are the best at it, they do have an answer as to like, as to why it’s poker specifically. You know, they’re not just sort of just, you know, generically trying to be the best. Like, there’s some reason they’re attracted to poker.
Brad: What’s your reason why you’re attracted to poker?
Andrew: I actually had a funny conversation with a seven-year-old about this. He asked why I like playing poker. And I said, it makes me feel smart. He asked, why does it make you feel smart? And I said, well, you know, there’s, everyone’s trying to win. And when there’s money involved, or a lot of money involved, everyone’s trying hard to win. And in order to win, you have to be even smarter than them. And a lot of times, they’re smart people. So, it makes you feel very smart to outsmart smart people who are trying to be smart. And then he said, well, why do you want to be smart? And I said, I don’t know. And he said, then you’re not smart.
Andrew: Yeah, exactly.
Brad: Owned by the seven-year-old. Yeah.
Andrew: Again, a big part of it. I mean, I’ve always enjoyed puzzles like I used to do, I used to get books of logic puzzles, when I was a kid, like at the grocery store, I would sell these and I would just like do logic puzzles for fun. So, I do and that’s something I encourage with, I work with a lot of recreational poker players who want to like they want to take poker very seriously. But they’re not looking to quit their day jobs either. And one of the tricky things for them, I think, is they’ve been playing recreationally for a long time. And even if you’re not literally going to be a professional, if you want to make money at it, you’ve got to approach the game the same way a professional would. But you can’t do the things that were fun for you as a recreational player. I’ll just call raise with 10, seven suited, maybe I’ll make a flash like that, you can do that if you’re just playing for fun. But if you want to make money, like you can’t be in that mindset. So, the question is, how are you still going to enjoy the game, if you’re not if you can’t do the things that originally attracted you to the game. And the way I think about it is you can still get enjoyment from poker, but it’s not going to be the gambling, it’s not going to be the enjoyment of scratching a ticket or spinning the wheel or whatever. It’s going to be the enjoyment of doing the puzzle and see the enjoyment that someone gets out of a crossword puzzle, or in my case, the logic puzzle of there is a right solution here, your job is to find it, and you’ve got information, there’s clues and you get to play detective. You can put together the clues and try to solve, solve the mystery. And that’s got to be where the enjoyment comes from. It can’t be just riding, riding the waves of wins and losses.
Brad: Yeah, that’s where the enjoyments always come from me just looking at it like a puzzle, trying to figure out the puzzle and being better than my opponents at figuring out the puzzle. Right? And also, myself, being a puzzle that is very difficult for them to figure out
Brad: Is the other side of the coin. I don’t know about you, but when I go see like a mystery like a whodunit movie, these are like my favorite types of movies like Knives Out, came out last year. Like I just love it. I love the puzzle. I love playing detective and looking at the clues and trying to figure it out. I could spend hours with a logic puzzle, just like thinking about all the different variables and how does this work? And I think that that’s probably a very necessary component to being successful at this game over the long term is loving, figuring these types of things out.
Andrew: Yeah, I mean, you do, you have to figure them out. And if you don’t enjoy it, I don’t think you’re going to want to keep doing it.
Brad: Yeah, what’s the point?
Brad: Right. Like, again, there’s nothing wrong with playing poker recreationally. And understanding
Andrew: If you want to gamble, there’s like it’s got to be, I’ve never really played blackjack, but like blackjack has to be more fun for gambling than poker.
Brad: Constant action. I mean, constant actions better than not constant action.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s expensive to play poker. Like it’s blackjack. I mean, we’ve seen people do it. But it’s a very expensive hobby.
Brad: Yeah, but it, things come into play. Like we’ve that have come up in this conversation like interacting with fellow human being, camaraderie, the social aspect of it that people like a lot more than like just blackjack, right?
Brad: You get to talk to people, you get to meet new people, have good conversations. And I think there’s something about competing with your fellow man versus the faceless casino that appeals to a lot of folks.
Andrew: Yeah. We’ve interviewed a few people, you know, who are like extremely successful and Brian complements a good example. But you know, people who are like extremely successful in some field outside of poker. And when you ask them, why poker, you know, you have so little free time. Why is poker like the thing, or one of the things you choose to do with that little bit of free time. And that really is, you know, they want to test themselves against the best. And you know, this, we talked to people, amateur players who played like the million-dollar WSOP event. And you know, it’s like, they know they’re playing against the best players in the world. And that’s what they want. And I think about that a lot, because I don’t think most people who are net losers of poker are delusional. I mean, we, you see that, but I think most people, they have a reason why they’re there, and why they’re willing to spend money on poker. I don’t think it’s just that they’re, they’re convinced that they’re consistently getting unlucky. And they’re actually plus AV players. And I do think for a lot of them, it’s that the social element of it, you know, that’s, that’s the reason that they’re there.
Brad: Yeah. I am reminded of this. Like, I went to a tournament series, maybe last year, the year before. I almost never go to them, but I went to Cherokee, to meet up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. And what I realized, after being just immersed in the online world, like, speaking of faceless, like anonymous ignition tables all day long, I realized like, poker festivals are just places where everybody’s excited to talk about poker. Like they just love poker. Like 2AM, I’m standing in line after making day two getting some food. And dude behind me just like starts talking about poker. Like just, you know, it’s like he’s just so excited to talk about it just because he loves it so much, right?
Brad: It’s a game that makes people feel emotions, they love it, whether they’re net winners or net losers. They love, love, love playing this game. And, you know, that’s awesome. I, I empathize because I love it too. Maybe not for the same exact reasons, but I do love, have always loved poker.
Andrew: Yeah, I think the only issue I run in to there sometimes is that the things that you love about it change over time. And so, there is sometimes like the thing that some people want to talk about, like you run into these people where they’re just like a throbbing wound with whatever bad beat they just had. And you know, that’s the kind of situation like you’re describing, well, they’ll just whoever happens to be in front of them in the food line is going to hear about their bad deed. Hey, buddy, you playing the tournament? Listen to what just happened to me. You know, and like for them like that is part of the love is like, they feel that pain so acutely. And, you know, for us, it’s like you’ve, you’ve heard some bad, big stories you’ve had, it’s just not interesting. You know, I don’t want to hear about whatever they had, even if it was like a hand that you want. I’m still not interested. Like, I don’t care if it was quads over quads. Like it really needs to be a crazy poker story for me to be interested in just like, like there’s no like sequence of cards except, I forget who it was, was it Bryce, the person who had that like the really nasty beat in the triple drop. Where the judge
Brad: Josh RA?
Andrew: He’s on the winning end, wasn’t he?
Brad: Yeah. Its like yeah, 50k Players Championship, I think last year
Andrew: Yeah, I think it was, I think it was Bryce Yockey. I might be wrong about that. Whoever was on the loop, like, that’s interesting to me. Like, that’s a, that’s a crazy yeah. But like, that’s what it takes. I mean, I’m not going to be interested in whatever, like, but I know, like, I feel bad, because I know that these other people are, right. I mean, they’re really genuinely passionate about it. And they want to like, share that like, oh, a fellow poker player, I can share my excitement about this hand that I just saw. And like, I feel bad, because they’re excited about it. And I’m, I’m not. But, but I’m not.
Brad: Doesn’t it make you sad that you don’t feel these emotions at these hands anymore, at this stage in your career? Like
Andrew: I feel different. I mean, it’s not that I’m not interested in stuff. I’m just interested in
Brad: Different things.
Andrew: Different things.
Brad: It’s hard, it’s hard to get your interest in poker after playing millions of hands, we’ve seen everything, right? Like, there’s very, very few experiences that just brand new, that were like, oh, wow, this is like, this is a pretty interesting hand. I’m going to think about it for 30 to 45 minutes. Whereas like, early on in my career, you know, the first few years that I played, you could ask me a hand that happened two years ago, and I could recall it in vivid detail. And now I can’t recall a hand that I played yesterday. Like, it’s like, they go in my memory, and they’re just out. I don’t spend any time really thinking about them in depth, it kind of makes me a little sad that like, because I’m so used to it, and it’s not new to me anymore, the situation just becomes so like ABC standard, but it doesn’t really ignite my fire, like it once did.
Andrew: Yeah, I guess I just feel like I found different, and maybe the more interesting thing, so like, now it’s mostly stuff that people will do at the table. And I find that, you know, a funny story or just, you know, people’s, I just, I like the way poker puts people in a pressure cooker, you know. And you really get to see how people respond when there’s money on the line, there’s ego on the line, you just, you get to see people under pressure, and it does make people do crazy stuff, then I often find that stuff funny and or entertaining. That’s where a lot of my like, the stuff that I’m eager to tell someone about and when I like a day of poker is over, is you know, how so and so responded, you might not think something happened in a poker hand. It might have been, you know, something he said to the cocktail server, or to this. That’s the kind of stuff that gets me more interested now.
Brad: Yeah, for sure. So, you love the live poker aspect of it, after transitioning?
Andrew: Yeah. I used to say like, I would never want to, you know, when I was playing online, I was like, I’d never just sit and grind like, you know, live poker all the time. I found it a lot more interesting than I was. I was giving it credit for. I used to be very disparaging towards, I, people, live poker at 700 am and spend all day with them. But yeah, I mean, some of it’s making friends. And some of that is just like, like we were talking about earlier, finding things that are, in fact, interesting or empathetic about people that might initially strike you as off putting. But you know, getting a little deeper with those people.
Brad: Yeah. I’ve in general, I haven’t found that I think the poker world is super negative. They are negative.
Andrew: Yeah. I think I was about that technically.
Brad: Yeah. Okay, cool. Let’s do lightning round. Few, couple few questions, and then we’ll get out of here sir. If you could give all poker players one book to read, doesn’t have to necessarily be a poker book. What would it be and why?
Andrew: Exactly right now I’d kind of like for people to read Native Sun, which is a novel, is this, is too long for lightning round answer should be finished.
Brad: No. No. NO.
Andrew: Okay. This is a novel from 1960s, might even be 1950s, which is about a black man on the south side of Chicago who murders a white woman and is sort of while he’s on the run from the wall, and eventually is quiet. And speaking of like empathy, it’s, it’s written by, by a black man, Richard Wright, and I think it’s very he actually writes in the introduction because he had previously written a memoir called, Black Boy, that sold very well. And, but it was about himself. And he was a very sympathetic main character is kind of about, you know, growing up poor and it was a successful book. But he said, he said, the problem was, it was too easy to be empathetic to the, to the main character, you know, he wanted to write a book that made you empathetic to a person who had done like a horrible thing. And so, I find that book very interesting for that reason. And I think, particularly with the, like, protests that have been going on, so recently in the US, and I guess to some degree around the world, I think it’s an interesting subject to think about what kind of empathy we owe to people, even after they’ve committed a crime.
Brad: 100%. 100% Native Son, check it out. Very necessary in today’s day and age to see things from people’s perspective. And yeah, it’s, we just need to do better like as, as a society to have empathy for folks and realize that like, choosing to lock everybody up is not really a great solution. At the end of the day, like, we want contributing members of society. Obviously, this is good for us and locking everybody up, it’s just not great. It’s just not great. If you could wave a magic wand change one thing about poker, that’s not legalizing it in the US, what would it be and why?
Andrew: Probably banishing 10 handed tables debut and making tables eight handed. I mean, I guess that increases rake, which maybe isn’t great, but I don’t think everyone enjoys having slightly smaller tables. It’s more comfortable for everybody, you get more action. Just
Brad: Yeah. Make them all six handed. That’d be, that’s perfect situation.
Andrew: You might be getting your wish.
Brad: That’s true. Not in the way that I would like to have my wish granted though. If you could erect a billboard every poker players got to drive past on the way to the casino, what does it say?
Andrew: Have fun.
Brad: Have fun. You’re experiencing something. While you’re there doesn’t have to be based on the result of winning or losing in a session. Enjoy the experience. What’s your current big goal as related to poker?
Andrew: I really don’t have one. I’m not big on, on goal setting. And I think particularly now, with how much like COVID has disrupted everything, I find it very difficult to project forward into the, into the future. And it’s never something I’ve been big on but the future right now feels more unpredictable to me than it ever has.
Andrew: Easily not only related to poker, but like certainly general related to poker.
Brad: Right. We’re getting a first-hand look at just how bad folks are at predicting the future.
Brad: What’s a project you’re working on this near and dear to your heart?
Andrew: I just finished a book. Actually, I do have a good answer to that. I saw I realized the, the Boston debate that we talked about at the beginning of the, the interview. It’s been now 10 years since I was really involved with them. I left Boston in 2010. And I’m starting to forget some things that probably only I know or remember from that era. So partly for my own sake, I wanted to kind of write down, not it’s nowhere near as long as a memoir, but just try to write down some like specific memories that I have, and just kind of like tell the story of the first few years of that organization and that league, partly for my own sake. And you know, I’ll share it with the person who’s the current executive director and with that as he pleases, but some of it might be information that, that that he would value having or part of the story that no one involved with the league now really as like, if those things exist only in my memory and that memory is starting to get a little fuzzy. I’d like to record them before they get further away.
Brad: Yeah. You just make it up. Just, just make up a whole fake story. A bunch of people believe it, whatever.
Andrew: Honestly, that actually did kind of happen. Because there’s this, I am a little bit of like I it sounds so grandiose to say like a legendary figure. But the poker part of things is like one of the few things that people are involved with the way like people, I think a lot of people know my name, but don’t really know a lot. They’re just like, oh that he like played poker. And he started this league or something. So, like the story that kind of goes around is like, oh, he won a bunch of money in the World Series of Poker. And he used that to finance the debate League, which I mean, so someone told that story recently and like I didn’t correct them because it wasn’t that important to do it. And like, it was just like, it wasn’t really the point of the event to like, tell that story, but it felt weird. That like it’s been sort of like simplified and just like, you know, it has, it has become like a telephone. Yeah.
Brad: Yeah, it’s in the absence of information, this is why I love transparency so much when it comes to online platforms. Just all the things you know, be transparent, like I see on like the apps where they take rake, but then there’s so opaque about how much rake they’re taking. It’s like their needs to be transparency
Brad: In the absence of information, people will make up a story that fits, right? So, like, they didn’t have the information. They know you play poker, they connected the dots. Voila, you have a story. So, you know always being transparent, to me is just, it’s just better for everybody. ecause like, if you’re hiding something, people will find out where they’ll make up a story that’s even worse than what’s actually happening.
Andrew: It’s funny to think like Doyle Brunson got a lot of flak for writing Supersystem because people were like, don’t put that stuff out there like now and like that was a reasonable thing. Like in the, was it the 70s, when he wrote that book? Like it was reasonable that you could actually keep that stuff to yourself. Now, I mean, I guess you still see a little bit on two plus two people are like all these training sites giving out information about how to play poker, like the information is getting out. It’s the internet, like, you’re not going to keep this stuff bottled up. There’s no and I say like the internet is just ruin any hope of like, keeping anything bottled up, which I think that’s a good thing. But it’s a thing regardless, like you might as well make the best of it, because there’s no going back.
Brad: Yes. The genie is out of the bottle. You can’t put that genie back in the bottle. We have to rely on a lot of misinformation, which is very prevalent in the poker sphere, that I see just misanalysis, bad training, it’s all over the place. So, misinformation it’s, it’s, that’s, that’s a real thing. And so like, plus people, you know, if information was all people needed, there’s a quote that I love, you know, we would all be billionaires with six pack abs, right? So, it’s more than just the information that makes the poker player, it’s actually executing it.
Brad: And so, there’s still all these barriers to entry to success. So, back in the day, back in Doyle’s day, you can make a good argument. Nowadays, it’s like, okay, well, the success barrier is very high, even with the information, so it just is what it is.
Brad: Final question, sir. Where can the chasing poker greatest audience find you on the worldwide web?
Andrew: The best place is thinkingpoker.net or @thinkingpoker on Twitter. And that’s where you’ll find like all the latest podcast episodes, information about coaching, links for buying my books, all that kind of stuff. You’ll get it from one of those two places.
Brad: Awesome. Check out Play Optimal Poker 2, right? Your new book that you released.
Andrew: Yep, that’s the new one. Yep. But if you haven’t read Play Optimal Poker one, probably check that one out first.
Brad: Just skip to Play Optimal Poker 2, that’s where you saved the best material now. Thanks for coming on, sir. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. Let’s do it again in the near future
Andrew: Thanks for having me.
Brad: And hopefully things get back to normal in live poker world sooner rather than later.
Brad: Take care.
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