Success Principles of Poker: Event + Response = Outcome

Do you believe poker is a microcosm of life?

PokerListings writer Lee Davy does, and that many of life’s lessons can be applied practically and successfully to your poker game.

Armed with that view Davy dissects the Jack Canfield classic self-help book The Success Principles to find what lessons can be adapted to poker.

By Lee Davy

Can a book change your life? I'm living proof that it can.

Five years ago I was working in the rail industry. I was suffering from insomnia brought on by the strains and stresses of life.

I was drinking far too much alcohol and I was a man without a plan. I was on automatic pilot and wasn’t questioning anything.

It was at this point that I gave up drinking and, shortly after, read the book that is going to be pulled apart to see what lessons drop out that can be applied to poker.

The first of those lessons is to always take 100% responsibility for your life.

Are You Looking Outside of Yourself for Answers?


What’s going on in your life that you would like to change?

During my time in the rail industry my main customer was Tata Steel. At that time they were known as Corus, and before that British Steel.

My involvement with them saw an unprecedented number of fatal personal accidents. The man who was bearing the brunt of the responsibility was Phil Dryden.

He decided that in order to stop killing his employees major changes were needed. He embarked on a series of changes that would be known as the Corus Journey.

The following mantra was adopted by all of the personnel who jumped on board the Dryden ship:

“If you keep on doing what you are doing, you will keep on getting what you are getting.”

Think about that statement and apply it to your own life. What’s going on in your life that you would like to change?

Are you drinking too much? Eating the wrong things? Not exercising enough? Thinking negatively?

Gossiping about people? Complaining about everything? Spending more than you earn?

Now ask yourself another question. Are you looking outside of yourself for answers? I bet you are.

You Decided to Play Poker

If YOU keep on doing what YOU are doing, YOU will keep on getting what YOU are getting.


You decided to play poker.

I've highlighted the word YOU for a reason. You need to look inward for your answers and this starts by taking 100% responsibility for your actions.

So ask yourself the question.: Do you take 100% responsibility for your life?

It’s a yes or no answer by the way. If there is just one area where you're looking to the world to solve your problems then the answer is no. You do not take 100% responsibility for your life.

So where do you start?

Start by accepting that you create everything that happens to you. This is what Phil Dryden did to great affect in the Steel Mills of South Wales.

He realized, and accepted, that the business was killing people. It was a starting point and it created an unprecedented amount of positive change.

Take a bad beat for example.

It’s no good complaining about the dealer, your terrible run of cards, the insane play of your idiotic opponent, or the role the Poker Gods played in your demise.

You created your own bad beat. How did you do that?

You decided to play poker.

You Created That

You know that poker is a game where you can make the correct decisions and still lose. So you have to take 100% responsibility for your choice, otherwise the game will eat you alive.

Phil Hellmuth

You created that.

Another example is bankroll management. 

Let’s imagine that you were always backed and then one day you win a large tournament. You decide to clear up your make up and venture out into the big bad world on your own.

You play in tournaments bigger than you are used to. You don’t sell any action. You get greedy. Before too long you are asking your backer if he will take you back because you are broke.

You created that.

That’s a very straightforward example. What about a less straightforward case?

It’s time for the World Championships of Online Poker (WCOOP). You spend several weeks locked up in your bedroom clicking buttons.

Your wife brings you some food and drink on the hour every hour. You don’t even realize that she has been in your room because you have been to the toilet.

After the WCOOP ends you jump on a flight and head to Barcelona to play in the EPT; you take a trip to Amsterdam to grind online, before heading to London to play in a WPT event.

After six weeks of travel you go home to find your wife has left. You created that also.

You Have the Power to Change Everything

Every human being has so much power and yet we hardly ever wield it.

Former Holocaust survivor, Dr. Viktor Frankl, says in his book Man’s Search for Meaning that he survived because his captors could not take away his right to choose how to behave irrespective of circumstances thrust upon him. 

They could beat him, abuse him and dehumanize him but they could never take away his right to choose how to think, or behave, under those horrific circumstances.


If you lose a poker tournament because you were on tilt, then question why that happened.

If you want to be a top-class poker player it’s time to give up all of your excuses. There is only one person who has the responsibility for the life that you lead and that is you.

Everything that surrounds you was created by you. Your physical and mental well being, your wealth or debt, the state of your relationships, your abilities on the felt and your thoughts and feelings.

All created by you. And this is a good thing. It means you also have the power to change everything.

So how do you change? How do you start to take 100% responsibility for your life?

Progress will be slow, so start by accepting that. Start asking yourself questions each time you have to confront a part of your life that you are not happy with.

If you lose a poker tournament because you were on tilt, then question why that happened.

Ask how you created that? What were you thinking about at the time? What are your beliefs around poker tournaments?

What did you say or not say during the tournament? How did you react to your opponents? How could you have acted differently to get your opponent to act differently?

What do you need to do better next time to get the result you desire?

All That Exists is Right Now

I just played in the $1,500 buy-in WSOP Monster Stack event. I had backers and when I was eliminated my modus operandi was to feel shame.

Normally I would belittle my ability, castigate myself for my failings, and mope on my loss for days on end. Not anymore. I'll review my play with someone more skilled than me, but right now that tournament no longer exists.

McLean Karr

You can be upset you busted, or grateful you had a chance to play. The choice is yours.

All that exists is right now.

As soon as I busted I was happy. I was grateful for the chance to play. That was my little victory.

Each time my thoughts moved to my exit hand I changed them and focused on what I was doing in that moment in time.

I took 100% responsibility for my actions. I stopped blaming, I stopped looking outward and instead I looked inwards within myself and changed the way I would normally think in such situations.

We blame others for the part of us that we don’t like. We learned this from our parents, and they learned this from their parents.

It’s a vicious circle, but one that can be broken by you. You do not have to be this way. You are choosing to be this way.

And guess what? It’s hurting your bottom line.

Event + Response = Outcome

Jack Canfield uses a very simple equation to deal with this issue. He believes that an EVENT will trigger a RESPONSE and you will receive an OUTCOME.


Choose to take 100% responsibility of your life.


  • Event: I was eliminated from the Monster Stack event.
  • Response: I berated myself over my play.
  • Outcome: I felt shitty for days, which affected other areas of my life.


  • Event: I was eliminated from the Monster Stack event.
  • Response: I was grateful that I got the chance to play.
  • Outcome: I have a wonderful sense of gratitude with the job that I have.

It’s all about changing things. I hate running and this is one of the reasons that my exercise habits are not very good.

  • Event: Go running.
  • Response: I hate it because it’s tough.
  • Outcome: I don’t run that often.
  • Event: Go running.
  • Response: I bought a new audio book to listen to when I run.
  • Outcome: I now look forward to running so I can listen to my book.

Pay attention to what is happening in your life. Keep an eye on the red alerts. Things that happen in your life that cause you pain.

Ask for feedback from those closest to you and act on that feedback. Stop complaining, whining, moaning and groaning Choose to take 100% responsibility of your life. It’s the springboard for success in life and in poker.

So walk to the edge, hop, and leap.

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