You could probably guess this about me but I'm gonna say it anyway:
I’m an extremely competitive human being.
Not in a screaming, crying, make-all-the-excuses, and burn the house down when I lose kind of way (At least not anymore).
I just believe when you’re in the arena, heart beating a million miles per hour, feeling the pressure … that’s when you learn what you’re really made of.
Is it going to be steel or paper mache?
My arena (outside of poker) in my mid-twenties was flag football.
After not playing competitive sports for 3 or 4 years, I fell instantly in love with flag.
I bought an agility ladder and would run through it every day so that my movements were more efficient.
I found a talented QB who was as obsessed with winning as much as I was, and we would meet 3 or 4 times a week in an open field to practice our timing routes for hours on end.
I asked my grandfather to record all of our games and my QB and I would obsessively break down the film throughout the week.
Eventually we synced up with another team in the league that had a couple of ex-arena studs and we became unstoppable.
We had undefeated seasons, won by the mercy rule more often than not, traveled for tournaments, and built a brotherhood that still exists to this day.
Sounds over-the-top obsessive, right?
You might be thinking that when game time rolled around, my confidence would be sky high.
But you’d be wrong.
Even after all of our success I was STILL scared shitless up until the moment the whistle blew.
“What if I drop a critical pass?”
“What if I run a bad route?”
“What if I let my brothers down?”
I could feel the fear in my bones.
And it gave me the surge I needed to perform.
It motivated me to break out the agility ladder when I didn't feel like it.
It pushed me and my QB to practice until it got too dark outside to see.
My fear of discovering I was made of cotton candy in the arena pushed me to become the best version of myself I could be.
And it can do the same for you in poker, too.
If you’re afraid before you fire up your poker session or when you enter a tournament … good.
You are being blessed.
You are full of energy.
Your energy will give you focus.
More sessions than you would believe hinge on whether or not you notice the tiniest of details.
If you're not focused and energized, those details will just slip through your fingers.
And If find yourself terrified that you aren’t smart enough or mentally strong enough to be a winning poker player … GOOD.
That fear will compel you to study endlessly, review your sessions obsessively, and push yourself farther than you ever thought you could go.
In the rock-climbing documentary “Free Solo”, Alex Honnold said people tell him he’s fearless all the time … but they’re wrong.
He said if you’re stuck to a wall of granite thousands of feet in the air without any protective equipment and you AREN’T afraid then you’re as good as dead.
Which makes sense if you think about it.
His fear of death makes him obsessive when he’s training.
His fear of death will not allow his focus to be on anything except the task at hand.
His life literally hangs in the balance.
So if you’re consistently showing up to the tables all nonchalant without a care in the world, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice.
Calm, relaxed, and anxiety free might sound great in theory, but it will never be good enough if you want to reach the pinnacles of high performance.
The gods of poker success demand a greater sacrifice.
They demand your fear.