Melissa Burr: High Stakes Mixed Game Superstar

Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 079

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Today’s guest on the Chasing Poker Greatness podcast is high stakes mixed-game pro Melissa Burr.

She’s battled in stakes up to $2,000/$4,000 Super Stud and has developed the poker superpower to feel confident playing in whatever game she deems the best in any poker room she walks into.

It’s a superpower that very few folks in the poker world have, including your favorite podcast host, and is 100% the best way to be prepared for any catastrophic event that changes poker as we know it.

So you better prepare yourself because Melissa is about to drop Greatness Bomb after Greatness Bomb…

Which is a very natural thing when you’ve been immersed in the world of poker at the highest level for as long as Melissa has been.

In today’s episode you’ll learn:

– The one thing Melissa and I hate about poker with the fire of a thousand suns.

– A Greatness Bomb Melissa drops on observing a specific type of opponent.

– Why Melissa made the decision to learn ALL the games instead of specializing in one.

– And much, MUCH more.

So without any further ado I bring to you nose bleed mixed game Superstar Melissa Burr.

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 Melissa Burr on the Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast.

If this is your first time on the Chasing Poker Greatness website, be sure to check out our groundbreaking poker courses to help sharpen your strategy and profitably implement solid, data-proven solutions to your game today:

Transcription of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 079: Melissa Burr

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Brad: Welcome my friend of the chasing poker greatness podcast. As always, this is your host Brad Wilson, the founder of, and today’s guest is high stakes mix game pro, Melissa Burr. She’s battling stakes up to 2000, 4000 super stud and has developed the poker superpower to feel confident playing in whatever game she deems the best in any poker room she walks into. It’s a superpower that very few folks in the poker world have, including your favorite podcast host, and is 100% the best way to be prepared for any catastrophic event that changes poker as we know it. So, you better prepare yourself because Melissa is about to drop greatness bomb after greatness bomb, which is a very natural thing when you’ve been immersed in the world of poker at the highest level for as long as Melissa has been. In today’s episode, you’ll learn the one thing that Melissa and I hate about poker with the fire of 1000 suns, a greatness bomb Melissa drops on observing a specific type of opponent, why Melissa made the decision to learn all the games instead of specializing in one, and much, much more. So, without any further ado, I bring to you nosebleed, mixed game superstar Melissa Burr.

Brad: Melissa, good evening, how are you doing?

Melissa: Hi, how are you?

Brad: I’m doing very well. Doing very well. I like to start this show out by asking about your story getting involved playing cards. What did that look like?

Melissa: Well, I, in college, a lot of people know this, but I’m actually allergic to alcohol. So, in college, there was really not much for me to do. I definitely didn’t want to go to class. So, I kind of picked up playing pool, pretty, pretty competitively. And in the pool hall where I played in Delaware, they started playing cards in the back. And obviously they’re gambling so I wanted to gamble. And they’re playing, I think they’re playing like 50 cent to a $1 limit hold’em. And I really never played. I mean, I played poker, just like everybody else had played, like with their families or whatever. And then I saw like the betting structures and whatnot. I kind of just wanted to play but nobody really knew what they were doing. So, it was kind of just like gambling. But early on, I could see that like what they were doing, mathematically had to be incorrect. So, I was like, I was like doing the numbers on the cards and like, aces the highest, deuces lowest, like, you know, having a three and a king just can’t be good. It’s just not connected. And so like, you know, just some basic things like kind of got me started out and then I, you know, with everything in life, I have this obsessive personality. So, I kind of just like dove right in and learned as I could.

Brad: What year is that? Is, your college?

Melissa: So, I graduated high school in 2000 and I was in college 2001. Pretty much right out the gate. 2001.

Brad: 2001. And what did you do, as far as like learning strategy, thinking about the game? What did that process look like?

Melissa: So, you know, I initially kind of like gravitate towards books that was alright, these guys know what they’re doing. Let me read some books. And so, I think like one of the first books I read was David’s Galanties, Hold em for the advanced player. And then you know, I liked I liked a lot of math. So, I actually picked up stock trader’s book, there was a name from the past, and I read that cover to cover. And then later on one of the books I read was Tommy Angelo’s, Elements of Poker, which I still to this day swear by is one of the best poker books that you can read. And like with that I kind of like applied what I had learned from those books to kind of what these guys the pool hall were doing. And I just like made it you know, kind of figured out along the way.

Brad: When did pool become the minor part and then poker start taking over in pool’s place?

Melissa: When I was in college, I loved pool. I played like 18 hours a day. I was highly competitive with all of the local handicap tours and poker was just kind of like it probably wasn’t until after I graduated school. I was working. I was a full time. I was head of recruiting where I was at and poker kind of took a backseat until kind of, I started playing online. I started playing on Paradise Poker and Full Tilt PokerStars. And I was playing limit. And I can see all these like rake structure, the rake incentive programs, and is able to multitask a lot of tables. So, and pretty early on, I learned that if you just don’t play a lot of hands. If you play less hands than everybody else, like that was my, that was like my starting out strategy. And it really hasn’t morphed that much as an adult. But I was playing mass amount of tables and kind of like at that point, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And the economy kind of took a hit. And I was like, oh, well fuck it. I’m just going to play poker for a living because I’d been playing like 20-40 at the time. And then I kind of just decided, yeah, I’m just not going to work anymore. I’ll just play poker for a living. And honestly, it was like, it was like so egotistical back then, because I was just like, watching and I was like thinking, oh, my God, those people are so bad. Like they play every hand. And you know, there’s the same guys losing all the time. I’ll just make a living at this. Back then. It was like a lot easier, though.

Brad: Sure. What, what year was that? You said,

Melissa: I graduated on 2004. And I would say 2007. I got laid off in 2008, I moved to Atlantic City.

Brad: Nice.

Melissa: I mean to Brigantine.

Brad: I always have this story that just has stuck with me through the years. I first started playing limit, like 5-10 limit and 10-20 limit on a casino boat to nowhere down in Florida. And there was one morning for a morning cruise, I showed up. And all of us, except for two players wanted to play 10-20. So, we decided that when those two players folded, we’re just going to raise the stakes at 10-20. And when they were in the pot, it’s 5-10. It was a four-hour cruise. We played two streets of 10-20. One of those two players saw every single river, every hand for the entire four hours and like so, you know, when I was proud of myself for like winning my first 12 or 13 sessions on the boat, it was mostly like just don’t play many hands. And you’re going to naturally beat these, beat these dummies because it’s seven in a way, every single pot.

Melissa: Yeah, in the beginning, that’s pretty much how you want to poker, but you just didn’t play as many hands as everybody else was. We actually call that overs. We that’s, that’s not a that’s not an old thing. That’s, that’s still current. We’ll play over the line because you know, we don’t want people to feel bad and we want to raise the limits on people that don’t want to play that big. So, when they don’,t when they’re not in the hand, then the limits will go up. They’ll use typically double or 50% something like that.

Brad: Yeah, what happened was no limit got introduced and then limit was like, took the back seat. And I don’t think I’ve played any limit since like my first three years of poker or very, very minimal, only maybe if I’m playing super small and drinking or something.            

Melissa: Yeah, when the moneymaker craze hit like, you know, no limit was introduced. Like I tried it. But there was just something and I like always tell the story is something so demoralizing about like pushing all of your chips to someone else, like depressing. And it’s still to this day when I play it. I’m so dramatic. I’m like, here take all my money. I make them feel like as bad as possible or whether it’s like 1-2 or 2-5 or whatever it is, like I literally just like, oh, here just take it please.

Brad: I had DGAF on the pod a few times. I don’t know.

Melissa: Oh, nice.

Brad: He’s real life friend. We’ve played against each other many times in commerce. And one of my patented moves was somebody would stack me and I would show them a picture of my kids. They don’t get Christmas this year.

Melissa: Yeah, he just canceled Christmas and your day called

Brad: Hope you feel good about yourself. So, you primarily play high stakes mixed games, now right? That’s

Melissa: Yeah

Brad: Bread and butter.

Melissa: Yeah, I, when I moved down, I was playing 20-40 limit hold’em at Taj and Borgata and then I kind of just like gravitated to other limit games and kind of took them on one by one. And I guess it was like 2000, maybe 10, where the draw games and the other games kind of caught fire. And then, it was a different, different type of skill that it required in poker to like be a professional like, before, it was like, just don’t play as many hands as everybody else. But everyone was kind of equipped with the same knowledge. But now you’ve introduced like five to ten new games with new roles. And then the skill became to learn faster than everybody else. Like everyone was making the same mistakes, mistakes, but you have to learn from them faster than the curve. And there was very few people that were trying to learn how to actually play the game. They were just trying to gamble. They’re like, oh, we’ll play deuce to seven and they just want to peel cards but like, you know, a couple of us had gotten together and we you know, it’s really hard to run equities on some of these, some of these games, it’s just haven’t been around too long. So, that became a skill just learn faster than everybody else. Everyone is like everyone in theory could have been like, fucking terrible, deuce and seven, and we didn’t know. We just knew we’re better than everyone else that was trying to play.

Brad: Right, which I mean, at the end of the day is what matters, right? Like,

Melissa: Right. Yeah, of course.

Brad: We’re looking for edges. And a lot of times, like if it’s a new game, and as somebody who’s not really studied in game theory, and they’re just trying to play a new game, naturally, it’s still poker, they’re probably going to be shit. And the poker, the professional is naturally going to have an edge, right? Like,

Melissa: Yeah. For sure.

Brad: So. when did you move from like 10-20, like, as you’re climbing the stakes, what was like the first stake that was like, you know, felt uncomfortable, as far as like the amount of money that you were playing for?

Melissa: So, at the time that I started learning, like Omo, and started Halo, forgot I had a 150-300 steady regular game that had multiple games. And at the time, I was playing 20-40, 30-60, up to 40-80. And there was really no limit in between 40-80 and 150-300,

Brad: Yeah.

Melissa: You’re talking about like, a $2,000 buy to like an $8,000 buy in. And there was really no middle ground at the time. So, there was like maybe some smaller games going on PokerStars. But you really just had to you, it was, it was networking. It’s what it was. We convinced people that were playing with, I convinced them to play limit hold’em. They want to play Omaha. So, he played hold’em and Omaha, so I got to play my best game, and then a game I was learning, and then gradually just kind of network your way into knowing people, then you meet people that have more money, and then they want to play bigger. And I kind of just built this gap between 40-80 and 150-300, so that I could try to move up that limit on my own. But it required a lot of work. And it was like, it wasn’t ass kissing, but it was just like getting to know different people within, within the industry and learning who plays this, and how can I get this person to play here. And this is a lot of smiling. Maybe it was a little ass kissing, but at the time was just like, I was playing maybe 120 hours a week, I was playing anytime that they wanted to. And I was playing any mix that they would. So, I would say that the biggest jump that was like, kind of like my stomach dropping was that 150-300 break, where, and I and I bought it for $10,000. I didn’t want to be you know, a female on short, I want to have a lot of chips. I wanted to feel comfortable. But you know, putting you know a cold 600 in to call hoping that you make your flash was, was pretty daunting at the time when you’re used to winning or losing 600, you’re putting it in on one street.

Brad: For sure. How did it go? Did we, did we run good out of the gate? Or no?

Melissa: We, we ran good right out of the gate. We ran good. I mean we, I ran good at 20-40, 30-60, 61-20, 81-60, 150-300. I ran amazing during those times. And if I didn’t run well, there’s no way I get to play the 50k Player’s Championship. And I could have done nothing wrong. That’s the thing. You know, there was this whole discussion on Twitter about whether luck is associated. And yeah, in theory, everyone’s going to get delta aces the same amount of time, it’s when you’re going to get delta aces. And for me, I was very fortunate to hit all of those flushes and all of those full houses when I needed to when I was moving up in stakes and be able to sustain when I didn’t make those hands.

Brad: For sure. It’s, we all need to run good in the moments that we need to run good. I mean,

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: I know that I played 5-10. Like I started at 5-10 limit. They run a no limit game and it’s 5-10 no limit. And like it’s like, oh, I’m just going to play this game now because no limit is more fun, right? I remember having like 2k on the table at one point, going in to the casino, I lost my wallet. I’m like a hopeless human being who’s wandering the earth. I lost my wallet with like 4k in it. I had 2000 bucks in my pocket. I was like, I’m just going to play this. And if I go bust, I’m just going to go home like whatever. And like I ran good. Like,

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: I won like 3k. And then I found my wallet a week later. And like all of a sudden, I had 10k again and life continued on. And I wonder sometimes like,

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: What if I just wouldn’t have ran good in that one session? I do, I like to think that I had already been bit, like the bug was in me and I love the game, and I loved playing it. Maybe if I went broke that I would have figured it out some other way. I think you know, even your friend who is also on this podcast, Sean, Sean Snyder. You know, Sean,

Melissa: He’s great.

Brad: Sean went, went broke, like in the mid-2000s, right? And then he ended up

Melissa: He did.

Brad: Building, building it back up. So, I think that like even, even when bad things happen, we are more intrepid than we think we are. We can overcome that stuff. But it certainly is good if you just run good, straight from the get go.

Melissa: I mean, I think a lot of it is like, I think a lot of it is psychological too because I knew that if I had failed at any point that I had a degree and I had a double major in marketing and operations of business, I knew I could go back to work. I knew I had a supportive family that, you know, people, people around me that weren’t going to let me fail. And I think if you have that kind of stability, then you’re setting yourself, you’re setting yourself up for success in the long run.

Brad: Yeah. My situation was like, I have no responsibilities. And I just don’t care.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: Like if I go broke, who cares, right?

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: I live with my grandparents and get a job and save up another bankroll to like, torture it again, like I didn’t,

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: You know, there were no responsibilities. Like, as you get older, you accumulate responsibilities, and then like people are depending on you. And one of the things that drives me nuts are like all of these crazy bankroll requirements that people have that are like, grinded up from five, no limit, and it’s like, dude, you can get a job and just save up a grand and like, torch it and it doesn’t matter. You just save up another grand, like, it’s when you have like, 50 or 100, that like, yeah, okay, now this is worth protecting and practicing good bankroll management, but like, not a five no limit, you know?

Melissa: Yeah. No, in the beginning, I mean, like, if I was to give anyone advice, one, I would tell them not to become a professional player, and play the game, so you love it. But yeah, bankroll magic comes when you have something to protect. But in the beginning, it’s when you’re supposed to be taking the shots. In the beginning, you, you, you go for the you go for the gusto.

Brad: Yeah.

Melissa: And a lot of people that you talk to are going to say they failed multiple times. They didn’t have a backup plan, they got a backup plan, and then they went through the whole same, you know, cycle again. But in the beginning, yeah, that’s when you take all your shots in the beginning. And there, and most of the time, a lot of people will tell you that they pay off.

Brad: Yeah. Event, I mean, eventually, if you keep trying, if you’re the type of person that gets beaten down by this game, over and over,

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: And you go broke, and you keep getting up and moving forward and trying, I think that you’re the type of person that will likely find success eventually. Because most people who are going to fail, just quit. It just becomes too much. It’s too hard.

Melissa: But there’s like a lot of people that, again, like reflecting on that thread about luck. There’s a lot of people that won’t change what they’re doing, you know. They’re just like, oh, well, it’s just bad luck. I got stacked again and went broke again. But like, you talked to Sean, Sean changed a lot of things. You know, there were times where I got beat down. You know, and I, you know, I was like, well, you know, what, I was probably more careful. I was like, I was always thinking it was something that I was doing. I was like, I need to change this. I need to fix this. I need to learn this.

Brad: That’s how I’ve been too.

Melissa: I might have overcorrected. But there are some people that are just like, well, my way is the best way. And it’s just, you know, I’m just running bad.

Brad: Yeah.

Melissa: It’s, it’s more than just resilience. You got to learn from it too.

Brad: For sure. Like you, you, it’s having humility, right? To that

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: To the fact that maybe you’re making a mistake. And like being hyper conscious of that, like anytime I’ve played live poker, and I don’t understand why more people don’t do this. But like, if a bluff gets picked off, and like a weird spot that makes me go, what just happened there? And like, immediately,

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: I’m reverse engineering, like, what did I do on the flop? Like, how did I look? What was my posture? How did I put the chips in? Like, I’m just reconstructing everything. And it’s like, did I fuck up at any of these points? Like, what can I do better in the future? I always think that, like, there’s something there that I’m missing. And like, if you don’t, and you think you’re always making the best decisions you could make, yeah, this this is never a painful game.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: It’s a very painful game. Because like, like you said, the reality is, you know, you’re playing 150-300, and you’re learning games. You don’t know what, you don’t even know what you don’t know. But you just know you’re better than your opponents, right? Like, there’s so many unknowns.

Melissa: I’m trying to, yes.

Brad: There’s so many unknowns, like we don’t, every single session that I played, there are so many spots, and I’m like, I don’t know, like, if you watch Phil Galfond on the Galfond challenge, he’s playing Bill Perkins. And he’s just like, I don’t really know what to do here. Like, it’s like 100 times in the session. And this is reality, nobody has all the answers.

Melissa: I mean, there’s so many different outcomes and things that you can do to change what happens, like when I was moving up, one of the players that I learned the most from was actually like, what you would consider a fish. But he, you know, he’s, he had unfettered aggression. And I would watch him do these horrendous things that were, you know, relatively bad to what they were, but I would see him drive out the best high hand and get half of a pie and steal equity when he shouldn’t have. I don’t know if he realized what he was doing or why he was doing it, but like some of the things that he did, I built into my strategy. Like, that’s the one thing that I do. I watch everybody that I play with, because you can learn something from everybody, whether it’s what not to do, or something to do. And basically, my whole career has been modeled around, like, I have a bag of tricks, and I’m going to take this one and put it in here. Okay, I like what he did. I’m going to do this in a different spot. This is retaining all these different things, and I’m putting together but then, like, I played something like 8 million hands on party poker before it shut down. I probably played like, another 3 million hands between live and PokerStars and everything else. And I swear, every time I play there’s still another situation where I’m like, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing here.

Brad: Yeah.

Melissa: I don’t know. I hope I get half. I hope I get a piece. I don’t know what’s happening here in this hand. I’ve never seen someone do this before. But okay.

Brad: Yeah. Just close your eyes and click call.

Melissa: Hope it comes back.

Brad: Right. And that’s a, that’s a greatness bomb by the way, just, because you can learn so much by like, the way you learn in poker or the way that I’ve always learned is if I don’t understand a part of the decision tree, most of the time I learned by being an idiot. I learned by doing something dumb, and then getting like 10 reps being a dummy. And then like trying to figure out what’s working and what’s not working, right? It’s like just trial and error.

Melissa: Yes.

Brad: And if you’re watching somebody else play like ultra-aggressive, it’s almost like you’re getting a free roll to see like, oh, what happens if I just go absolutely apeshit here in a spot where I wouldn’t normally, well, this guy is showing you exactly what happens.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: And then you just track it. And you get, basically you get free strategy.

Melissa: Yeah. And, yeah, I’m not a big if you notice, like, I don’t have like the big headphones, like, I have headphones like this when I play. But I mean, for the most part, I have to be super stuck or super annoyed to be having both earpieces in, because I want to hear whatever when, I want to know everything is going on. Like there’s just so much to watch. There’s, you know, and this is limit, I’m not even talking about, you know, no limit tells I’m talking about people that are cutting out chips ready to throw at you. But some people are just like, I just can’t wrap my head around it. They’re just like, I don’t need to see any of that. I don’t need any of that information, but it’s free. Why wouldn’t you take it?

Brad: Yeah, I think like live poker tells are one of the most underutilized weapons and people’s arsenal that like a lot of the high level pros like, you know, Doug Polk doesn’t really give much credence to like live tells. And it’s a thing, especially if you’re playing recreational players, like you get somebody in the pressure cooker, they’re going to do things that you can gain information from. I would say this like, in limit poker, do you think it’s almost as if life tells might could be more prevalent and limit poker because people’s guard is kind of down?

Melissa: It isn’t. It’s not. It’s the live, the live tells, or whatever you want to call them are different in limit, because it’s people that are like, scripting what they’re going to do before they do it. It’s not like whether their pulses, you know, coming out of their neck or they’re nervous about a hand, it’s more or less you see the guy, someone bets on the turn, and you see a guy that’s fourth act, ready to raise the whole field and you’re like, oh, shit. I’m not going to call this bet

Brad: Yeah.

Melissa: Because this guy is about the pocket. And then the other guy’s like, already ready to three bet them. But some people like just don’t notice this. But I mean, there’s a ton of things, there’s a ton of information that players are giving out. And more in limit, they’re more willing to talk like, in no limit, they’re like, God, you have the best hand. But on limit they’re like, they’re so blatant about it. They’re like, you’re going to get us quartered, and boom, you immediately know that that guy has not low and the other guy who’s raising probably has a two, so when you have a marginal high end you can come in and just three bet both of them because they both just told you what way they’re going. So

Brad: Yeah.

Melissa: You never hear that if you, you know, had your headphones on full blast all the time.

Brad: Right. That it’s just free and people act very fast in limit too, that’s another thing that, I remember actually playing the 40-80 at Commerce. Maybe that was like 2006 or so, but like played the action is just so fast. It’s just like everybody’s cutting their checks out, it’s like to, to, to, to, to. Like you, they’re just almost acting before I would act you know, behind me. Just, I remember that very, very clearly.

Melissa: That was the other thing that, that pulled me towards one, that everything was very fast. And I swear like nothing tells me more than a guy like waiting to act, to waiting to fold in and no limit tournament, and I’m like, you know what’s on you, and he’s like, yes. I’m like okay, well I was two minutes ago, like call, fold or raised. Like there was only three options here, let’s go. Like, so I think I just always wanted that fast-paced environment. Yeah, no limit tanking is like, feels like waterboarding sometimes

Brad: It does. I do not enjoy playing tournaments. And that is a major reason why I just can’t stomach it. It’s like how is stalling incentivized in this game? Like, it’s so weird. Like, you can make a final table and like, one person can play like half the hands as the other people that made it to the final table and it’s like, there has to be a better way.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: It drives me insane.

Melissa: Well, where we fucked up was that like, somewhere along the way, like after the moneymaker boom, and poker got really popular on TV, for some reason, I don’t know who it was. They made it popular to sit there and do nothing. And then the whole rest of the world was like, oh, that’s how you be a good poker player. So, I’m going to sit here and do nothing just like that guy did. And then it just like spread like wildfire. It’s awful. It’s the worst thing to happen to poker.

Brad: I agree. Like it, any tournament director, Matt Savage, who listens to this podcast, dude, figure something out, man. Get rid of the stalling.

Melissa: Yes. Please.

Brad: It’s like it’s the worst thing ever. I hate it. Like, in a cash game, you’re incentivized to play fast because you want more hands per hour. So, like, there’s not a ton of stalling in like live cash, no limit games, but tournaments. Like when you incentivize, when you incentivize a behavior like that, it’s honestly almost on the directors, whoever is organizing the thing to figure out a better way. Because like, I honestly, I would give up EV because I can’t, I don’t have it in me to be, have like four big blinds and just sit there for two minutes

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: Pretending like I’m thinking. It’s just not in me to do it.

Melissa: I mean, life is too short. I can’t spend it tanking. I just can’t, I just can’t. But I’ve always been like a proponent against like, I always say like, I always use a comparison. Like you never want poker to become chess, because then you just don’t have, you just don’t have a profession because the best players in chess playing.

Brad: Yeah.

Melissa: So, it’s like, is the shop pocket answer. And I don’t know, like, I don’t want it to be more like chess. But like, they got to do something about this. Because not only are you losing players, you’re losing interest. You’re losing the viewers too, because nobody wants to sit there and watch a guy fuck around for like, five minutes and then fold. Like, they just, you know, the viewers want to learn more about poker. I don’t actually know what the fuck they want. But they don’t want to watch a guy in the tank. Bad. I know.

Brad: Yeah, I don’t know what they want, either. But yeah, they don’t, they don’t want to watch like one hand every 30 minutes. That is not

Melissa: No.

Brad: Not me no matter what angle you’re coming from, right? Like

Melissa: No.

Brad: Like, let’s just have a high-level person just like eagle eye in the sky who’s like, okay, this is a trivial easy decision. And they took 30 seconds, they get a fucking brown penalty. Like, let’s just

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: They’re penalizing people for stuff like that.

Melissa: I don’t know. That’s why I don’t play no limit. So

Brad: Yeah.

Melissa: If you’re trying to keep me out under the limit, keep tanking. I’m never, I’m never going to go that route.

Brad: Yeah. I, sometimes I think, I consider like, maybe I should just invest some time in a tournament, going deep, making a large score. That’d be pretty fun. And then I just like, think about the actual process of doing it. And I’m like, I just, I can’t. I don’t want to do that.

Melissa: Before COVID, I literally had this like revelation, like, once a year I’m like, oh, I’m going to go win a tournament and I would go play the regatta opener and I’d play the main event. And then by the end of it, I’m on Facebook. I’m like, whose responsibility was it to punch me in the face every time I said that this was a good idea? This was your job. This was supposed to stop me from this and save me 5000 doing this.

Brad: Right. Just pay somebody $3,000 to slap you down, say no tournaments. Stay away.

Melissa: Oh, no.

Brad: What would you say is the most unexpected thing that’s come from your journey through poker?

Melissa: Most unexpected in terms of what? In terms of like results or in terms of what?

Brad: It could be lifestyle, relationships, friendships, travel. Did you expect to be a high stakes poker player playing

Melissa: Okay. So that, that was pretty surprising when, so I when I was playing 20-40 and 40-80, I would always see the 150-300. It just like, was always so much money to me. I was like, you know, I’m going to get to that point. But I am never playing bigger than that. Because I don’t want to lose focus of what money actually is. And then fast forward. Like, I don’t even know four years later, I’m playing 1500-3000 with 2000-4000 overs. And I think about this to this day. I’m like, I said I was never going to go above 150-300. But luckily, I still retain, like some of it, some respect for money. Not that much. But at least some of it.

Brad: How do we do in the 150, 1500-3000? That’s a, I remember, there used to be like a 4-8 game at Bellagio, right? That would be the big game?

Melissa: That used to be the biggest game. Now, they’ll play it occasionally. For this specific instance, like I obviously that wasn’t my regular game, they were playing Super stud. And that was one super stud, it had really just come out. And I don’t know if you know what super stud is

Brad: I don’t.

Melissa: But you basically get four cards down instead of two, and then one card up. And then before you have a round of betting, with those four cards in your hand, and you have to discard two cards before Fourth Street. If you get stuck with your four cards, your hand is dead. So, it’s basically pineapple stud high low. We’ll say that with four cards. And let me tell you, when we gave these guys four cards and started, it was a fucking free for all. They’re like, I’m playing every hand. And they had no idea like the odds of being rolled up just like exponentially doubled and increased. And they were playing every hand. So, when that game hit, I was like, this one’s an easy one.

Brad: Yeah.

Melissa: This one’s super easy for me to be good at because I’m already a knit and I just got to play the best hand. So yeah, sure I’ll play that limit. And yeah, that’s the only time I’ve ever played that limit was, was specifically in the game that I, that I want to play in.

Brad: How did it go?

Melissa: Went well. It was a good week. It was a seminal hard rock. It was during you know, they used to run that, I believe it’s like a $5,000 entry. Like everybody went down, like right after the series. And for some reason, they just wanted to play stud and I went with the intention to play like 200-400, 300-600. I had no idea that we’re going to play this. But yeah, went well.

Brad: It’s sweet.

Melissa: It is.

Brad: It’s good when people are, you know, playing 1500-3000 and had, don’t, are just playing every single hand with no concept of just how they

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: Change, how the game changes.

Melissa: It was actually really scary to see some of the most intelligent people in the world with like, tons of money just like doing some of these things in poker. I’m like, I don’t know anyone with a brain that would think that it’s good to have nines here. I feel like I’m not want to talk about strategy. But come on, like, we all just got dealt fucking five cards, the best you could do is with nines and you decided to play. God bless your heart, we’re going to play bigger, let’s play bigger.

Brad: The mixed games have always fascinated me and I’m a little bit jealous of the mixed games pros because they have this ability to like, take a recreational player from the no limit game and play like three, three handed, like 20-40 no limit and then just add in a random mix game that just shuts out all of these specialists, right.

Melissa: Yes.

Brad: I’ve always been jealous of that. But I think like just in general, my version, it’s been more risk aversion than anything, for me, venturing into the different games. It’s like okay, I know what my hourly is playing this specific game. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to get good at another game. And so, I don’t want to invest 500 or 1000 hours. It’s like opportunity cost, right. And I think that’s been the big deterrent for me personally. But I do. I am envious and jealous of you guys that can crush the mix games. A friend of mine, like back before Black Friday. Actually, I can’t remember, it may have been after Black Friday. He lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is a weird place for like they were like four or five of us and he was by far playing the biggest stakes. And he was like studying Omaha high low, heads up Omaha high low. He had like poker table ratings, remember that was a thing.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: He downloaded hands and he was like studying like Phil Ivey playing Omaha high low. And then all of a sudden, I see on some website that he’s playing heads up Gus Hansen, at like 2k-4k and he’s like the number one winning, his online poker player in like six months

Melissa: Oh my gosh.

Brad: He rips off like 4 million playing Gus

Melissa: Wow.

Brad: Heads up Omaha. Heads up Omaha high low. I’ll never forget that. Oh, like I think back and I’m like holy shit, like he’s playing like 5-10 no limit, but just studying this on the side, and then gets a good spot and just went absolutely ham and ripped off a massive, massive win.

Melissa: I wrote an article on Cardplayer pretty recently, which started out kind of as like a spoof, but it kind of morphed into something more serious, because they asked me to write about how I felt about World Series of Poker omitting the mixed games when they have the software capacity to run them. And it became like an open letter to them. But, so they wanted me to write about like my experience, and like, why I wanted them. And I thought about it. I saw, I totally, I went through these phases where I wanted to learn no limit but really, when I initially had gone to this phase, I wanted to be able to play the best game in the room, whatever that was, if it was no limit, PLO, I wanted to play the most biggest game, whatever was most profitable for me to play. And to that day, before, when, when I had decided this, like I was playing the best game at all time. Like I was never a player that was so ego driven that I had to play in the biggest game, I was playing the best game. Like I wanted to make the most money. That was always the end goal, make the most money. But I couldn’t play a no limit when, you know, Michael Phelps had come or like other big profile players and I, it’s not that I couldn’t but I just I wasn’t I was outclassed. So, I like put in a lot of time to learn that. And that was kind of the driving force behind wanting to learn all of the games. I wanted to play the best game at all times.

Brad: Yeah, so you have options. I mean, even like, this is an industry that is tough. Like we said, it’s tough to, it’s tough to make it and when you have multiple options, like when you know multiple games, then you have more opportunity. Like if six max cash gets solved by using, you know, real time assistance, and there’s a major issue with botting and stuff like that, like if you know different games, you’re in a much better position to survive,

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: Like it’s not an existential threat to your livelihood, right.

Melissa: A lot of these players who made their livings live, especially some of the mix players, you know, they had to transition to online and even though like we’re playing the same game, it’s not the same. It’s a different animal. You know, you’re dealing with more math, you’re dealing with different, you’re dealing with different networking and if you don’t have access to mixed games, then you’re thrust into the situation. You need to learn other things. When I moved to Mexico, they didn’t really have mixed games on PokerStars. They did, they had, you know, a couple recreational players. But as soon as they left, nobody even took their four hands. The game just broke.

Brad: Wow.

Melissa: So, when I lived there, I played like one and a half million hands a zoom trying to, you know, make a living at something else. And then I was, I was like, two thirds of the way to supernova late and they’re like, hey, we’re not doing that anymore. And I wanted to, you know, jump off a bridge at that point. But it’s, you’re, you’re 100%, right, you have to leave yourself. If your profession is over, you should be ready to roll with the tides. You should be able to roll with whatever this world comes to you with, whether it’s a pandemic, or it’s Black Friday, or it’s fucking Medusa, who knows? A million different things that can happen in this world.

Brad: Yes. But do you see worse than COVID?

Melissa: It’s, it’s up there. Oh, man. And nowadays, they’re coming out with more games that make produce you look like fun. God, she’s.

Brad: I always said like, after Black Friday, if I get caught again, just unaware that something like this can happen, like, it’s just totally on me that like,

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: Last time. I did, I was so dumb. I didn’t even realize that such a thing could happen. I played poker so that I didn’t have to have a job. And then I got fired, and had no idea how to even react, right? And then like, in the aftermath of that, it was like, okay, if this happens again, and I’m not prepared, like the shit is on me, like,

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: I have to be prepared at all costs for something like this. Because it, it can happen. I mean, and it already has happened. And like, look at the pandemic is a thing, like who could foresee something like that just wiping out live poker. And now like live grinders are moving to online. I’m coaching a kid that, you know, he’s a live grinder and he’s like scared to death of online, which is like, he placed like 5-10 live and he’s like, what should I play? You know, what stake should I plan on? Like, dude, like, at least play 200. And he’s like, no, like, I’ve heard it’s just too hard. Everything’s too hard. And I’m like, dude, there’s going to be fish. Like, trust me on this, like, at this stake, you’re going to have two or three fish. And like, if you have two fish at a six-max table, you’re a winning player.

Melissa: That’s enough.

Brad: That’s enough.

Melissa: Yeah. That’s enough.

Brad: That’s enough to survive.

Melissa: That’s a good spot.

Brad: Yeah. So, I do think that like live players sort of overestimate the skill level that it takes to succeed at online. But another friend of mine is telling me that like, a lot of his live friends are failing miserably online, which makes me wonder like, hmm, maybe I, maybe I’m just overestimating their skill.

Melissa: Well, for every one of your friend that is, you know, not scared, but very cautious. There’s ten more, they’re like, fuck them, I’m better than everybody else. And I

Brad: It’s true.

Melissa: It’s poker, I can just win. So, I mean, like, you got to find a balance in between humility and ego. And that’s, that’s a skill in itself too.

Brad: For sure. It’s something that I’ve always, it’s always fascinated me in poker, that you have to be so self-assured that you have confidence in the decisions that you make, but also have humility to analyze your decisions in a way to learn and grow. And it’s a very fine line, because you don’t want to be arrogant. Because the moment that you’re arrogant, you’re going to get shot out of the sky. You stop learning, like look it, you’ve seen it all over the country with like the old men that crushed in the 90s

Melissa: Oh yeah.

Brad: And woke up at some point in like 2011 and just aren’t winning poker players anymore and they don’t know what happened. And it’s because they stopped learning and they stopped growing.

Melissa: Yeah. I mean, you’re talking about like, you know, big fish, small pond and these guys, even it’s, it’s really been crazy. I’ve kind of like stuck to mixed games specifically because of that, like the guys that play mixed game who are of a different generation, they’re not looking to read books, they’re not looking to put volume in. They’re like my way is the highway. I see and, you know, my way has been working for 20 years. I don’t care what you’re doing over there. And I’m like, okay, good for you, like good. Yeah, I hope you stay this way. And weirdly enough, they do. They just never change. They never, they never do anything different. The people that come through mix that are the threats are the Paul Volpi is our you know, Landon Tates who I just you know, I interact with on Twitter. I saw him jumping the, the 1k omaha venom on World Series. I was like, oh my God, this kid’s going to start playing mixed. That’s a problem. Like these are not the kids I want to see come through. I want to see the same faces, but obviously you need to bring in new players and there was, there was some players that are going to come through and a player like him who wants to learn and it’s just like constantly trying to evolve. He’s going to be a huge threat to, you know, the mixed game community if he chooses to go that route.

Brad: I don’t know if I should say this out loud. I may edit this from the podcast. I’ll have to ask Landon because

Melissa: Okay.

Brad: Earlier this year, Landon came to Atlanta right before the pandemic, maybe in February with Nick Howard and the detox crew. And I live in Atlanta. So, we all hung out, like, I hung out, saw how they trained, spent a lot of time with Landon, specifically. And we were all having dinner. And Nick, Landon, he’s very excitable, he’s got a lot of energy. And Nick asked him, Landon, if you could be the person who is on an airplane that prevented 911, and be a national hero or be known as, or be known as the best poker player in the world, which would you choose? And like it was a big fucking slash. Best poker player.

Melissa: Yeah. Snap it. No question.

Brad: Yeah, not even a question.

Melissa: Oh, my goodness. Yeah, you’re going to have to ask him if you’re allowed to say that. I’m thinking that he will say that it’s okay. Because he’s, he’s a very vocal about his love and enthusiasm for poker. And I love to see it. Like, I remember when I was that person. I don’t know where that person went. But

Brad: I think

Melissa: I think it’s refreshing to come and see it on Twitter.

Brad: I mean, it’s refreshing in real life, to be honest with you. Because

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: As I get older, and see people who are just entering poker, that are going to inevitably run into issues like Landon, I, 100% is going to have problems and run into issues and have to navigate difficult things. Like you see, at least I see myself in the kid. And it’s like, I want to help you, like I want to give you wisdom and be the person that like I didn’t have giving me advice at that age, right? But it’s infectious, you know. It’s, it makes you feel young again. Like, it’s like I remember when I had this much love for poker.

Melissa: He’s like a sponge and you know, back when we were starting, there was no Twitter, there was no way to reach out to like, you know, your idols now, like, you know, I’d reference that book, Tommy Angelo’s book. Now he, now we follow each other on Twitter, like what a day and age like if you told me this 20 years ago, like, no way. The author of like, my favorite poker book going to follow me on like, you know, the internet later. But yeah, Landon, he is, you know, I’ve had a few conversations with him. And I think he’s getting a lot of advice from a lot of different people. And my number one advice to him was to make sure the people that are telling you what you should be doing have your best interests at heart because I have a feeling he’s getting, he’s getting information from all different people. And a lot of those people are just looking to exploit and take advantage. And hopefully he’s going to keep a close circle.

Brad: Yeah, I hope not. I hope, I hope that’s not the case. But you know, the lines always open. I enjoy talking to him. I just, again, it’s hard to not enjoy it for me, like helping somebody out

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: That you see so much of yourself in. It’s like, I think

Melissa: I want to help him but I don’t want to help him so much that he becomes a threat in my career.

Brad: Oh, it’s so, what are the odds 

Melissa: Long and gone. I don’t know. He’s so young. I feel like he’s like 20 fucking years younger than me. I’ll be long gone by the time he gets to me.

Brad: He’s apparently 21, I think. Like

Melissa: I know.

Brad: What are the odds that it costs money over the course of our lifetimes helping him out? I hope small

Melissa: Oh, I’ll give him all the life advice he wants but I’m not teaching that kid how to play the DC. Oh, no. No shot.

Brad: Yeah. Luckily, I think he’s, he’s pretty much consumed with no limit Texas Hold’em at this moment, but you just, you just compared to deucey to a pandemic, so I don’t think that’s a, you know, a high praise for the game.

Melissa: Oh, it’s I mean, it’s, it’s like a necessary evil. I don’t know a lot of these guys like it. I, you know, I start out limit hold ‘em. So, I always like deuce and seven and a duty. I always like the school games. But I, you know, I bet I kind of get badoo, badoo, badeucy see a bad rep. But it’s so slow, you know. You’re, and then it’s not even just the dealing or the player’s decision. Nobody knows what the fuck they have. So, it just takes longer to understand. They’re just like, like, staring at all the cards are like, okay, 1, 2, 3, 4, oh wait, no, that’s, that soon. I got to get rid of that one. And it just like takes people longer to process what they have instead of just seeing like, aces so much easier. It’s like right in your face.

Brad: Yeah, I remember when, when open face pineapple was like the craze. Me and my friend made up some ungodly variation of open face pineapple. We added Joker’s. And then like we added, like the ability to like add multipliers. And we would have like

Melissa: Yeah. All the progressive.

Brad: And we would have like boards that had like so many cards on the table and we’re just like, what do I have? How many points? And then we added another friend was playing at another time and it was like, oh my god, you had to be a math wizard just to figure out like how much you won or lost on each hand.

Melissa: Yeah. And that was, that was another thing that I jumped on pretty early. But again, they had like, a million different variations. And it was just like, it’s so hard to keep up with it all. And it’s just so crazy that I feel like the richest guys in the world just want to keep playing new games, but it’s like, they just want a different game to try to win it, you know? And I don’t think that these guys realize it like, whatever.

Brad: It’s not the game.

Melissa: Yeah. Whatever game you pick, if you just keep giving us more cards, we’re just going to figure out what the math is with those cards but like they just keep rifling out new more games. It’s like

Brad: Yeah. I

Melissa: You could just play Omaha and just get it over with baster but, alright, here we are now. Yeah, you got to learn Archie and all this fucking stuff.

Brad: Yeah, I think the same at commerce, where it’s like the businessmen, it’s always funny because like the poker players I play with want to be businessmen. And then all the successful businessmen want to play poker

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: With all their time. And it’s like, just like

Melissa: My dream right now is to be a recreational player. Like, I want to have fuck you money. So, I can just go in there, and like back three bet all the professionals and just donate to all the fish. Like, that’s my end goal. Like before, I was like, oh, I want to be on PokerStars. I’m like, yeah, I don’t ever want to play on PokerStars now.

Brad: Yeah, now you just

Melissa: Yeah, now things changed. Yeah.

Brad: For sure. But at the end of the day, like, it’s not, when I see that happen, right? It’s like, it’s not what you’re doing, right? It’s like you. It’s like the grass is always greener, greener,

Melissa: Yeah. Of course.

Brad: Like the poker player wants to be a businessman, the businessman, like it doesn’t matter what you pursue, the issue is with you.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: And until you change that, nothing’s really going to change.

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

Melissa: Joy. It would have to be the 50k Players Championship. It was a, it was a dream come true that I had no idea I even had, you know. It was never ever in my sights to play that tournament. I had actually never even known this statistic that no woman had ever cashed it or final tabled it. It was just kind of like something I’d had heard, but I remember being in that tournament. That was a tough summer and my grandmother that was very close with actually passed away. And when people were like floating this idea, I thought it was ridiculous. But as I, you know, when I started playing it, it just became this thing. Like in the back of my head. I’m like, oh my gosh, I could like advance women in mixed games just by like playing well and doing well. And when that, when I actually catch that event, it was, it was a feeling that I had never felt before. It was like a feeling of pride that I didn’t even know that I wanted. That was easily the most unforgettable and joyful moment that I’ve had in poker.

Brad: How did you get into the tournament? Did you just straight buy in like, what did that look like?

Melissa: No, actually, two, two Nolan friends that I had made at home. My no limit journey had suggested the idea and like, the idea of putting $50,000 into one tournament to me just seemed fucking crazy. And I was like, I’m not doing that. First of all, it’s like all of these really, really good players. Like I’m a good cash game player. But these guys are like the best in the world. And they’re like, well, you’ve played with all of them. And like, I thought about like, oh yeah, I have played cash with all of them. They’re like, well, it’s the same thing. I’m like, it’s not the same thing. They had said to me, and it was Roman and Jesse. And they had said, well, if you, you know, you don’t want to put up all that money, like, well buy a piece, like, we obviously can’t buy a lot, but we’ll, you know, we’ll split a percent. Like they were going to take half a percent each. So, they’re going to put 250 each, and I was like, wow, these kids are like, they think that I’m going to, they want to put up their hard-earned money for me to play against the best players in the fucking world. So, I was like, alright, well, if these guys think it, then I’ll just, I’ll just sell action to it. So, I sold action to you know, it actually wasn’t, I thought it was going to be a lot harder. But I didn’t sell, I’ve never sold it at markup. I’ve sold it at par. And I just sold out, you know, the amount that I was comfortable with and went from there. And then I had a big side bet with Rob Mazaraki, it’s you going into that.

Brad: Nice. How did that turn out, the side bet?

Melissa: Pretty well. Yeah. He actually, he actually gave me the really good and I don’t think he realized how good he gave it. But he played me 15 to 1 when there was 96 people left, that I wouldn’t cash. And I ran it by my good friend, Bill Chen, who’s a math wizard. And I was like, I just want to make sure that I’m taking a positive bet here. And Bill’s like, are you fucking crazy? He’s like, of course, you should take it. He’s like that would mean you’re like a seven and a half dog against the field, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I’m like, alright, never mind. It’s shields across the room. I’m like, your books, Rob. Like your books. And then like, I asked like somebody else, and people are like, oh, are you want to sell a piece? I’m like, no, fuck no. I don’t want to sell a piece of it. You’re like, can we bet more? Rob’s like no, we’re not betting anymore. Stop. Like, it’s bad enough that I bet it with her.

Brad: Yeah, it’s a bad sign when you go to build chin, like Bill chin across the room. And he’s like, I’m right.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: What do you mean? Of course, you take it.

Melissa: Yeah. He’s like why are you fucking talking to me, why are you asking me? Why don’t you go, you know, book the bet? I’m like, all right, man. It was like 30 seconds. But at the time, Michael, his brother, was sitting on my direct left. And for those that have not played with Michael, he’s super aggressive. And he’s won it twice. And I think Rob thought that that was going to have a big impact on my, my day too, which it, it didn’t it did it.

Brad: I mean, it’s tough, like your table could just break right, like, and then he’s not on your left anymore. That’s something that, it’s something that could change pretty quickly in a tournament, I would think.

Melissa: Or I could just wait till I have a good hand and then put a fourth bet. And that’s just

Brad: That’s true.

Melissa: What I was, just what I happen to do.

Brad: Yeah. I mean, that’s the, the alternative strategy, like

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: Guys going nuts, you basically just have to tighten up. So, the opposite question. When you think of pain in your poker career, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?

Melissa: Oh, there are so many. And I can’t even like nail it down to one specific, but I can tell you that most of them were all self-inflicted, you know. And if any of you talk to anyone that knows me, my personal life is what you would call tumultuous. And I have not historically made all the best decisions. But all of the worst decisions that I’ve made in terms of poker and gambling have coincided with how, just how fucking rock bottom my life was at the time. So

Brad: Probably not a coincidence. Probably not a coincidence.

Melissa: No, not a coincidence. Yeah, if I could give anyone advice, I’d be like, don’t play poker when you’re eating entire gallon of ice cream. But for me, that was a lot. So, I you know, I had to work. So, what could you do?

Brad: Yeah, I think it was, it was in like super system or an old book that Doyle read. I remember there was a year that his daughter passed away in the early 80’s. And he just said, like, he would have been so much better off just not playing cards for like two years. Because this, this game takes a toll on a person emotionally.

Melissa: I mean,

Brad: The strongest, most iron-willed people will crumble eventually. And like if things are going bad in your personal life, you’re just done.

Melissa: I mean, if you think about all of the pieces that need to fit together in order for you to be a successful player to begin with, and then pile on the emotional turmoil and whatever mental shit you’re going through on top of it. It’s hard enough as it is, you know, just getting everything in line, like you’re healthy and you’re playing from this hour, or you’re managing your bankroll, you’re learning the game, you’re doing that. And then oh, by the way, you should play because you just crashed your car. You just lost a loved one. Like, it’s so hard as it is.

Brad: Yeah, it really is. I’m not going to let you off the hook though. Let’s at least have one painful poker story, something. Bring the pain,

Melissa: Man. Okay, so I guess I was playing 300, 300-600 with a professional player. And one of the worst players I’ve ever seen play the game. And I lost literally every hand. There was just like, nothing I could do. Nothing was going right. But we were playing three handed and we’re keeping the game going so that you know it would be, and that’s what was happening like some of us would play through the night. I was one of those players. And we keep the game going. And I think I lost somewhere in the neighborhood of like 60,000 before I quit. But it was like a demoralizing, it was so demoralizing because I, not only did I lose, I like knew I shouldn’t have been playing. I knew I was in a great tremendous pie. I, you know, position on the professional so at the time, in this particular mix. It was better to have position on him than the fish. And I felt like I had done everything right. And I still lost. And yeah, it was just, it was a favorable mix. I had, I’d pick the games because at some point, I wanted to quit and they’re like, oh, no, you play, what do you want to play? And they’re like, oh, we’ll just accommodate you. And I’m like, oh, I become that person. But I don’t even fucking care. This is what I want to play. I like lost in the mix that I wanted to play. I lost against players who I felt that were inferior. And at that point, it was like, 11 in the morning, I’d been up for like, 40 hours. And I just like kind of went home. I was like, what did I just do? Like, I just lost? Not only just a car, I lost like a really fucking nice car. I haven’t slept, I haven’t showered. I’m like disappointed myself. Like, it was pretty low at that point.

Brad: Yeah, I can imagine. Those

Melissa: I mean, the lowest point came when they told me that they’ll play whatever game I want to play. Like, I’ve never been offered to pick the mix. Except for that day. They’re like, oh God, she’s playing so bad, please stay. I was like, oh, my God, I’m here at this level. But let’s play this game. I should have just went home then. 

Brad: You said that you shouldn’t have been playing, were you playing bad or just like you just couldn’t do anything right?

Melissa: It was just like, sometimes you can just see the writing on the wall. And you just know, and every decision becomes labored, you know, it’s these, these decisions that you would normally just snap fold and not think twice have just become increasingly difficult. And I could feel like the emotional, I could feel the mental pressure on myself. And I’m pretty self-aware of everything happening. And I went against everything that I knew I was feeling. I knew that I was, I knew that decisions were harder. I knew that I was losing an amount of money that I was uncomfortable with. I knew that I was tired. And I just went against everything that I knew I shouldn’t have been doing because I was on tilt, you know. And now, a lot of people like if you ask them how I play, like, I may never ever be the greatest player to ever play. But a lot of people will tell you that I’m the most consistent. And to break that mold for me is like a, that was a huge struggle. But you learn from it. So, it never happened again. So, there’s that, but that was probably the, that was probably like the lowest point in poker that I could think of.

Brad: Yeah, there’s, it happened. You know, it’s just, it’s something that I think just happens, like, especially while you’re playing if you have awareness of, of your decision-making process, and like, everything gets hard, and you’re

Melissa: Everything is hard.

Brad: Second guessing everything. It’s like, do I raise here? And like if you were in a more clear state, you just know, like, it’s just it’s such an easy, it’s not even a, it’s not even a discussion, it’s not a question, you just act. But then on some days,

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: You, just everything is like questionable, and you’re second guessing and tentative. And you have no confidence. And when that starts happening, just fucking go, no matter how good the game is, because it’s never ended well with me

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: Personally.

Melissa: I mean, I’ve always tried to be like a consummate professional. I’ve always like wanted to keep the game going when I wanted, you know, I knew if I, if I let the game break, it wasn’t going to restart, like so I knew I needed to play later. But like some of that, you just have to push aside because nothing that you do is going to be more beneficial than quitting at that single moment.

Brad: Yep. Agreed.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: If you could gift all poker players one book, what would it be? It doesn’t even have to be on Poker.

Melissa: God. I guess I have to just go with Tommy Angelo’s, Elements of Poker. I mean, I learned a lot from that book. And if nobody’s, if you haven’t read it, it just gives you insight to a lot of different things. Even something as simple as like a seat change. Like if you if you, a player gets up, and you’re deciding whether to take that seat or not, you’re still making a decision whether to take the seat or not. So, it’s just like being cognizant of like your A game, your B game, your C game and trying to improve. It was a huge eye opener from when I was younger. And if you haven’t read it as a poker player, like I would strongly suggest it.

Brad: Yeah, he, he’s been on the show. He’s a very, very, very smart guy. I like, I like Tommy Angelo a lot. I had another friend of mine, it’s weird how like, somebody can suggest something that I’ve never considered. And he’s not even in poker. Like I interviewed him because he’s like a high-performance expert.

Melissa: Right.

Brad: And he, he was talking about like, he was in the Olympics. He has a gold medal. He’s multiple time world champion in rowing. And basically, he said that, like, anything that you can do that’s even minor, that has a net positive impact on your psyche. If you go to Fiverr and as ridiculous as it sounds, you pay somebody to pray for you to play poker well, like anything that can create a placebo effect.

Melissa: Right.

Brad: That is emotional that, that can help you out, like all of these things. He said basically, all high-performance athletes, all of their coaches try to get them to buy into like some sort of placebo effect thing. That’s just basically mental that keeps people strong. And it’s just something that I never would have thought about, like as a logical, rational poker player, I wouldn’t have considered it. But like,

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: Yeah. Okay. This person prayed and gave me an energy shield today. So now I’m just going to make better decisions. Like, it’s five bucks, you know, what’s the downside, right? You

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: Throw away $5. Very small.

Melissa: Sometimes you need that. Sometimes you need to, even if it doesn’t work, sometimes you just need to believe in something that’s bigger than you. I know I’ve like swapped lucky chips with people at the table or like my friends or I’ve dropped off like chip money or whatever, just on their stack hoping that it will change their luck. And even if it doesn’t, maybe it just helps them be clearer about their decisions. I don’t know.

Brad: Sure. It can’t hurt. Like, it’s probably

Melissa: Yeah. For sure.

Brad: Unless you have like a

Melissa: Right.

Brad: Favorite hand, and then you play until the river or something like that. That’s probably good I heard.

Melissa: Right. Right.

Brad: But chips, not so bad.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about poker, what would it be? This may be another dumb question, because stalling seems to annoy you. And also, the days

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: Or Medusa?

Melissa: Yeah, *unsure*. I would definitely, I would definitely wave off the stalling. What else would I weave off negative in poker? Oh, my goodness. There’s actually a lot of things that annoy me. But I guess mostly I’m bitching on Twitter for people stalling and people listening their headphones on they can’t fucking hear what the bed is. That’s annoying. Well, if I could wave my wand and change something negative, or could I wave my wand and like, add something,

Brad: You could add something. Sure, go for it.

Melissa: I wish that like I would wave a wand. And I’ve actually been talking to another player about this, by kind of like building that middle ground for mixed games so that people more people could come through. Because there’s just like, there’s no middle ground between 20-40 and 100. Or, you know, you kind of just like have to either have a bunch of money or be so confident that you just move up. But I think I would create like a bigger mixed game environment so that more people, because I actually, I’m actually in the side that I think that, I actually believe the article I wrote with cardplayer that it helps you become a more well-rounded person and you learn different skills that you would never learn from the Nolan that world. And then you can transfer them into life. And I just think overall that if more people played mix, their lives would be more well-rounded. But maybe I’m just biased.

Brad: You probably are. But it could probably be the

Melissa: I probably am.

Brad: Truth anyway, right?

Melissa: Yeah. Maybe.

Brad: Like, I have a regret that I haven’t jumped into more mixed games. And maybe I should invest some time. Time is in such a limited supply for me nowadays, though.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: A couple more questions, and then we’ll wrap up.

Melissa: Sure.

Brad: If you could put up a billboard that everybody’s got to drive pass on the way to the casino, what does it say?

Melissa: I would probably put up something that along the lines of like, you’re responsible for all of your results. Because I think a lot of people get lost in blaming other things and outside factors. And it becomes, it can become really easy to re-shoulder the blame of what you’ve done. But I think that a lot of a lot of gambling, if you can take responsibility for a lot of what you’ve done, then you can learn from what you did. And whether that be, not do it again, or do more of it. But inherently, if you can take responsibility, then you’ll be better off, you’ll be better off gambler in the long run.

Brad: And its so energy sapping having people like in your inner circle who are like, I never run good. I’m never lucky.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: It’s like, dude, come on, like, let’s go. We’re all, this shit is happening to all of us all of the time.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: Like, it’s not personal, you know?

Melissa: Yeah. I think there’s just like, if you just take responsibility for a lot of things that you do in your life, you can, you can rationalize it better. You could take more from it, you could learn from more from it. And then you can change a lot of things. But without that initial responsibility, then it’s just everyone else’s fault all the time.

Brad: Right.

Melissa: You can never learn.

Brad: It’s like a victim mentality. It’s like

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: Every, everything’s just happening to me, happening to me, and it’s beyond my control. And at some point, like you can take action, in a lot of cases, some things are beyond people’s control. I

Melissa: For sure.

Brad: Shouldn’t see that. But when it comes to poker, you can take action, take responsibility, and work every single day to try to improve if that is your aspiration.

Melissa: Right. Yeah. And if even if you, you got fucked by the river, like, obviously, you can’t control that. But you can control what you do going forward from that.

Brad: Exactly. Like you can control the reaction.

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: You don’t have to get upset. And the thing is like, it happens to everyone, right? And like, if one person gets pissed off and goes on tilt, because they get unlucky in a spot, and you don’t, over time this is an edge. Like this just is an, cumulative edge that builds up throughout the rest of your life. So, like, just deal with them man, it happens.

Melissa: I mean, in poker, I’ve always said and I still maintain this, that players that I’ve seen that are truly great in my book, you’re only as good as you are when you are losing. And I think that, I think that holds true with a lot of players like you. If you deteriorate to a level that, you know, you’re just playing every in, your until, like, you can’t be a great player, you just can’t because you’re not as you. Everyone can play good. Everyone, when they’re winning can make great decisions and they can, everything is easy. But when you’re at the bottom, that’s when, that’s when the champions rise up, like you just, you cannot be a great player without being great when you’re losing. And that’s a tough thing to do. And that’s something, I’m even I’m not that great. And it’s like one of the hardest things to do in poker.

Brad: It is. Can I ask you, how do you feel like when you’re stuck, and you know, you’re stuck, you’re losing, things are not going your way? Like what is the internal feeling like if you can describe that of resolve to just keep moving forward?

Melissa: It’s hard. Because someone, for someone like me, I’ve seen a lot of long term. I’ve played a lot of hands online. So, I truly believe in the long term, I know that it’s going to, I know that it’s going to come around, I know it’s going to even out. So, it’s like, just don’t freak out. You know, it’s just you’re just putting in more hours. And if you can just keep that, the big picture there, then you won’t stress out about something so little as one session. But that being said, if you haven’t seen a long term, and you’re not sure, if you’re winning player, you’re not sure if you’re beating the game, it’s a, it’s a horrifying, it’s a horrifyingly scary time, because you’re like, well, what if this is a long term, and I just lose all the time. And it’s like such a cliché, but you kind of just have to trust the process that you’ve learned and you’ve studied and that if you keep playing these spots, that you’re going to make money in them.

Brad: I agree.

Melissa: Like, that’s what I try to think of when I’m losing. I’m like, alright, well, this is just temporary, you know.

Brad: I used to be way worse and very hard on myself. And like, even when I would win, I would be rate myself, if I made what I perceived to be a bad play that cost me like half a buy in, I would just get so annoyed. It’s like, I’m winning 2K but I should be up 2600. And then like, at some point, I don’t know, it just kind of snapped in me that it was just like, just let it go, man, just like let everything go. And just make a decision now and just keep being present and keep making decisions. And like, eventually, this shit works out. Like 

Melissa: That’s the thing, you have to stay present. I mean, nobody, anyone will tell you. When I go home after that session though, I fucking beat myself up until I play again, like I replay hands. I’ve, you know, historically had to take medication to fall asleep, because my brain won’t shut off. But at the time that you’re playing is not the time to analyze what you could do going forward that you can only control what’s happening now. And you can control what goes, what happens going forward. You can’t change the past, you can’t change the river card. So, all of the energy you spend trying to lament the loss is a waste in my mind.

Brad: Most of the time when I’m playing like that’s, I’m not improving, like I’m not experiencing a massive growth while I’m playing. I’m just playing and reacting, right? I’m just like,

Melissa: Yeah.

Brad: It’s like muscle memory and the things that I’ve studied, my, I trust my intuition, I trust my gut for these decisions. And then it’s afterwards that I’m really diving in deep through the analysis of like, could I do better here? What did I do here? So, like, if you’re trying to improve, like, while you’re in the middle of playing, it’s not going to always end in so well for you

Melissa: No.

Brad: It’s been a great conversation. I’m very, very hot right now.

Melissa: Oh, my gosh, I feel so bad for you with no air conditioning. That’s awful.

Brad: Yes, it is not the most fun thing in the world. I’ll have to message Landon to see if I can put in his story

Melissa: Share his story.

Brad: Share his story. But yeah, Melissa, it’s been great having you. Let’s do it again, you know, six months or a year trying to get these middle road mixed games running in your local casino. I think Shawn wants to do that, too, right? That was that was something that he, he wanted to facilitate as well.

Melissa: Yeah, I think we all do. But I think it’s a lot of work. It requires like a coordinated effort of lazy people. So, I don’t know if I would count on it. But it’s definitely something we want. I don’t know if it’s something that we’ll actually do. But I will talk to Shawn because, yeah, he’s a good person, he’s a great person to do that.

Brad: There’s lots of things that people want in the poker world, or that I want that I’m realizing are like impossibilities, and I’m just so better served by not investing energy into even thinking about them ever again. Because it’s just like, never going to happen.

Melissa: It’s funny if like a bunch of us actually, like put our minds together for a coordinated effort, like we could definitely pull it off because we have connections at all the casinos. But it’s like how do you get a bunch of people who made their living, you know, exploiting that, to just try to just jump up and rate and you know, have a revolution of mixed games. It’s tough.

Brad: Yeah, it’s like, I mean, it’s prisoner’s dilemma, right? Like, I talked about it, talked about it with Brian Paris, where it’s like, yeah, the players could boycott a casino or whatever, for having a bad structure are like 300k guaranteed without adding any more if more people sign up, but like there’s enough people who see the value that we’re like, fuck it. Like, this is a, this is going to have a massive overlay. I’m taking my shot, that like it just ruins it. It’s always ruined. The players can’t come together. Their incentives are not aligned. We’re used to crushing each other and gaining an edge that way. And that’s just how it’s going to be forever and I’m resigned to that fate.

Melissa: Coordinated efforts in poker are tough.

Brad: They’re very tough. And so we’re going to leave on that high note. High note. Where can the

Melissa: Oh God, the truth hurts.

Brad: Where can the chasing poker greatest audience find you on the worldwide web?

Melissa: Where can they find me? @burrrberry on Twitter. That’s five Rs. And yeah, I think I’m MelissaBurr on Instagram. I don’t even know.

Brad: Don’t try to find her on there. It will probably not be a good time.

Melissa: Yeah, I don’t even know. I barely use Instagram. I’m always on Twitter, though.

Brad: Yep, check her out on Twitter. It’ll be on the show page, you can just click right through. Thank you very much for your time and energy. Have a great rest.

Melissa: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Have a good night.

Thanks for reading this transcript of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 079: Melissa Burr

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