Firstly it’s mainly about online poker and secondly it’s about what separates the really big poker winners from everyone else.
Now for those reading this who know me you will immediately be thinking are you kidding us? Because the facts are, I know next to nothing about online poker and I’m not now or am I ever going to be a big winner.
So how can I write a blog post about this then? Well for two reasons, firstly I have access to some of the best UK online poker players through friendships made over the years via a particular Poker Forum and in my “day job” I’ve helped with the training and personal development of some of the UK’s top performing salespeople.
Working with top salespeople has given me an insight to their mind-set and it’s their mental attitude that differentiates them from the rest of us. Top money earning poker players have a great deal in common with top rated salespeople and indeed anyone who is successful in their chosen field.
So if you do read this post it will certainly help give you an insight into what you need to be doing in order to be successful though actually doing it is another matter as you will discover.
The 80/20 Rule
In sales or poker, as in most things in life, the 80/20 rule can be applied.
Every sales force follows the 80/20 rule; it simply means that 80% of the sales are made by the top 20% of the sales force. This therefore means that the other un-productive 80% of the sales force only manage to generate 20% of the total sales between them.
The 80/20 rule is sometimes referred to as the “Pareto principle” and is applied to many things in business.
Although I have no factual evidence to support this claim I’m totally convinced that of all the money won via online poker, 80% of it will be won by 20% of the winners.
Something which is even more remarkable for sales people is that the 80/20 rule can work within itself as well. What I mean by that is, if a company analyses its top sellers (so just the best 20%) they can often find that 80% of their sales are in fact done by the top 20% of them. These guys are the real cream of the crop. The best of the best.
Again I’d put my mortgage on the fact that this will be the case with online poker winnings. The best of the best in poker terms are the top 2 or 3%.
The 3 things needed for success
Conventional sales training wisdom says you need 3 things to be really successful, and they are “Knowledge, Skills and Attitude”.
I can tell you that the first two elements, knowledge and skills, although important pale into insignificance in the grand scheme of things when compared to the third ingredient. “Attitude”
Dealing with skills, you cannot give somebody skills you can only show and explain to them the “technique”. It only truly becomes a skill when they practise it repeatedly. To practise something repeatedly hour after hour you need the desire to succeed, you need the right positive mental attitude or you just won’t do the work.
We’ve all heard the golf story from way back in the early 1960’s when Gary Player chipped into the hole from a greenside bunker and a guy in the gallery said “you lucky devil” or words to that effect. Player turned to him and said “yeah it’s funny, the more I practise the luckier I get”. People rated Gary Player as one of the most “skilful” players in his era; if you read his autobiography you’ll find the truth was he just worked harder than everyone else.
Regarding knowledge, again as a trainer you can impart some pearls of wisdom on a training course but for the learner to really develop and improve they also need the right attitude to want to learn more and more even when the training event is over. So again it’s down to having the right attitude.
Simply put, if you really want to succeed at anything in life you will attain the required knowledge whatever it takes.
So it all boils down to having the right attitude. If you really want to do something, you really can do it and nothing can stop you if you just work exceptionally hard at it.
So what separates the real big poker winners from the rest of us?
Well talent and natural ability some of you might say but for the most part it’s really not that. It’s true that very often people are just naturally good at some things. But to become a true superstar there is no substitute for hard work.
Just look at Mohammed Ali, who in my opinion is the greatest boxer who has ever lived with so many natural gifts but, without hour after hour of gruelling training he would never have had the career he did.
Ali’s famous quote on training is as follows: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’
The very best professional poker players devote many hours a week to poker but what may surprise you is the ratio of time spent playing poker and the time they devote to working to improve/develop their game. Why do they do it? Because you have to if you wish to stay ahead of the game. Even players who are naturally gifted need to work at their game otherwise everyone else is just going to catch up.
What makes a true winner? It’s just plain hard work, the determination to improve and a will to win.
What do winners do to improve?
Anything from watching video tutorials, reading, going through their “hand histories” (HH) looking for “leaks”, discussing strategy with other players, etc.
So if improvement and working on their game is such a huge element for these top people where can you get help with your game?
Based on the old adage “birds of a feather flock together” it’s no wonder that a lot of these top players gravitate towards each other. There are many poker forums where you can discuss HH’s with other like-minded players.
Also there are a whole host of poker training sites available these days with flourishing memberships. I’d like to mention a relatively new one in particular.
There is one simple reason why I mention Runitonce.com rather than any of the other training sites and it is the fact that someone I know, Jono Crute, has been signed up as one of their Pro Trainers.
Runitonce.com which is owned and run by Phil Galfond who if you know anything about online poker you will have heard of him. If you don’t I can say he is one of the more well-known online players who consistently plays nose bleed levels. ($200/$400 blinds and above)
His lifetime net profit is anybody’s guess, my guess would be somewhere around $10 million dollars.
Galfond reckons what separates runitonce from all the other training sites is that it makes it easier to digest the material and it also involves a lot of discussion by like-minded people.
It also has the feature of allowing you to video your online poker sessions and up-load them to the website so the Pro Trainers and other members can comment on them to help you.
Now when it comes to being a real big winner Jono is a perfect case study in what hard work and a determination to improve can achieve.
Jono (Screen name GAWA9) only started playing poker around Sept 2008 and since then he has rocketed up the winnings list. He doesn’t play cash, just Multi Table Tournaments (MTT’s) where the variance can be high but he is such a consistent winner it’s almost unreal.
Not only is he a truly remarkable player but he is an all-round good guy, a real class act. I’m thrilled for him; he certainly deserves the recognition of being asked to join Phil Galfonds team of Pro’s.
When Jono started he just grinded his ass off at micro stakes and worked his way up.
He is now one of the hardest working MMT players around. He could actually play at even higher levels than he does now, he certainly has the ability and the bankroll, but he has worked out the fact that if he plays around the $55 – $60 average buy in level he can actually win more.
He feels that at higher levels “the rake structures and nature of the small edges at the highest stakes it’s hard to produce any consistency because when your ROI is small the swings are huge and you just end up with a lot of variance … in return for little extra expectation.”
So how can he win so much money? The reason he wins so much is purely down to hard work and the HUGE volume he plays.
His improvement from his early days wasn’t achieved alone though. He joined a poker forum called EatMyStack (EMS) in 2008 and got a lot of help from the other “young internet wizz kids”.
Trust me EMS has had some of the very best UK internet wizz kids as regular posters over the years.
EatMyStack was quite busy back in 08 and 09 though it’s never been one of the bigger poker forums but what it lacked in quantity it certainly made up for in quality. What I liked about it was that even old gits like me who only ever really play live poker could post on there without getting “Flamed” which is what happens with a lot of other forums.
The young players would have “sweats” where they’d watch each other play and discuss HH’s etc as a group that really must have helped them.
So with the help of others including one of the young stars of EMS called Jon Spinks, Jono improved dramatically through 2009 and turned “professional” from 2010.
To give you an idea of how hard Jono works, he tells me that he expects to play 15,000 MTT’s in 2013. (That’s fifteen thousand) I expect to play about 100 live MTT’s in 2013.
Each session he plays is never less than 10 hours long and consists of around 70 MTT’s. It’s no wonder these guys can think quickly when multi tabling as they have encountered virtually every conceivable scenario hundreds of times over.
He explained to me why he likes to play long sessions, “I much prefer playing longer sessions since with MTTs your hourly (rate) is at its best when you have a lot of tables and at its worst when you are playing a few due to starting or ending the session so prolonging that middle stage is great.”
Just think if you normally visit your local poker room and play a live comp once a week then Jono will play more tournaments in 1 day than you will play in a year and a half.
During the last 6 months of 2012 I ran terribly where I literally didn’t win any race that mattered. When you play just twice a week it can seem like forever, but for Jono that bad run would have lasted about 4 hours.
When he isn’t globe-trotting he lives in Belfast (he’s been in Canada for about the last 6 months I think) and about 2 years ago (Nov 2010) I had to go over to Belfast for two days to do some sales training for a well-known bank.
I was pleased that while I was there he and his friend Cory took the trouble to meet up with me for something to eat (Nandos obv) and the pub for a few beers. What struck me was what a quietly spoken, unassuming guy he is.
Without giving too much of his personal business away I can tell you that during 2010 (his first year as a Pro) he made well over £100k, at the age of just 20. It’s also no secret that lifetime he has cashed for in excess of $2 million dollars. It’s seems funny to say “lifetime” when he’s been playing Pro for just 3 years!
According to his Bio on Runitonce his speciality is “pre flop maths, and specifically ICM related situations”. (Whatever that means?)
When I mentioned to him I was writing about the training and improvement side of the game I asked what helped him the most when he first started, he said;
“I try to watch a couple of videos a week but mostly developed my game by doing HH reviews with people and by just thinking a shitload about poker and when something kept popping up that I couldn’t quite work out I’d just ask someone smarter than me to explain it! I think the best way to improve is to have some people playing similar games with a similar level of experience to discuss the life out of spots with”.
As for Runitonce he said “it’s definitely the premier poker training site imo, the Pro’s they have in the line-up is amazing and Galfond videos are obviously incredible”.
Now personally I don’t play online poker and I’m far too lazy to be bothered about working at improving my game but for anyone who is interested I would recommend Runitonce purely because if Jono is involved it must be A) 100% reliable and B) Really very good.
Eat My Stack Forum
Eat My Stack Poker Forum
Now as I mentioned Jono got help from several players on EMS and one in particular I remember him mentioning while we were in Nandos as being a great help to him was “Bas” (real name Jon Spinks) who along with his brother Chris are 2 of the more successful players from EMS.
Jon being a big tournament player has had a bit more coverage, but his older brother Chris is largely unknown even amongst poker players.
Jon “Bas” Spinks
Jon has several big live cashes to his name, most notable 2 WSOP final tables and an Irish Open side event win in the 6 max, but he is probably more well known for his online exploits.
In December 2012 he was ranked in the UK & Ireland poker rankings top 10 (7th) with such players as Chris Moorman, Toby Lewis, Rick Trigg etc.
After getting KO’d from the GUKPT Grand Final in 5thfor £22,250 at the end of November Jon then goes online and wins the SuperSonic tournament on PokerStars for $46,397.47. His other notable scores in Dec were for 3rd place in a $1k buy-in on Full Tilt which netted $46,351.25 and he also had “smaller” cashes of $18,351.24 and $10,982.92.
But the player I really want to highlight from EMS is Jon’s older brother Chris. Chris I believe started playing poker after Jon did and originally joined the EMS forum just to follow Jon’s progress. (In those days Jon was a prolific poster on the forum.)
Chris Spinks, (AKA Blackshuck, Pokerstars screen name Pobolero)
People who follow online poker a lot and study the regulars in the Mid-stakes cash games will definitely have heard of Pobolero. But relatively few players would even know his real name or what he looks like.
Chris Spinks “pobolero”
The real reason, in my opinion, why Chris is a superstar of the game is all down to work ethic plain and simple.
Now when most players start playing poker they play loads initially, make lots of mistakes and then they either decide to do something about it and work on their game or just carry on as a fish forever. (I could name dozens, lol)
Chris must have decided even before he started playing to do things properly. He had his own unique version of the 80/20 rule. When he first started out with poker he actually studied and worked on his game for 80% of the time and played merely 20% of the time. That takes discipline and a very analytical mind.
So for every 10 hours devoted to poker 8 of it was spent watching videos, reviewing HH’s, watching and learning from others and having strategy discussions with other players etc. Chris has been playing for 5 or 6 years now and over that time, as he improved, the ratio of playing/training changed around. But even now as one of the most successful $2/$4, $3/$6 No Limit cash players in the world he still spends 20% of his time working on his game.
I’m fairly confident that there can only be a handful of people worldwide who have won more money on Pokerstars playing those sorts of stakes in the last three years. You’d think if you were one of the very best in the world at something you’d take your foot off the gas a little right?
Well not the real big winners and not the best salespeople that’s what keeps them as a breed apart. Chris still works harder on his game now than anyone I know.
He was a “Super Nova” on Pokerstars at the end of 2009 even though he was working full time, but he gave up work and set himself the target of getting Super Nova Elite (SNE) for 2010. To achieve this it means amassing 1 million VIP Player Points (VPP’s). (For those that don’t play online that’s like Tesco Clubcard points!)
If you read the post he put on EMS on 30-12-2009 he says that will need something like 60k hands of poker a week at $200NL ($1/$2 blinds) Read Post here: Supernova Elite the Climb.
As he got even better and better through 2010 – 2011 he moved up to $400NL and $600 NL ($3/$6 blinds). In 2010 and 2011 he would play 18-24 tables at a time. He now says that Stars has got faster so he usually just plays 12 – 14 tables at a time.
Most live players when I mention that I know someone who plays and wins big online ask what stakes he plays. When I say $3/$6 blinds they aren’t that impressed as they don’t think it’s that high.
But when you are sat playing anything up to 14 tables simultaneously loaded to the max ($600 x 14) that is a big deal. His win rate is exceptional considering the number of tables he plays and the level he plays at.
The usual way online players rate themselves is bb/100 which simply means how many big blinds they win per 100 hands played on average. (It needs a big sample number to be accurate) Most very good players have decent win rates but the more and more tables they play or the higher blind levels (where you’d be up against better players) their win rates drop considerably.
Indeed there are a great many players who play huge volumes of hands at “break even” just to get the “rake back” and other VPP type bonuses.
Chris however plays really good winning poker for the Mid-Stakes games at around 4-6bb/100.
You might say that isn’t tough to achieve if you’re playing 1 table and it’s very easy to achieve at 5c/10c but try doing it at 14 tables at $2/$4 or $3/$6 over one million hands.
It will take some time to read through them all but Chris’s “challenge” threads for anyone really interested are well worth reading. (Just skip everyone else’s post in the thread and read his updates)
He has done a similar thread for 2011, 2012 and has just started this year’s 2013. Setting goals/targets is something that really separates the big winners from the rest of us.
An often used quote that top salespeople use in relation to setting themselves targets is, “Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep.”
If you do take the trouble to read his threads you will see that he post’s up graphs of his progress and its pretty incredible stuff.
For each of the last two years Chris has played about 1.5 million hands each year, with winnings in excess of $250,000 a year plus a further $100,000 – $120,000 in bonuses each year for making SNE.
The fact is he totally deserves it because he earned every penny of it through sheer hard work.
He sets himself goals and then works hard to achieve them. There is a Denis Waitley quote which I like and it’s fitting for Chris. “Winners are people with definite purpose in life.”
Eat My Stack
Sadly EMS is very quiet these days with only a handful of regular posters but to anyone UK based who wants to become or improve as an online player then I would recommend checking it out. Though please don’t go on there and pester the hell out of Chris (EMS Forum Name Blackshuck) as he won’t be best pleased with me!
There are other interesting/entertaining posters on there who are well worth a look.
Opinions vary as to the percentage of online poker players that actually show a profit over any significant amount of playing time. It is my belief though that of the money that is won, 80% of it is won by 20% of the winners.
So could I become a successful online poker player? Well yes I could, but I won’t because I’m a lazy bugger and I won’t put in the effort required. Will I ever improve and be a better player than I am currently? No I won’t because I’m a lazy bugger and I won’t put in the effort required.
Learning, developing, and improving at anything in life is all about something known as “Kolbs reflective cycle” (it’s a training technique). I’ve simplified it in purely poker terms in the image below.
If you want to improve at poker, then just playing poker isn’t enough.
I started playing poker in 1976, almost 37 years ago. I was exceptionally keen to learn and improve when I first started playing and I had some natural ability at the game. Therefore I improved rapidly over the first year.
However my “attitude” to work stinks, so as soon as I could beat the game (very easy back in 76/77) I just stopped working/developing.
Therefore the reality is I don’t have 37 years’ of poker experience, I’ve merely had 1 years’ experience, 37 times.
For players like Jono, Bas and Chris the realisation must be that the minute they stop working/developing they don’t necessarily become a lesser player, it’s just that everyone else just catches up.
If you want to become a big success at online poker or anything else for that matter it’s really easy. You just have to work exceptionally hard.