Detox Files #4: Using Language To Upgrade Your Performance
Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast: Detox Files Episode 004
Poker Detox on social media:
Today’s Detox Files episode starts off with a key “aha” moment that the player had from Nick and I’s first Chasing Poker Greatness conversation.
They then delve into the way we talk to ourselves and how that creates delusions and negative emotions in poker (in this case frustration).
They then work on how to practically apply language upgrades to improve performance, specifically around the need for a play that “should work” to work every time.
Click any of the icons below to find the CPG pod on the platform of your choice. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy my conversation with Nick Howard from Poker Detox on the Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast.
If this is your first time on the Chasing Poker Greatness website, be sure to check out our groundbreaking poker courses to help sharpen your strategy and profitably implement solid, data-proven solutions to your game today:
Brad: What is happening my friend? Coach Brad here and I just wanted to let you know real fast that these episodes are experimental and a little different than what you’re used to. Their career consults Nick Howard did for free to aid folks along in their poker journey. They ended up turning out so chock full of value and dripping with greatness bombs, that he wanted to share them with as many folks as possible, so I gladly agreed to help him spread the word on Chasing Poker Greatness. If you love these episodes and find them especially valuable, please let me and Nick know and we will continue to collaborate in this format in the future. Also, as somewhat of a spinoff from Nick’s career consult idea, I’ve created a similar offer for you in aspirant episodes of Chasing Poker Greatness, where you and I have a heart to heart discussion on your specific poker situation. And we come up with a plan together so that you can progress and move forward with more clarity and purpose. If this sounds like something you desperately need, head to enhanceyouredge.com/guest and book your poker career coaching session today. The rice is $100 and the session will last one to 1.5 hours. One more time, that’s enhanceyouredge.com/guest and now on with the show.
Brad: All right, Nick, today’s episode features Jack, what can the audience be prepared to listen for?
Nick: First, we’re going to listen to a kid who’s definitely above average on the introspective scale. I really enjoyed this combo. I gravitate towards guys that are just ready to go deep as soon as they get on call. This kid is studying to be a psychologist of some sort. So, he’s got already that background. Specifically, this was one where I felt some sort of urge to just focus intensely on the language that he was using. I guess you could say it’s its own method of mindset. And I give some links of a guy who I learned a lot from in this department. By listening more to the language that the caller is using you learn how he’s creating his own prison in his reality.
Brad: Can you give me an example?
Nick: Yeah, so I’m not sure exactly what Jack says in this one. But I did a call with one of my own students right before I did one with him. And I think that’s why I was on this language tip that day. And my student was talking a lot about being steamrolled by the downswing or this feeling of powerlessness that was articulated in a way like there was an enemy attacking him almost. And it’s subtle, but this is why I love Matt Hunt. He understands the power of language more than probably any person I’ve met. And he understood it earlier than any person I’ve met in poker. You know, coming from that linguistics background that he has, he was always on the leading edge of that, in my mind. And we always talked about how we were going to give it more and more and more attention specifically with people who come from other languages, Spanish, French, how do those guys interpret stuff different from Germans and you see a lot of weird patterns developing that you sort of can’t ignore. So, there’s that end of it, the cultural end of language and that barrier that develops naturally. And then there’s even in the English language, the choice of words that you’re using to describe your reality. If something is framed in your mind as attacking you, it’s very difficult to develop a compatible, workable relationship with that, with that circumstance. If you can affix higher meaning to that thing, you stand a chance of developing a more cooperative relationship with it. A lot of people will say, you know, this is just semantics, or this, this doesn’t actually have high impact. But if you get sensitive enough to the experience you’re generating when you use certain words and frame things in certain ways and you stay consistent with the upgrades, you start to realize it has a pretty big experiential effect.
Brad: Steamroll is a very visceral word. I can almost feel what your student or what your player is going through when they say I’m getting steamrolled by variance. How this is going to manifest at the poker table means they’re going to fire up a session, and the first time they lose a flip, they’re going to go in shutdown mode. They’re going to start saying, not again, why can’t I get through this? Why me? It’s a very emotional response to things that are out of their control.
Nick: And I think that there’s a point in the conversation where a good coach can get the student on board with acknowledging that that actually is going to have an effect on how he will play. If you can get him to that point, you can open up a real conversation. That’s where we go with this one.
Brad: Awesome, man. Let’s jump into it.
Nick: So, tell me where you’re coming in from in terms of what platform, everybody’s sort of signing up for these from all over the place. And let me know about what your situation is and what you’re trying to get accomplished through this.
Jack: Definitely. So, I actually messaged you on both your personal Twitter and then the Poker Detox Instagram, because I’d remember it on your Chasing Poker Greatness podcast, which I listened to you maybe a month ago, when I reached out for the consultation, you said Instagram is your preferred way. So, I think I got the link to schedule a meeting from Instagram. But would you like me to go into more broadly started what prompted the request to meet and all that stuff?
Jack: Yeah, so, this was about a month ago. And it was again, I think it was like, maybe a day before I had reached out to you guys. And I sort of had like a double whammy of like two very eye-opening podcast episodes that I listened to. And the first one was a Joe Rogan experience with a guy named Raghunath Cappo. Do you know who that is?
Nick: No but spoke because I’m going to check it out.
Jack: So, he’s this really eclectic mix. He’s a punk rock singer. And he’s a Hindu Yogi. And he lived as a monk in India for six years.
Jack: Yeah. Interesting mix. And he had this, he and Joe Rogan, were talking about this thing with his singing. And Joe Rogan stand up talking about ego and how it’s really easy to get very self-centered when you’re performing to make it all about you and sort of talk about how great you are. And the guy Ray basically had this quote where he said, basically what the Hindu Yogi’s taught him specifically about music and performing in the context of like, as a monk and sort of their spiritual music was that you should ask the question of whether you’re doing it to serve God or to be God. And basically, they went on to have a discussion to dissect. Essentially, that that means whether or not you’re doing something sort of altruistically, because it’s the truth of your reality, or because you’re doing it for a diluted reason. Your thinking is sort of distorted.
Nick: Got it.
Jack: And then, like in the next 24 hours, I listened to your, your Chasing Poker Greatness podcast, and you had like one quote, in the middle, when you guys were talking about deluded thinking specifically in the context of the poker table. I think it was some quote where it was like, if you, if you were aware of all of the projections that you had at the table, you would be sick. And I think in that moment, sort of those two thoughts percolating together made me realize, I’ve got a lot of distorted stuff wrapped up in my thinking, both in terms of my poker, and in terms of like my life in general. And so, one of the things that really attracted me to the game and in particular, I think some of a lot of the people around like the salt for white crew, and some of the more informed poker content talked about it is that poker is sort of a proving ground for skills that map to the rest of your life. And so, I think what I’d like to talk to you about is sort of methods to try and dissect and be really critical about delusions and distorted thinking and sort of ways to identify those, overcome those and just proceed like with general clarity, both at the table and then hopefully, skill transfer to broader context.
Nick: Awesome. Good questions.
Jack: Yeah. So that’s been, that’s been something I’ve been, I’ve been struggling with because it was like, I’ve been like, because in Pennsylvania I played online. So, my poker background briefly was basically just like, 1-2 breakeven as a hobby, maybe like once a month while I was at school doing undergrad in Albany, New York. And then, when I moved to Pennsylvania, poker’s legal there. So, got on PokerStars PA, punted off like 50 bucks, I think like $75 plus the 20 they gave you like 2 NL and 5 NL. And then basically decided to deposit 150 and take it a little more seriously and use that as just like a pretty short bankroll for 10 NL plus. And I have like about 15k hands, I think close to 20k hands right now, like, somewhere around like 10 or 11 bigs per 100 over 10 NL. So,
Nick: What’s your path in terms of other stuff that you have going on? Are you in school right now? And
Jack: Yeah, yes. I’m in, I’m in a grad program right now in Research Psychology at Bucknell University, which is what brought me out to PA. This is the end of the first year of a two-year program for me.
Jack: And so, I think in terms of long-term career aspirations, this is sort of a middle ground where when I finished undergrad, I wasn’t quite ready to apply to clinical psych doctor programs, but I’m still wanting to continue on towards that path. So, this master’s degree is sort of a middle landing point. However, recently, I think, especially with my experience online, I’ve really been shifting toward and consuming a lot of the content around specifically like the software, white group. A lot of the content that you put out, I’m really seriously considering sort of a big shift and taking the next five years or so to take a swing at playing for an income.
Nick: Cool. Well, let’s start with the first thing that stands out to me, which is using poker as a proving ground for other things in life, and learning how to be more critical, so that you can see things more clearly. I like that as a general frame. And I’m also acutely aware of how easy it is for that to become a dangerous frame. So, there’s two words that really stand out. Well, let’s do it this way, if poker is a proving ground, for the rest of life, then that means that the intention behind playing would be to prove oneself. And if that’s active, distortion will ensue. So that’s the first thing that I think a lot about just in terms of how I approach these consults lately. I, I’ve sort of shifted a bit my myself in the way that I find entry points to mindset. And it’s much more language oriented than it’s ever been, like specific words tend to spin the web of a person’s belief system. And I’m not saying that you’re caught up in that. I’m saying, as someone who’s deliberating what entry point to take, I would caution you from framing it in that way. I do like the gist of what you’re saying, which is that like, you know, as an, as in life, as in poker is in life, type of thing. But it feels impure to me to be starting from a frame of okay, if I can prove myself in poker, in some way, shape, or form, even if it’s just prove that I’m not diluted, that will allow me to navigate life better. It’s funny, because I think that’s true. And if you go about it from that wording, it’s going to be false.
Jack: Yeah. That’s trippy.
Nick: So yeah, it’s been really trippy for me to see how profoundly language can shape the prison that we experience in, in reality and in different areas. There was another thing that you said that stood out to me too, about being more critical about it. And again, it’s the same thing. I think there’s definitely a necessity for critical thinking. But if we take that to an extreme, it becomes self-critical dialogue. So, the type of dialogue that is almost like self-flagellating, I think is the word.
Jack: Yeah, I see what you mean.
Nick: So very similar to the proving oneself. Now, if I need to be critical in order to get there, and what happens when I’m perhaps not critical enough to prevent the mistake. Now, whose fault is that? Now, who takes the brunt of that? So, I don’t know you pretty much at all. But if I had to put my eggs in one basket right now, I would say that you trend more towards the self-critical end of the spectrum than, I don’t really have another word for the opposite end. But just to paint a picture will say lazy introspection. You’re clearly gifted introspection already, and you have a taste for it, or you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing in school.
Jack: Thank you.
Nick: So, I think it’s a good assumption, it’s a safe assumption to say that the bulk of your problems as you move forward on whatever path, poker or life, are probably going to be from you applying a little bit too much pressure to this, to solving certain problems. Not that I’m trying to get like a cold read on you. But I think it’s a good premise for the conversation. Because if we can raise awareness around that, it might make it easier to very quickly dissolve certain questions that might otherwise take a long time to, to get to the bottom of. So, starting from there, my question back to you would be, from the experience that you’ve had so far in poker, what types of emotional responses do you, do you see as clues that you’re distorted at the table? Or that you’re distorted away from the table, even when you think about how you played that day?
Jack: I think the biggest emotional response, and it’s interesting, because I don’t know where this, it’s the emotion of frustration, but I don’t know who it’s directed at. And it often comes at times, this is much more when I play live than online, although I think it happens a lot at two and five NL where people really aren’t, you know, a 5x open to 10 cents isn’t treated with a ton of respect by a majority of the player pool. And so, I think the experience of playing a hand and losing a hand to a player that I perceived to be worse, or just outright bad. But making a play that doesn’t work against them, the combination of sort of them winning pot and getting the reward of sort of the financial reward of winning the hand, while knowing that according to some of like the basic incentives of sort of what should guide how you, you should go about playing sort of the standard barebone strategy their decision was wrong. I think that I have a couple distortions about you know, sort of, that the player would work that, you know, or that their aptitude is such that, you know, it’s significantly lesser than mine, or completely lacking at all.
Nick: Let’s start, let’s start right there and not to share jumped in, but I think it’s a good entry point. Let’s assume that their aptitude is worse. So just in layman’s terms, they’re not as smart as you, okay? So, let’s just start from there. And then my next question would be, why does the play need to work against that type of opponent? What is the implication of that play failing? If those are the parameters that we set, that we are competing against somebody who is worse than us? Why then, is there such an intense need for the play to work? Just in a single trial instance, like assuming that this was the last hand that was ever played and ultimate judgment would be cast on us from this outcome? What is the implication of losing?
Jack: I think that the sense that I’m getting is that the play necessarily doesn’t need to work, but that it should work most of the time. Like, I think maybe it might be better for me at least to sort of tease this out for you to put like a concrete example. Like, if we’re on the river, and I know this guy got a tie, and I go, okay, I’m just going to sort of, I’m going to go 1.2x pot, and try and get into full day’s high. And then he calls with ace, jack. And I’m like, all right, that guy is jack high or something like that. And I think it’s more the fact that the place should work but didn’t. That gets to me than that when I make the play. I go this needs to work, or, you know, I’m a failure, or I cannot exploit players who are worse than me or things like that.
Nick: Okay, let’s, let’s work with that. So, if the play should work, does that mean that something has gone wrong if it doesn’t work, this time? And I’m being delicate here with the wording because what you just did to my original question of what is the implication of you losing this one hand as if this one hand is the last hand we ever play and ultimate judgment gets cast based on its outcome. Your answer was, well, maybe it’s just that it should work over time. It’s just the implication. I’m assuming that’s what you mean, like it should work majority of the time. Okay, so now you’ve changed the question.
Nick: Which is fine.
Nick: Because you’re almost finding the solution to your own prison, initially, which was, the very contracted version of this would be, I have to win this hand, every time. You expand it a little bit, and you say, no, it should work most of the time. And now I’m validating that wider framework. And now I’m asking if something should work most of the time, is it rational to get upset when it doesn’t work a single time?
Jack: It is, it is not.
Nick: It is not.
Nick: So, something must be happening where the mind is under a distorted attack, I’m using this word because I’m just reading a journal of one of my students who’s dealing with a similar thing. And this is the word that’s showing up in his writing. There, there must be some sort of threshold, where if you lose this spot that you should be winning enough times in a row or in a limited amount of time in a session, the mind flips, and it’s like, no, this should not be happening. This absolutely should not be happening. Something
Jack: Yeah. I think it’s a sense of entitlement, that a plus EV decision should always result in immediate value.
Nick: Cool. So, from there, the way that we can actually make progress is to see, is it a, is it an innocent form of entitlement? Or is it a very stubborn, insistent form of entitlement? Because those are two different things. And we have to work with them in two different ways. So, I’ll explain the first. The innocent form of entitlement is someone who does not have any concept at all the variants. That’s part of this game. Just in terms of like, they’ve never seen variance calculations, they might not even have a concept of variance to begin with. The second type of person is the person who understands variance, and still insists that thing shouldn’t be happening this way, when they know, they totally know that it can happen this way. And it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with the game. There’s no injustice here, it’s just a possibility. And over time, all possibilities are possible. But the very, very low end of the spectrum is highly unlikely. The low and high ends of the probabilistic spectrum are just like very, very unlikely the more hands get put. So which one do you think you are currently? Do you think you’re someone who just do it in two simple extremes? Which of these resonates more to you? I’m someone who believes that the winning player should win very often. And that winning players should never really expect to go on major down swings. Second frame would be, I’m someone who basically understands that virtually anything can happen in poker. Over even substantial samples. But over very, very large samples, the best players will virtually always prevail. And I’m not read I’m not reading you on this, I just wanted to get a sense of where you were, you’re out on this scale.
Jack: I think what when you, when you break it down like that and explain it my emotional resonance is with the first answer, though.
Nick: Okay cool.
Jack: However, I think the interesting thing is that when I, when I approach is sort of logically in a conversation with you about, you know, the game in general, rather than my game, I can logically understand the second one. However, the big downswing hasn’t happened to me yet, at least because I haven’t really been playing with you know, I’ve been playing sort of out of pocket because I have side income and expenses. So, you know, I haven’t been, and then the one time I basically said, okay, I’m going to use a bankroll and manage it, I’ve spun it from like 150 to like 1.1k at like 10 or 11 big blinds per 100. So, I haven’t had that really big downswing to experience yet myself. Okay, I don’t think I’ve sort of been humbled into the sort of second stubborn understanding of variance, I think is the word you used.
Nick: I think it’s good that you haven’t experienced that downswing yet, from the naive understanding of variance, because it would probably put you out of the game.
Jack: Oh, for sure.
Nick: Your mind probably wouldn’t be able to process that. And it would be interpreted as, I just must not be good. Fuck this, I’m going to go do something else, basically. But what’s interesting is that you’re noticing that there is still frustration even with your career, having been kind of a joy ride so far, the way you describe it. You’ve never had a major downswing. So, I would put you in the category of, not necessarily somebody who’s running well. But yeah, somebody who’s, who’s not even perhaps played enough hands to endure the reality of the, of the career. Yeah.
Jack: Yeah. Yeah, I would agree. I think I’ve had like, five or six consecutive losing sessions, that 1-2 live or something like that. But again, that was sort of out of pocket funding, you know, one or two balls at a time, not, you know, a bankroll managed with consistent hours and mapping and long-term profitability goals.
Nick: So now that we sort of freed up the perspective of putting so much stock in a single hand outcome, now that, now that we’ve expanded that and understood that, okay, there actually isn’t a rational argument for demanding an outcome in any single hand. And even if things should work over large samples, I have to admit that they never actually have to work over any sort of short sample. I could actually lose every single one of the spots that I technically should win in the session that I’m about to go play. And nothing about that would be then close to an anomaly. It’s too small of a sample. To start to attribute that to something, something’s got to be wrong.
Nick: So, let’s go back to the initial question. Knowing with, knowing what we know from that five-minute discussion, I’m going to bring you back to the original thought of what is the implication, the emotional, conceptual implication? What is the story that you’re telling yourself, when you lose the spot that you should win? Make it as like simple and childlike as possible, because it probably developed as a child based on what all the data says from the language of it. But what is that?
Jack: Yeah, certainly. Even from like, psychological literature, for sure. I think that the, there’s, the first thing that comes to mind is that sort of my self-worth is caught up in the result of the hand, that if I win, I am a winner. And if I lose, I am a loser. And I think that logic logically, I can separate that if I make a winning play, I’m going to be a winner eventually. But you were going to say something.
Nick: I was going to ask you if that’s where the frustration stems from.
Jack: Yeah, yeah, I think so. And I think even more than that, even you know what, it’s funny that you use the word childlike because I think almost also comes back to sort of the anger of, the anger of seeing an opponent be happy with the result that I have lost. Right? Yeah, like seeing a guy who I deem is less than me scoop a big all in pot for 500 big blinds or something. Especially live and like actually seeing them stack my chips, smile on their face, you know, maybe comments from the other players, not even needles, just you know, nice hand comments, things like that. It’s sort of compounds the fresh, the frustrated, I am a winner slash I am not a winner, I am a loser.
Nick: I’m going to tell you a story about my childhood that relates to this. And then we’re going to do an exercise that I think can help. So long ago, before I had poker, I had chess and even before chess, I had video games. And I loved video games. I remember, like, nothing was more fun to me than just hanging out my basement all day and either playing alone or playing with my brothers. And it was just obsessive. And at some point, it became competitive, I think more towards the time where we would have like sports games in the house, whether I was playing the computer, or whether I was playing my brothers. The nature of the video game, I guess gets you caught into this win loss type framework in your head. And for a child that can actually be very intense, especially when there’s an obsessive desire in the direction of a specific game taking place and much of gain was an outlet for me to try to derive some sort of self-worth or in my childhood mind, maybe it was a way to distract myself from the things that I needed that I wasn’t getting from parents. Or maybe it was a way for me to prove that I could do something well, which maybe would get more attention from my parents, who knows what it was, but I got competitive. And I took a lot of pride in being good. So somewhere along the way, I remember there was a day where my older brother and I were playing Joe Montana football, Sega Genesis had to be ’95, ’95 to ’98.
Jack: I was not alive yet.
Nick: Yeah, probably before your time.
Nick: So, we’re playing this game. And it was new to me. So, I didn’t have it all figured out. And I remember, I was getting increasingly frustrated as this game went on, that when I wanted to, when I want to throw a pass as the offense, I could not get my receiver to catch the ball. I was manually controlling the receiver, trying to get him to the circle where the ball said it would be. And every time I would put my control on that receiver, I would fuck it up somehow. He just like didn’t get there. It slowed him down or something. My brother was crushing me by completing passes all over the field. I remember getting more and more frustrated as the game went on. And I started just basically screaming at him. Tell me how the, I wasn’t swearing at this time. But this is in my head like, tell me how the fuck you’re completing these passes. Like, tell me how you’re doing it. Well, this is unfair, like what are you doing that I’m not doing because I’m trying so hard to get this receiver to the ball. So, this escalates to the point where I start crying. Screaming. My father comes down the stairs. Because my brother just has this smug look on his face the entire time. Like I’m not telling you, I’m not telling you. Like whooping my ass and just not telling me. That’s it. My father comes down. He says, what the hell is going on? And I say dad, like he’s, he’s cheating or something. He won’t tell me how he’s doing this. As my father sees it, I’m like, super distressed. And he looks at my older brother. And he says, just tell them how you’re doing it. And my brother just smiles and he says I’m not even touching anything. He wasn’t even touching any buttons do you get the receiver to go where it was it was automatically programmed into the game that the receiver will just go there if you don’t interfere. Meanwhile, I was taking control of the receiver trying to get them there. The whole thing is sort of like a I don’t know what you call it a parable. But it was very profound sort of,
Nick: Metaphor for my life and how my life developed from that point, which is that most of my issues came from exerting too much control over something that naturally would have played itself out more accurately if I just relaxed. But what you described resonates a lot with the issues that I’ve dealt with. When I’ve moved through the stages of a competitive journey, I guess, which is that feeling that not only do I not necessarily have the support or tools that I need to navigate this, but people are almost like the lighting in my, in my suffering. Like, I do not have the support that I need from people close to me. And the people who I’m supposed to be beating are actually taking there, there, they’re happy to watch me lose. It’s like this double whammy of, of punishment almost as the way that it felt in my in my childhood brain. So that’s the story. You can sense how dramatic it is. You can sense that there’s a deep survival tone to it like almost this, this needed to work in order for me to feel like I was safe. I needed to figure out how to beat the game in order to feel like I was even safe. Or I was throwing temper tantrums and, and you know, the sky was falling. So, I just bring that up to point out how severe the storyline can be as a child and how distorted it can get when we’re the center of our own universe. The second reason I think it’s useful is because the level of distortion that’s inherent to that type of thinking, is pretty extreme. And by that what I mean, if, like, if we’re really going to break down distortion, I mean that like, it isn’t actually true from a more expanded level of reality. It isn’t actually true, from like an objective third point of view, what was going on there? Like really, all we can say is going on there is Nick and his brother are playing a game. And Nick can’t figure out how to complete a past. Even simpler than that. Nick’s team is not completing passes. That’s what was going on. That’s a far different explanation that was going on in my head. So, sticking with this, let’s go back to poker. I’m going to put you in a situation where you got to tell me what’s going on here. And I want you to tell me and as simple as simply expressed as you can, what do you see here? Let’s pretend you’re a bird, you’re flying over the ocean, you’re walking down at a boat. The boat is getting rocked a little bit by waves in the ocean. It’s not a crazy storm or anything but there’s definitely waves smashing up against the boat. The boat is definitely affected by the waves. But the boat keeps moving forward. What do you see there? Just describe that visual.
Nick: From the bird’s point of view.
Jack: From the bird’s point of view. The water is dark. The sky is overcast on the boat. There are crewmen. I think in the context you described the operating is normal. For whatever reason I envision choppy waters but the boat continues, that the crewmen are just sort of doing whatever duties would normally be assigned.
Nick: Okay cool. I like this the segment. Choppy waters but the boat continues. I love that.
Jack: I’ve actually got a, I’ve got the giant calf tattoo that says a smooth sea don’t make good sailor. With the big boat on it. So, I appreciate the auspicious metaphor. So yeah, choppy waters, but the boat continuous.
Nick: And just juxtapose that to what the boat would feel like if the boat was a child. The boat was the child that I’m describing, who can’t seem to figure out how to stop the waves from hitting it. Do you see how that’s a completely different experience?
Nick: Assuming the boat could have feelings, assuming the boat had character. So what we’re doing here is basically toggling back and forth between a very distorted, contracted sense of reality. With a narrative behind it that causes it. And then a more objective relaxed third, third party point of view, almost like the pure awareness point of view of the situation. Like what is actually true here, choppy waters, but the boat keeps moving. That is like the truest thing we could say about that whole scenario, without even, without starting to project anything. So,
Jack: I love that.
Nick: The reason that I bring that up is because for guys that feel like they’re being attacked by the downswing or by the hand that goes wrong, which is frequently the feeling that’s associated with the frustration. It’s just an angry feeling of almost being violated, or there’s some injustice. When the bird looks down at the boat, there’s no injustice being caused by the fact that the wave is smashing up against the boat. That’s the story. And that’s a story that would only be told by a mind that was parsing information in an overly competitive way. Because that mind, somewhere along the way, figured out that my goal for me is to get to the end zone. The goal for me is to win the game, the goal for me is to not have to deal with these waves crashing up against me, or the fact that I can’t get the ball to the receiver. These are all obstacles that frustrate me, because they stand in immediate opposition to the goal, since at least how the child’s mind is framing it. And there’s a very contracted sense to that story, because it doesn’t introduce scope. It has no vision over the whole picture. And it specifically doesn’t have vision over time. The boat keeps moving. The reason I like that is because it actually introduces the dimension of time into the equation. And that’s an important dimension to bring in to clear up the distortion of the childhood story. The child is basically interpreting the situation as it’s happening, like this means everything. Right now, this means everything. But what’s actually happening is the boat is continuing to carve through the ocean over time. And it’s just the way that it has to be because the boat can’t control the ocean. It signed up for this. It knows that waves exist in the ocean. So, going back to the poker career, the reason I think it’s cool for you to have a better understanding of variance is because you know, you signed up to navigate the ocean. If you really understand variance, you can no longer say that wave shouldn’t be smacking up against you. That’s off the table. Like it just gets eliminated as a rational argument. So that’s where we get rid of entitlement. If you are signing up for this, you know, there will be storms, you know, there will be harsh waves. And then my question is, do you see and trust that the boat will continue to navigate?
Nick: The boat will, the boat will keep moving. As long as you can navigate the storms in your mind that are telling you that there’s more attacking you than there really is. Like the really the fear that’s being triggered, if you’re the mind of the boat caught and that childhood story is, there’s just no way that I’m going to get through this. There’s too much attacking me right now. It’s too much. It’s too much, it’s too much frustration. There’s too much anger. I’m not going to be able to, I can’t handle it, basically, is the feeling. Okay, so now let’s do a second iteration of this, then bring it back to the poker career. Who’s your favorite player of all time? Who do you like, identify with as a player that really inspired you to want to try to poker?
Jack: Jack Laskey.
Nick: Cool. Picture Jack at the beginning of his career. Whether it plays online or alive, I don’t know what he was doing. And now picture the end point where Jack is at right now, with all the money he’s made all the hands he’s played, all the pots he’s won and lost, all the success that he’s had. Now go back to the beginning and start playing the real and very fast motion. So that this takes 30 seconds to fast forward through every single hand that Jack has ever played. And do it in the format of every single pot he’s lost being a wave that was hitting him and do it and doing it a 30 second fast forward sequence in your head. Even, even faster. Do it in 10, 15 seconds and just tell me objectively, you are the bird’s eye view of that whole thing going on. What do you see happening when you reduce Jack’s career to a 15 second fast forward clip?
Jack: One pretty aggressive rock of the boat and then it’s back to, back to steady.
Nick: Every pot lost is one rock of the boat. One mini rock of the boat maybe a huge downswing is a big rock of the boat. Boat keeps moving all right?
Nick: It has, it had to otherwise Jack wouldn’t have achieved this the amount of success that he did. Does that seem possible to have that level of poise over the course of a journey like that, where there is a lot of rocking going on? When you look at it from that perspective, but third eye, the eagle eye view perspective?
Nick: Does it seem like that’s at least a possibility now, to not create a story around anything, to just keep going?
Nick: Because that’s where you’re going to have to play from if you want to play a million hats. And assuming that you understand the, the rules of the game that you’re getting yourself into, which is I’m embarking on a journey where there’s going to be some pretty rough waters. It’s going to be some pretty tough beats, and then some really bad down swings. But I have a true conviction that I can get where I’m going to, I can get where I want to go, if I just keep going. If I don’t create too big of a distortion around these, these points and events along the way, if I don’t make too big of a deal of any one way of hitting me, I’m going to get where I need to go. Who knows where that is like that can be, that could just be you continuing to sell forever and to deeper, more uncharted territories. That would probably the, probably the healthiest goal to have. Just I love sailing, nothing’s going to stop me from just like tracking this entire globe. But it’s the first time I’ve really done a visual like this, that’s been this entrenched in language. But I feel like there’s a, there’s a potent reality behind these different points of view. There is a visceral difference between the experience of the boat feeling like it shouldn’t be getting attacked by the waves, or the player feeling like you shouldn’t be losing this one pot. And the experience of the eagle eye view watching the whole situation and watching it play out with the dimension of time. Being able to fast forward it so that there’s, the eagle eye view doesn’t even have to endure watching it, let alone experiencing it. You just need to see the progression of it. So, what I’m starting to believe, I think is that one of the major skills that allows a poker player or any performer to navigate his career is the ability to begin to contextualize time and to collapse it and expand it and work with it in a way that’s far more objective than creating a personal narrative around every stage. Because there are inevitably really rough stages. The narrative gets snagged on a rough stage, that’s what can create a downward spiral. And that’s when the boat turns around and goes home or just sinks, which I would say is self-sabotage. So, the player that can avoid spinning out in that way, by continuing to just lift his awareness to the level of the eagle eye view and say like, you know, what, even if, even if there was a mistake, even if we took a wrong turn somewhere and had an into some super choppy water that we could have avoided, this boat is going to continue going. And we can course correct. And there’s no point in turning around or just throwing our hands up in the air and saying that we can’t continue on. It’s just about objectively recalibrating. But in order to do that, you have to have this very strong conviction and faith I would say that like you are going, the boat will continue on regardless of how choppy the water is, you have the capacity to guide the boat further and the fuel to do it. So, I guess having been through that sequence, what feels different from the first question I asked you of *censored* the poker player who felt frustrated when he lost a pot that he should have won. Go back to that level of your own awareness, which now should feel pretty narrow and almost like you’re in a straitjacket from that level.
Nick: Keep toggling back and forth. And like what is the major difference that you feel between that, and the bird’s eye view that accounts for time and is able to fast forward and rewind at very, very accelerated rates to be able to see the whole story. To see the forest through the trees, basically,
Jack: I think that the sense that I get is that I can confidently approach different future spots without, hopefully without falling into the same trap again, that I feel like I have a tool in the tool bag that I didn’t have before.
Nick: I hope it lets you play with more joy. Because honestly, I think that’s the most valuable upgrade, because in order for the boat to continue to sail, somebody, preferably the captain needs to really enjoy sailing. Otherwise, the whole fucking game is, doesn’t make sense, right?
Nick: Why are we in a boat? The only, the only reason that the poker player loses passion for the game, assuming he had it to begin with, which is the most important piece to the puzzle of being a professional poker player. The only reason he was that passionate is because he gets hit by such a harsh wave along the way and tell such a distorted story about it when it happens. That he gets so down on himself, and he confuses that with losing passion. He didn’t lose passion, he just lost perspective. This happens all the time. The biggest reason that players quit program in my history as a backer and coach, I lost the passion for the game.
Nick: What can you really say to a guy like that? I got to tell him no, you didn’t. His mind is already made up at that point. You already started to realize my work has to come earlier than that. If we’re going to prevent this boat from sinking, the mindset work has to be layered from the start to make, to build awareness around the propensity for people to use that excuse. Because it’s not even like, I truly believe they believe it, that they lost passion, which is the sad part. But by the point that they believe that it’s probably too late to change their perspective on it, because they’re just already set up.
Jack: I feel for those players. That sucks. I don’t, I don’t envy that one bit about anything, let alone you know, an attempt at a career.
Nick: So, I guess I’ll leave you just with the knowledge that you definitely have options. And the options aren’t so much like, I guess they’re twofold. Like, what path are you going to take to learn how to sail and then what stories are you going to tell along the way? What stories you’re going to tell yourself about what should or should not be happening on the rocky waters. Because I think the major awareness that the poker player lacks is being able to actually understand and accept that all of the shit that you don’t want to happen is going to happen. And that doesn’t mean that the boat can’t keep moving towards the goal. You know who Peter Crone is?
Jack: I do not.
Nick: He uses that quote that you have on your calf quite a lot. I think you’d be interested. I mean, he does a lot of this type of work. I’ll send you some links of his but honestly you can just google him or you can just YouTube and take a look at
Jack: How do you spell the last name?
Nick: I recently found him like a few months back and I just fell in love with the way that he really hones in on language to build a more objective perspective and a lot of what we just did sort of inspired from how he works with language. Then he does the same sort of thing, works with top performers and basically just tries to solve the language leak that’s creating the mental prison. So, let’s leave it like this bro. I really enjoyed this convo. I think you got a really strong head on your shoulders. If you decide that you want to get on board with a path, let’s do another call and we can talk about what options I have for staking or non-staking. Basically, just giving you a step by step program where, where you can get the tools that you need to be able to navigate and hopefully not sink your ship on the way.
Jack: That’s the most important part. Yeah, the ship’s got to stay on the water for any of this to work.
Nick: I added this one to the series, because I thought it addressed just a really common root problem that poker players face, which is just dealing with variants and more specifically dealing with time. Just the brutal amounts of painful time that we endure as poker players trying to navigate all the way to the finish line or, or whatever we think is the finish line. I think the best way to bucket this call is to separate it into two main ideas, you have two phases of time almost there’s the logical way to understand time in this career. And I think you can do a lot with that just in terms of developing or cultivating higher faith levels, that things are going to work out because you understand the variance, you understand your edge, and you understand if you just keep playing eventually it’s going to turn around. I’m talking about down swings here, because that’s when people generally lose faith in the game. It’s funny in our peer to peer program that we recently started on the coaching for profit side, which is where our top division players offer coaching to our lower division players. The funny thing about it is that guys are always booking when they’re on down swings. It’s just the most common trend, that’s when people just need the most support. And, they need a reality check or a sanity check, actually, that they’re just not going insane.
Brad: Yeah, you said that folks lose faith in the game. To me, a lot of times they lose faith in themselves, and their ability to make correct decisions. And their ability to trust that they’re doing the right thing that will work out over time. And in my experience with coaching, it’s the exact same. Nobody comes to me, while they’re crushing the world. They come to me when they don’t know what’s up and what’s down. And they have no faith or trust in their game anymore. And they just need a direction or they need somebody to look over what they’re doing to give them some reassurance like, yeah, you’re doing okay. And just keep doing what you’re doing. You know, it’s like a centering practice more than anything.
Nick: And I think that’s a great way to introduce what that second bucket is, which is the emotional bucket. You can understand something logically all you want. But once you’re on the ground, where the rubber meets the road, this game just does not make sense to the human mind, on the ground level. And your thoughts echo the thoughts of Matt Marinelli, who’s our top division player who does these peer consults. His first reports in the exact chat were sort of confusing to him, at least. It was, it was very weird to see that he wasn’t being summoned for any sort of real technical upgrades. Everybody seemed to be wanting to talk about feelings and getting feedback that it was okay for them to remain confident on the path. And that was more confirmation for me to sort of polarize more into the emotional support side of poker coaching. Because I do think it is massively underestimated how much cognitive dissonance is generated in this industry compared to other professions that you can have. I mean, most people outside of poker would write this off as a stupid game. But then if you look at the actual stress levels of players compared to soldiers, go check out that Elliot Rowe podcast that he did on that topic. And I think you’ll see a completely different side of how intense this can actually be. So, the second bucket of building up a player’s emotional support, especially when he’s just not at a level where he can be reasoned with in the moment, even if he did make mistakes. I like to call it emotional equity. We need to build up somebody’s emotional equity before we can inject logic into the system. And that’s an art I think, and if you lack that, that insight, which I think I did for a very long time, I was too imbalanced toward the logical on how I would steam roll the support call on the logical end, and then wonder why I couldn’t connect as much as I wanted to connect with the learner. So, yes, the two these two buckets, they’re both I would say equally important. If you neglect one or have a lower preference for one, you’re going to pay for your sins in the form of your students not progressing at the speed that he could possibly be growing up. And you have this other more abstract, hypothetical, I guess you could call it thought problem. This thing that I introduced, called the green button, or if you imagine that there’s a green button that you could press, where you would be basically warped in 10 seconds, to your best reality, the best thing that you can think of. So, in this case, let’s just pretend you know, you’re million dollars up in poker, and you’re through all the rocky roads of all the down swings. If you could hit that button, and basically send yourself forward in time to that reality, no matter how long it might be ahead. And you only have to endure 10 seconds to get there. But that 10 seconds is the most intense pain you will ever feel. Would you push that button? And you get different answers for this. Some guys are like immediately, I’d push that button, no questions asked. And some guys have more of a hesitancy about it. Some guys find a loophole and want to ask more questions first. But the crux of this thought problem
Brad: Calling to ask me?
Nick: Sure. What’s your answer?
Brad: I don’t press the button.
Nick: And why?
Brad: Because experience is a part of the journey, and to lose the experience of becoming successful. Seems like I’m cheating myself in some way. I want to go through the process.
Nick: I never got that objection. Because I always assumed, I guess that if you push the button, the 10 seconds will include all of the integration of the journey.
Brad: That’s the painful part, though, right? We’re trying to skip, skip all the pain experience at all, in one fell swoop.
Nick: That’s like that Matrix scene where I can put the chip in the back of your head and download all the experiences at once. And you don’t miss out on anything. Yeah, yeah, there’s clearly loopholes. And that’s what makes it so fun, I think to talk about stuff like this. I’ve had like, hour long conversations with players around this who, who were undecided. But the crux of the whole argument, I think the patterns that I saw when I asked different players this question is that the guys that were in more pain in their current reality, were way more willing to push the button. Goes back to typical behavioral economics with loss aversion, we are more likely to avoid an equal loss, then sort of go for the same amount of gain. So just not something that I think the mind quantifies easily. And so, if you do have a lot of emotional leverage in the department of your current life being really painful, I think you’re more prone to push that button and just written bear whatever you need to go through on the rocky waters to be able to get to Graceland. And so that, that is a way that you can at least sort of glimpse how profound the choice, the emotional choices, to sit down and endure a career like this over time. Because it is a day in and day out process. And there are a lot of days that are dark, where you can’t see 20 yards in front of you on the waters and it feels overwhelming, and it feels like it’s never going to turn around. And those are the days where if you haven’t done the work on both the logical side, and if you don’t have proper support systems from a peer group, and, and in the way that you speak to yourself, on those days. I think it’s very, very hard to keep your emotional equity high enough to complete the journey.
Brad: It also feels like nobody understands. Nobody understands exactly what you’re going through. And it’s hard to, hard for somebody inside of poker or outside of poker to empathize with the suffering that happens on a day to day basis. And, you know, we can all imagine what it’s like to run a marathon. But there’s going to be an emotional toll to running a marathon that we can’t imagine for the person that’s in the race that’s running, that needs the emotional support to get to the finish line. In any endeavor when you all came to Atlanta and I hung out, what I saw was nobody really needed super technical upgrades. But every single player there had mental game issues. Everyone, myself included, every single player struggles, and they have the same struggles even your brother, right? Your brother was, he’s averse to going on a big downswing, it scares him. Because he knows it can happen, right? This is like, you get the knowledge and then you fear an outcome. That’s bad. And it’s nerve racking. And like, this is the world that poker players exist in on a day to day basis. And when you go through that 100k breakeven stretch or downswing, you will feel like it’s never going to get better, and it’s never going to change, no matter who you are. Now, what kind of person does it take to dust themselves off, plant themselves in front of a computer at the 50k hand mark, and say, I’m going to keep clicking these fucking buttons until it all turns around. Strong person. A strong person with a good support system.
Nick: Yeah, emphasis on that second part. I love what you did there. Because you can go back again and everything you just said, you can chunk that into a logical and an emotional bucket. And both are equally important. Remember that you chose this career. And I said this in the consult, everything bad that you are afraid of happening. It’s not that it might just happen, it is going to certainly happen. Over the years in this career. The worst things that you can experience, you’re going to get one out, you’re going to go on a 40 by a downer, you’re going to get your account hacked, you’re going to timeout when you have the nuts, all this stuff. And you can take ownership over that on the logical end. There is a certain amount of intelligent work there that you can, that you can design and look at and come to terms with. And then the other side of it is once you are on the ground level, once you are in the eye of the storm, I guess not the eye because there’s no waves in the eye. But once you’re there, feeling the pain, if you don’t know how to speak to yourself and encourage yourself through that. Or if you don’t have a strong support system who can boost your emotional equity levels and let you know that you have good reason to remain confident. You’re not as crazy as you think right now. Without that, I don’t know how you have a high probability chance of sustaining in this career.
Brad: You have to be uniquely stubborn, and possibly delusional in your self-confidence and ability as a poker player to just keep getting up and doing it day in and day out. And for the folks listening in the audience, nobody is immune to this. Mix a 100% right, that every famous or monetarily successful poker player has gone through all of these things that you’re going through, that I’ve been through, that Nick has been through. We’ve all been through it, right? They’re not luckier than you. They’ve just weathered the storm. They’re hardened. And they made it out the other side. And guess what tomorrow, they may start a 100k breakeven stretch that they have to deal with and the cycle starts all over again. And you can’t tell me that, you know, whoever it is, Jungleman, whoever the crushers are, Fador Holtz, they go on 100k downer or breakeven, they will feel it emotionally regardless of success, regardless of past things. So, it’s an ongoing process. You’re always fighting this battle with yourself and your emotions to remain calm, to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel or that the storm will eventually fade. But it’s ongoing. And this is what we signed up for.
Nick: The last thing that I would add is that it’s so important to know that you have everything you need right here already, and a lot of people don’t. Which is why there’s this really stubborn incessant struggle for control on the downswing. Got to get it back, got to prove got, to get rid of this feeling inside of me, that’s telling me that I’m not good enough until I do X. And people who have strong support systems and people who have cultivated a more supportive inner dialogue with themselves, they’re less prone to going down those control heavy rabbit holes, seeking so hard for a solution when the solution can’t be found by chasing outwardly. People who have strong support systems are good where they are despite what’s going on around them, because they’re resolved, they’re emotionally resolved. And this is something that I think this industry in particular would benefit from developing a higher preference for just in learning about, because I see mostly, players who are trying to solve deep emotional issues. But there’s a deep lack of emotional resolve. And we’re trying to fix it by getting the next better strategy, or forcing ourselves to go play the next 100,000 hands to get out of this downswing. That can be effective for as long as you have gas in the tank, and then you burn out. And I think that’s the part of the story that we usually don’t hear about. Guys that are really able to push through that just have more gas in the tank. But I don’t know why you would want to risk that if there was an alternative that was more holistically sustainable. And that’s why I want to raise more awareness around the emotional side of mindset training.
Brad: I can’t tell you how I made it through. I don’t know, you know, I’ve gone through the whole cycle, the self-flagellation, just being angry at myself for making mistakes, feeling like I’m weak when I’m on a downswing. Like everybody goes on downswings. Brad, why are you so weak? Why can’t you get your ass up on the computer, put in some quality volume? You know, in 16 years, I’ve been through all the cycles many, many times, and I don’t know how I made it through. I just know that it’s hard for any human being to make it through. And like you said, we do need more awareness on emotional support in the poker world, because human beings are not built to fade poker in the long run. We’re just not built for it.
Nick: Nice. Yeah, this game does not make sense to the human mind. And that’s what makes it such a beautiful learning ground for deeper self-awareness.
Brad: Yep, I love this. And for sure, let’s collaborate and come up with some more things that can help in this area because it’s absolutely necessary and something that is missing in a lot of cases when it comes to poker strategy. Just you know, the poker lifestyle in general.
Nick: Yeah, absolutely agree. And it’s, it’s where my heart is right now with developing new content. Not sure what’s going to come of this new chapter for me as a mindset coach, but I definitely see a new path opening up that is very rooted in this emotional conversation.
Brad: Yep, I love it.
Nick: Thanks, brother.
Join the Chasing Poker Greatness Mailing List and get a FREE poker training course!
Intel in your inbox! Sign up and receive not only CPG updates, poker strategy, and performance insights emailed to you -- but also get access to NURRLE: Neutralize River Leads for FREE (well, pay-what-you-wish, but free is an option 😃)!