How can I become a better poker player?
It’s true; I have friends who believe I play poker for a living. I haven’t lied to them.
I just fail to mention that when I am in Venice for the World Poker Tour (WPT) Main Event, I’m the one standing by the table notepad in hand and not sitting down earnings hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So I get asked that question a lot. Fortunately, I feel I am more than qualified to answer it because poker is a mirror for life. And I think I am quite good at this life thing.
When thinking about the task of choosing five non-poker books that can improve a poker player’s game I gave myself two challenges.
- 1. Choose different areas of life that, if improved, would affect game standards
- 2. Choose books that might surprise a few people
In dealing with the first point I decided that improving the following five areas of one's life would have a tremendous impact on one's poker game.
- 1. Ego
- 2. Service
- 3. Money
- 4. Spirituality
- 5. Health
And now for those surprises.
1. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (Ego)
I know a lot of poker players who have read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. And why not? it makes perfect sense to learn to be present.
Rocky Balboa told baby Creed to take it "One step. One punch. One round at a time." If Eckhart Tolle was a poker player I'm sure he would say to take it "One card. One hand. One Level at a time."
I chose A New Earth -- not only to be different but because I think his two chapters on Ego are essential reading for everyone.
Ego, or 'Everyone has Got One' as I like to say, is one of the main reasons players suffer from losses of emotional control or seemingly random acts of madness at the poker table.
Take complaining about a hand as an example:
"Resentment is the emotion that goes with complaining and the mental labeling of people and adds, even more, energy to the ego."
When you ridicule a player for making the bad play, Tolle refers to a quote from Jesus Christ: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
The answer is: "When I criticize or condemn another it makes me feel bigger, superior."
The reason you need to read this book spills from Tolle’s mouth when he says:
“I didn’t realize yet that thinking without awareness is the main dilemma of human existence.”
2. Start Something That Matters by Blake MyCoskie (Service)
I believe that it’s within service that we find happiness. I am an effective altruist. I am a member of Raising for Effective Giving (REG).
I considered suggesting a series of books by Peter Singer or William MacAskill, but it was MyCoskie - Chief Shoe Giver at TOMS - who first infiltrated my mind and made me want to give to others.
I think service is incredibly valuable in the poker industry. We take from people. That's what we do.
I think it evens up the scales to use some of that money to improve the lives of others. If you think like that, then even the losers in the game are winners.
TOMS is much more than a shoe. It's a story. This book was a New York Times Bestseller, and so it should be. It gets you thinking about helping others but at the same time also helping yourself.
The one-for-one model means you are running a for-profit organization instead of a non-profit organization and I think that might appeal to the poker-playing community.
3. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez (Money)
This beautiful book carries the subtitle 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship With Money And Achieving Financial Independence, and who in poker doesn’t want that to happen?
I have read a lot of books on personal finance. This is the best of the lot by some considerable margin.
I interview a dearth of poker players and the vast majority of them have no idea how much money they need to be financially free. They are enjoying themselves too much to care.
But they should care. Nothing this good ever lasts forever.
The most significant life-changing lesson I learned in this book was to relate your thoughts on money with life energy.
It's all about spending your money more consciously and the authors teach you to do this by turning cash totals into the time left on earth.
It worked for me. I am sure it can work for you.
4. Transcendental Meditation by Jack Forem (Spirituality)
I honestly believe that the difference between two similarly skilled poker players lies in their spiritual practice.
Before I found Transcendental Meditation (TM) I was consumed by anger. I was like a volcano.
You wouldn't know it; then BOOM. Lava still flows occasionally but nowhere near the veracity it once did.
It’s not just in life. In poker I am so much calmer. The bad beats don't affect me like they used to. Players who used to wind me up can't find the lever.
I have more compassion for those who deliver the game. It all stemmed from TM.
It costs too much money and there is an "airy fairy" ritual during your learning that involves cake, candles and a lot of chanting. But it’s the only form of meditation that has stuck with me.
I don’t have to remember to meditate anymore because I am a meditator.
5. Holistic Dental Care by Nadine Artemis (Health)
I didn't just choose this book because poker players have bad breath and work in proximity to one another (although it's a point worthy of the book entry on its own merit).
I chose this book because I never understood the importance of dental health and the relationship that it has to the rest of the body until I picked up this little beauty.
Artemis talks about the traditional form of dentistry and how they are always treating symptoms instead of working hard at discovering the causes.
“Treating the decay instead of correcting the sources may explain the statistic that 90% of 60-year olds have 63% of their teeth missing, filled or decayed.”
She also clues you in on the relationship between mouth hygiene and the rest of the body.
“80% of all illness is related to decay in the mouth.”
Did you know that there is a ‘constant microscopic flow of fluid in the teeth that originates near the intestinal area and flows upward and outward through the tooth?’
Nadine Artemis did. And don’t get me started on Mercury amalgam. Did you know that Mercury is the second-most toxic substance on earth after plutonium? And dentists tell us this is fine to put into our mouth?
Google "Mercury Vapor From Mouth" and you will be spending your next three-bet on a dentist who knows how to extract Mercury amalgams (which by the way go into a bag labeled "toxic waste.")
Those talented Swedes won't know what I am talking about. Mercury amalgams were banned in their country back in 2009.
Since reading this book I have created my own toothpaste from baking soda, coconut oil, salt and peppermint oil. I have also created my own mouthwash from tea tree oil, baking soda and salt.
Since using these new inventions my gums don't bleed, my breath smells better and my teeth are whiter. According to Nadine Artemis, I will now be healthier.