The Success Principles of Poker - Deciding What You Want is +EV

The clock is ticking.

What do you want to achieve before your ashes are scattered into the wind?

If you haven’t given that question much thought, don’t worry. You're not alone.

During my interviews with professional poker players I always present that question. I like it because the response tells you what type of heart pumps away underneath the shell.

The question is generally met by silence, followed by an uncomfortable laugh. Then the words “I don’t know.”

When pushed the standard ‘me-too’ answer is a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet or World Poker Tour (WPT) or European Poker Tour (EPT) title.

A lot of poker players are content just "being in the now." And who can blame them? Life is pretty sweet.

Chew on this!

A lot of poker players are content just "being in the now." And who can blame them?

And whilst this may be true, I still believe their lives could be enriched with a well-thought-out plan for the future.

Our Futures are Often Predetermined

Most of us didn't design our current existence. Instead we were handed it on a plate - the quality of which depended, in a lot of cases, on your class of living.

Individuality is knocked out of us at a young age. It’s no coincidence that we are born helpless. It continues throughout our childhood and even into our adulthood. 

We look to our teachers, the careers officer and our parents. “What do want?” The answer? It depends on their lifestyle, their beliefs and their values.

It has nothing to do with what you want.

I ran from school at sweet 16. I found work sanding and staining pieces of wood in a factory making kitchens.

I was paid £31 per week. I gave my parents £10 for food and board and had £21 per week to spend on ale. I was like a pig in shit.

Back then, if you were to ask me what I wanted to do, I would have said I wanted to work in an office. That was the sum total of my ambitions.

I didn’t want to think too far ahead because it scared me. The thought of pushing through limitations and taking on more than I could chew made me choke.

“I am enjoying myself right now. The future doesn’t exist.”

It was nothing but an excuse. I was doing what my father wanted me to do. He wasn’t physically pushing me into anything, but my internal GPS took me there.

My plans wouldn’t surface for another two decades. I would work hard and spend that hard-earned reward in the pub. My desire to work in an office was shaved away with the pieces of wood that cowered beneath my plane.

James Dempsey

Dempsey: No regrets. But ...

Stop Settling For Second Best

Nobody ever told me that I could do anything that I wanted to. My list had (a) work in a kitchen factory, (b) work in an office and (c) sign on and claim benefits.

It never occurred to me that we are all flesh and blood. That the same grey matter that churns around inside your skull is the same as mine.

There was always tomorrow. I will think about it tomorrow.

During a recent conversation with former WSOP & WPT Champion James Dempsey I asked him if he had any regrets with the way he managed the money that he won through poker.

“No regrets ... but ...”

Whenever you hear a "but" you can ignore anything else that proceeded it.

“I wish I bought some property.”

You don’t make that mistake when you have a plan.

Start Creating Your Poker Plan

Dempsey had a lot of fun when he was young. He was in a position that very few people get to experience at that age. Do you think he wouldn’t have had those experiences had he invested in property?

Having fun in the moment and planning for the future are not mutually exclusive. They can, and do, exist together. Write a list of all the things that you want to do in your life. See if you can find 64 things that you desire.

Think materialism, spiritualism and memories. If you are a successful poker player then you may never be in a better situation to start ticking things off this list.

If you're not a poker player but want to be one, then stick it on the list.

There is a certain wonder to the random moments that transform your life. Revel in them, but don’t let it stop you from planning.

Stop allowing the universe to dictate your life. Tell it what you want and sit back while it delivers.

Do it now. Whilst you have the time, energy and money. Don’t wait until you are deep in make up and can’t even find the spade.

Current State Mapping

To determine where you want to go you need to understand where you are. How does your backyard look right now? You should take an honest look at your life in the following areas:

  • 1. Romance
  • 2. Career
  • 3. Friends
  • 4. Fun
  • 5. Money
  • 6. Health
  • 7. Family
  • 8. Growth
  • 9. Environment

Score your current contentment out of 10 (with 10 being the most content). Write about what is going right for you and what is going wrong for you. I call this your Current State Map. This is your life.

Skycity Casino

This is "blue sky thinking" time.

Future State Mapping

What do you want your life to look like? If you were Aladdin and you had just rubbed that lamp, what would you say to the Genie?

At this point most people are constrained by money. They start worrying about financial constraints.

"How can I earn a living writing about poker?" was one of mine.

You may also be constrained by your Current State Map. A good example is believing you can’t earn a good salary because you are deep in debt or you can't move to a sunnier climate because you have a child from a previous marriage.

This is "blue sky thinking" time. Go through the nine areas above and write your ideal life on paper. Out of this work will come the 64 things you want to achieve in your life.

Get Your Shit Together Today

Now the fun part. Now you know where you are and where you want to be. The next question you face is: How do I get there? You take action. Creating a Future State Map is like turning on your own personal GPS.

You are telling your sub-conscious what you want, and while you are busy multi-tabling it will set about its business. Whilst the GPS does its job, your role is to help it. And you do this by creating action plans.

Building a Mountain

Deciding what you want out of life - as early as you possibly can - is +EV.

Imagine that the ‘money’ section of your Current State Map shows you are $100,000 in make-up and have $10,000 of credit card debt.

In your Future State Map you have written that you want to be debt free, have zero make-up and be making seven figures every year.

How are you going to move from one state to the other? Here are some examples:

  • 1. Start saving 20% of everything you earn.
  • 2. Sell all liquid assets.
  • 3. Move credit cards onto 0% interest.
  • 4. Get a second job and funnel all earnings to the debt.
  • 5. Renegotiate your make up deal.

Rest assured none of these things happen if you are content with the status quo. You will keep on playing, hoping that one day you will bink that big score, get out of make-up and start paying off your debts.

And then what? Deciding what you want out of life - as early as you possibly can - is +EV, and as a poker player you should love +EV decisions.

There is no time like the present. Get your shit together today. The next time I thrust that mic under your nose and ask what you want out of life, I expect a damn good answer.

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