James "Splitsuit" Sweeney: Co-Founder Red Chip Poker

Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 056

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Today’s guest is one of the foremost authorities on poker coaching and one of the founders of Red Chip Poker James “Splitsuit” Sweeney.

James has been in the poker coaching and training business for over a decade and it was easy for me to see why … helping guide folks in their poker journey lights him up like the fourth of July.

As a man who has seen and heard about his fair share of shady coaches and, quite frankly, b******t spewing in the poker training world, it’s always refreshing to cross paths with someone who genuinely cares about the success of the people who give them their trust and hard earned dollars.

And James absolutely fits the bill.

In our conversation you’ll learn:

– Why poker is not your game if you’re looking to simply memorize strategies.

– James’ personal process for regularly improving his game on a daily basis.

– The surprising thing James feels is easy that causes massive confusion and suffering in the poker world.

– And much, MUCH more!

So, without any further ado, I bring to you my conversation with Red Chip Poker founder and world-class poker teacher, James “Splitsuit” Sweeney.

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 James "Splitsuit" Sweeney on the Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast.

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Transcription of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 056: James "Splitsuit" Sweeney

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Brad: What is happening my friend? This is your host Brad Wilson, the founder of enhanceyouredge.com. And today’s guest is one of the foremost authorities on Poker coaching and one of the founders of Red Chip Poker, James “SplitSuit” Sweeney. James has been in the poker coaching and training business for over a decade and it was easy for me to see why. Helping guide folks in their poker journey lights him up like the Fourth of July. As a man who has seen and heard about his fair share of shady coaches and quite frankly, bullshit spewing in the poker training world, it’s always refreshing to cross paths with someone who genuinely cares about the success of the people who give them their trust and hard-earned dollars. And James absolutely fits the bill. In our conversation, you’ll learn why poker is not your game if you’re looking to simply memorize strategies, James’s personal process for regularly improving his game on a daily basis, the surprising thing James feels is easy that causes massive confusion and suffering in the poker world, and much, much more. So, without any further ado, I bring to you my conversation with Red Chip Poker founder and world class poker teacher, James “SplitSuit” Sweeney.

Brad: James. Good morning, sir. How are we doing?

James: Good morning. How are you, sir?

Brad: I’m doing, I’m doing okay. I think, okay, is as high as I’m going to go at, at this time. But you, it’s life, is there’s variance in life, it goes up, it goes down. And this is one of those times that I think the, the graph of the world is probably going a little down, but we’ll see what happens.

James: We will. It’s a lot of uncertainty. And if there’s anything that poker is kind of taught us through strategy, it’s just there’s a lot of uncertainty in this game. We don’t know what the next card is going to bring what the next action is going to be or anything in between. And when you get comfortable with that, and if that’s the only thing we’ve taken away from poker that we can use in real life right now is we’re dealing with Corona. I think that’s, that’s worth something. Because we have to be able to be comfortable right now. Because it’s, it’s uncertain, and it’s uncomfortable now. And I think it’s probably unfortunately only going to get worse.

Brad: Yeah, just control the controllables and let the chips fall where they may.

James: Yep.

Brad: Let’s start this out by asking you, how did you get involved in playing cards?

James: So, I think I played like once in high school. But when we went to college or opening weekend, we just, I’m not very good with socialization, kind of a shy person naturally, very much introverted. And one of the people on my floor ran a poker night that opening weekend. So, I was like, well, this is something where at least there’s their focus, I can do that. And maybe I’ll meet a couple of people. And if nothing else, well, I played poker once. So, let’s try that. So, did that, made some really good friends, actually, friends, I still have to this day through that little, little thing, ended up doing that regularly, and then started playing online very quickly. And then I went to college in Syracuse, and Turning Stone Casino is very, very close to that, which was an 18 plus casino. So, I could go there and play and started playing there semi regularly and just kind of went from there. Played a lot online and just kind of never stopped playing online until Black Friday.

Brad: What was it about cards that kind of drew you in that appealed to you?

James: You know, I think I have a very different answer now than then. Then I don’t really think it was anything in particular other than I can make money if this right. I mean, back then it was what, ’04, ‘05 and making money playing poker wasn’t the most difficult thing in the world, right? Just have a pulse, use your brain a little bit and you’re making money. Nowadays, I think what I love about poker is just poker is, I can’t think of a single game or a single activity that’s a better parallel to life, in terms of if you can generate poker skills, inherently those same exact skills will help you in life, make better decisions handle your mental better, and all the various things in between. So very different answers for different stages of my life. But yeah, poker is just such a beautiful game. I can’t think of anything more beautiful. That’s just like a perfect, perfect parallel.

Brad: What are some of the best things you’ve learned from poker that have been beneficial in your life?

James: One is improvement in math, for sure. And I don’t consider myself like a mathematician at this stage, but I’m okay at math. And that helps a lot, because so many decisions that we make on a day to day, year to year basis are very, very math based. Everything from do I rent or do I buy something to, you know, how can I make this decision when purchasing groceries? Like those kinds of things are very, very mathematical. And then the other part is definitely the psychological parts and strengthening the ability to have mental resilience and be able to handle the ups and downs and especially handle things that are out of our control, right. So many people in real life can’t handle anything, when life starts getting a little wonky. And it’s not a question of is life going to get wonky? It’s just, when is the next time life’s going to get a little weird. So, we have to be able to handle those things. And pokers got a forced, forced me to learn those things, for better or worse. Not that it’s been easier, you know, not necessarily felt any pain trying to learn those things.

Brad: Right. The thing for me that, that sort of stands out, and has always stood out is just making good decisions. And if they don’t turn out the way that you expected, or the way you anticipated, just being able to live with the process of trying to do your best in life and make good decisions and let the chips fall where they may, right. The results may not be what you wanted. But all you can do is just make good decisions that good decision on good decision. And eventually, things do work out.

James: Yeah.

Brad: Very similarly to poker.

James: Yeah, interrupt that right back to the to the math part. It’s like a lot of decisions in poker, you can prove math that mathematically. You can say this was either, you know, good or bad. And then eventually you can start narrowing it down to was this, you know, good or was this best. And unless you have some mathematical model for being able to say this is good, or this is not, it’s very difficult to discern what in life is a good decision versus bad decision, which is why I think like the math thing really, really helped a lot. Because I’ve always had like a little bit more of a left leaning brain for sure, in terms of very, very logic focused, but being able to actually put like, mathematical backing to those decisions to say, this is good, bad or great, has helped a tremendous amount.

Brad: And you’re known for Red Chip Poker, or one of the things you’re known for is red chip poker. How did your training site come to be? Why did you get so interested in coaching, and helping folks improve at poker?

James: So, I’ll answer the last part first in terms of getting into coaching and teaching and in any capacity in this game. So, I’ve always really liked teaching. And one of the best ways that I learned is by teaching, which probably sounds a little bit weird, but until you’ve tried to teach someone something that you think you know, it’s very difficult to figure out how well you know it, right? Because when you’re trying to teach someone, and they’re constantly confused. They’re not getting it. It’s like, do you really understand it? You know, you the teacher, are you really like understanding what you’re trying to teach or not so much. So, I’ve always enjoyed teaching. It’s very, very challenging. And teaching poker just kind of was one of those things that felt kind of natural. Towards the end of college, I had started working with a couple of people just like trying to help them on their game. People that I, you know, knew and met through two plus two. And then eventually, I was like, there’s a lot of people that need and want help. And there’s a serious market for this. So, let’s actually put something together that makes a little bit of sense and come up with an hourly rate that’s fair, and go forward from there. So, I was doing that for a long time from like ’07, ’08, somewhere in there, and was just helping people playing, you know, six max online and full ring online, and always kind of smaller games, everything, 100 no limit and under. And I really enjoyed that. And then eventually, I met up with Doug Hull. And we had a conversation from the Las Vegas meetup group. He presented something from his book, Poker Plays You Can Use. And I was like, well, I’ll talk to this dude. He is an author as well. So, see what we can do here.

Brad: What was the Las Vegas Meetup group?

James: So, there’s a group of live players that meet up once a week, I’m not sure if they’re still, I’m sure with Corona they’re not. But it’s a group that leans a little bit older, but they’re all people that live in Vegas, and all of them play live cash. And some of them use it more as a social group. But they’re all people that at least care about poker to some extent. Really great group of people. They all meet at Ricardo’s. I think it was like Wednesdays, don’t quote me on that. But again, really, really great group. And every now and then they have people come through that present, either people that are products or just want to present hands or whatever. And Doug just happened to be there that week. And we chit chatted a little bit. And he’s like, I’d like to do something more. I mean, we can co write a book. I’m like, cool, that sounds fair. Let’s, let’s chitchat about that. And then randomly one night, I don’t know, maybe like two weeks later, I get a text from him. And he’s like, I’m going to have a drink with Ed Miller. Do you want to join? Alright, I met Ed Before, let’s, let’s do it. So, I headed on down, we talked, maybe for a half hour. Like, there’s, there’s room for another training site that is more focused on live play. Really at that point, the only training site that was a little more live focused was Burke site. And I was like, okay, let’s do it. So, we started talking about how to do that and kind of got born from that very, very quickly. And we just kind of rolled in ramps, that would have been what, like ‘13 or ‘14, something like that.

Brad: Wow. I, was Bart was crushed like poker even around then. Because it feels like

James: They were.

Brad: They were?

James: Yeah.

Brad: Wow. I didn’t realize Crush Lifebook had been around that long.

James: Yeah, I, I’m not sure when they started. But I know they were around at that time, because I was like, the only site that was like, in terms of like apples to apples of going out for like live players specifically and presenting more like, we are a live training site first

Brad: Right.

James: That was very, very valuable, because all of us were live players at the time and just made the most amount of sense.

Brad: And you lived in Vegas at that point.

James: Yeah.

Brad: Correct.

James: Yeah. Yeah. I moved out to Vegas after I graduated college, which would have been, ’08, ’09, somewhere in there.

Brad: Would you get your degree in? And have you used this degree?

James: I laugh all the time about this. So, I went to college for marketing specifically. And I did graduate, got my BS, whatever that’s worth, and have I used it? You know, I’ve never used it in the traditional nine to five sense, you know, put it on a resume and trying to try to get a job based upon it. I think I’ve definitely used some principles from it. And if nothing else, probably the economics classes that I took in college, I probably use more of principles I’ve learned from those, those classes. But like the marketing classes I took in college were like, you know, the internet was around at that time. And we didn’t talk about the internet, like at all. And that was again, between ’04 and ’08. It’s like, why aren’t we talking about, not that you need to give me an SEO degree or anything like that. But why aren’t we talking about the internet? Like, I don’t know, there, there’s a massive gap between the theory and the practice, because the theory was like, lagged, and I don’t know, I didn’t care for it. I just got it because it was a safety fallback thing, just in case I needed it, gave me some extra time to continue playing cards online, because Black Friday hadn’t hit quite yet. So, it worked. But it worked in an atypical manner, not the traditional, go get a degree and use it to get a nine to five.

Brad: Right. It’s probably one of those things where if you’d have taken like a year or two to immerse yourself, probably could have come away stronger than the four years and paying all the money.

James: Yeah. Nobody, Raleigh, I wanted the dropouts, like, twice, yeah, like twice, I asked my parents, I’m like look, can I just like, take a year or two, you know, because I just wanted to. I saw online poker and the opportunity that it was very, very clearly, I’m like, I don’t know when another opportunity will come along. That’s this big and possibly lucrative. And I think it would have been very reasonable to stack away a million or two, playing online at that time, and just dedicate a year or two to doing that, and then go back and finish the degree if I really wanted to. But they were so fearful that I would, you know, drop out, take the year two off, and then never go back and never get my degree and my parents are pretty, pretty old school in that mentality of you know, you finish high school and go get that degree and then you do something. And I clearly do something that’s very atypical and not getting the degree would have made that even worse in their eyes, I think so it is what it is. So, I finished.

Brad: But looking back preference would have been to stay or drop out.

James: So even if I had made millions, I still think I probably would have spent it very stupidly. So, the degree I don’t think it’s worth too much. But stocking up on the millions, I don’t think would have necessarily been the most high value thing in the world for me anyway. So, it’s tough to say, I think the path I took was, was totally fine. I think it was just unnecessarily safe. But it is what it is.

Brad: How did it feel when Black Friday hit after not taking, not taking the years off, and then Black Friday hit. How, tell me the story surrounding that and how you dealt with it and forged ahead.

James: So, I was very, very lucky in the sense that I had just taken out like maybe a month or two before Black Friday hit. I had taken out a good chunk of money to pay my taxes that year. And then Black Friday hits and I had, you know still 1000s locked up online. So, I was like, oh, well thankfully, at least I took care of my tax responsibility. And I’m okay. But that sucked. Because I had like, you know, three or four different ways that I was making money at that time. They were all highly related to online poker. I was making training videos with the poker bank, I was writing a protege program where I essentially had like eight people underneath me that were doing kind of a coaching for profits cut a deal. And there are other things as well. And all of that just like evaporated. You know, coaching for profits just blew up in a day because no one’s going to play online anymore, because how the heck are we going to do that and how’s the scene going to work if we try to transition at the live play. It just didn’t make any sense. So, it was brutal. I remember being very, very upset about that. But again, talking about poker skills, now they translate to real life like we can’t be results oriented. So that is what it is. We now have a total different change and shift in the life circumstances. So, we have to move on, we have to figure out what this is and how we can best adjust. Go forward from there. So, I started playing more live because I was already in Vegas, so easy enough to do more of that. And I started thinking more about whether or not I was going to stay in poker or not. And I still saw, poker is just an excellent place to be. There’s going to have to write it out for a while, I was hoping legalization and regulation was going to come faster. And it’s what 2020 now and you still don’t have that. So, I’m still waiting. But you know, I think it’ll get there eventually. And poker is too beautiful of a game to let it be totally killed. And I wasn’t ready to leave poker anyway, I still love this game, even though I can’t play as much as I want to now it is, it’s, you know, still a beautiful, beautiful game. There’s still so much to do and say in the space that I don’t know, I’m not ready to totally leave yet.

Brad: And how did you go about growing 

Red Chip Poker in the face of Black Friday? And then moving forward, when did you start allocating more time to growing your business, the coaching side of things?

James: So, when Black Friday hit, I was still doing a lot of coaching already, right? So that was what, ’09 or ’10 or something like that?

Brad: ’11.

James: Jesus. Okay,

Brad: April 15, 2011.

James: Thank you. So, I can’t even pay attention. I can’t figure out years at this point.

Brad: But at least, at least you, at least you believe me. Me and Phil Hellmuth argued on the podcast about when Black Friday was. He’s like it was 2014. I’m like, no. No.

James: Definitely not ’14. No, no, no, definitely not ’14.

Brad: He’s like, no, it was. I’m like, alright, buddy, whatever. Alright, I’ll concede, sir.

James: Yeah, exactly. You went off. That’s fine. Oh, Jesus, it was ’11. Okay, so a little bit later than I thought. But at that point, I was, I was doing a tremendous amount of coaching. I mean, I was doing like three hours of coaching every day, for probably five or six days a week. So, I mean, it was like, a full-time job. And, and I say that, because I know that sounds like part time work for most people. But the way that I do coaching, it’s kind of a half hour of me to warm up and prepare, and then the hour of coaching and then a half hour of cooldown. So, every hour of coaching is realistically, you know, two hours of real time,

Brad: How much, how much was your rate back then?

James: Not that much. Maybe 60, 70? Something like that.

Brad: Oh, also cheap.

James: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, compared to 200 an hour that I charged today. So, I was just doing a lot of that. And by that point, I’m pretty sure I’d already released my first book. Definitely, yeah, dynamic flooring was already out by that point. And I liked writing. But I didn’t like writing for a publisher. So, I hadn’t, I don’t think I’d self-published another book yet. I don’t think I actually did that until redshift came along. And then I started seeing, okay, self-publishing is a legitimate thing. So, okay, so we can, we can do that as well. Because again, I still have more to say. And I didn’t want to continue doing a lot of one on one coaching, just because I don’t know, at some point, you just kind of get bored of that. And I’m one of these people that has to be like moving around. I have to have these different stations. And okay, I want to do graphics this week, or I want to do a lot of writing this week, or we want to do a lot of video stuff this week, or I want to do a lot of like back end process orientation stuff the next and just doing one on one coaching, how much we’re starting to burn me out. So, you know, doing redshift was just wonderful because it gave me so many different new things to do, everything from writing to video creation to everything in between, and then eventually the podcast and rinse repeat.

Brad: Yeah, that’s a great lens to look at it from. Because my lens has typically been, oh my god, I have to learn another thing. Oh, I have to learn how to edit these photos, and then how to do video editing and audio editing, and SEO and like, it’s amazing just how many tiny things you have to learn to be competent with having, you know, any sort of thing, much less, you know, like a podcast that people actually care to listen to, or a website that people are actually going to go to and consume the content, an email list. Like it’s just so many different aspects that are necessary for success that I think lots of people maybe don’t see. But from the outside looking into red chip poker and seeing all the things that you do, it’s very easy for me to get very impressed with how you’ve managed to pull it off. How many people are on your team at Red chip? Like, how many people have been helping you along the way in your business?

James: So, if we include like coaches that have been, you know, part of redshift, making videos and helping with lesson structures for core and all that kind of stuff, it’s probably a team of like 15 to 20 people.

Brad: Okay.

James: Which

Brad: That’s a lot of people.

James: It is, it is. But I don’t ever want to have a company that’s like 100 plus employees, or even, even 100 plus contractors, like that’s, to me sounds like, I’d lose sleep over that. I like a nice small team. I don’t, I don’t need a, you know, a company that makes a billion a year. Like that’s, it’s, that’s too much. I like reasonable numbers, things that we can control. And I will admit, like I’m a little bit of kind of not a micromanager. But I like to have final say on the way things look and feel. And I kind of trust my general gut feeling on that. And as things start getting too, too big, the team gets too, too large, you start losing that. And things can get away from you. And I try not to let things get too far away.

Brad: Yeah, you’re a control freak. I get it.

James: Yeah. Yeah.

Brad: I’m a control freak, too when it comes to releasing the things that are near and dear to my heart, like you want them to be perfect. Even if that is most of the time, unobtainable. This is one of the things that I’ve had to work on myself is ceding control in some aspects. And even if somebody is doing it, 90% of what I feel I could do, that’s just going to be good enough and stop losing sleep, and try to maximize productivity.

James: Yeah.

Brad: What’s the most unexpected thing that’s come from your poker journey?

James: From my poker, in the personal sense, or in the way the game has changed? And from what, from what lens, specifically?

Brad: All the lenses if you want. We can start with personal.

James: So personal, I never thought that I would still be like teaching poker. Like I thought at some point that I might stop. Like, early on, like when I first started, like coaching and stuff. I’m like, I like this. But I don’t know if I’d be doing this when I’m, you know, in my 30s. And kind of surprised me a little bit that I’m still here. But again, like, as I’ve done more and more, I’m like, oh, I love this more and more. And yeah, I’m going to continue doing this because this is excellent. I can’t imagine, really what else I would want to be doing right this moment. So, it’s tremendous in that respect. In terms of the game, I didn’t expect, I knew something like solvers were going to come eventually. I didn’t know the response from students and players was going to be what it was due to solvers. I don’t know why I thought that though.

Brad: Dive in. What was the response?

James: So, I think the response was hyperpolarizing, right. People either love solvers or hate solvers. And the people that love solvers are like, so hell bent on trying to mimic them to the tee. And as humans, we can’t, right. Unassisted we literally cannot implement a pure GTO approach. It’s just it’s, it’s literally impossible, especially to the way that solvers can do it. So, there’s a lot of takeaways from solvers. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that to poopoo them or anything like that. And I knew something like that would come along. But it amazes me how many people are like so blinded by oh, cool, shiny solvers, that’s going to be my life now. And it’s like, no, like, you need some of the solvers. But you also need some of the exploitative stuff, like, you can’t have just one or the other, I think. And I think too many people are getting like massively lost in that respect.

Brad: People want solid answers, and they want 100% certainty for all the decisions so they can just feel right, while they’re at the poker table. And the reality is, like, I’ve been playing 16 years. I play 1000 hands a day, or I try to, and I have a low degree of certainty on many, many, many decisions every single day, every single session. And you, you just accept it. Like this is poker, it’s a game of incomplete information, you do your best. And the solver, the solver thing, you know, you mentioned solvers, and exploitability. And my audience has heard me say this, probably many times, but I’m going to say it again, because I like to hammer home the point that there are two sides of the same coin, first of all, and you never play against this solver in real life, period. So, knowing exactly how to react, even if you could implement it, in live action is not useful, first of all. And second of all, you know, you’re playing as human beings that are predictable. And if you know how solvers work and you understand that, you know, you have this baseline understanding of what balance looks like and then you can find the inefficiencies in the field. Then you just go the next step up and exploit the inefficiencies. You don’t need to go like 10 levels up to try to find complete equilibrium in GTO because, number one, this is not going to be the most profitable strategy long term anyway. And number two, you’re going to mess it up, right? Like, I’ll see guys on, I’ll see prominent streamers making a decision. And they’re like, okay, I need to randomize here, and they click a button and randomize. And I’m like, why? Why did you do this? Like, why are you just clicking a button? Like, it’s like, they almost want to feel reassured or take, take the decision out of their hands. And that that gives them a level of reassurance and confidence.

James: Yeah. I 100% agree with that.

Brad: So yeah, just like, you know, and I see inexperienced players like, oh, I need to randomize here. And I’m like, what, like, it’s like they get they get this sense of comfort when the decisions taken out of their hands, and they can live with the results, because the randomizer chose it for them. Right?

James: Exactly. That’s all it is. That’s all it is. It’s just, it’s an easy justification, it takes away the onus of, well, I don’t need to study in this spot, because I can always just randomize. I mean, cool, I guess, sort of, you can even convince yourself of that, but leave in a heap of profit, profit on the table by doing it. So, it’s up to you, I guess.

Brad: Yeah. It’s just everybody get comfortable in the fact that you’re not going to know, with a high degree of certainty what the right decision is going to be in many, many spots. Make the best decision that you can and move on with life.

James: Yup.

Brad: And if you see a spot where you’re consistently struggling with and maybe you don’t understand the fundamentals, dive into that spot and understand the baseline strategy, so that you can exploit people in the future when you notice the inefficiencies.

James: Yeah.

Brad: But anyway, that this is my, my rant on, on solvers. And I think I’m with you, they’re very powerful. They’re very important if you use them the right way, if you use them as a tool, and not as the gospel.

James: Yeah, exactly. And you can use them as a lazy crutch, but you’re not going to maximize your win rate by doing so. And that’s where you have to ask yourself, like, what are you doing in this game? Are you looking for something simple to memorize? Because there are other games where you can do that, you know, just go memorize various things and implement accordingly. But pokers, it’s an art and a science and you need both. You can’t just get lost in one.

Brad: Absolutely. The problem is, the games where you can just memorize something, typically aren’t paying very much money. There’s not much, there’s not many stakes for those games, which leads people to poker.

James: Exactly.

Brad: What is your, what’s your process look like today, to regularly improve your game?

James: Consistency, I think it’s the easiest thing. It’s very easy to kind of go through seasons of studying, and then you play a ton. And then you say, oh, well, I guess I need to go back to studying. And usually, that’s only because things got bad on you. And now all of a sudden, you’re in this like scramble, scramble mode. And I don’t know, I think that’s a really, really bad way of doing it. Whereas if you can consistently build up your fundamentals and consistently build up your understanding in this game, the long-term usage of it is much, much higher. You’re going to be able to memorize things deeper, you’re going to be able to use things longer, and things will get away from you less often. So, I think consistency is a big one. And also, just talk to yourself. And I know this probably sounded weird, but I think people don’t talk to themselves enough. Like go home. Or if you’re playing online, it’s easy, because you can talk to yourself while you’re in a in a session not have to worry about giving anything off. Don’t do this at a live table, please. Leave.\ your job. Like go home and talk yourself through the hands, like you were you know, doing a training video, like you were the coach and you’re going to walk yourself through this spot. And listen to the words you say, because oftentimes people don’t do this. So, they don’t hear their thought process. And when you hear it, it gives your brain an extra chance to process it. And you’re like, wait, that makes no damn sense. Wait, that assumption, where the heck am I getting that from? Wait, that math is totally incorrect. And by talking yourself through various things, especially during study time, or post session review time, it can be hyper helpful. If you play online, do it while you’re playing. But if you’re playing live, like do it after the session, do it on your drive home. And you’ll find so many thought process leaks. But where’s that coming from? Why is that there? And then it frames your next feature set study sessions. So, rock and roll. Win-win.

Brad: I love that. That is a greatness bomb, talk to yourself. From my experience playing cards, the gains that you make are when you’re speaking to other people away from the table. I can’t think of hardly any light bulb moments that have gone off when I’m in focus mode, grinding out my session. So, if you’re not thinking about poker in between, the chances are you’re not going to grow in the way that you need to. Poker is not a game where you just play a million hands and then all sudden you’re a Crusher, like you need to be thinking in between the sessions and trying to regularly grow. When you mentioned consistency, because you get more granular as to what consistency means for you.

James: I think just in general, make sure you touch poker daily. You know, be that spending, it doesn’t matter where you are, right? If you’re early on playing poker and yours is kind of learning the game, you’re getting your feet wet with it, you know, spend those first 20 minutes of the day just working on pot odds, or like really, really simple stuff, pot odds, implied odds, general mapping stuff, understanding equity is and being able to, you know, understand basic things. And as you obviously clearly play more on you become more advanced than getting into like, hardcore analysis and like specific situations, and maybe you’re playing out solvers, or maybe you’re just using hubzilla, or something like that. But touch it every single day. And if you are one of those people, because I know everyone’s always like, oh, I’m so busy. I’m so busy. I’m so busy. Yeah, I mean, we’re all busy. Like all of us have the excuse. And if all of us have the excuse, then it’s not a real excuse. We’re just bullshitting ourselves. Can I cuss on this? Sorry, I guess should it be

Brad: You can cuss as much as you would like.

James: Okay, so you’re just bullshitting yourself, and I don’t like doing that as much as possible. You have 20 minutes a day. If you don’t believe me, go check your Netflix queue. Go check how much time you spend on Hulu. Go check how much time you spend on Twitter. Go check how often you’re in the bathroom. You can find 20 minutes a day, I guarantee you. And if not carve it out in the morning or wake up 20 minutes early and spend your first waking hours turning your brain on by studying a little bit of poker. It goes a long, long way. But if you don’t do it consistently, and make a good habit out of it, when are you going to find the time to do it? Like never. So, we need you to dedicate to it or just understand that we’re not going to become the best players we can be. Both are fine. It just depends on your goals, but just don’t lie to yourself. Or no, I hate lying. I hate salt lying. So, I don’t know, don’t do it.

Brad: I had Sky Matsuhashi on the pod. We talked about studying because he’s the smart poker study podcast guy. And, you know, studying is the, the non-sexy part of poker, right? It’s the least sexy aspect. When you think about opening a book, cracking open a book, taking notes, gridding, the study aspect. But for me, studying was always fun, because of the way that I think I did it, just discussing hands with friends and thinking about it 24/7, there is this obsession. And like it, I looked at it as a puzzle, and factoring in human behavior and just talking, just incessantly talking about poker, that was fun to me. And I didn’t even realize I was studying. Like, for me, it was just like, the thing that I naturally wanted to do was talk to people about poker and learn and grow and improve. And so that was how it happened. So, it doesn’t have to be this like torturous thing that you’re making yourself do. It can also be fun, just to learn how to play cards. And if you’re in the game, solely to get rich quick or solely to make money quickly, you’re in the wrong game. And you’re not going to make it in poker, because you need that passion, you need the obsession, because very, very, very few people win long term. So, what’s separating you from, you know, the 97% of people that are going to be losing players over their lifetime?

James: Yep, it’s going to be the hard work. And it’s going to be the dedication. And, look, I know, no one’s here to say you have to do it. But also, don’t complain at the end of the day, that you’re not hitting the win rates that you want to hit or you’re not moving up, or none of these good things are happening to you, if you’re also not putting in the hard work. And even if you aren’t putting in the hard work, you’re not hitting the results you want, really ask yourself, are you doing the right kind of work? Because a lot of people are like, oh, well, I watch you know, 10 hours of Twitch per week, and I watch a couple of you know, you know, YouTube videos here and there. And I’m like, okay, are you watching any of that actively? Or are you just watching it for the entertainment? Because again, like, don’t lie to yourself. Most of the time, you’re probably just watching twitch to be entertained. There’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t be surprised that you’re not learning anything. And as such, you’re not improving.

Brad: And who are you watching and what’s the purpose, right? Like, what YouTube video are you watching? The type of content you’re consuming absolutely matters. Because let’s face it, this is the poker world where poker content creators, we’re coaches, we see the bullshit that exists in the poker space, the bad information, the misinformation, the people that are quote unquote, poker coaches, who basically just aren’t good enough to beat the game long term. And if you fall into the trap of following the wrong, folks, it’s going to be detrimental to your game in the long run.

James: Yeah. Exactly right. But the thing is, is you don’t even need like that much. It’s so weird. Like, I really don’t think you need that much skill in poker to be able to figure out what doesn’t make any damn sense. Right? If you’re watching a coach like, I don’t know, man, logically, that just doesn’t make much sense or where the heck is that assumption coming from or where the heck is that number coming from? And you ask them and you can’t get like a proof point, he can probably figure out pretty quickly. Yeah, this person probably isn’t for me. And I think it’s very important like, understand what are the assumptive parts of the content you’re watching versus what is kind of like the poker framework part of the stuff you’re watching. And if the framework doesn’t make sense, run away, like all hell. If the framework makes sense, but the assumptions don’t make sense. Well ask about the assumptions, then all sudden, things can start clicking pretty darn quickly. But yeah, watching the wrong stuff can, can leach pretty bad rabbit hole pretty quickly.

Brad: What would you say is the most high impact action players can take to improve their game?

James: Work on their math a little bit. 15,20 minutes of math for a few weeks. 15, 20 minutes a day of math for a few weeks will help a tremendous amount. Most people I find, kind of say, well, I wasn’t good at math. And you know, I wasn’t good at math in school. So, I’m not good math person now. So, I’m just going to be a field bass player. You know, I can really feel my way through this game. I mean, maybe you’ve probably felt your way through a couple of spots correctly. But you know, the clock is, broken clock is right twice a day, right? Like, and it’s so easy to fool ourselves all sudden, like we have this great Spidey sense, when I don’t know if maybe we do, you probably don’t. So, everything in this game is as a math-based game is rooted in math. So, spend a little bit of time with that. It’s far easier to learn that you think it is and will go a lot further than you probably think it will. Even though it might seem silly and boring to study math. I can’t tell you how beneficial it is at the end of the day.

Brad: And a lot of times the math and the intuitive side work hand in hand, especially if it’s a spot where it’s like, okay, I need to win more than 33% of the time on the river here to make this call, like this is the math basis. And then the feel is, do I think this person is bluffing, you know, at x frequency? Do I think I’m going to win this pot by calling? Like, so basically, you’re just using the pot odds with, mixed with the intuitive feel and your understanding of ranges in these spots to come to a logical conclusion that makes sense. And like you said, over time, I’ve learned myself looking at some of the mass database analysis from Nick Howard, specifically in Poker etox, that some of my assumptions have been wrong. Based on population analysis, looking down from a 50,000-foot view, it’s hard to see that guys are over bluffing in a spot 38% when they should be bluffing 33%. So, you’re just basically auto calling with like, third pair plus. It’s hard to intuitively understand that. But like, when you, you look from the 50,000-foot view, you see it and then you can also analyze the math and see like, oh, this doesn’t make sense. I need to do x in this spot in the future, to be a more profitable poker player. So, like, I’m with you, you do need to understand and like the math is not that hard. It’s not ultra-complicated it like, like you said, spend two weeks 10 or 15 minutes a day, just understanding how to turn, you know, three to one into equity. Like how to, you know, understand your pot odds. It’s not earth-shattering stuff like I don’t consider myself great at math. Did not do very well in math in high school. But like this stuff, this stuff is, is pretty easy if you just practice.

James: Exactly. Like, anything in life, any of those worthwhile practice a little bit. And eventually you get it. It’s not that tricky.

Brad: Right. Everybody sucks in the beginning. Like this is just the fact of life. Like, nobody just wakes up and understands things they, when you watch somebody on Twitch or somebody on YouTube, and they’re able to come to conclusions very quickly. And they make it look quote unquote easy, right? Like you can look at this in any almost any field. Like I was painting, painting my bathroom and watching a YouTube video on how these professional painters painting. And it looks so easy. He just does the thing, like puts it on the brush and then boop, boop, like, oh, easy peasy. And then I do it. And I fuck it all up. And like, because he’s done it a million times. So of course, when somebody is an expert at something, it looks easy.

James: Yeah, exactly.

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Brad: When you think about joy in your career, playing cards, but well we’ll stick with playing cards specifically, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?

James: So, in terms of joy, I don’t know. I have a lot of like really, really good memories of my poker home game. So, we played every single week. I think we played like 100 no limit or something like that. And we’re like really, really good guys. Like all of these dudes played at least decent stakes heads up online or played decent stakes six max online and all of us like really thought about the game seriously. By today’s standards, I’m sure we were all terrible. But by those standards, you know, we were all taking the game very seriously with whatever tools we had available. So, I remember loving that game because we would play and then immediately after we were done with the session, we would talk about every single hand that happened and just completely rip those hands apart. And there would be times when we’d get through one hand in like two hours. And I loved that, you know, and that’s when like we didn’t have all the tools available that we do today. Like Flopzilla didn’t exist back then. Card runners, EV, I think maybe had just come out. I don’t even think that was out then.

Brad: Yeah, poker stove.

James: Yeah, exactly like poker stove. I was like all you really had at that point and like trying to figure this whole thing out. And being like, I don’t, how often is the next card going to be an over card? I don’t know, let’s go crack that open and figure out how to solve that. Like, I loved that. And really trying to understand like how hand reading worked, and all of that and all of these different pieces that, you know, all of us were kind of challenging each other to get better and think deeper and beat each other harder the next week when we came back and went right back to war. I love that.

Brad: Was this online, online or live?

James: Always live.

Brad: Always live.

James: Always live. Yeah, it was excellent.

Brad: How did you make this transition from being socially awkward in college? Looking to make friends by playing at home games to you know, being a part of a regular home game, meeting up with guys in Las Vegas Meetup group? How did that transition take place?

James: I appreciate that. Because that kind of insinuates that I’ve made a transition out from being socially awkward, I still consider myself extremely socially awkward. I don’t know. I think whenever you have a group that meets around a common goal, I’m much more comfortable because there’s a focus other than just like socializing. I don’t know, I view socializing is kind of just a massive waste of time. Like there are other things I could be doing with my time than talking about the weather and whatever nonsense that doesn’t really matter about things you’ve experienced in life that have no relevancy, and I can’t learn anything from it. And what are we doing here? And I know that’s very, very typical about how normal people think about socializing. But it is what it is. But I’m just saying, okay, perfect. So, I don’t, I’m not the only one here. I don’t know. I love poker, because everyone’s focused on the same damn thing. Even in live games, right? Everyone’s focused on what’s happening at the table right that moment. Whether it’s a conversation that’s happening, or the action that’s happening, and like, everyone’s focused on something, it’s not just focus on how well you can socially maneuver and the great thing about poker tables, you can just be quiet, right? You have that option and not even that weird. So, I don’t know, I kind of always enjoyed that. But I hate anything that doesn’t have a focus. I don’t care if the focus is you know, a small group that talks about script every Sunday. I just don’t like a small group that has really only wants to socialize and just talk small talk. No, thank you. Do anything else, please.

Brad: This is very difficult I think for introverted people. Hearing me on the pod and interacting with folks like in this one to one way that we are right now, I think leads people to believe that I’m more extroverted than I am. But it’s, it’s when you have something in common that you think about or care about deeply in a one to one or even a small group setting. That’s when the introverts really shine.

James: Yeah.

Brad: It’s in those social moments that they just don’t understand how to, how to bullshit and navigate, navigate through those weird social, social dynamics. I got, like my wife, my wife is extroverted. I love her so much for it. Like, at Christmas with my family, she constantly bails me out when I get something that I know I’ll never fucking use, or have never asked for or have just, it has no utility in anything. She’s like, you know, thank you so much. It’s so amazing. And like just bails me out where I’m just like, stone, have no idea how to, how I’ve no idea how to fake it. Like, I don’t even know how to how to go about doing it, right.

James: Yeah, I am the exact same. Unfortunately, my wife is introverted as well as I am. So, the two of us we just, she bails me out as well. But like the two of us sometimes just like, how the heck do we navigate these conversations? I don’t know. I don’t know.

Brad: It’s definitely tricky.

James: Yeah.

Brad: When you think about pain in your poker career, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?

James: Interesting. I don’t think of something specific, I don’t really have any of them that I can point to exactly. And I don’t think there’s any like single instance, I think there’s pain all the time, there’s pain in every single session of, I hate making bad decisions, you know, to kind of bring it back to what you’ve been talking about at the top is good decisions is all we can try to do. And I hate when I make a decision that I know is bad. And even worse, when you can identify it in the moment that you’re making that decision. I hate that, hate than I used to be to the point where I got very, very perfectionist in sessions. And I would quit sessions as soon as I did one dumb thing that I knew I shouldn’t have done. And then eventually I loosen that up to two things, and eventually three things. And that’s kind of where I set my stop loss nowadays, I like to set monetary stop losses. I set it up when I made three decisions that are just clearly stupid to have done that, then we leave a session.

Brad: I’m more stubborn than you. I just

James: Yeah?

Brad: I mean, it’s just, I try to, I try my best to let it roll off my back. You know, I give it like this little number. The audience can’t see me. But it’s like just a, like a little facial tic where it’s like, huh, that that was not, that would, that was not great. You need to get your shit together, Brad. But I’m with you. And it was more insidious, early in my career where they weren’t even obvious, bad decisions. It was like keeping a tally in my head of making a questionable river call or not maximizing a value bet. And to the point to where I’m even, you know, I’m winning 1500 on the day, but had I maximized my value bets, I would be winning 1900. And I would be so irate with myself that eventually I just came to this point to where I said like, it’s not productive anymore. There’s like this searching for this level of perfection is not productive. So, you just got to let it go. Start back

James: Yup.

Brad: Start back at zero, you’re even and just try to make the best decision moving forward now. Are the game still good? Are you emotionally compromised? Because, yes, I think most people can get emotionally compromised. If Phil Galfond can get emotionally compromised after getting his teeth knocked in for a few weeks, that I’m going to go out on a limb and say that any poker player can be emotionally compromised. So, having awareness of that, but as long as you’re not emotionally compromised, like you can be pissed, right? You can be angry. And I’ve spoken about this a few times on the pod too. You can be pissed and you can be angry. But you can also channel that anger as energy and focus to go about the rest of your session. You don’t necessarily need to quit and go punch, punch a hole through your wall. But where, it all starts with awareness as to the level of your decision making.

James: Yeah, and that’s where I kind of bring it back to the having conversations with yourself. Because if you’re having conversations with yourself, you’re going to be able to quickly identify like, I’m just irate right now. I’m just pissed. I shouldn’t be playing right now. Or I have some unnecessary reason why I think I’m entitled to seek to stack, because that guy’s a moron or I’m so pissed at C for forgetting C eight stack before I could get it and I’m going to be mad about that. Like, it’s so easy to get angry. And I’m actually going to take in a different approach with the anger. I’ve really tried to squash it and murder it as quickly as possible. It definitely can be used for, for good energy. I just think it’s very difficult for most people to do that properly. I think it’s very easy to tell yourself, you’re doing that. And then all of a sudden, you find out later like, no you’re just using that as energy to like steamroll off another five buy ins before you finally convinced yourself like, I’m not in a good place, my edge isn’t where it should be at this table, probably time to restart. And I find myself like, again to that like three mistake thing. That sizing, like you mentioned, is one of the first things that will set me off. I don’t care if I miss like $14 in delta on a bet that I should have made versus a bet I should make. Or that I did make. Like, if there’s 14 bucks in between, I don’t care. That’s a mistake. Like you knew better than that, James. Don’t do that. And also, and that’s a mistake, because once I start making a couple of those, all sudden, my edge just starts dropping, because I’m so, all my mental energy is focused on these mistakes I made, rather than the exploitations I should be making in the future. As soon as that’s the case like, you’re probably better off just quitting for the day and restarting next time.

Brad: Yeah, always stay in the present. I do qualify my, my opinion with you need to be a seasoned veteran poker player to even attempt to channel that anger into more focus at the table. Because if you’re a recreational amateur, it’s not going to work out the way, the way that you would like. And here’s a towel while you were, while you were, you know, on your thing about talking to yourself out loud. If you ever say something along the lines of Brad, why did you make that decision? And then you answer, shut the fuck up. This is a sign. Shut the fuck up you, logical brain. This is a sign. Probably just you know, let’s call it a day and move on with life, right?

James: Yeah, and your rationale is because fuckhead that’s why it’s time to quit on the day. Get you a break.

Brad: That’s a good sign. Maybe you need to call it. Maybe you need to call it. Imagine there’s a carbon copy of yourself. This James that’s falling in love with the game of poker that is just starting out today. If you could sit that kid down, give them some advice on the current poker climate, what would it be?

James: Do everything almost backwards from what people normally say to do when it comes to bet sizing. Someone says to go small, go large, if someone says to go large, go small. And don’t assume that because everyone’s saying to do something that that’s inherently best.

Brad: Why?

James: There’s so much edge differential between what people are doing as monkey see monkey do. It, again, it’s just automatic. Give me a week to think about this. We’ll probably, I will give you some answers.

Brad: No, that, I mean, that’s a super, super compelling answer. I’d like to dive in like, first of all, I guess what is what would you in your mind consider conventional wisdom as far as like small bet sizing’s right? Like if we could go granular, that’d be great.

James: Sure. So, I think, you know, let’s just take this, this new phase that everyone’s love doing of the down betting, right? They’re really, really small C bets. They’re really small double barrels. And again, I’m not inherently saying that those are bad or wrong from a game theory sense or otherwise. But I think there’s a lot of people that will just do it, because some coaches have talked about it or becomes some commentators have talked about it. And then again, monkey see, monkey do. And once a couple of people start doing it, then a lot of people start doing it. And it’s like, but they don’t understand why they’re doing it. And then everyone gets comfortable facing this small bet. Okay, cool. I can continue more. Great. Well, what if I was just throwing pot cisors every single time that someone suggested making a down bet? Sure. I’m probably, totally imbalanced. I’m probably totally after in terms of my bluff devalue density, but whatever. How are they going to be reacting to that? Chances are way, way worse. So sure, I’m not GTO by any stretch of the imagination, but you’re making so many mistakes against it, that I’m exploited if we taking advantage of what the player pool as a whole is doing. And I think you’ll see that in down bets, I think you see that in like river over bets or river pot size bets. And there are so many opportunities to take like weird sizing, especially preflop with like massive isolation raises and a typically large open array sizes, even from early position, that creates a much better situation for yourself than just doing the monkey see, monkey do. This is the table average. And as such, I do it too. I mean, it’ll work. But I think there’s a delta between what it does and what it could do with the different sides.

Brad: I’m going to take that a step further and make an even more bold claim that even if you’re doing monkey see monkey do for optimal preflop strategy and not asking yourself why, you have the potential to be making massive, massive mistakes in the very first decision as to whether you’re going to play a hand or not. And this is a question that I asked myself and I’ve been asking a few guests this and since we, since we walked into it naturally, I’ll ask you this question. In your opinion, why do players have a default preflop strategy? What’s the benefit?

James: Simplicity. Goes back to your answer earlier, people want a cookie cutter stencil answer. They want a simple answer for a complex game.

Brad: And, and what’s the value in having this simple, simple, actionable strategy from the get go?

James: Remove cognitive load, I think would probably be the, the, the answer that no one would actually say, what is probably what it does.

Brad: So basically, it’s like a HUD. It just makes it easier. It collects information, it’s easier to execute.

James: Yeah, and you don’t have to use any brain power to do it. It’s just oh, I has x hand, x and is in my range here. And as such I do with the chart told me to do. It’s simple. It’s easy. It feels objective. And it removes subjectivity, for better or worse, definitely for worse, long run, but whatever. And they just operate accordingly.

Brad: Right. And the conventional wisdom is that this default strategy is going to make money versus a random set of opponents and a random, you know, combination of situations, right?

James: Correct.

Brad: I think that this is, this is what’s happening. But it’s amazing how long it took me to ask myself why I have a preflop strategy. Not that I ever really had a set preflop strategy because deviation for me, it was like, the first thing that I started doing was okay, I have a baseline strategy. I started deviating based on certain factors. But even understanding something as simple as why do I, why do I raise with aces preflop? Why is this a part of my strategy, right? Like, seems so obvious, so easy. Why do I raise with aces from under the gun? Can I imagine a scenario where raising with aces under the gun is less profitable than limping? Easy. It’s easy to imagine that this type of scenario, right? So

James: That, that’s exactly it. That’s the question that nobody asked themselves. They never asked it in session, because it’s far too difficult to and then they rarely ask it in between sessions. But you should always ask yourself, what set of variables would need to be true? What dynamic would need to be true here for me to take this a typical line? And if you ask yourself that you will find so many opportunities to take lines that no one else is thinking about taking? And lions that look fishy. So, no, no reg wants to make them but are actually far, far, far better. Like, which inherently actually means you have to have the confidence to take a line that looks really, really stupid at the table, and eventually is going to get a lot of table criticism from everyone who has an opinion, which let’s be honest, is everyone. Like, you have to have the confidence to say, yeah, whatever. That’s your opinion. But here’s why I did it. And I don’t need to tell you, I just was just explaining it to myself. And I’m happy when I did and I’ll refund you later when I get home. Just in case.

Brad: Absolutely. Conventional wisdom when I first started playing was never slow play aces. As still as silly as that sounds and the current dynamic of online poker, it was never slow play aces or kings. And the reality was, I was fucking printing money slow playing aces and kings, because guys, when they would three bet would just bomb off and they would bomb off too frequently. And if you for bet them, they would just over fold because for bets were underused. So, it’s like, okay, they’re going to three bet super wide. Well, I’m going to flat some of my value hands and watch them bomb off, right and not give them this ability to just fold their, their three about bluffs when I for bet them, and then taking it taking it to the next step. It’s like, okay, I’m going to, I’m also going to start for about bluffing. Yeah. But like, it’s just, you know, just think about why you’re doing the things that you do. What is standard today probably won’t be standard in six months. And what is optimal today probably won’t be optimal in six months. The game evolves, the game changes. It’s a game of people, if you understand why you can make these adjustments. This is what separates the losers from the winners in the long run, in my opinion.

James: Yep, exactly. Otherwise, just going to get stuck in some static strategy that will eventually get beaten, because that’s just what happens in this game. And you’re going to fail to have the tools to adjust properly and get out of that same strategy. Which again, is kind of why going back to what, what I suggest people do is, you know, be more consistent with your studying, because it’s going to help you identify things as the game starts shifting and tweaking and we’ll make sure that you have the tools available, when you need to make bigger shifts in your strategy, as certain things start getting a little bit too stagnant, which inevitably, they probably will, especially if you’re not doing the consistent touches.

Brad: Absolutely. And embrace the curiosity. Embrace the curiosity to even ask stupid questions that are questions that seem, that seem dumb, should I be flatting with queens here, like, is there a benefit? What is the benefit? How frequently should I be doing it? And if you have people in your poker circle, one thing that, I that I’ve seen going back to the very beginning when people are certain, they have 100% degree of certainty and say, no, that’s bad, period. These are the people that are not good to have in your poker circle, right? Like you even, even if, in your intuition says, I don’t think this is good, at least give it some credit to dive in and disprove it, right? Like, at least spend the energy disproving it, because you don’t know. Like, it’s the things that give people edges are the things that people do differently than the majority of players that are more effective. So, like it, this is how you find edge.

James: Yeah, exactly. It actually reminds me of very, very early on, I was talking with a friend, very, very competent player. And I was explaining to him that I didn’t have a four bet, five bet war game. In fact, if I was going to format, it’s just going to be a four-bet shove, even like 100-line depth. He just like that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You know, he was coming from like, I think it was playing more heads up. So, at that point, like you had to have that level. And I’m like, no, it’s fine. And he goes, no, no, I’m going to disprove you right now and pull out the math. And we proved it all out. And it turned out to be positive. Its positive to like nothing, which you know, asked ton of risk for very, very small ROI, but whatever, it’s still positive. And I knew that because I proved it prior to that he needed to see it for himself. But then challenged each other to go further within trying to break it down more and more and say, okay, well, what are the other four bet sizing strategies that are available, and those contend, and also we were able to find optimizers that were better than four betting at a small ROI. So yeah, if nothing else, you have to be able to be told that you’re wrong. Prove it out mathematically, even when you think you’re right. And then even when you get a mathematical answer, you’re not done. Because there’s other things to test. There’s other assumptions to make. There’s other, okay, well, maybe that doesn’t work against that player type. But what if he were a different player type? Or what if it was a different car under Wolf, it was a different range of hands? And then all sudden, again, you’re never done exploring, but you can start finding all these cool spots very, very quickly.

Brad: Right. You’re finding optimal, right? Like,

James: Yeah.

Brad: Nobody, nobody can argue that it’s negative EV to just shove aces when you get them preflop, right? This is, this is positive EV, period, regardless of if everybody folds like 99% of the time, however, is this optimal, right? Are you optimizing the value of the aces? And

James: Right.

Brad: That, that’s sort of, you know, what you and your friend are doing? Like, okay, the four-bet shove? Yeah, it’s profitable. For a small amount, is there a better way? Can we optimize this moving forward? And you know, these questions and diving in deep and embracing curiosity, again, just, you just can’t do it enough as, as a poker player.

James: Yeah. And be comfortable with the fact that we’re always chasing optimization. But we’re never ever going to find optimal. And like you said earlier, even if you somehow do find it today, the game is going to shift and then that optimal point is now moved elsewhere, and you still got to go try and find it again. So, you just got to be comfortable being like, alright, I’m going to make a vast ton of mistake., I’m going to lose a lot of money in spots where I’m trying to find it, maybe I missed or maybe I was even, right, but it just didn’t work out this time. Because that’s baked into the equation. So, you have to get comfortable with loss, you have to get comfortable with being wrong, you have to get comfortable with exploring to try to find a point that’s going to move on you anyway. And learn to love, if you don’t love that, like, if that doesn’t like really rev your engine, long term poker just isn’t for you. And then that’s fine. Just be really, really honest with that. And I don’t know, I love this stuff. You know, let me go talk high level hands with someone and I am stoked. But if that doesn’t stoke you, like I don’t know, there are other things you could be doing that you’re probably going to enjoy a lot more. And I know, I don’t mean to say that shitty-ly just like, you know, there are other things you could do that you enjoy more

Brad: 100%.

James: There are other ways you could do to make money, you know, even still.

Brad: Yeah, like, you need to love it. Like, there’s no, there’s no getting around that, there’s no bypassing, like, in the early phase, at least your early phase, like 15 years later. So, you know, you can have a DGAF that’s like, fuck this game. I’m tired of poker, I’m looking to move out of poker. But he’s 20 years into his career. And in the beginning, there’s no chance that was his mindset or mentality or the way he approached poker. It was a passion and love. And maybe you go grow jaded over time, but always begin with the passion and the love for the game. And like you said, the reason poker evolves even though it’s the same game, the same, you know, you’re starting with 100 bigs, typically, the blinds stay the same. It’s a very static game, but the people change and the strategies change. And that’s where, that’s where you need to try staying at least one or two steps ahead of what everybody else is doing.

James: Yep.

Brad: What do you think folks who are chasing their poker dreams don’t spend enough time thinking about?

James: I don’t think most people spend enough time thinking about their mental game. I think a lot of, there like two kinds of players. There are players who spend like, way too much time on the mental game. And then there are players it’s been like very, very little, if any, and I think for most people spending more time on their mental understanding where they’re at, understanding what’s holding them back. I mean, there are so many different self-sabotage and things that poker players can be doing. And for tournament players, it’s infinitely worse. You know, there’s nothing worse than working really, really hard to final table, especially a big field event. And you self-sabotage yourself out in eighth. And there’s like your entire year’s win rate just gone, because you just decide to self-sabotage like a crucial, crucial spot. So, I think for a lot of people putting some extra time and effort into that is very, very important.

Brad: Tell me specifically, self-sabotage, in this instance, what is that? Can you dive deep and expand a little?

James: So, there are a lot of people that don’t believe that they’re valuable enough to win something big. And that may seem silly, and for most people seems actually probably quite stupid. Until you realize that you probably do that to yourself on a daily basis, right? You, you hold yourself back, you don’t commit to doing things that you know would be good, be it as a poker player, like not studying enough or not reviewing things well enough, or saying, I’m not going to go play that session, because insert whatever reason here. There’s a lot of things we do to self-sabotage. So, I think, again, part of the talking to yourself, is that you can start understanding things like that, which is why I kind of always suggest asking yourself why. You know, like, when you talk to a four-year-old, and they’re being real cute, you say something and say, oh, but why? Then you answer and then they oh, but why? Like, it’s actually a very, very genius thing to do. Because when you ask yourself why and give yourself honest answers, and you can send, continue that okay, ask why give an answer and then ask why to that answer and again, rinse repeat. At about the third why, you start figuring out like strategic issues. And about the fifth why, you start finding out like core actual person issues that you have, like, be an entitlement or be it self-sabotage in some capacity. One thing that I used to have a really big issue, I worked with Elliott Roe on this was handling criticism. And you may say, well, that’s how the hell does that affect me as a poker player? Well, it affects you a lot. Because if you, especially you’re playing live, and you don’t want to make a play, because you know that the tables going to have an opinion about it afterwards, then they’re going to criticize you for it. And that’s just going to make you just melt in your seat, you’re going to hate that. And yeah, for any introverts listening out here, I’m sure that kind of rings at least a sort of a bell. You might avoid making something that you play that you know, would actually be damn good, be it calling with fifth pair or calling with high card or making that bluff that you know, you’re supposed to make whatever it is. And again, if you haven’t, like work through these things, it’s going to kick your ass in poker at some point, but it’s been kicking your ass on me for a long time, and it’s going to continue doing it. So, put the effort in there. And I think it goes very, very far both on and off the field.

Brad: This is one reason why folks have problems immersing themselves in study. It’s something that I know is absolutely true for me going back to high school, I made straight 3.0s, and applied myself zero. So, didn’t study, didn’t do homework. Knowing what I know now about mindset, the reason for the self-sabotage is because I consider myself a smart person. This was a part of my identity. And if I were to study and not make 4.0s, I wouldn’t have been able to handle that. It would have crushed this identity that I had of myself. So, I was more comfortable making 3.0s, and I think people in the poker sense do this constantly. They are afraid of applying themselves 100% knowing that it’s a long shot in the first place to become a winning poker player, apply themselves 100% and then fail. And this is where the self-sabotage is really insidious and really comes into play.

James: Yep. 100% agree with that.

Brad: What do you think folks spend too much time thinking about?

James: In poker? Interesting. So, I think I’ll bring it back to the GTO solver thing. I think too many people spend too much time running things through solvers, even running things through non-solvers, like Flopzilla, or something. And they don’t really know what the heck they’re looking for. They feel busy, right? Because they’re doing stuff, they got the poker software up, and that’s all well and good. But they don’t know what answers are looking for that, 100% sure what to do with the output from the software anyway, and like that is just massively, massively wasted time. So, I think there’s a lot of that and if you can start being more intentional with your study and not just like mindlessly, you know, plugging things into a solver and be like, alright, cool. So, I’m supposed to check raise this 29.4% of the time. I mean, okay, but how does that help you tomorrow? How does that help you if I change one variable in that hand? And I don’t know, I think it’s, I don’t want to say wasted time. It’s not totally wasted, but it could be spent far, far better.

Brad: It’s very inefficient. Very, very inefficient way. And that that variable could be something, you know, it starts with just preflop hand ranging. How do you know that you’re giving people the correct range preflop with any degree of certainty? If you say that you, you can, then first of all, you know, I’m just going to call bullshit. Like, you’re not. Like you’re, you’re deluding yourself into genuinely believing that you’re hitting the nail on the head straight away. And if you start adding or removing hands, just from there, you get completely different outputs from the solver. So like, it’s not even, it provides more of a sense of security versus actually helping you at the poker table.

James: Yeah, I mean, that’s, I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about that in the conversation of GTO solvers, right? Because you have to plug in your range of hands. And most people kind of suck in understanding what their range of hands is anyway. And I don’t mean to say that rudely, it’s just they do. And then it’s even harder to put their opponent on a perfect range of hands. And then once you run that through the solver, you get your output, that’s all well and good, but go back and change one hand. And if each of those ranges, knock out one hand from one and add one cost pan to the other, and then watch what the output does. And now imagine that you’re wrong 5% on both of those ranges, now make it 10%. You have, what are you doing? Like you’re trying to build this lake? I’m going to memorize poker hand by hand through solver output. No, you’re not. Like you’re not. You can take some principles that, that’s what you shouldn’t be doing. But thinking you’re going to like memorize this game through solver output, again, when you don’t fully, fully understand what that solver is telling you in the first place. And if you’re wrong and all in those handmaidens, like the whole thing as a waste of time, like, I don’t know, that’s fairly, fairly inefficient study as far as I’m concerned.

Brad: And the, I mean, but this is just step one, right? Step two are flop frequencies and not node locking. When I 100%, I’ll bet everything in my life that guys are polarized, guys are not using mixed strategies in the way that the solver suggesting they do. And if you’re not node locking for these, or the static strategies that folks are using, you’re doing it wrong. Like and if you look at it from the, the way that the solver says to use the strategy, and then you change it to the node locking, a static strategy, it’s going to be completely different. So, like, the answers you’re getting are kind of like you know, your blankie at night, like maybe it makes you feel great. And it helps you sleep well. And you’re more comfortable and you feel more protected, but are you? Is the blanket really protecting you? Is it doing you much good?

James: No, but you feel, you feel busy.

Brad: The blankie

James: It’s part of the issue.

Brad: The blanket is actually probably more useful than the solver. Because the blankie can, has no negative effects. And the solver can absolutely have negative effects.

James: Yes, some terrible effects. Exactly.

Brad: Right. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about poker, what would it be?

James: Regulation and legalization in the US. And then getting rid of all of the compartmentalization from different countries. So essentially, going back to having a purely global poker ecosystem online. I think that as, the game would be night and day different if Black Friday didn’t happen. And even after it did happen, you know, all the compartmentalization that happened in Europe. I mean, that’s just not good for the game, even in the US. I mean, we don’t know the certain states that do have legalization. Like we still don’t have shared player pool. So, I don’t know. I think that’s a really, really massive one that really effed up the entire game. And we’re still reeling from that. And yeah, I think I changed that one.

Brad: Too hard to disagree with you there. It’s hard to think of something else that could be more valuable to the game of poker worldwide than that one thing. And you’re right, they port security bill, UIGEA completely screwed us in 2006. And it’s unfortunate that poker was in its infancy and not super political at the time, and they didn’t realize that they needed the lobbyists to make sure that something like that didn’t happen. But it did. And we can’t go back in time. This, it is what it is, and we make the best with what we’ve got. I don’t see it changing anytime soon. I hope I’m wrong, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s on a trajectory to one day change overnight, right?

James: I don’t think so. I mean, especially in this political climate. I just, I don’t see how that works. I’d love for it too. Again, prove me wrong, please. But oh, no, I don’t see it happening anytime soon unfortunately.

Brad: If you could erect a billboard, every poker player had to drive past on their way to the casino or walk past on their way to the computer, what would that billboard say?

James: No tilting. I think no tilting would be safe. But I don’t know, something along think creatively. Honestly, it’s probably a little bit more valuable. I think, again, we’ve talked about a lot already, like people get really stuck in wanting static strategy, static answers, they don’t think outside the box. And look, I’m not saying like, your entire playbook should just be like the inverse of what everyone else is doing. But there’s a lot of win rate potential outside of what everyone else is doing. So, think creatively. Look for some different spots. Think deeply. Quit when you need to. But think creatively. There’s a lot, a lot of win rate potential out there.

Brad: For sure. One of the, one of the, one low hanging fruit and easy thing that people could do that I don’t see them do enough. And they actually do it, but they do it poorly. Like they see a top-notch world-class player do something that’s maybe outside the norm against maybe a recreational player, right? And they don’t ask themselves, why? What knowledge, what data points that this player need in order to pull this off, and then figure out when it makes sense to implement in your own game. What people instead do is they say, oh, hey, check Ray’s recreational player with a gut shot. And under cards on the turn. So, I’m going to start check raising recreational players with a gut shot and under cards on the turn, just every single time, right when this is obviously, this is obviously a misuse of what happened, which is understanding like, why, what do these guys need to know? What information are they collecting? How are they utilizing this and informing their decisions? And then how do you go about searching for that information? Because that information is the gold, right? This is the why. Like, my students would never ask me a question if they had all the data that’s necessary to make an informed decision in these spots. So, they come to me, and they say, oh, what should I do? And every poker coach always knows. Well, it depends, right? Like, if they knew what it depended on, there would be no question because the answer is very obvious.

James: Yeah. And that’s why you have to talk to yourself. You have to ask yourself those questions. I mean, even if you don’t know the answer, I’m not saying do or don’t go get a coach, not by any stretch. But ask yourself the question. And when you can’t answer it, ask yourself what you think you might need to know, in order to answer that question. Chances are, you know some pieces of the puzzle. So, start there, and then build upon that. And oftentimes, you’ll be able to fill in gaps along the way. But yeah, never, never stop doing that.

Brad: Yeah, that, that’s sort of the monkey see, monkey do thing that you were talking about that people just oh, I saw somebody do this. And so, I’m going to do this too.

James: Yeah.

Brad: Without even the ever questioning that maybe it’s just bad.

James: Why they did it? Who they did it against? Was it good in the first place? Let’s be honest, like, that’s why high stakes poker was like the greatest show on the world. I mean, it was perfect. Because you got to see what like, you know, reg on reg violence looked like and then reg on wreck violence looked like and it was just like, perfect. But no one was stopping to think like, hey, Durer did that. But was that any good?

Brad: Yeah. That

James: Or if even if it was like, like you said, like, what information did he have that drew him to do that? And would he ever take that same exact line against another player? Like, just by asking those couple of questions, you can start saying like, oh, okay, that is something I should probably put in my playbook or something I should probably just avoid.

Brad: Right. Like, people are fallible, even, you know, like you said, high stakes poker, you see, like, oh, this is something that gave me confidence that, oh, these guys are making some pretty clear mistakes. And everybody’s fallible, everybody has a low degree of certainty in their decisions. And like you just if you, you can crucify people for making what you deem a bad decision all day long. But I think we should all look in the mirror, look at our own decisions, and find the bad ones. And it’s not very hard.

James: Yeah. And I mean, I think you should automatically start especially before you start criticizing, you know, whether it’s a hand you saw on live at the bike or, or anywhere, like pause for a moment, and just think about, are there any reasons why they could or should have made that play? And oftentimes, like, you don’t know what, like, my friend and I were discussing a hand with Polk and Berkey the other day. And I was finding it impossible to have an intelligent conversation about it, because you don’t know all of the hands of those two players played before and you know, that those are two thinking players that are using all past information and current information simultaneously. So, I can’t have an intelligent conversation about that hand other from just like a raw GTO perspective, or like, I guess if this is what he’s thinking, and I guess if this is the assumption sets, like, you just don’t know. So, don’t be so quick to criticize, especially hands you’re seeing from like, good, solid players that are banging heads like you don’t know what half of the information and please don’t pretend like you do. We just don’t. Enjoy that part. But don’t like think you’re holier than thou and no, because chances are you don’t.

Brad: Yeah, it’s just taken completely out of context. And like, sometimes there, I’ve used information that I’ve gained from like three months before, to a hand that just so happens to coincide three months later, that taken out of context looks absolutely ridiculous. But knowing what I know, I know that it’s, it’s profitable. And this in the high stakes’ games like this, this can just happen all the time. So, like, it’s easy to criticize, though, right? It’s easy, it’s easy to be the critic, especially when the critic is likely to never play in the arena for massive, massive stakes that that these guys, you know, the very keys and the dog pokes are playing for. And if you think, if anybody out there thinks that that pressure doesn’t affect even those guys, you’re wrong. It absolutely affects them. Like even just being on TV and understanding that your decisions are going to be criticized. This creates mindset issues just in and of itself straight off the bat. It’s just like, I had Ari Engel on our show. And he said he has been staked three times. He got dropped three times from his backers. And he said he would always tell his backers, you know, the worst hand that he played in a tournament, and like, the thing is, you know, when the backer says no, don’t get your money in bad. No, don’t do that, right? You no longer have the same horse that you’re backing in the beginning. Your take, you’re making him fundamentally change the things that make him Ari Engle. Like these punts these decisions, going out on a limb, doing something that maybe doesn’t make a lot of sense to other people. Like you want them for who they are, because they’re winning players. Don’t try to fix them or change it. Anyway,

James: Right. But, but at the same time, you can challenge them to just okay, why are you thinking that? Okay, where is that assumption coming from? Okay, what information do you have? Until you bump up against to the point where they’re like, oh, I didn’t really fully think about that, right? Because when you’re dealing, it’s different when you’re dealing with like a newbie, versus someone who clearly has an understanding. Because when they have an understanding, like you can really bang up against it and find that point where they’re like, you know, I am a little weak in that point. And all you have to do is lead them to that water and their drink, because they understand it. Well, you can’t do that with like a totally wreck player, because they don’t know what they’re missing yet. But for good players, that’s all you should be doing.

Brad: Yeah, for the example that I used, there’s like the power dynamic right of his backer, his backers are never as good as him. And yet, they have the power to criticize and give feedback. So, you’re never reaching that point of getting functionally good feedback that that can help you improve. You’re only getting feedback that maybe he made a great play, and it didn’t work out. And, you know, I just think like players are going to play. Everybody’s got some point to their game, everybody’s going to go out on a limb and get crushed. And this is sort of the learning, learning and growth process in poker.

James: Yep. 100 percent.

Brad: So, tell me, we’re a few questions away from, from the end here. I want to ask you, why folks, why my audience should go to Red Chip Poker, invest in you, as a coach and a trainer and a creator?

James: I think they should if they see the value in thinking deeper about their game, and they’re liking kind of the stuff that we’re talking about here. Right? If you’re liking the taking poker training and studying seriously, and not just like treating this as an ego game, where we’re all just like bumping chess in the locker room. Like that’s, that’s not what we’re about at Red Chip. And we’re about pushing each other and challenging each other and thinking deeper. And really, when it comes to the training and stuff, we’re really trying to do things as structured as possible. I mean, that’s the entire reason why we built core. Core is fully about taking a structured approach to learning this game, or even rebuilding the fundamentals of your game. So that’s why I would do that. If you’re looking for something that will guide you along, keep you focused on the right stuff. Avoid the nonsense as much as humanly possible. That’s, that’s what we’re looking to serve as best as possible.

Brad: Systematic linear path. All good things. As far as I’m concerned.

James: Yeah.

Brad: It’s, there’s, like I said before, there’s, it’s a mess out there. It’s a tangled web. So, anything that can systematically help you improve is just going to be beneficial in your poker career, typically, if it’s from a trusted source, like we mentioned before.

James: Yup.

Brad: So, do you have any projects you’re working on right now that are near and dear to your heart that you’d like to talk about?

James: So were upgrading Core. I mentioned core a moment ago, but Core is kind of our full lesson based, system-based structure in Red Chip. So, we’re working on adding a tremendous amount more to it. It already has, I think 100 plus lessons, bunch of quizzes, achievements, full structure, a bunch of hand examples. And we’re looking to not necessarily double all of that, but we’re adding a tremendous amount extra to or adding a couple different courses. We’re adding more hand history examples, we’re adding extra quizzes along the way, and all of that fun stuff. So that’s the big thing that I’m focused on. And then also, I’m working on a post hoc workbook. I just released the preflop and math workbook earlier this year, that’s been very, very well received. And the next step is obviously to go post flop at that point. So, I’m starting work on that as well. And that will hopefully be like, I don’t know, October, November of 2020 release. But we’ll get there as we get there.

Brad: I did on envy post flop workbook that sounds like it will be 10,000 pages, and never, never ending workbook. Preflop

James: Yep.

Brad: Preflop, maybe I can, I can wrap my head around it post flop as somebody that’s creating things to help people improve. Seems like such a task, I can’t even fathom it. It’s like imagining the universe.

James: Well, that’s the tough thing about it like, that, again, I love challenging myself, and like I’m creating things that haven’t been created in poker, or at least haven’t been created well before. And I think a post hoc workbook is a very, very difficult thing. So, it’s like, right, how do you prioritize the stack of what you need to know first, because if this has to be a multi volume thing, right? Like you said, otherwise, this would be, the printing cost would be through the roof on Amazon, which is problematic. So, it has to be multivolume. And the toughest thing is like how do you prioritize the stack, right? In terms of like the learning stuff, do we just talk about like, general flock textures at first? Do we try to talk about all flock textures? Do we just focus on like, ace high textures like it becomes like, again, like we’re trying to solve a problem, right, just like we do in a poker hand? But I’m trying to solve this from like a workbook angle. So, I’ve already outlined the whole thing. I think I have a general starting point for it. And I really want to make the post flop one, kind of like the starting point, you know, get the big picture concepts, work through some really high-level hands on a step by step basis. And then future volumes would probably get more and more granular as we go through. Eventually, to the point where like, I don’t know, one workbook might encompass maybe 10 hands and like insane depth and thinking about run outs and doing the probabilistic stuff all the way through and just having general fun with it. But clearly, you got to be a little bit more nerd minded in order to kind of get excited about that. But those are the people that I love talking with.

Brad: I 100% want to see how you pull it off. I want to see how elegant you make it because I made worksheets for my course that may or may not ever be released and started with like an ace high board disconnected, ended up with like 25 worksheets just for ace high disconnected rainbow, not even, not even two tone, not even monotone. It was like one ace high board. And then, you know, obviously, you have a just gazillion D different type of flop textures and ways to treat each one of them. So, we’re definitely interested in seeing the elegant solution that you come up with. There, have no doubt that it will be better than mine. But as somebody who has thought about this, more than most anybody else on the planet, I don’t envy you and the difficult task that you have in front of you.

James: Well, thank you. Like I said, I mean, it’s it’s you got to make some, some decisions somewhere along this way, right? Like, how granular do we want to get on the first run through and I think starting out is more important to understand big picture stuff. Like how often does certain textures pop off? How often do certain run outs happen? Because I think a lot of people just have like, no basic idea. Like how often is the board going to be paired? Most people have no idea how often is the term going to pair if the board if the flop was unpaired? Like most people have no idea. And part of the reason why I’m doing workbooks like this is because I think a lot of people don’t know where to start in between sessions. Right? What the heck do I study? I’m not 100% sure. So okay, well, I guess I won’t study today, or I’ll go flick on a Twitch stream. And again, we’re right back to how useful is that. And I want to make sure that you always know what to work on, or at least have something to work on, something that has some actionable output. Which is why I didn’t want because I did think about doing like a tremendous amount of testing even in the post flop workbook, like the first volume and just burning through like a cyborg. Like you said, it’d be a ton of pages. And where’s the actionable insight from that, like, I can give you numbers all day long. But unless those numbers have some actionable insight, or I can lead you to a lightbulb moment related to those numbers, then it’s useless. So that, that’s kind of the way the entire like mental decision is happening right now. And I’m all just balancing it out. And I’m sure I’ll change my opinion a couple of times between now and then. I did the same thing with the preflop workbook. But you know, we get there when we get there.

Brad: For sure. The major value I think that I found in my process, because I filled out. I created my worksheets and, and then I filled them out to see, you know, to experience it, experience.

James: Yeah.

Brad: And the major value that I saw was like, oh, I’m seeing the patterns and my own game and how I approach these different textures. And then once you kind of see the patterns in your own game, then you can kind of extrapolate from there, oh, I have patterns in what I do. Other people probably have these patterns too. And so, bring some awareness into looking, finding these patterns in game because everything we’re talking about, you know, poker is a game of other people. And GTO is very defense oriented. And it’s all about what you do without taking into consideration the other people, your specific opponent. And so, the quicker you can get to thinking about poker from this paradigm of what are the patterns in my opponent’s game? How do I take advantage of them and maximize my profit with each decision, that’s sort of the point to where your game takes off, poker becomes super interesting? And you find yourself like, oh, I can I can win at this game. This is a beautiful thing.

James: Exactly. And that’s actually kind of the trade off when you’re creating a workbook because like you said, when you’re doing the workbook work, you’re, you’re finding the patterns. That’s really what the work is, is actually kind of therefore to an extent, it’s partially okay, here’s an answer. How do I create an action around the answer, but also, what are the patterns within it? Because when we’re talking about poker, like I love it when tournament players like I’m not going to buy your stuff, because you’re a cash game player. It’s like, okay, but we’re talking about big blinds, doesn’t matter if you know, one big blind is 40,000. Or if it’s for a dollar, like, it doesn’t matter, like we’re just talking about big blinds and percentage of pot, like nine times out of 10. So, like, I get no, there’s the ICM differences. But other than that, like, so many things carry over to both cash and online and live and in cash and tournament. So, you know, if you start thinking about the game, from that perspective, you can start seeing the patterns very, very quickly. And when I’ve also found just like general teaching and stuff, and I got very lucky on early on in coaching I taught, or I was working with someone who is a professor in the Netherlands. So, we actually trade it, I coached him. And then he coached me on coaching, which was like, the greatest thing in the world, because I was coming out from like this academic, like, I need to provide you a lecture. So, everything was like very, very lecture. Now, he was like, no, that’s like the stupidest thing in the world. Like, just ask them questions. And, and here’s how you can do that better. And the whole point is that when you ask the right questions, or when you do the right exercises, you eventually get to the answer yourself. And when you can get it and it’s the correct answer, then all sudden, it sticks infinitely deeper, which means your retention is going to be higher, your usability is going to be higher, all those good things. So, the whole point is, how can I get you to find that pattern on your own, you light bulb moment yourself. I’m not going to light bulb moment for you. I’m just going to give it to you, you’re going to get there. And all sudden, it’s like, oh, that’s how that works.

Brad: Right.

James: Oh, that’s why this is happening like this. And all of a sudden thing, now you have something that’s infinitely better. So that’s the whole goal is how do you position what you’re creating to do as much of that as humanly possible.

Brad: How envious are you that Berkey chose Solve for Why as his brand name? Because I’m envious every time I think about just it’s such a such like on point name of a poker trading site and like encapsulates all the thing that I think that I believe, because you’re right, like, when people solve for why, when they understand why they’re doing something and the light bulb goes off? Oh, it’s sticky, right?

James: Exactly.

Brad: Like it just becomes the monkey see monkey do type approach that people ultimately end up botching. And it ends up crushing them, and they go to sleep at night and wonder like, what, why? Why can other people do this, right, and not me? Because you don’t know why you’re doing it. You’re just you know, clicking buttons, as they say.

James: Or the worst. Or the worst, you buy a really good course that I don’t mean to say spoon feeds it to you, but gives you almost all of it. And then it works for a while. And then eventually the game shifts and changes as it’s going to do. And then you can’t keep up with it. Because you’re still trying to implement from that course you bought in the past. And it’s like, but like you said, they don’t understand the why, like, you missed the whole damn thing that was important. And when you do that, like the games going to pass you at some point. And those are the worst. Because it’s late. You’re not 100% sure what you missed. And when you got too confident the fact that you already bought that great course and I don’t need to buy anything else, I got that great course. It’s like, yeah, but unfortunately, there’s some stuff that still needs to be thought about. And again, if you get lazy with studying, the game will eventually pass you by, so

Brad: This is the danger, right? This is, this is the danger of coaching and creating training videos and helping people in the first place. The danger is giving people a concrete answer. I’m scared to death to give anybody a concrete answer that they just internalized. Except is like, the gospel, the capital T truth, implement into their game and then never go back to even consider. Was that right? Is it even applicable in today’s game? And this is really the challenge of poker coaches. If somebody’s spoon feeding you the answers, like you said, we’re saying categorically, this is wrong. I would, I’m hesitant to consume their content as a poker player myself.

James: Yeah. And that’s the thing, like, I’ll try to mathematically prove something is being wrong. Like, okay, this was negatively the clearly, we can see that. But that’s also why I struggle with making short videos, because I want, I don’t want to just say, here’s the spot. That’s bad. We’re done. Thank you so much for watching. Make sure to smash that like and sub button. Like, we have to have some thought process. We have to have some discussion about, okay, what are the assumptions we’re making based upon these assumptions? Okay, here are other assumptions. Now, what do we really make of all of everything? Because that way we can at least say, hey, split. Your assumptions suck your man, I don’t think this is right. And that’s fine. Like, you can have that conversation and say, okay, well, what assumptions are you making? Okay, well, cool, take those ranges, take those frequencies, plug them into the model that I already showed. And then you can see what’s better, what’s worse, or you know, everything in between. So that’s the thing, if you want someone who’s teaching you the why, teaching you the framework often, you’re going to do fine. It’s when you’re watching the spoon feeders, or the people that don’t really even fully understand their why yet, that thing is going to be a little bit more struggles, and you’re going to find yourself in spots and have no way to explain what the heck you’re doing or why. And that’s, that’s a sign that it’s time to probably think about some other things and, you know, maybe look around for some other coaches or content creators.

Brad: Yeah, when you hear something and you ask yourself, well, what if this? What if x, you change this scenario, you add a small variable that could change the entire solution? Look for the answers these guys spit back to you. Like these are tells, these are indicators as to whether or not they actually understand the why they’re taking one action versus another action, because the first time I watched a GTO video, like an intro to GTO webinar, somebody was giving me a solution and a pretty common spot. And I said, well, what if x? What if we just, what if I check, raise 100% here? How does that affect sea betting range? And like, these are things, this is something that needs to be taken into consideration, right?

James: Correct.

Brad: So unfortunately, for the people out there that want an easy solution, poker is a complex game. There are no easy solutions. You have to invest all of your energy into this game and to learning and trying to understand why people are doing what they’re doing. Else, you just, you won’t find success. If it were as easy as clicking a button. Computers, bots would roll the day, they’d be the biggest winners at the tables if you’re taking out the human element, but you can’t do that. So, let’s live with the fact that it’s complex. Let’s embrace it and do our best to navigate the waters accordingly.

James: Exactly right.

Brad: Okay, so two more questions. We’ll get you out of here.

James: All right.

Brad: 15, 15 years in the future, what do you think your accomplishments in the poker field are going to be?

James: Probably more videos, more students, more books, more courses, but, you know, I’m a cash game player first. And I don’t see myself transitioning over to tournaments. So, I don’t see myself with any like massive tournament accomplishments. And it drives me nuts because I’ll you know, you get these emails. And is not too, too often. Maybe it’s like a couple per month. And it’s like, well, show me your high or your, your high stakes profile or show me this, that or the other thing, or show me your shark scope. And it’s like, I’m a cash game player, dude, like, what do you expect, I’m not playing live? So, it’s even like less like, what are you talking about? If the only thing you’re looking for in a coach is like their accomplishments or how many bracelets they have, or how many big final tables, you’ve seen them out, like you’re missing the whole damn point in the first place. Like that’s, that’s not the end all, be all of how accomplished someone is that being able to understand the game, think about the game and better and most importantly, when you’re paying them for coaching teach the game. So, I don’t know. I don’t really see myself transitioning to tournaments, they take a tremendous amount of time and a different kind of energy. And it’s not something that I like as much. I like in cash games, right control how long my sessions are, and I have more control over that. And as I’m getting older and older, you know, I can’t put in 24-hour sessions anymore, which makes tournaments tougher for me to play because the most important decisions, the ones that really make your entire year are when you’re the absolute most tired. And that just doesn’t sound like a great way to position my life at the moment. So, cash games will probably be and continue to be. And I don’t even see myself moving up to like super, super high stakes. So, I don’t see myself being known in any capacity in that regard. So, I don’t know. I’ll probably stick to what I’m best at which is teaching and continuing to learn as best I can, so that what I teach continues to work and make sense and help people. So, it’ll probably be it.

Brad: It’s a, it’s a huge boon to the poker community that you continue to do that. And what I what I always tell guys, if they come to me for coaching like that, and obviously, you know, for you, it’s the same. What’s your video, listen to my thought process, listen to how I think and approach the game. And this tells you infinitely more than some silly graph out of some silly sample size that I choose and choose to show you like, just see, see if, if it matches well, the way I approach the game with the way you want to approach the game. And if it makes sense, it makes sense. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

James: Right. I mean, very few people have put out more hours of content for free than me. So, go listen to, I don’t know 10 hours of it. And if it doesn’t make any damn sense to you, then I’m probably not the right fit. And that’s totally fine. So, but that’s the thing with like any, any coach who is worth anything nowadays has plenty of free stuff out there that you can go, you can listen to, you can digest, you can say does this make any damn sense? Do I think that this would ever apply in my game? Do I think I can mesh with this individual? Do I think they have something to teach me in a way that I can understand it? If so, awesome. If not, and you just want to look at results and records like you’re going to be, I can’t tell you how many horror stories I hear of people that like, paid for coaching from people that are like bracelet winners. And I’m like, and they’re like, I didn’t really learn anything. I’m like, no shit, you didn’t learn anything. And like, I’m not naming names here. It’s just like, that person didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. Or what they were doing is lockbox a tournament? That’s the thing, like, it’s not even a good, your, your bracelet record isn’t even a good indicator of like how good or bad you are. It couldn’t just be an indicator of like, you had a really freaking good week. And

Brad: Right

James: That’s awesome. And that’s awesome. But, you know, that doesn’t say that you’re a great coach unfortunately.

Brad: No. And when you get into cash game, it can be the same like, especially on a site like Ignition, right? Like, it’s very easy to forge a graph. I could just not download my hands on the days that I lose. This is a very easy way to forge a graph, but you can’t fake your way through training videos. You can’t fake your way through content in that same way.

James: Yeah. Exactly right.

Brad: Final question, James. We’ll get you out of here. Where can the chasing poker greatness audience find you on the worldwide web?

James: So, the easiest place to find me is at splitsuit.com. s-p-l-i-t-s-u-i-t.com. There. You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and all that fun stuff. But you can get a feel for my videos and stuff. We’re all there. Tons and tons of articles, quizzes, more links to the workbooks and stuff we’re talking about today. Everything is at splitsuit.com or of course, like you mentioned redchippoker.com, you can go there as well.

Brad: Awesome. And that’ll be up on the show page. If for ease of fine for those of you that just don’t want to type in splitsuit.com in your web browser. Thank you very much, sir. Appreciate your time and your energy. Very grateful for the opportunity to chat. Come back on after you get your post flop workbook done because I’m anxious to see how that went.

James: Awesome. Thank you so much for having me, sir.

Brad: My pleasure.


Thank you so much for listening to this episode of chasing poker and greatness. If you have yet to subscribe to the show please take a second to do so on Apple podcasts or wherever your favorite place to listen to podcasts may be. For more content from me, Coach Brad, please visit our YouTube channel at youtube.com/enhanceyouredge and I’ll see you next time.

Thanks for reading this transcript of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 056: James "Splitsuit" Sweeney

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