PokerListings.com is the world's largest and most trusted online poker guide, offering the best online poker bonus deals guaranteed, over $1m in exclusive freerolls every year and the most free poker content available on the Web.
Tri Nguyen Q&A and Signed Book Giveaway
High-stakes poker pro and accomplished poker author Tri “SlowHabit” Nguyen has another book hitting shelves this week and we got him on the phone to see what all the fanfare is about.
Nguyen’s new work, How I Made My First Million from Poker, is a manifesto for the new generation of poker professionals, and it focuses on the many things you must do away from the table to make sure you’re reaching your full potential on the felt.
But this Q&A isn’t the only thing we’ve got for you.
PokerListings.com: What was the biggest reason you wrote this book and what are you hoping to communicate to poker players?
Tri “SlowHabit” Nguyen: The main reason I wanted to get this book out there is because I really don’t believe people value the mental part of the game enough, how to take care of yourself.
Whenever people think about learning something new in poker they always think of the strategy side. Like how to play A-K better or how to play certain hands better. While that is helpful it’s really not as helpful as learning how to manage yourself as a poker player.
And the process of getting there can be tedious and it takes time but eventually, once you become a “professional”, knowing how to manage yourself and understanding your limits, and just how to take care of your body and mind, and you know how to game select and avoid situations that are going to cost you money, it won’t matter how much the game changes, you’re going to be in the game for a long time.
It’s tough to teach a player that they need to learn more when they’re crushing the games but if all you have is the best strategy for the current moment then yeah, you’re going to make a lot of money right now, but when the game changes you might be left standing behind.
Aside from the passive income you’ll generate by writing this, which is a topic you actually cover in the book, what kind of satisfaction do you get by doing projects like How I Made My First Million From Poker?
A lot of the time people say poker isn’t a very rewarding profession and that might be true in some ways, but I say if you want to get that feeling of reward start coaching other players or write a book or produce a video series.
It makes me happy every time I get up in the morning and read a couple emails from people thanking us for the books and how it is helping them improve. That’s a good feeling for me.
This book has been the hardest one to write mostly because a lot of it’s pretty subjective stuff. It’s taken like two years of work.
Like in Let There Be Range I can teach you how to read hands using ranges, and in Exploiting Regulars I can teach you specific things to do that. This book’s based on my experience as a poker professional so I found it more difficult to write. It was a relief to get it done.
And writing books like this creates passive income which I talk about in the book.
Being a professional poker player, when you run bad it can feel like everything’s crashing down and you’re worried about bills to pay and you don’t know if you’ll ever win again, even though your track record says otherwise.
So having a book and having some other income and knowing that at the end of the month you don’t have to worry as much about mortgage or bills can really help you when you need to get away from the table during a downswing.
And when you become a better player and really move up the stakes it’s not about quantity. Logging hands is still important but it’s more about the quality because the opponents are better, you can’t play as many hands, there’s not as many fish, so any time you play you have to be as focused as you can to max out your results.
The first thing you see when you open this book is a forward by Barry Greenstein. How happy were you to get that given that this book can be seen to build on Greenstein’s Ace on the River?
I was over-ecstatic when Barry agreed to write the forward for this book.
It’s a funny story. When I was in college like six or seven years I was fortunate enough to get a manuscript of Barry’s book and I didn’t really get it. Like why was he telling me about the lifestyle of a live poker pro when I just wanted to learn how to play certain hands so I can go win money at the casino.
So it didn’t make sense to me at the time but after I became a pro it really hit me. He understood that at the higher levels there’s not that much difference between you and your opponents in gameplay, it’s more about how you manage yourself and put yourself in better positions to succeed.
So when I wrote this book I had the same thing in mind but making it more relevant for younger online players.
I don’t know what it’s like to be 40, or even 30, I don’t know. A lot of the advice I give in this book is pretty aggressive and the main reason for that is when I’m thinking of the 18 to 24 year old kid who’s going to have a really hard time understanding that he needs to learn to manage himself better.
You make the distinction between the technical side of a poker pro’s game and the “mental” game, referring to lifestyle management, happiness, health and so on. How important do you believe this mental component to be? And does it presuppose that your technical game is already very strong?
If I had to put a percentage on it I’d say it should be 60-40 with 60 being the amount of time you spend on the mental side.
In poker, once you get past the hand reading and playing the flop and the turn and everything it takes to succeed as a small stakes player it becomes more important to spend time on your mental game. You play better and you learn more and you have a lot more energy to improve your game if you feel good inside.
That’s why you read a lot after Black Friday that a lot of good players just aren’t playing very good these days because everything sort of came crashing down. So it’s at times like that when you need to pull out some hope and some energy to keep you going.
Unfortunately there’s a lot of people who aren’t really able to do that and it’s kind of ironic because we got into poker because we love it so much that we just said, “Screw it, I’m just going to play poker to make a living,” and then after a few years we give up on our dream.
A lot of people get into poker on a dream and even though it doesn’t work out for everyone it’s a pretty unique opportunity. How lucky do you feel to have gotten into the game and what kind of opportunity do you see it as for other young people who are willing to work at it?
If I had to rate the luck factor for me getting in to poker on a scale from one to ten it would be one hundred.
I’m a big believer in doing as many different things as you can when you’re young to figure out what you like and what will make you happy, and if you are able to make money it makes things a lot easier.
Accumulating money early in your life allows you to be much more aggressive whether it’s investing or learning or whatever.
So I feel like it’s kind of unfair that we found poker. For example, in college when I was 19 or 20 I was earning a lot of money playing and when I turned 21 and was able to play in casinos I was making like six-figures. So if I want to study or learn something I can use that money to make it happen, whereas a lot of my peers are stuck looking for internships and entry-level jobs to get it done.
I actually have no idea what they do but from what I hear it’s not very good.
Do you think people getting into poker have a realistic idea about how much work it takes to succeed?
I definitely don’t think people understand the work that goes into it. But it’s different than a regular job I think because we love it so much.
When I was playing a lot I was thinking about poker 24/7, I even had dreams about how to play hands. The first thing you do in the morning is talk about hands you played the night before and when you finish playing you’re talking hands.
I don’t think that’s the case for a lot of people at their jobs.