Dara O’Kearney: $4.1 Million in Tourney Winnings, Author, and Award Winning Podcast Host
Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 040
Dara O’Kearney on social media:
Yoooo, welcome my friend to another episode of the “Chasing Poker Greatness” podcast!
This is your host, the founder of Chasing Poker Greatness, Brad Wilson.
Today’s guest is one I am SUPER pumped to welcome back onto CPG, the always thoughtful and articulate author of Poker Satellite Strategy & PKO Poker Strategy… the Co-Host of the award winning poker podcast “The Chip Race”… none other than Dara O’kearney.
Dara is a lot of things.
He’s a former Irish international ultra marathon-runner turned poker pro, an educator, a stable runner with past CPG guest David Lappin, a columnist, an extremely popular poker blogger, and (oh yeah) he’s also a world-class cardplayer.
He’s also proof that it’s never too late to not only get into poker but to also compete at the very highest levels.
There are too many Greatness Bombs to count headed your way, including:
– Why Dara believes a lifetime of competing gives him an edge on the green felt.
– How-to healthily manage your poker expectations.
– The one poker format you probably won’t ever see Dara playing.
– And much, much more!
Before you dive into this episode with Dara, I wanted to take a moment to let you know about my latest mini-course:
Neutralize River Leads.
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You can grab your copy at chasingpokergreatness.com/NRL by joining the daily newsletter.
Without any further ado, I bring to you the always brilliant ambassador of Unibet Poker… the one and only Dara O’kearney.
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Brad: Well hello there and thank you so much for listening to the chasing poker greatness podcast. As always, this is your host, Brad Wilson, the founder of enhanceyouredge.com and today’s special guest is the inimitable Dara O’Kearney. Dara got into poker at a later age than pretty much anybody else I know. As a matter of fact, at the age he was getting into poker, 40, I will have been in the game for 20 years, which is quite frankly, shocking to me. Where oh where did the time go? But poker is a game that can seduce folks at all ages, from all walks of life and across all borders and languages around the world. To say that Dara has thrived, would not do his success, justice. He has $4.1 million in winnings in live and online tournaments, hosts and award winning podcast, The Chip Race, has written two books, Poker Satellite Strategy and the upcoming PKO Poker Strategy with a another chasing poker greatness guest, Barry Carter, and is an ambassador for one of the largest poker platforms in all of Europe, Unibet poker. He’s a man after my own heart, who genuinely cares about guiding and helping folks along in their poker journey. In our conversation you’re about to learn how to avoid getting scammed in the poker world, how Dara maintains his energy through the long grueling days of live tournament poker, why poker sites ought to be embracing the folks who aspire to be pros, rather than trying to turn poker into bingo, and much more. So, without any further ado, I bring to you my conversation with the great, Dara O’Kearney.
Brad: Dara, welcome to the show my man.
Dara: Thanks, Brad. Pleasure to be here.
Brad: It’s great having you here. I want to start out our conversation. You’ve described yourself as a very competitive person. Could you tell me any stories about your competitive nature?
Dara: Yeah, I’ve always been ridiculously competitive. And that’s goes all the way back into early childhood, I have a younger brother. And the way it kind of started was we would play games, any game basically. And we were incredibly competitive against each other. And we would try and figure out who was the best at the game. And then typically, I was better at the start. But some games he got better at, we would just play the same game over and over again. And it became clear who was better at the game, and then we’d stop, we’d move on to the next game. And that was sort of the origin of it. As I moved into adulthood, I found that anytime you put into a, an arena where people are playing against each other competitively, it just becomes the only thing for me while I’m in the game. I just have to absolutely win. And I think it was Bobby Fischer, who said that losing hearts more than winning is nice. And I definitely felt that it’s, it’s something I’ve tried to get better at over the years being a gracious loser. But I think it is kind of the flip side of the competitive nature. I devoted to a kind of ritual in poker tournaments, where when I bust I just congratulated whoever bust me, wish everybody good luck and head straight for the exit and say nothing to anybody. Because I found that if anybody tries to talk to me that period, results are not good.
Brad: Tell it, tell, okay, so this is a softball, right? Give me an example of things not being good early on in your poker career.
Dara: Where I reacted badly?
Brad: Yes, I need a shameful story.
Dara: A shameful story. Okay. Okay, here’s a shameful story. There was one bust out I found particularly tilting in first or second year I was playing, and the player I was, who busted me. He was probably most famous for borrowing money from players and not repaying them, or hitting them up for loans just after they hit a big score. And I may have mentioned that fact in my in the blog that I wrote about the event, which caused him considerably upset. So, it was, in my defense, it was at a time when I didn’t think anybody read my blog because I didn’t publicize it. But I could very quickly find out that lots of people read my blog and the story is spread like wildfire to Irish poker circles. So that was a lesson learned. It was a case of like, you might think something’s private, but it’s not, if you put it out there, anywhere where people will potentially hear it, there’s a good chance they will hear it.
Brad: It’s like the believers, Abraham Lincoln, who used to say, like, when you’re emotional, when you’re angry about something, write a letter, give it 24 hours, reread it, tear it up and rewrite it. Except in this case, you were really angry. You wrote it publicly on the internet and published it. And everybody read.
Dara: Yeah, yeah, that was yeah, that was very much the case. I also developed a rule early my poker career online when I struggled much more detail than I do now. Where if I found myself responding angrily in chat to somebody, or telling, calling them a name, I had a rule, which was that I had to immediately sign out. And I wasn’t allowed to play for the rest of the day. Because that was sort of my first sign that I was on tilt. And, and then knowing that that was the rule that prevented me from doing it. So, I just kind of broke the habit of every time I took a bad beat. Putting somebody on blast.
Brad: Yeah, it’s great. bringing awareness to behaviors that can indicate your emotional state is not 100%. Going through time has your methodology changed a little, like you have awareness to when you know, angers beginning to bubbling, bubble up to the surface? Or maybe, maybe a decision is made in haste, where otherwise you would have been more thoughtful, anything like that?
Dara: Yeah, I think I have gotten better at recognizing those and, and sort of cutting them off of the past. I generally don’t struggle with sort of raging game or anything like that, like, I think the whole bad beating is very much a function of experience, tends to be newcomers who have who struggled the most with it. But beyond a certain point, you just realize that this is part of the game. It’s also the way we frame it. I, I always feel that like when somebody loses a 83-16, let’s say, and they think it’s a horrendous bad beat. And they, and it upsets them, that if you told them look, we’re going to play a dice game. And if I roll a six, I win. And if I roll on you the number you win, obviously will be unlucky for them if I roll the six, but I don’t think that would be the same emotional reaction that we get in poker. And I’m not sure why that is, I think maybe we just don’t understand the variance as well, or at least when we’re newcomers. So, in terms of like bad beats and stuff, a mob is fine with that. It still upsets me when I feel I made a mistake, that upsets me a lot more in game. My process for that is usually just to sort of write it down, because I do take extensive notes when I’m playing live. And then that kind of flushes out of my system, and I’m able to park it and say, okay, look, that may have been a mistake, but I’m going to look at it afterwards in the lab. So, I don’t think I struggle, at least live anymore in that sense. There are definitely occasions where due to complacency or tiredness, I start to make automatic decisions, and I don’t give the decision to fall apart. That’s something that I’m, I do a sort of a sanity check when I’m at the table, look, do I feel tired? Do I feel frustrated? I try and do this between hands so that I can anticipate that there might be a problem. You know, okay, so if I feel tired now, if I, if I do have a decision, even if I think it’s a fairly routine decision, I will give myself a few extra seconds to think about it. So, I think I’ve gotten better and better at sort of that whole aspect. But the one thing I haven’t gotten better at is the devastation of defeat, I still feel the same raw emotion when I, when I when I bust. And to be honest, I don’t have a problem with that. I think that’s fine. Because I’ve actually timed that there’s a 12-minute period where I feel absolutely terrible, and I’m a horrible person. And nobody would ever want to talk to and once that 12 minutes is up, I’m back to normal. It’s just the way I process.
Brad: I can just imagine you sitting at a poker table, getting busted out, pressing your little stopwatch timer, and just raging and looking back at it like okay, I feel a little better now. Boop. Okay, twelve minutes.
Dara: It’s worse than that. It’s worse than that, Brad. But all my friends also have their 12-minute timers going like okay, well we’re not even joking message in the next 12 minutes because he will not respond.
Brad: It’s like it’s synced to all of their, all of their little Apple watches. Boop. Okay. So, going back to you know, having awareness to maybe you’re tired. Maybe you’re on autopilot. What do you do when you realize that you’re on autopilot, because you can’t just make yourself more alert sustainably. So, like in my experience, so what, what is the process for like, oh, maybe I’m too tired right now. How, how can you gear yourself back up to compete at a high level?
Dara: I basically just tried to focus on the small details. So, I just basic stuff, like go around the table and make sure that I know what everybody’s stock sizes, go around the table and sort of mentally go, okay, I think this guy is feeling tilted at the moment. And it’s going to affect this play, I think this, you know, whatever my overall, like current impressions of each player are, remind myself what my position is on the table and what my normal range is from that position would be and just sort of cultural stuff that really should be automatic, and would be automatic, if I wasn’t. If I was at my, if I was playing my game, A game, and just by sort of focusing on the individual mechanics of the process, sort of get back into the routine of, of doing what you’re supposed to do. But I do also think it’s important to start to realize that you’re not at your best and, and therefore you have to sort of consciously make a greater effort. This is something I think I had even before poker because I was by no means a top-class chess player. But I did win a few chess tournaments. And, bizarrely, they often came on occasions when I was ill or tired. And I felt that knowing that I was at our target and, and sort of being more watchful, and being aware of the fact that I might not be at my best actually made me made me better in a sense. Because I, I compensate. I think complacency is probably the biggest problem I have. There are periods where I’m in tournaments, where I feel very much in control. And then because of that, I just sort of get too complacent.
Brad: It’s interesting that you say that, that the tournament you want in chess came when you were tired. And just thinking about it logically, like at a poker tournament. For instance, well, you know what we’re talking about fatigue, after playing a long session, going into autopilot or making poor decisions. This is not singular to you, right? This is not singular, to me, fatigue playing a chess tournament is not singular to you, everybody starts feeling that eventually. And if you are the person who has awareness, that fatigue is setting in, and you’re taking that into consideration and making a focused effort to keep it together and the other folks aren’t, then there’s just a natural edge that gets built in while you’re playing at the table. So, like, even though it seems a little counterintuitive, maybe that’s a little bit of the reason why you had success in chess, when you’re feeling tired, because maybe your opponents just didn’t adjust as well as you did.
Dara: Yeah, I think that’s a very good point. And it’s certainly true in poker, like, I feel that if everybody’s playing at their best, even if I have an edge, it won’t be as big as the edge as if 12 hours later, when we’re all feeling a bit tired. Now, part of that might be that I have good natural stamina. But I think a big part of it is just my sort of corrective measures for when I’m not feeling my best or better than other people. I do see a lot of other people that are just kind of more willing to just sort of give up. And so, I’m tired of just over this now. Which, you know, I never ever reached that stage. Even if my most tired, I’ll still be giving it my all within the confines of, of what I can do at that stage.
Brad: And you mentioned that being natural, but I also know that you know, you’re your physical guy, right? You, you run a ton. How does your exercise, like what is the your routine look like behind the scenes, away from the poker table, that you sort of bring to the table that enables you to play a sustained high level of cards?
Dara: Yeah, I basically came to poker as my running career was winding down. And the kind of running I did was the really long stuff. I was, for most of my running career. And it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a career because I was recreational. But for most of my running, most of my running experience was as a, as a marathon runner. And it was a relatively, I mean, I guess I was probably somewhere in the fifth percentile. So, you know, not exactly top class, but well above average. And certainly put a lot of work into it, and effort. But then kind of at the at the very end of my marathon career, I discovered that I was actually better at the even longer stuff, which I don’t think was entirely physical. I think a lot of the longer stuff is just mental. It’s just being able to keep going past the point where any normal sane person would stop. But I did find that I was really good at that. So, I put a lot of work and effort into that. And that meant that as I came into poker, I had this sort of great natural stamina where I was used to running 100-110 miles a week in training. I had this the natural fitness that came from being able to run for in 24-hour races, etc. So that was obviously a huge stamina reserve I had at that stage. Over the course of the first few years in poker obviously diminished. I mean, I kept running but it was a case of three or four miles a day, essentially just jogging. Then a few years ago, about five years ago, I actually started to feel that I was losing a lot of the stamina that I had at the poker table, made a couple of mistakes due to tiredness just generally didn’t feel I had the same edge later on in tournaments, when I played live, so I made the decision to go back and increase my training again, to see if that would help. And it certainly helped. So, these days, basically, my routine is, five out of seven days, I get up, and the first thing I do is I go out, and I run eight miles, and then I come back, have breakfast, do whatever else I have to do, and then play online or whatever. So that’s five out of seven days. One day a week, I do a long run, which is currently 25 miles. It’s, it has gone as high as 35. And then my year tends to be centered around Vegas, I obviously don’t, I’m not able to train to the same degree when I’m in Vegas. So, when I come back from Vegas, I generally reset. I start running 16 to 18 months is my long run. And then one day a week, I don’t want at all that’s my rest day. So that’s the current schedule.
Brad: That’s a lot of running. It’s a lot of energy expenditure. And from my research and what I know, especially about exerting physical energy, what you said, makes perfect sense as far as your stamina sort of going down over time, right? Because, like I think of it in terms of a professional athlete, a professional athlete that trains every single day and pushes their body to the max, you know, our bodies are going to create as much energy as they think we need to get through the day. So, if you are training and running 20 miles a day, your body’s naturally going to create enough energy. So that to get you through that 20 miles, right. And then when you play poker, you have this excess energy, where you feel good. But then if you stop running as much over time, your body recalibrates and then the stamina sort of goes down. So that makes, it makes all the sense in the world, why you would feel like your stamina was going down a little.
Dara: Yeah, that’s very true. And one thing I just mentioned briefly is that I don’t think the benefits of just physical, the mental benefits of running are huge as well. It genuinely feels that the long run is kind of a reset button every week. And no matter how bad my week has gone, or how stressed I am about what’s going on or whatever, when I go out to do a long run, and I finished the long run, it’s all gone. It’s all been mentally processed, there’s no, there’s no residue. And I found in the periods when I wasn’t running as much that sort of stress built up over periods. If I was in a downswing, for example, I found it more difficult to deal with if I was stressed about a trip that was coming out bar, a big tournament, big life tournament that I just bust. It took longer to process. But I find that when I stick to the routine that I’m doing now, nothing lasts more than, more than a week and gets reset by the long run.
Brad: That’s a greatness bomb. And, again, from my research and learning about physical fitness, when you’re running, when you’re doing a physical activity, like your, you stress your body out, and when your body is stressed out, it’s going to focus on one thing, staying alive, like just continuing doing, like the physical activity becomes at the forefront and the anxieties, all the things in the background that have been running and plaguing you, they take a backseat, because obviously your, your body’s like, hey, that’s not super important right now, we need to survive this moment. So, for anxiety reduction, physical exercise is just an amazing, amazing tool, like you said to recalibrate, re center, every single week. Even if you, you don’t want to do it, like in my case, going to the gym and lifting weights, especially when it gets cold outside, I struggle with maintaining the habit. But when I go there, no matter how much I don’t want to, when I’m done, I feel infinitely better and always tell myself like why didn’t I do this the last three or four days? Why am I procrastinating because I feel so freaking good and so focused and so ready for action?
Dara: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s, it’s exactly the same for me with exercise. I mean, I still struggle together at the door. I mean, there isn’t a day where I get up and think maybe I’ll skip it today, whether it doesn’t look great. But I find that if I do that, then I just feel crap for the rest of the day. So, it’s really important to have, have your rituals. Probably the thing I miss most about running is that in running there was always that sense of urgency that you talked about where like what you’re doing now is that is the only thing that really matters. It’s part of a bigger overall trading scheme and you are working towards a goal, but you very much stay in the present and focus. In poker, it’s a lot more difficult, I think to keep that sort of central because you are I mean just the way our minds work. We build up stress about down swings or stuff we have coming up that we’re not particularly looking forward to etc. etc. And there isn’t the same sense of like, it’s, it’s a series of discrete tasks, and you concentrate on them completely. And then you reach your goal naturally, which is in the case of running a race, and then everything is geared towards being fit for the race. And then once the race is over, you start again.
Brad: Right. So, speaking of your blog, circling back to the blog, there was an article that I read that I, that did resonate with me and it wasn’t something that I, I’ve talked about or that my guests have talked about, on this show very often, or at all. Let me rephrase. Scammers in live poker. If you wouldn’t mind, first of all, telling a story of you getting scammed. And then secondly, I’d like to go into how to prevent that other people from getting scammed that tells to look for and stuff like that.
Dara: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve gotten scammed on two major occasions in poker. And they both kind of follow the same pattern that say, of where essentially, essentially the scammer grooms you. They recognize you as somebody who they could potentially get money out of. And they go through the process of grooming you to the point where that you’re prepared to give them that money. So, the first time grooming,
Brad: What is grooming?
Dara: Grooming, basically, it’s, it’s a term, which usually refers to sexual predators, but I think it’s apt in this case, it’s when you sort of create an emotional, the feeling of an emotional connection with the person. So, they will do what, what you want them to do. So, the first time it happened to me, I guess. Okay, let’s rewind. Basically, I started as an online poker player. And I was pretty unusual in the fact that I started really late, you know, I wasn’t a guy who started when he was 18, in mom’s basement or whatever. I’m not even sure there was online poker way back then. But I was 42 years old when I learned poker, and started playing online initially. Had a fair amount of success in the first year to the point where I was recognized as one of the better players, but was still primarily an online player. And I’m also a very social person, by nature. So, I did actually find the isolation of playing online quite difficult. So, over the year, I sort of built up on leave was MSN Messenger back then, sort of a circle of people who also played online that I, that I, that I talk to on a daily basis. And one of these guys was a guy who I never met in person, but he was seen at the time as one of Ireland’s top rising online players. And you know, we were just chatting the normal stuff that not that people talked. And then, as the, as we were coming to the end of the year, he said he was going for Supernova Elite Monsters, which was a really big thing back in the day, the rewards for that were phenomenal. And it was kind of like an all or nothing if you’ve, if you fell short, there was a huge loss in your revenue. So, every December, you always had these guys, just multi tabling their bankrolls away, while they tried to try to get to that point. And they’re generally tended to be losing in that period, because they were just playing so much. But the idea was that the, the rake back that they essentially received for becoming a supernova elite at the end would make it all worthwhile. But they were running into deposit limit problems where they could actually get the money on the sites physically fast enough. So that was a big thing back then. So, they would hit people up for transfers, to keep them in the game. And that was the way it was presented to me. It was like I can’t get enough money on I’m very near supernova lease, once it comes in, I’ll get the money. And I get it back to you. And, and it just seemed reasonable to me. Because I knew myself, they can be difficult to get money onto sites with deposit limits, etc. I also think money is different for online poker players or poker players in general than it is for the normal public. Because it’s not just money. It’s not just stuff that you need to buy groceries with. It’s also actually the tool of your trade, and predict and even more so back then when staking wasn’t really a thing. So, like, if you ran out of money for whatever reason, you basically lost your ability to make money as well, you lost your livelihood. So that made me naturally very sympathetic. And so, I saw, I was transferring money to him over a period. And then obviously, it came out that he had other issues, coming issues and so on. And he owed not just people in Ireland, he owed people all over the world, vast sums of money, which he was never going to be able to pay. And he just pretty much disappeared, went to ground. That was the first occasion. The second occasion was a more high-profile player and I named him on my blog because unfortunately, he died a few years ago so I felt it was okay to name him. Max Heinzelmann who was seen as one of the top rising Germans. He played a very famous hand against Shaun Deeb in the World Series main event, he came second and back to back EPTS. It was known he was crushing on Main tournament. So, he was not exactly the kind of guy who would have expected to have monetary difficulties. And exactly the same pattern. We were sort of friends over a period. And I think, I do think in this case that the friendship was genuine. But I think at a certain point, when he ran into financial difficulties, I moved from being somebody who was a friend to somebody who get money out of and he was railing me when I had my biggest ever online score. My job Super Tuesday. Can’t remember the year. But immediately afterwards, he contacted me and said, oh, are you coming to this tournament in London in a few weeks? And I was like, yeah. He said, look, I have an excessive sterling. So, if you send me stars all the way before,
Brad: What is an excess of sterling mean for the US audience?
Dara: Basically, he had cash. British, British pounds cash which he had won in some tournament, which he had, which he hadn’t put in his bank account or whatever. So, it’s not unusual for live poker players to be carrying at least in Europe 10 different currencies. Yeah, there are a few players I know have like safes. And if I need currency, they’re the first person I’ll ask, like, do you have any Greek drachmas? Or do you have any whatever the currency wherever I’m going, because they generally will, because you know, poker players are, you know, you go to the bank, you get hit by the 5% conversion rate or whatever. So, they will think well, okay, well, I might be going back to Greece next year, so I’ll just stick the money in the safe. So that was the way he presented it. It was like I have this. I have too much starting now. And I don’t want to take the bank cash. And you don’t want to take the bank get on the other side of converting Euros to Sterling. So, let’s try that. Yeah. So, I just sent him the money on Starz. And again, it was the same pattern and he sort of fought me off in London, called me off for the next time. And then he was he was eventually outage as, as, as owing lots of people money.
Brad: When did you start feeling bad? Like, what were the thoughts going through your head? Was it when he didn’t show up initially? And he said he had the excess of Sterling? Was that the first like, oh,
Dara: No, that wasn’t the first because I still had this vision of him as I knew he was still crushing online. And he was doing well live as well. Didn’t know that the underlying prop issue in this case was a sports betting problem. So, everything he was making in poker was was, was being lost on other forms of gambling, that generally tends to be the case. And that, that in itself is a warning sign anytime any of your friends appears to be preoccupied with other forms of gambling. That’s sort of a warning sign of gambling addiction. I think actually, the first indication I had was, a few months later, he was at the Irish open. And another friend of mine was big into sports and sports betting. And he just seemed to want to talk to him all the time about sports betting. And it was the first time I realized, oh, he actually has a lot of, he puts a lot of time and effort into this and presumably money. And I remember I even tried to get him into, into the commentary box to commentate on the final table. And he wasn’t interested because he was going off to watch some American football match up, he had a large bet on. So, that was kind of the first warning sign for me to this guy might not have as much money as I think. And then it was only a few months later that basically the whole house of cards came down.
Brad: It’s really tough. Like you said, online poker, even put live poker, in some situations can be an isolating journey. You can kind of feel alone. So, for anybody that is predisposed to scamming people or wanting to take advantage of people, I guess I want to say predator. Poker players are fairly easy targets because they have money and they feel lonely. And so, they want to help people out, you know, they want to make a friend, they want those relationships and that connection, and some folks. And granted probably not a large percentage of people will do that. I would say it’s actually fairly small in the poker world, but I’d love to get every small get your thoughts.
Dara: Yeah, no, it’s really small. This is the thing like most poker players are far more honest, on this stuff than average than the general public. And that’s why we have this bizarre situation where we’re willing to give people that we don’t know that that well large sums of money and we expect to get it back. I mean, when I tell these stories to people outside poker, they’re all like, why the hell are you giving money to this young German kids that you barely know or this guy that you’ve only spoken to online, and it does seem completely abnormal to them, but for me, it just, it seems normal because most poker players are very trustworthy. Most time, there’s no issue. I’ve done so many transfers over the years, and there has never been an issue with the vast bulk of them. And like, I never want to reach the stage where I’m just incredibly suspicious of everybody, not willing to help anybody. I think that will be a bigger cost than you know, the money that it has cost me over the years. But I have gotten better at recognizing the signs that maybe this might be one of the bad ones. This person might be slightly, there’s something off with them. The last time somebody tried to scam me, I did actually learn from the experience of the two previous times. And I did sort of spot the same things in it again, and there were warning signs and they prevented me from, from getting scammed on medication. So, as he started sort of learned my lesson, but, but, but I, I’m reluctant to talk about scamming and I had I held back on the blog for years, because I think there’s a danger that people who don’t know too much of poker will read it and they gobble their old TVs anyway. I mean, that’s just the way poker appears. You can’t, you can’t trust a poker player. And that, that absolutely is not the case. Most poker players are incredibly trustworthy on that stuff.
Brad: Yes. And here’s a situation that may, I don’t think I’ve talked about publicly, but I was playing in a home game. And a friend of mine came or not a friend of mine. He’s a friend of mine now. I wouldn’t say that we were friends then, we were more acquaintances. We’d played with each other. He’s a movie producer. And I floated him. I believe it was $20,000. He lost, he lost in the game, I floated it to him to pay me back the next day, which is pretty, can seem pretty insane, to just regular folks listening, and he actually pays me back. But I let a billionaire collect the money, who was a poker player, but a really bad poker player. But nonetheless, super successful in life, the billionaire got the 20k. And then instead of paying me back, he paid some of his markers off so that you know, his wife or family wouldn’t find out about how much money he was losing, and then basically slow paid me over time. And then eventually, he eventually unfortunately passed away. I do consider, I do consider us friends, but he’s still passed away, owing me money, which you think, oh, random guy, you play poker with who’s like a Hollywood producer. Obviously, way bigger threat of never paying you back and disappearing, than A Billionaire like a confirmed certifiable billionaire. But that just wasn’t the case. I think that like integrity, just it’s person to person and poker, especially integrity is so important to poker players, because for the most part, it’s a long-term thing, right? Only the most desperate of folks are going to sacrifice in the short term to scam somebody out of a few $1,000 to be ostracized
Brad: Over the long term, like there’s this, this social accountability that is in play with poker players that like once you get out as a scammer. Once you get out of it as that guy, you, it crushes you, you basically become persona non grata at poker tournaments, which is a worse fate than, you know, just it’s a worse fate than having to pay back money that maybe necessary that you don’t necessarily have.
Dara: Yeah, yeah, for sure. It’s definitely true that you can’t just sort of judge a book by the cover. The, the two, again, the two guys who scam me, they are people that I think 99% of people could very easily have been taken in by and would have taught were naturally trustworthy people, just because the way, the way they carry themselves, the way they came across. There was one other occasion I’m obviously not going to say the name where I lent money to somebody at a tournament and all my friends that are you absolutely crazy. Everybody knows that guy’s massively in debt, and you’re never going to see that money again. I did see the money again, because I knew that that well, I didn’t know. But I felt that that kind of was just the kind of guy that he would do whatever he had to do to, to repay everybody. And so, so like, again, the danger when anytime you bring up scamming is that people will think, oh, well, it’s just prevalent and everybody’s added, but it really isn’t. It’s like 1% of people or whatever it is in poker, but they have such a devastating effect in the community.
Dara: Yeah, not who goes around posting articles about, oh, I successfully transferred this person money and they paid me back and like it’s a square deal, right? Nobody knows that. That’s not a story because that’s what’s supposed to happen. What gets publicized are the scams, which makes it seem like the percentage of people scamming is much higher than the reality really is.
Dara: Yeah, sure.
Brad: So, I know you got, you got started playing poker later on in life. And then you went pro fairly quickly, right, within a year?
Dara: Within a year. Yeah.
Brad: What were the biggest fears and obstacles that you dealt with when you turned pro?
Dara: This is the this is kind of, yeah, that’s a that’s a really interesting question. I haven’t thought about this in detail before. But I think first of all, I don’t remember any, any significant fears. I don’t remember being afraid this isn’t going to work, or I’m going to lose money. I, I should say I was financially successful already. So therefore, it was just something I was going to try. And if I lost money out of it, it wasn’t going to make, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world. It was just something I wanted to try in that sense. But I was very lucky in that I was a winning player, literally from day one. I mean, this is back in 2008. So, poker was just incredibly soft at the time. And I am naturally good at games. So, I did hit the ground running in that sense, I almost certainly run really well, for the first year as well.
Brad: Would you, would you do, right before? Like consuming poker content? What did the process of you know, hitting the ground running, being a winning player straight away look like?
Dara: Yeah, I mean, basically, the reason why I came into poker was I was, I was 42 years old. And I was aware that my running career was winding down. In fact, I was quite surprised that he hadn’t even lasted that long. And I, and I was like, okay, well, this is my, my running career is definitely going to be over by the age of 50. There’s no way you just don’t see topless, even ultra-runners in at that age. So, I need to find something else. Because I’d always had something that I was, you know, doing at a high level competitively. For running, there was a chess period, there was a backgammon period, there was a bridge period. So, I was looking around for something else. And then I saw poker on TV one night, and obviously, I just looked at the people who were playing, and some of the guys who were being talked about as you know, some of the top players, and they were older, so I was like, okay, well, that’s obviously something that older people can do. You know, we’re physical component to it. I am naturally good at games. I know that. So why don’t I try that. And I, maybe by the age of 50, then I’ll be able to, you know, play at that level. Now, what actually happened was my brother was already playing, and he was, you know, semiprofessional, essentially, he was
Brad: Full circle back to the brother.
Dara: Yeah, the brother again, and he had never told me he was being poker because he didn’t want me to play poker, because he was like, I think he knew deep down that if I played poker, I was probably going to get better, better than him and then ruin the game for him. And so
Brad: Has it?
Dara: But, but. Oh, yeah, yeah. He, he quit within two years. Once it became obvious that I was the better player, and he was never going to reach that level. It was really, but, but he was really helpful at the start, he was like, okay, well, you’re going to play poker now. So, I guess I have to, I might as well be the one to teach you. So, he taught me initially, he basically just taught me like a really basic tag style. We probably call it a textile back in the day, you know, 6% hands.
Brad: Ultra-net, ultra-net.
Dara: Ultra, absolute ultra-net. And, and then he said, okay, well, we don’t want you to lose money. So, you just play free rolls online. There were lots of free rolls back then way more than there are now. So, second night playing free roll, I came like second in some 10,000-runner thing, not really knowing what I was doing, which is running really well. And, you know, got 150 bucks or whatever it was, and I was like, okay, what do I do with this now? I never actually deposited a cent online, which is kind of bizarre thinking back but I was like, okay, I have $150 now, what do I do? And he was like, okay, we’ll put you playing limit poker because you’ll lose the money really slowly that way.
Brad: A lot of confidence here from the brother.
Dara: A lot of confidence. So, he taught me how to play limit and I played low stakes limit. But I have a naturally obsessive personality anyway. So, by now I was like all in on poker, mentally. It was just all I was thinking about. I was reading all the books. I was consuming all the content you could find, which was not that much back then it has to be said, this is pre-training videos, pre-solvers, pre-all that stuff
Brad: Really? In 2008?
Dara: I think 2008. I, my memories card is card runner stockage a couple of years in now, it might be just that I was unaware of it. But
Brad: I’m pretty sure card runners was around in 2008.
Dara: It’s possible. Yeah, it’s possible. I certainly didn’t become aware of it, I think until 2009 or 2010. But it may have been around. But yeah, I read, read all the all the books most of them, which obviously haven’t stood the test of time very well. But we’re probably good enough for the day, moved off to the stake levels very quickly. Can’t really overstate how bad people were back then. Transitioned from a limit to no limit. So, within a few months, I was already at the stage where I was making more money playing online than I was from my day job, which was a technology consultant at that time.
Brad: How much if you don’t mind? Well, how much were you making comparatively?
Dara: I was making about 10k a month from poker at that point. And slightly less than that from the technology. Part of it was I wasn’t, I was obviously spending more time playing poker, I was freelance on the technology stuff. So, I kind of worked when I wanted to. And obviously, most of the time, I just wanted to be playing poker. So, I was doing that. So, there was, there was a year where I was nominally doing both, but doing more and more poker, also ran really well in the first major life tournament that I played, and ended up. Nominally, I won the tournament, but actually, there was a five way deal. And I just had the most chip, so I got the most money. And that was, that was everything that was eight months after I learned the game. And then I had a few other live results,
Brad: How big was that score?
Dara: Yeah. And had a few other results. Actually, I do remember, there was a funny period just after that result, because I literally came from nowhere. Nobody knew who I was because I only played online walking off the street, and ended up getting my picture taken with a big novelty check. And we were going to who the hell is that guy? You know, 40-year-old man in a suit we’ve never heard of. So, there was a period where I was playing whatever tournaments were on in Ireland. And I remember maybe two months after my results, somebody, I, I guess I put a bad beat on somebody and they say, that they snort it to me, you’re the Jimmy Gold of Irish poker. Meaning I just, I just had one result. I remember that rankles. And I was like, okay, well, I’m going to prove, prove him wrong. So, I put more time and effort into playing live. And I started making final tables with good regularity in Ireland. So, so after about a year, I was like, okay, well, there’s actually no point in me doing the other stuff now. This poker thing is working out for me. And the online was very, very dependable.
Brad: Had your game evolved from like ultra-nit at that point?
Dara: That’s a good question. Thinking back, it had started to evolve. There were actually a couple of I would say eureka moments for me over the course. I do remember the first year I went to Vegas, my brother came with me because he was playing at the time. And I was taking him and we were bought alternates. I mean, I can’t overstate how just how easy we were we you know, we were folding ace queen onto the gun. We were folding pocket eights on the gun. We were folding everything but queens plus two or three bear. That was the start with it. And it worked in Ireland, because people. First of all, there were no aunties and Irish Germans back then, at any point. So that obviously meant you should be playing reasonably tight
Brad: Favors the nits. Yep.
Dara: Yep, very, very boring. And then people just paid no attention. I mean, the first year I was playing, I remember this clearly, I fold every hand for four hours, every single hand for four hours. And then I opened under the guard. And a guy got into 100 big blinds preflop with ace four suited against my aces. And somebody said to him afterwards, like we’re you not paying attention. That’s the first time he paid. He played. And I always remember his response. He was, yeah, but I thought he was just setting up the image. And that’s the way people thought back then it was like, any excuse not to fold, any, it was like, it was a, it was a, it was a saber swinging contest of who’s not going to back down. So literally, all you had to do was sit there and wait for the nuts. That was incredibly effective in Ireland. Go across the WSOP, completely different thing, that strategy did not work. We were, I was making good starts and then just blinding after tournaments are finding myself with the six big blinds and, and not even knowing what to do with him at that stage. And I do remember we had, we were playing the, what’s now the daily Deepstack. In the Rio, I think it had a different name back then. So, we were playing that every day.
Brad: What’s the buy in?
Dara: The buy in would be like 200 bucks or something. So, we always seem to end up that myself, my brother and we had the same experience over and over again. 30k start construction, whatever it was, we’d meet at the first break, one of us would have 35 and the other 40. We’d meet at the second break, we’d be up to 40 and 45, which was now 10 big blinds, and we’d be gone by the third break. And I remember, there was this player at our table and he was very chatty. He was incredibly loose. And he was playing a totally different style to us. And I was like, we were walking home one night and I said to my brother, have you noticed that that guy is there every single night after we bust and he always has a big stack and he’s playing completely differently from us. And he was adamant. That guy is just a donkey. He’s playing absolute terrible. He’s running really well. You should see the shittiest showing up with. But, but I mean, he was playing correctly. On an aside, years later, I realized that that unknown guy was Mike there. Before Mike Lee, I was famous. But Mike was playing a completely different style to us, which was the correct style in that approach. So, for me, that was eureka moment. And it was like my stuff my brother doesn’t understand about this game, he thinks it’s just a matter of sitting and waiting for knots, and then getting somebody to pay you off. So that was sort of a, an inflection point. And it was around the same time that I moved from playing limit cash online to sir and goes initially, and then later Jordans.
Brad: Do you think like, so going back a little bit in your story, you consumed all the books, you consumed the, all the poker knowledge that you could get your hands on. For folks out there, I’m always curious if you know, the books, if you found success in your poker career, because you read those books, or because you’re the type of human being that seeks out all of the knowledge to apply it to their game. Because it’s, it’s this interesting thing that I think about because when you tell folks Yeah, you can be successful playing poker, this is what I did ABC, what if they’re not built to be able to be a successful poker player? Could you give your thoughts on that?
Dara: Yeah, it’s, it’s definitely the second one for me. It’s being the type of person, I’m a very competitive person, and I want to win. But that’s not actually the primary motivation when I play any game. I want to figure out the strategy. I want to be good at the game. I don’t want to win just to blind luck, or, or whatever I want to win, because I’m actually, I’m actually good at the game. And I figured it out. And for me, the interest has always been the sort of intellectual challenge of the game. And that’s what drives me. And initially, it was like, read all the books, and these people are seen as the top in their field and see what they know. And then, but over time, the way that we learn poker has changed. Obviously, we move from books to videos, and then people consume videos, and I consume lots of videos as well. A lot of players in my generation, the way we improved was by forming friendships and relationships with other players and talking to hands and being a sort of a collective mind on that stuff. And that was that was very important. And then around 2014, or whenever, when the solver started to take over. I was like, one of the first adopters. I was the first adopter in our group of solvers, and really just poured myself into working with solvers. So, there’s always been this thirst for what’s the correct answer? What’s the correct strategy? How do you play this game? What’s the best way to play this game? Rather than just how do I win? How do I make money? I think that’s the key. And I’m now at the stage where I coach a lot of students as well. And I do find that the guys who’s assertive are most interested in poker as an intellectual puzzle, and as a strategy game, rather than just I want to win the Irish open and have my picture on the, on the cover the Irish Times. They’re the people who tend to do the best. Because they are continually motivated to keep working, keep putting in the effort, keep learning. And that’s sort of what you need to achieve any sort of longevity, I think.
Brad: Yeah, have faith or on a few months ago, whenever, whenever this airs, it’ll be a few months ago. And, you know, he talks about learning, you know, learning was his love in poker. He didn’t realize it at the time. But he it wasn’t the pursuit of championships, it wasn’t the pursuit of money. It was learning about poker and being the best that he could be. And when it got to the point to where he was spending more of his time playing and chasing accolades and money and titles, and not learning, the joy kind of seeped out of the game for him. He realized that poker wasn’t making him happy, because his real love was learning. And I think that, applying that to those types of students, right, they love the process of learning and look at it as a puzzle mystery that they got to put it together, and then go out and perform and do their best. It’s not about the, you know, the podium, winning the gold medals and all the money. It’s about just the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of learning, and then the competing on top of that.
Dara: Yeah, yeah, that resonates very strongly with me. The games that I’ve played before poker, I did reach a high level and every single game that I put any decent amount of time into. The thing that got me out of the game eventually was basically just reaching a point where I thought this is I’ve gone as far as I can go now, I’m not going to get any better at this game. I could go on playing it. I could go on winning tournaments. I could go on being outwardly successful, but I’ve reached the level that is the absolute best level that I can, I can, I can reach and that was frustrating. I didn’t want to just keep going through the motions then so I was like, okay, well, that’s, that’s fine. The next thing, luckily, I haven’t reached that stage in poker and like, I still feel that I’m improving as a poker player, there’s so much I still need to improve on. So, I mean, the great thing about poker is it’s just so vast that you never feel you’ve even scratched the surface in terms of what you can learn. And I’m still kind of very much at that stage.
Brad: There’s also the gratification issue too, where even no matter how much you do learn, you know, I’ve played millions of hands over my career, and I’ve still gone on down swings, where I go to sleep at night and think that I just fucking forget everything that I thought I knew, like, am I just, am I been, have I just been running good for the last 12 years of my life, like, because variance can, can cause that? So, there’s also that drive of like, no matter how well you do, no matter how well you’re playing, again, going back to fate or at the height of his powers. He said he had a losing year when he felt like he was playing his best poker. And so, you never really get the gratification of like, just everything happening the way that you anticipate or the way that you want, like I assume, you know, in running or in chess, the best players tend to win, right? The best athlete tends to win, the best higher thinker tends to win. And poker is just a different ballgame. As far as that’s concerned.
Dara: Yeah, I think the great lesson than the poker teaches us, which applies to life is that in most things, it’s not there’s not, you know, there’s not a direct correlation between who’s the best or, or who even puts in the most work has to succeed to this huge variance element is random element. I think what attracts a lot of people to pursuits, like chess, and sports, in general, is just the purity of the fact that the better player always wins. And there’s, that, that feels just, that’s, that’s the reward world unfortunately, doesn’t work like that. Poker is far more representative of the reality. Whereby, yes, if you’re talented, and you put in the work, there’s a very, there’s a very strong probability you will succeed in the long term. But in the short term, you’re going to have these periods where you feel like absolute dogshit when you feel like you’re terrible at poker, you don’t understand anything. And the past successes you had were just basically down to you running good. And being a lucky donkey.
Brad: Right, variants, humans always underestimate variants and randomness. And, you know, like, you can get it in 70% favorite and yeah, it’s easy. You can lose 7-8-9-10 times in a row, it’s within the realm of possibility. But, but people want immediate feedback. And this is sort of the my, the, the mental game of poker is like I have, you know, people send me messages and they’re like, hey, Brad, we’re watching you on street. You know, I’m watching you on stream, like, does it ever get to you? Do you ever get bugged? I hear you say all the time, like, well, you know, I talk about my thought process, I make my decision. And it turns out to be, you know, wrong, right? Like, I call the river and I lose. And then I just say, yeah, I still I stand by my thought process, I stand by my decision, and then you just move on. And that I think that’s something that people can’t really wrap their minds around, that you can do everything correctly, you can play a hand perfectly and you can still be wrong, lose the pot. And then you just have to say okay, and move on to the next hand.
Dara: Yeah, and investors you have in so many ways, because it doesn’t just mess you up in the sense of when you do the right thing and get the wrong outcome. But you know, you can see other people do the wrong thing and get, get a favorable outcome and, and that, that messes you, messes with you as well. You can, you can, you can reach the point where you think, well, none of this stuff matters. It doesn’t matter how hard I work or how I will I play it, it all comes down to dumb luck in the end anyway. Poker has, I mean, the thing I feel about poker is that it, it will literally probe for every possible weakness you could have in your psyche and it will and if it finds one, it will hammer that point home and that will swipe, will destroy you in the end. Over the course career iPad, kills poker friends who were much better poker players than me in the in the technical sense and who had periods of great success. But then in the end the game got them that they had some fatal flaw or be that bankroll management, to be that not being able to handle down swings emotionally be that you know, it found something in their psyche which was a flaw and, and that’s what ultimately destroyed them. It’s very, very hard to changing
Brad: Yes. Spending strip clubs I mean, I’ve seen it all firsthand just guys torch the roll-on fire. And it’s very sad, like the all the all of these guys that flame out in my, in my view, it’s, it’s very sad to see somebody who, like you said could be it, could, is a world class player, but can’t manage to overcome their demons and really be successful in the way that they should. That’s why I think long, longevity in the poker world is a thing to be celebrated because not many folks, when I first started playing in 2004, I’ll never forget when, when online poker went away in Black Friday in 2011, my first trip was the commerce casino, I was playing the 10-20 no limit. And we’re talking about online poker, right. You know, I told them my username at the table. And like it came out that like four of the nine players at the table, were all regs on ultimate bet. And like we played against each other all the time, right? Like it just this, you know, this thing that happened. And then I never saw almost any of them again, after like a few trips. I saw them a few times, and then they just all sort of disappeared into the wind.
Dara: I remember the first drove us up after Black Friday, and all these guys who only played online showed up because they didn’t know what else to do. And they were like, well, I have a role, but I can’t play online anymore. It was bizarre. I was like, oh, my God, like poker is going to be so much tougher now. But most of them did wander away, as you say, you know, while like poker is a difficult the grind in itself. And for those of us who primarily made our careers online, it’s so different. You know, I mean, obviously, you can have down swings online and all the rest of it, but you kind of know that if you put in the volume over the year, you’ll be rewarded almost certainty, whereas you know, who knows how long a live downswing, one for possibly for life.
Brad: Yeah, and that was an edge that was kind of built in with me when Black Friday hit was that I started out my career playing live poker. And I had continued playing in home games around town, and just continued playing live poker. So, I was very comfortable in the setting, and understood that like, hey, the quantity is not here in live poker. So, the quality every single hand absolutely has to be. You.\ have to know your shit. You have to hunker down and learn about human behavior, learn about physical tells, learn the psychology of human beings so that you can maximize the time that you have playing live poker, because you only get 35 hands an hour, versus a few 100 or online or depending on how many tables you’re playing. So, you just absolutely have to maximize your time. And the reality is your win rate, the variance should be much smaller playing live, because the fields, the competition is way weaker. Number one, so your win rate is super-duper high compared to online. You just have to, you just have to adapt and really dive into the live poker thing. But some, you know, there’s less stimulation too, because you get so many fewer hands that I think drives a lot of the online players a little crazy playing live poker, but I’m a firm believer that I think the future of poker is back to live poker. Overall, I think online right now I’m, I’m very concerned with online moving forward. I’d like to know your thoughts on that too, because I had Darren Elias on and we talked about AI, and bots and bots plus AI being an existential threat to online poker. What are your thoughts?
Dara: Yeah, I feel I feel like I’ve kind of all almost been through this already. Because before I played online poker, I played online backgammon. And online backgammon was killed in the end by the bots. And that is probably the biggest concern for online poker. Now, I know from, from Unibet, and the other sites that I’ve worked with that there is a lot of effort being put in by this sort of, what’s the word I’m looking for, that sort of reputable sites to make sure that bots are, are eliminated, and they put a lot of effort into catching bots. But yeah, that’s a huge concern. There are other concerns as well. I mean, as governments become more and more aware of online poker, they tend to regulators. And obviously, we’ve had the devastation already a Black Friday. But that has spread to other countries as well in Europe. And there are certain countries where you can play online poker, there are certain countries where its ring fenced. And that just seems to be something which will grow over time. So, the sort of like the good old days of whenever we could also go on to PokerStars, or full tilt,
Brad: Party blog
Dara: Or party poker and just play that I don’t think they’re ever coming back. And then another issue is the, the way a lot of sites are viewing poker, they don’t view poker as just something in itself. They viewed it almost as a gateway drug to other forms of online gambling, and they’re more, they’re far more interested in getting people who play poker into playing slots, or roulette or whatever, which is where they make more money from. So again, one of the reasons why I love working with you and about is that they do see poker as a separate thing and they’re actually going the opposite way of trying to get people from other forms of gambling into poker, rather than just seeing poker as a gateway drug. But yeah, there are so many concerns. I am not very confident in the long term for long for online poker at all. I hope I’m wrong, because I love online poker. It has been the biggest passion of my life for the last 10 years, 12 years. But I do feel it’s getting tougher. I mean, there are other issues as well. The types of games which are being pushed now are lower edge games. So it’s almost like they’re moving away from the idea that you can be approached just when I was just everybody’s gambling like roulette. And yes,
Brad: What do you think about that, about this narrative in the poker world? Because I have my very passionate thoughts, but they could be very biased thoughts, because of what I’ve done for a living for all of these years of, you know, this wreck versus pro and it’s constantly how do we make the game better for recreational players, yada, yada, yada?
Dara: I absolutely hated it. I remember when it started. We, I can’t remember what year it was. But we were warned by somebody that we knew within PokerStars that this was, this was coming, they were going to try and get the pros out of the game, because they saw us as competing for the recreation of money. And they didn’t want us to go on taking money. I hate this idea that it’s rec versus reg. Because it isn’t. We’re all, we’re all poker players. And a lot of poker, a lot of the appeal of poker is aspirational. People look at pros, and they want to be a professional poker player, or they want to play with professional poker players, even if they know themselves, that they’re not winning players. A lot of the guys that I coach are people who are very, very successful in other areas of life. And they love the fact that they can go to a poker tournament, and they can sit down with a professional player and they can pit their wits. And then yes, they know they don’t have an edge, but they, they want to give it their all. They, it’s not this predatory atmosphere that, that sites PokerStars in particular are trying to push where they were the to the regs are treating directs just as pure prey, and the wrecks are need to be protected for them in some sense. Recs, recs, like being able to play with professionals. They aspire to being professionals, in some cases themselves, in some cases, they just aspire to playing with professionals. But the whole beauty of the game is that if you’re a very good tennis player, you can’t just show up at the US Open and play against Roger Federer in the first round. You, that’s just not, it’s just not possible. But if you’re a very good poker player, or if you’re a recreational poker player, you can show up the World Series, you can enter any event you want, if you have the money, and you can be put at the same table as Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu. And I think that’s a huge part of the appeal of poker. Like when you talk to recreational players, they, they talk about the times they played against big professional players. That’s the way I think poker should be celebrated. Not oh, we have to protect you from all these horrible pros who are trying to take your money so instead you can you can play all these formats where you are, you’re not, you’re not going to win, I mean, get that out of your head, you’re not going to win long term, but at least you’re going to give all the money to us the poker sites that people are really needed. And that’s just the way I feel poker is gone. And it’s, it’s horrible. And unfortunately, some of the rhetoric around has seeped into recreationalists mindset where they, they do kind of feel that poker pros are predatory in some way and somebody they have to be protected against. And you hear all this stuff about all you know, the Germans, with their hoodies, and all this stuff. And it’s like, it’s, it’s very unfortunate. And I really hate the fact that the poker sites have done this. It’s a cheap shot. I don’t think it’s good for the game long term. I don’t think it’s good for them long term. In the short term, yeah, maybe they get to keep all of the weaker recreational players money in, in the form of deposits. But I think for the game to flourish long term, you need the sort of traditional, more traditional thing of it being a big player pool of, you know, some racks, most boats, lots of racks and some regs and a sort of symbiotic relationship between the two rather than a
Dara: Yeah, purely adversarial.
Brad: I have a, I have a, I can feel the fire burning inside of my stomach right now just thinking about this. Because number one, okay, so it’s foolish number one, because you’re never going to, you’re never going to get through what you’re hoping to get through. Like you’re never, if you’re never going to get the pros out. Like if that’s your aim, you’re never going to be able to create something that’s like wreck only type of situation, that’s just not going to happen. So, number one, it’s an impossible venture. And number two pokers a meritocracy. In one other field can I devote years and years of my life learning, growing, trying to be the best improving myself on a daily basis, and then say no, no you don’t get to compete because you’re too good. You’re too, you’re so much better than the other players that you don’t get to compete, right? It’s an aspirational thing, as well. Because growing up, what do you want to do when you start playing cards, you want to be a professional, this is the dream. And when you take away the pros, you kill that dream. What am I playing poker for? Oh, if I get to be a pro, I don’t get to play anymore. Oh, well, that’s great. Like, why am I investing this time and energy into learning or pursuing this hobby? So, to me, it drives me absolutely crazy seeing these posts, you know, on social media, or wherever it is. And I just think to myself, like, hey, you know, we got too many professionals, who are CEOs of these online poker companies, let’s have an amateur come in and just run this company for a week or two weeks. And, you know, why not? There’s too many pros running the company, right? I think we need to get some diversification there. It just, it drives me nuts, that way of thinking. And if you go back to full tilt, which gained a ton of market share in the US, you know, their tagline was play with the pros, period. And they got a ton of traction, they marketed the pros, they were read on their site, and people loved playing with the professionals.
Dara: It was genius marketing back in the day, and I like it never goes away. Because even now, to a certain extent, sites like stars have managed to smear pros and sort of pro becomes a bad thing. But even now, still, people want to go and watch players playing on Twitch. And they, and they become the new stars in a sense. I mean, people want to have something to aspire to. They don’t want to just too old to be random people playing and whoever wins, wins. It infuriates me. I’ve had these conversations with people in the industry. And they say, well, look, this is the way it is. And everything else, in bingo, in blackjack, and there are no long-term winners, only the site wins. And people accept that. Yeah, that’s fine for those things. But the people who play those are different from the people who want to play poker. It’s a completely different appeal. And you can’t just say, we want to turn everybody into the same as a bingo player where they’re all happy to lose. And there are no stars, because that’s not the appeal of poker.
Brad: It’s interesting to me that, you know, executives could be so out of touch with the pulse of the actual game itself. And what makes it great, you know? If poker was bingo, I would have never played poker, I would have never aspired to be a professional poker player. What drew me in was the skill element. It’s a human game. I can beat somebody. I can out think them, outsmart them and win money over the long term. That was a huge draw for me to get into the game in the first place. Like you said, introduce some carnival games that reduce the edges. Okay, like, what’s the point here? I mean,
Dara: Yeah, at some point, poker isn’t poker anymore. If you, if you change all the things about it, which made it unique and different from the other forms of gambling, then it’s not poker. It’s a, it’s a poker themed, new thing, but it’s not poker.
Brad: And we talked beforehand, before in the pre-interview, you know, we’re talking about our podcasts and sponsorships, and all of these things, right. And, you know, I have my platform, I have enhanceyouredge.com. And thinking about sending somebody, thinking about sponsoring a site that only wants recreational players who are going to just give their money to the website over the long term physically makes me ill, like I could represent places, you know, offshore, blackjack places, whatever, that give a ton of money back and affiliate revenue. But it makes me sick, thinking that I’m just leading my audience to the slaughter like lambs, like to be crushed. This is not like, this is not my vision of the podcast, it’s not my vision of Enhance Your Edge. It’s to empower people, to help people, to give people a guidebook on reaching a goal of being able to make money with a hobby, or make more money if they are already a professional. So, there’s just, there’s these ethical thoughts that come into my head when all this is concerned, and it just the way things are going, I hate it. I can’t express how much I hate the way things are going and then, you know, with a public company too, you know, like Party Poker as a public company, for instance. And that was why they had to leave the US. Initially, you, you have to adhere to the stockholders and increase profits. And because of that, also incentivizes you to, you know, make as much money as you possibly can from each individual player.
Dara: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s very sad the way it has gone and especially shout out to people like Vicky Coren, who took a stand early when they recognize what the way the poker industry was moving. And she turned down what was presumably a very lucrative deal with stars and said, you know, this just isn’t for me anymore. On a lesser scale, like Unibet is my, is not actually the first I’ve represented, it’s the third and one of the earlier sites, they came to me at one point and said, look, we’re not making very much money from poker, but we are making money from the other types of gambling. So, can you start doing something which encourages the people who follow you across to the other gambling? And I drew the line, I said, no, I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to turn everybody into an online roulette player. And that’s just not something I feel I could ethically do. People come into poker to play a strategy game, which has a gambling component, but they can win out if they play well enough, that’s not the case in roulette, or any of the other games that you’re trying to push.
Brad: Yeah, I already feel bad enough when, you know, my guys play poker, and they can’t win. And they lose. And they come to me frustrated and suffering and in pain. And ask me questions about mindset and stuff like that, like, I already feel bad enough for like my students, for instance, right? Like I have students, they pay me money to improve their game. And some of them are not successful, right? Like some of them just, they don’t get it, or they don’t put in the work necessary. And it doesn’t end up being a successful thing. And I feel so much guilt. And I feel so bad for these people, that leading them to a thing where it is impossible to win is just, it’s unfathomable to me like I could, I could never do it, I just can’t make myself do it.
Dara: Yeah, I’ve had some students or some guys who come to me for mentoring over the years. And it has become clear to me at a certain point that they just don’t have what it takes, that they can’t be winning players. It’s, it’s almost always a temperamental issue, or a character issue rather than death, he just can’t learn the technical aspects. And I feel that I have an obligation at that point, then to tell them, look, this is not going to happen for you. You can go on playing but you’re never going to be winning player. You’re almost certainly never going to be a winning player. You’re, you’re, you’re certainly never going to be the professional player that you aspire to be. So, if you continue playing, you have to make peace with that. And that’s your decision then. But you can’t, you can’t proceed on a delusional basis that I just had to put more work in, or I just have to get luckier or I have to something else has to happen. And then I’ll be magically transformed into a winning player. One of the things that I’ve discovered through staking, I used to do a lot of, a lot more staking. And it was basically a group of four Irish players together who did staking, and we all had this sort of survivor bias or whatever you want to call it, where because we had all transformed ourselves into winning players who were making a living from the game, we assumed everybody can do it. So, you just have to find guys who have some sort of aptitude for poker, teach them what we know. And then off they go. And very, very quickly found out that that’s not the case. Most people in fact, don’t have what it takes. And it’s as I said, it’s almost never just a technical knowledge problem. It’s just the other stuff, mental game issues or whatever. But most people don’t quite have what it takes. And they have to realize that.
Brad: And that old saying that it’s a hard way to make an easy living. There’s so much truth in such a little cliché. And for your students that you tell, when you tell them these are hard conversations, I know I’ve had them myself, where it’s like, okay, what you, what you’re dreaming of, what your goal is, is just not going to happen. And those are very tough conversations. But you’re doing, you’re still doing your student a service by informing them, so that they don’t waste more time, so that they don’t waste more money. And just letting them know that that these are your thoughts as an expert, and saving them some suffering and some future pain, which again, it’s very easy to just keep taking money to somebody that, from somebody that you know, is never going to get it, right?
Dara: Yeah, yeah, I don’t doubt that the runs group has coaches out there who continue to feed. But, but returning to the point of like, the temperamental thing. It’s, it’s something my chipper is called was David Lapin says a life which is one of the, one of the biggest things that sort of good poker players have is they know when to quit. We know when to fold. Folding is a huge part of the game. And therefore, we tend to be very good at just not wasting a lot of time on something which doesn’t lead anywhere. Ironically, the players who are the most persistent than the stubborn are the ones who are least likely to quit and go on doing the conversations of why exactly the concepts and like they’re like, I’m not quitting ,quitting. Nobody ever wins by quitting. It’s like doing by quitting, you win by quitting the thing that you’re never going to win out and finding something else that you could potentially win at you. And you save all that time trying to force something which is going to happen.
Brad: Yeah, there’s no shame in quitting something that you’re just never going to be successful at, and trying something new. I think it’s just a stigma that’s kind of built in
Brad: to society somehow.
Dara: Yeah, the very word, quitter or loser. They’re not they’re not aspirational titles.
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, masterclasses 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 it 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, let’s move on to the lightning round category.
Brad: What does your process look like today, and be as granular as possible for improving your game on a daily basis?
Dara: It’s gotten more complicated because I moved over the last few years from being just a poker player to being a content creator. And I do try to focus on content, which I think will also help my own game. Like for example, I do find when I coach students, as long as they’re at a certain level, it actually have helped my own game because it reinforces concepts, forcing yourself to explain something. Sometimes it leads you into new areas. I do try and develop new content in areas that interest me, like I put a lot of work into PKOs recently. I, I also, before that on satellites for something I specialized for in years, but I obviously put a lot of work back into that when I was writing oxides I strategy with very character. So, a lot of, I try as much as possible that sort of synergy between the content creation and my own play. That said there’s some stuff which isn’t particularly helpful. And I did kind of come to a realization last year that I was letting my own study, study folder. So, my, my one big New Year’s resolution this year was I forced myself to take the same sort of approach to my own study, not content creation, not coaching, but just purely my own study as, as I do to my running, which is I forced myself to do with six out of seven days a week, I must do at least 30 minutes on each of those six or seven days. And then one day, I have to do a longer study session. And I have to basically make it a habit rather than study just being the thing that I do when I’m not doing anything else. Because what has tended to happen over the last few years is I do all the other stuff that I think I’ll study afterwards, but I’m tired. And I go to bed and I wake up the next day and I do all the other stuff again. So, I’m trying to be more, build more routines around study.
Brad: How do you keep yourself accountable to towards keeping that schedule? Do you have study sessions with other people? Or is it all on your own? And then secondly, when you say study for 30 minutes, that’s sort of an abstract term, what exactly do you study?
Dara: Some of it is reading. Some of it is running simulations myself, or looking at the output of simulations and trying to learn what I can from that. I also use DTO Dominic Nietzsche’s New Game Theory Trainers. Sometimes, it’s sometimes 30 minutes is just me drilling myself in certain spots for 30 minutes on that. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a mix of all of that, which are my study methods. The way I keep myself accountable, I study less with other people these days because most of my study is solver based or with, with certain software tools like GTO or reading. But I do have a sort of a daily log. And in that daily log, I have to write how much time I actually studied. So, when I start studying, I press a stopwatch on my iPad and then when I stop, I stop it and that’s the number that gets written every night before I go to bed. So, I force myself to this daily log that I have to have some had something to report back to the spreadsheet. And I also put in what I actually studied. So that I, I don’t want to fall into a pattern of just doing the stuff that interests me, I do have a sort of general idea of the areas that need work. And then I can look back at the end of a week or at the end of the month and see how much time actually put into that stuff. The log includes other stuff as well, like how much I ran that day, how much I played online, and any content I created. But by adding by, by adding the study columns, two study columns, the amount of time and what was studied, I think that’s sort of, that’s a level that’s introducing a level of accountability.
Brad: For sure, writing things down, writing things down by hand is always super, super beneficial. Just in general, whatever it is, you’re aiming to do the following day. I do have, so you talk about GTO. What do you extrapolate from your solver calculations? Because in my eyes, there are a lot of misnomers about GTO PIO doing the solver work. How do you, you turn that into actionable tactics at a poker table?
Dara: Yeah, I think this is something that I, evolved over the years. When the solvers came out first, I think most of us and I was certainly guilty of this, it was just like, it became the sort of the expert friend you asked, did I play this hand, right? And you ran all the spots that you were unclear on in them, in your sessions or whatever, and you tried to identify what you’re done wrong and what you’re done right. I still do, I still do a certain amount of that, because it’s important, obviously to continue to be on the, on the lookout for leaks. But these days, most of my soluble work is based around just standards bots, button versus big blind, when I’m the big blind, and I think this is the kind of the range that the button has, versus this is versus a different type of branch, which button, button might have. So, I’m not interested in what the GTO solution is a button versus blind because I’m not sure I’m ever going to encounter a player who’s going to play perfect GTO against me in those spots. What I am more interested in is what, what my response should be against certain types of branches. How I should play my hands, then post flop making certain assumptions. For example, there was one hand I played last year where I decided to see bat, because I had a hand which even though it wasn’t a board, I should see vallon very much. I had a hand which felt like a C bet. So, five years ago, I would have put that into the solver and seeing if it was a C bet. And if the solver said yes, I would have patted myself on the back and moved on. But this time, okay, I did that. But then I didn’t then I take the approach of like, okay, well, it is a C bet bosch disappointed that I’m playing against. Let’s look at the way he’s supposed to play against my range with his range. And then let’s see how I should adjust if he’s playing radically different from that. And I was pretty convinced that this guy was net, was not raising enough, he was only raising knotted hands. He was calling away part of his range. And then he was folding a certain parkin’s range. So, you know, that that said, you go into Nord locking then, and discovered, to my surprise at the time, that when once I locked his strategy into that, then my response to that should be just to C bet 100% because he was there a lot. Yeah, he wasn’t raising enough. And he was just, he was calling too wide. And my hand didn’t matter anymore. And that was a kind of eureka moment. And so now I put a lot of work into those sorts of spots of thinking what the population does, are trying to investigate what the population does and see what my response should be that see what the big exploits are because everybody’s playing GTO, the margins are very, very small. But you quickly find when you get into, into the exposure of stuff that if people are diverging fairly dramatically, you can make massive exploits, which make a huge difference to your win rate.
Brad: Absolutely. And, you know that that to me is the, that’s the misinformation about GTOs is when you’re playing against a human being, like when you node lock, right, you’re locking their strategy, and then the solver is spitting out what you know, the appropriate response versus this specific strategy. And when you take the GTO, the solver results, and then just apply it to your game across the board, you’re going to get your brains beat in, because you’re not playing against the actual strategies folks are employed. And this goes back to, you know, when you’re in Vegas with your brother playing as an alternate, and then there’s this guy who’s talking a lot and he’s mixing it up, and he’s building this chip stack every single tournament, to me, and I’ve thought about this a lot. You know, you and your brother are thinking about the game in terms of me, right? It’s a paradigm of self. It’s what can I do? How am I supposed to play? I’m going to do this with all of these hands. When the real beauty of poker is playing from the perspective of what is this dude doing? How is this thinking? What’s his strategy? Can I predict that he’s going to bet here? If I can predict he’s going to bet here, what can I extrapolate from that bet? Can I extrapolate that he’s over C betting, and if he’s over C betting, what’s my response? So, I’m going to start raising him more. And then maybe he starts getting a little stickier when you raise him more than, you know, that’s sort of the strategy development, that that goes on in my head. Like, I don’t want to pat myself on the back too much. But like when the solver, I was very skeptical of solvers, when they came out of putting something in getting a result back and being like, oh, this is what I should do, when I would do that for a spot. And no, I would know what the most profitable exploit was. And then the data coming back to me was like, no, no, you shouldn’t do that. I’m like, no, no, like, I don’t, I’m not exactly sure what’s happening here where the disconnect is, but I’m going to keep making my exploitative plays to exploit the flaws in these guys games. Like, you know, I’m a player that if I think a guy’s never folding on the river, and I have a bluff, I’m not going to bluff with the best, with the best solver hand, just to say I have a balanced range, like I can wear that on a name tag, as I’m busted out of the tournament and the bar, saying, oh, I played a balanced strategy. So, I definitely needed to bluff here, when like, you can tell in a live setting like this dude just isn’t folding, I don’t have the credibility. His hand is too strong. He’s not capable. He has a bias where he calls too often, whatever it is. So, don’t feel you know, for the folks listening, don’t feel like you have to bluff when you know, the guy’s going to call, like, just don’t do it. And that’s okay. That’s, that’s exploiting his deficiency.
Alex: Yeah, we talked earlier about how there’s a lot of just traps in the way poker, poker can do to your mind. And one of the things I think, is that there’s a certain type of mindset where people just want to feel that they did the right thing. And you know what happened, happened, but it wasn’t their fault. And there’s a lot of wrong roles that can lead you down, it can lead you down. In the early days, my brother used to think that if he got hidden behind, he’d done something wrong. And that forced him into an evenness, your style. And, you know, you realize, if somebody never gets it in behind, they’re not, that’s not a good player, that’s a really bad player. It’s just a really, really tight player, that that was kind of a eureka moment for me. Similarly, when the solvers came on, like I do see some of my students who they get into the solvers, and now they just want everything to be solver approved. And they’re like, well, I had the best possible bluffs I had to bluff. And it’s like, no, he didn’t have to block that goes never folding. Live players don’t fold river is very much when, when they’ve caught the 30 big bet on the turn. So just get that out your head, but people sort of want to pat themselves on the back and go, well, look, I played it fine. The other guy’s a donkey for calling. But, but that’s the thing. That game theory has been, my relationship with the employer has been sort of plus and negative in the sense that like when it came along first, and when the solvers came along, they were they, were great for me, because the way my career developed was my career in the early days was all about exploiting weaker players, and just playing a very exploitative style, both online and live very successfully. And then as I sort of rose through the ranks and found myself playing at EPTs and WSOPs, and play, and coming face to face with much better players than I was, and just feeling completely outclassed, and not, not even knowing how to fight back, it was like, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. But these guys were just murdering me every time. The people that I was hanging around with, they were very good players for sort of exploiting weak online pools and weak live pools in Ireland, but they weren’t as good. They were no help on that stuff. And then the solvers came along, and I was like, oh, my God, this is amazing. I can work out a strategy, which no matter what the other guy does, I can’t be exploited. So, when I played the better players, I just switched to that. So, I try to figure out as close as I can, what the GTO strategy is, and I stick to that, and if they’re diverged, I exploit them. And worse, worst case scenario, I’m going to break even against those guys while continuing to win against the weaker players. So, I think because of that, and it was such a revolutionary thing for me, I definitely went too far down that road to the point where I taught the solvers with the be all and end all and I started playing that sort of strategy as the weaker players as well thinking, well, this is just a strategy I play now. Then, last beyond a certain point, I realize, wait a minute, I’m definitely doing a mistake here. I’m having a conversation with Kenny hollered, and Kenny said, like, the thing you have to understand about GTO is like there’s a GTO solution if the other guy’s playing GTO, but that’s different from the solution if the other guy is playing a completely different strategy. And if you stick to GTO, you’re not, it’s not maximum. It’s not, it’s not the correct strategy anymore. And that was certainly a revolutionary moment for me and I started using the solvers much more intelligently and with a much bigger impact on my, on my win rate I think.
Brad: Absolutely. I, it’s, number one, in a live setting, it seems almost impossible to implement perfectly what a solver wants you to know. And number two, it’s almost impossible to recall exactly what the solver wants you to do on, you know, almost an infinite number of runouts. Like, you have a flop texture, and then you have a dynamic turn card. Like there are so many different textured flops, so many different turn cards, how, you can’t memorize what the solver wants to do in every single spot. So, for me, you know, I always preach early decision tree studying, like you were saying button versus big blind type spots, like you want early decision tree, high frequency, things you’re going to see over and over and over and over again. But the deeper in the decision tree, you don’t get the value for studying the solvers like you do early on. And yeah, it’s a, it’s an interesting thing. Like, I’m super happy, like, you know, as a professional player, like, I’m happy when I see good players trying to implement a solver strategy against a dude on the river, and they just punt their stack away. And then they’re out of the tournament, right? Like, that’s, that’s great for me. But it’s probably it’s not good for them. And it’s not good for people to internalize like, you know, this is the answer, right? Like I finally have the answer to poker and this is it. And if I do this, if I go as a solver, and then I’ll just crush forever, right?
Dara: Yeah, I have you eureka moment as well, a few years ago, where I realized that like most, most of the spots that myself and my friends were talking about when you actually ran them, they were just super close spots, they were so close that it really didn’t matter what you did in long term. And there were also outlier spots, there were the spots where you know, you that you get check raised on the river, if it’s gone check call, check call. Just very weird spots. And really, you know, they came up so infrequently. And it made so little difference what you actually did, that it was just a complete waste of time. And like the only times we look at those hands now, I think, actually is when we do the strategy segment on the chip race. And we ask the guests to send us a hand and they always send us those types of hands where it’s, it’s a close decision. And we can, it’s interesting to talk about, but I think in the long term that makes almost no difference to your win rate. It’s the, it’s the bread and butter spots of blind on blind, button versus blind, single raise pots, three bad pots, all that stuff that makes, the makes all the difference.
Brad: Absolutely. And my, the final word on this lightning round question that’s gone for 20 minutes now. My final thought is when I first, when I ran solvers, and somebody was like, oh, it just makes you know, it makes it EV neutral, right? It makes these spots, EV neutral and EV zero. I remember thinking, then what the fuck is the point? Like, what, what am I doing here? I’m trying, like the aspiration is to breakeven, like I don’t understand. Like, and also the aspiration is to make my opponents decisions, not mean anything. Well, great. Like, what is the point of, what is even the point of playing poker, if I’m making my opponent’s decisions meaningless. Like I should try to force my opponents to make mistakes so that what they do absolutely matters. But the hope is that they’re not playing at a high enough level to realize what the correct thing is to do, and then actually take action and implement that strategy.
Dara: Yeah, yeah. 100%
Brad: All right. couple more questions. We’re going to go to skip a bunch of them. Here’s a prime, prime spot for you. If you could gift all poker players one book, what book would that be? And why?
Dara: All poker players? All poker players makes it difficult because the, my current favorite book is Michael Acevedo his modern poker theory or whatever it’s called. I think its a really brilliant book, the way he lays it out. And I love the fact that he, even though he’s gone into the solvers, he’s interested in implementable strategies rather than perfect solutions. So, he will look at a situation and say, look, the GTO solutions to do this, but you can simplify your strategy to just do this all the time, but two thirds power about 1/3 pot or whatever, and you lose almost no EV, and it’s much more easier to implement. And the way he explains all of those concepts, I think is brilliant. So, for poker players of a decent level who are going to be able to understand it. I would say the book that I recommend the most at the moment is Acevedo’s Modern Poker Theory but that requires obviously a certain level. So, it has to be every poker player, then I’m going to say Mental Game of Poker. That was the first book I read on that area. And even though I feel that my own mental game is strong and has been a strength, I definitely benefit from that book. And we talked earlier about how the people who don’t make it in poker, it tends to be the other stuff and quite often that boils down to mental game. So, I think there are, there are some players like I think myself and presumably yourself who just have naturally good mental game and it has never been a major issue but there are still areas we could improve. There are some players could actually make, there are some players who are so bad that even they could read all the books and make them understand why they’re failing. And that that in itself is useful. But we have one tournament to aim towards. But I’m sure there must be some subset of players who mental game is the main issue. But if they, if they read the book and put enough work into it, they would get, get enough out of it, that could actually make the difference between them being losing players and winning players.
Brad: For sure. And I was very fortunate in an unfortunate way too in that mental game. When I first started playing poker. I did it with a friend, my friend had big mental game issues. And so, I got a firsthand experiential look that oh, this guy who’s more talented than me, at the time, is never going to be successful at poker because of these issues. So, I got a cautionary tale firsthand. That was like, okay, I can’t do this. If I want to do this as a career, if I want to make this my living so that I can get shut out of all online poker sites in the future, I got to keep my mental game, kind of keep my mental game up to snuff, right?
Dara: Yeah, yeah. They say you need to learn from your own mistakes, but it’s much cheaper in poker to learn from other people’s mistakes. I
Brad: It really is
Dara: I certainly did that. I mean, I had some great poker mentors in the early days, my brother, and a few other players who helped me enormously in certain areas, but in each of their cases, they had some thing which was going to prevent them from having long term success. And that in itself was perhaps the biggest lesson they could, they could teach me was like, well, because this is because they have this flaw, they’re not going to be able to achieve long term success. So therefore, I need not to have this flaw.
Brad: Absolutely, it’s a brutal game. It’s a brutal game. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about poker, what would it be?
Dara: I mean, there are a lot of things around live poker, the culture of live poker that annoys me. Like, for example, players who perceive themselves better berating weaker players, etc. But I guess one thing that really jumps out is the, the gender imbalance in poker. That’s in stark contrast to running this thing I came out of when I was running. And when I was trading, almost half the people I trained with and interacted with on a daily basis were female. And that just felt like a much healthier balance and healthier environment. And the male-female dynamic was very supportive. And in no way predatory. Poker doesn’t unfortunately seem to have that. I almost felt like I went back in time when I went into poker, and just to see the attitudes of a lot of male poker players to female poker players, the way females are treated at the table. So yeah, that will probably the big one. I know. I know, for a fact, from talking to online sites, to far more women play online poker than play live poker. The reason for that, I suspect must be the culture, the very unfriendly culture that women have to face on a daily basis. So, I’m going to go with that.
Brad: Absolutely. I have two young daughters, and I would not want them to be traveling live poker players. And that’s, that’s just the their, their the reality of the situation. And I love the game. And everything that I have in life is because of poker, the relationships, just everything I can attribute to my life and cards, but I would not wish that for them. Which is kind of a shame. If you could erect a billboard, every poker players got to drive past on the way to the casino. What does that billboard say?
Dara: Respect your opponents. I think again, it’s, it’s one of the things which annoys me. Poker that there’s this tolerance that somehow speech player or whatever makes it okay to try and upset people at the table and again an engine that way. For me that’s, that’s worse than angle shooting. But yeah, it’s tolerated in poker where people say oh, it’s part of the game, etc. And I maybe that’s one of the reasons why I prefer online poker so much more than live poker, but you don’t have to deal with that. But it’s kind of ironic because it’s not, it’s not self-serving in the sense of nobody has ever said anything at the table, which is upset me enough to change my, my game. But I’ve seen other players upset and therefore if you’re allowed to get away with that and upset somebody and get an edge as a result, then it’s understandable the people to do it, but I still feel that it’s not something which should be allowed. So yeah, be respectful, I guess.
Brad: How do you feel about the gamesmanship aspect of it of on the river? Somebody makes a bet, you’re considering a call, you know, just sort of talking out loud.
Dara: Yeah, I again, I just, I just don’t like it and I understand that it’s tolerated in poker and because I have come from other areas and I’ve operated in other areas. It always strikes me that poker players are very sort of black or white on what’s right and what’s wrong. And you know, slow rolling is bad. There’s a general consensus of what angle shooting is, what’s, what’s acceptable and what isn’t. But there’s other stuff, which is fine. Like, it’s like, one thing, why is slow rolling bad Bush, showing a bluff isn’t bad, because in both cases, the purpose is to upset the other person. That’s the purpose. And yet, it’s largely arbitrary. It’s just the way the culture has arisen. And there’s no real, at least to my mind, there’s no real object, objectivity to it. It’s just like, we think this is okay. We don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. And I feel that anything which is designed just to upset the other person to make them play sub optimally is sort of not for me, personally is not acceptable.
Brad: Yeah, we, we diverge a little on this. I guess we can’t agree on everything. We can’t agree on everything in the podcast. Diverge in the aspect of you know, I think poker is a social game I, I would 100% want to go back to the day where you could show your show a card to gain a reaction, you, you know, facing a big bet on the river. Like I’m thinking about calling you I got a really good hand like what do you got? Like, are you, I feel like you might be bluffing here like these are, this is just an element of live poker that I love that, that element of the game.
Dara: Yes, yeah, I would have no problem with that. Because that’s just you trying to gain information by, by, by showing something but, but, but if you start to, you know, berating somebody because you thought you might get a reaction that’s, that’s, I think, what you step over the line, but yeah, that’s all I’m all for. I’m all for playful banter as well. Like, I’m not saying nobody should ever talk. And, you know, some of my friends are great table talkers. And they, they elicit a lot of information, but it’s, but it’s in a friendly manner. It’s not they, they, they, you know, they pick on somebody and tell them, you know, insult them personally, in some way to try and upset them and then force them to play so often.
Brad: Right, it’s within the confines of the game. I think, I think like, obviously, berating somebody to put them on tilt and make them angry, so they play worse. You know, I think there’s integrity and ethical issues there. I just, I love live poker. And I think a lot of the draw for me coming up playing was, you know, seeing Daniel Negreanu on TV. He’s talking out loud, he’s getting information. He’s playing the information game. And I think what does get lost in the information game specifically and talking is that it works both ways. When you’re talking, you’re also giving people information about your hand that can be used against you. There was an episode of High Stakes Poker, where Daniel Negreanu, he made a bet on the river. Antonio Esfandiari was thinking about calling him. Daniel is sort of he started talking. And he said something, and automatically Antonio called.
Brad: Like, I mean, they edit it to where it looked automatic, he may have taken his time, so that he didn’t necessarily give away what he picked up on. But that was where talking backfired on Daniel. And to me, I love that element of the game personally. It just makes it more interesting and fun.
Dara: Yeah, that’s certainly something I wouldn’t want to take away. So, it’s again, that’s why I would never go as far as to say, like, you can’t talk on the river or whatever. One of the things I love, one of my highlights every year is going across the World Series of Poker and just that playing with so many American recreational periods are just such a joy to play with, because they’re, they’re there to have fun. They’re there to socialize, they’re there to chat. And, yes, they might be giving away information at the table. And it’s definitely in your interest to be friendly with them and try and take advantage of that. But, but, but it’s just the pleasure of actually playing with people who are very different from yourself, and, and getting sort of a different perspective on life.
Brad: For sure. And I’ll end on this for everybody out there that’s like that’s thinking about what we’re just talking about. Would you rather have the experience of being in a pot against Doyle Brunson and him start talking to you like you have this interaction? Like it’s almost, it’s, it just to me it just, it’s more fantastical, I guess, I don’t know, how else to say it. So, a few more questions, and we’ll, we’ll get you out of here. What is your current big goal as related to poker?
Dara: Yeah, I mean, I’ve always been careful on setting goals because you know, setting a goal like something like a World Series bracelet or but just seems ridiculous because it’s so much, so much is outside your control. So, my goals have always been very process oriented. Just wanting to keep making a living from a game I guess is probably the closest to an actual object, goal that can be measured objectively. But, but really, my goals are just like to go on being in poker to go on doing the stuff that interests me. I’ve moved in the last few years from just playing to, you know, writing a book, producing the content, doing the chip, race. All of that is not driven by what’s going to make me the most money, it’s driven by what I enjoy doing. But at the same time, you know, it has to be worth my time as well. So, if I can go on making a living from poker, while doing this stuff that I want, and having to stay away from stuff that I don’t want like pimping other types of gambling or whatever. For me, that’s the main goal.
Brad: What’s a project that you’ve worked on that’s near and dear to your heart?
Dara: Probably the one that I’ve gotten the most pleasure out of is the book, Poker Satellite Strategy that came out last year. That was something I had done work in that area of over the years, but hadn’t really thought about putting out a book. And then Barry came to me with the proposal. And it actually ended up being a lot more work than I thought, because it wasn’t just a matter of conveying the information, but conveying it in a manner which the audience which is primarily recreational players, we take on board. And that coming out being, being as well received, as it was. But the biggest pleasure was, so many recreational players coming up and saying that that book just radically changed their approach to satellites. And because of that, they were now qualifying for big tournaments that they wanted to qualify for. And they were having that experience for like, for recreational players, a lot of them, that’s what they want, they want to play in a big tournament. But we talked about this, how they want to play against the pros. They don’t necessarily want to win the tournament. I mean, they want to have a chance to win in the tournament, but they’re realistic enough to know that that’s very much in the lap of the gods. But by playing satellites correctly, they can continually give themselves these experiences within their bankroll, which even if they bust out of the tournament, they have a good experience, you know. They can talk about the time they played or hunting as Dr. Bronson, he spoke to them, or they block the block on the river and he freaked out, or whatever it is for that’s that. So, I think that’s been the reward, the biggest reward from that just seeing how many people it seems to have had a really positive impact on.
Brad: Barry Carter seems to align himself with great folks. He was also a guest on the podcast, co-author, middle game of poker, and then with Poker Satellite Strategy. That I would suggest you want to play in big tournaments, you want to battle pros, name pros have these experiences, check out Poker Satellite Strategy.
Dara: Thanks for that, Brad. Barry is a great guy. I mean, I knew him before we started working together but not, not closely. We’ve become very close friends over the two years that we’ve been working together. He’s an amazing guy. He’s, what Barry’s really good at is basically being the placeholder for the recreational. If I can explain it to Barry and Barry can write it up in a way that makes sense. I might have to make some small changes to it. But then we have something basically which recreational players will be able to understand even if it’s quite technical. And that’s it.
Brad: Yeah, he’s a proxy. A proxy for your, your target audience.
Dara: And also, a really great guy just to be around and to work with in general.
Brad: Oh, I believe that 100%. So, final question. Where can the chasing poker greatness audience find you on the worldwide web?
Dara: Probably the central, the central place where everything is my Twitter account. That’s where I kind of alert the world as to what I’m up to, whether it’s content creation, the podcast, book, the blogs, and all the rest of it. I was, I believe I was the first poker player in Ireland on Twitter. So, it’s been, I was an early adopter. And the only time they ever ran the Irish poker awards, I did win Social Media User of the Year or whatever the title was. So, I feel like I’m the lifelong reigning Twitter champion in Ireland and poker. So yeah, Twitter’s probably the central thing. But then finding out Twitter. Obviously, the blog has been a concentrate my career started as something I was doing just for myself. I had a similar journal when I was a runner, which was really just for myself. But poker, the poker blog sort of took off in the sense that other people started reading, even got really interested in it. So, that’s been a constant. I try
Brad: Little did you know, you get out people and they would get absolutely smashed by your online journal.
Dara: I went when I look back at some of the early blogs, and I see how just how raw and blunt I was about in my opinions on people. These days, I’m still very much although I mean, the blog still gets me into trouble on occasion. I’m, I’m fairly opinionated. Arsal at the end of the day, so I
Brad: What are these links? What are the URLs to Twitter?
Dara: I’m, I’m @Dara, currently, basically just my name without the apostrophe, apostrophe always causes problems. There are so many sites that just want to accept that you could have an apostrophe in your name. Yeah, after or currently on Twitter, the blog as well. There’s a link to that from, from my Twitter bio, and that’s probably the other biggest concept I do. I am actually on Instagram as well. I was persuaded to go on Instagram a few years ago by my daughter, and man thing I use that just for a sort of a diary of my day. So, whatever I’m doing that day, I snap it and put it on my Insta story. And I’ve been surprised at how many people are interested in what I’m eating and how often I walk and all that stuff. And I
Brad: Yeah, can’t wait to see your tik tok account in the future.
Dara: Oh my God, this a new one. Oh no!
Brad: Setting music and dancing while you’re eating. It’ll be, it’ll be good times all around. Thank you very much, my friend for coming on the show. I really, really appreciate it. Just a good time and come back in the next few years. I know you and Barry are working on some other great new stuff to share with the poker world.
Dara: Thanks, Brad. It’s been a pleasure and definitely want to get you on the chippers at some point too. One of the things myself and David are really keen on is sort of promoting people who are positive in our view, in their impact on, on, on poker in general. There’s so much negative stuff, stuff we touched on like the negative few of pros and so on, that it’s great to see guys like you coming on the scene, putting out new content, and actually putting a lot of work into it. So, we want to do anything we can to promote.
Brad: Absolutely, I really appreciate that. And also, as well, for the audience. There’s a lot of bullshit out there too. That’s bad information, that if you internalize bad information, it can be really harm, harmful and negative to your career, to your aspirations. And so just keep that in mind as you’re navigating your way through all of the content that’s out there on the internet. Try to be mindful that you know the content the, the information you’re getting is solid, good information, because there’s, not, it’s very sad to me when folks released damaging information.
Dara: Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s worse than no information. And obviously, you don’t you can’t get into naming and shaming but you know it, if you’re, if you want to consume content, you know, ask a few people that you respect was opinion, respect, and that’s generally the best thing to do.
Brad: Absolutely. All right, man. Once again, talk to you next time.
Dara: Thanks Brad. Cheers.
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