Fixing the Broken MInd; Johnny Moss – Man of Action; Women Invade World Series of Poker

broken brain

Poker Strategy With Roy Cooke: Fixing The Broken Poker Mind

Cooke Explains How Mental Programming Can Fix A Slump
by Roy Cooke

Poker, it’s the nuts when you’re running well. You appear and feel as though you’re a magnet for money. Great karma envelops you! You visualize new dreams, and even consummate some. Your confidence is elevated, enhancing your performance in all areas of life. Friends accumulate; potential dates have a newfound interest in you. Life is magnificent!

But there’s an inverse aspect. Sometimes the cards don’t seem to run like they used to, showing zero mercy. Maybe it’s you, and you’re not playing as well as you once did. Maybe your opponents have refined their strategies, learned your techniques and are playing you better, but you’re unaware of the changes. Maybe the game has passed you by. It could be any number of things; you’re confused and lost.

The world appears a much darker place. You’d think that losing was contagious. People don’t talk to you as much. All those “friends,” many of whom now owe you money, are hard to find. Your confidence is shattered; you can’t seem to do much right. Life has changed, and not for the better. You need to make the necessary adjustments to get your life back on track, but you’re not quite sure what they are.

Many players attribute these swings solely to luck. And while it’s often a significant factor, most likely you have been affected too, and the mental and emotional stress is causing you not to play your best. It can turn into a never-ending downward spiral: you suffer defeat, confidence erodes, and “tilt” bares its ugly head. You start to play poorly. You continue to get beat up, your confidence erodes further, increasing your level of stress and tilt. Your game continues to deteriorate. It’s a mental and emotional problem you must solve to pull out of your downhill dive.

The mental and emotional issues exhibit themselves in different ways. Often, they appear as rage, player/dealer abuse, and even more detrimental to your game, emotionally reactive playing.

Some players, their confidence shattered, shrink into a shell, and get so defensive that they become afraid to play. Closely related, some mentally give up and lose their will to fight. Play in any of these mental states, and you’ll be taking the worst of it. Stay in that state and you’re going broke.

So how do you make the changes to get out of this rut you’re in and reinstate the sound, logical thought processes you possessed when you were winning? Having the capabilities to actualize that change is an essential skill to survive poker’s “test of time,” a test I guarantee the “poker gods” will force you to take.

First off, you have to recognize that you are not on your game and effectively analyze why. Abandon the justifications and keep the “bad beat” stories to yourself. Take control of yourself, and be determined to fix your ailments. Sports psychologists advocate taking the positive belief that you want to supersede the negative thoughts and repeatedly inject the positive notion every time you have a negative brainwave.

“Crazy” Mike Caro does this with his “a powerful winning force surrounds me” statement every time he plays (though the right statement is a matter of personal preference). This technique gives Mike the confidence he needs and eliminates any pessimistic thinking detrimental to his game.

This “mental programming” works with many mental issues. By practicing this formula when you want to modify inappropriate thoughts that are affecting your game, over time you will replace the negative thoughts with the better appropriate thoughts. For example, when you take a bad beat, tell yourself “it’s just variance,” and, as the late Barry Tanenbaum used to say, “variance is my friend, because I can handle it better than anyone else.” Telling yourself, “I’m mentally strong enough to handle any swing,” is another good thought to instill. The exact statement is one you need to design yourself so that it fits your own weaknesses. In short, analyze your weakness, think how you can change those negative thoughts into a strength, and instill the new thought into your mind.

Additionally, getting the physical stress out of your body will help put you into the right frame of mind, allowing for clearer cognitive reasoning. Getting up and stretching, rotating your neck to loosen your neck and shoulder muscles or taking a walk when you’re stressed or in the wrong frame of mind can set you back on the right track. Training yourself in meditation techniques is another method of getting off “tilt” by relaxing your anger issues and putting yourself back into the right poker mindset.

Much in life is mental, especially poker. And I’m not just speaking about having intelligence or knowledge. A huge part of poker is keeping yourself mentally ready and emotionally stable from the first hand to the last. Many great players, with Stu Ungar as a notable example, had the intelligence and knowledge to play outstandingly, but lacked the mental and emotional strengths to be consistent and flunked the “test of time,” in his case ending up dead long before his time. They have outstanding “A” games, but also have an “F” mode.

Think about this in personal terms. How much better would your poker and your life be if you never went on “tilt,” and/or never even got into a negative mindset? How much additional money would you have? How would this mental enhancement compound into other areas of your life, your relationships, your confidence, and your self-image? It’s a no-brainer to correct, assuming you possess the strength and discipline to do so!

It’s your choice, which person do you want to be? ?

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman in 1989. Should you wish to any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-396-6575 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke


johnny moss

Men Of Action: Johnny Moss

Texan Was A “Grand Old Man” At The Poker Tables

by Bob Pajich

“A sucker don’t ever catch on. A smart man don’t ever sleep. He’s got to keep ducking the traps.” – Johnny Moss

On May 14, 1907, Johnny Moss was born in Marshall, Texas, a tiny town about 40 miles inside the state’s Eastern border with Louisiana. Town councils usually aren’t that keen on providing historical plaques for hustlers, but Marshall should consider it.

A sign reading: “Birthplace of Johnny Moss, First World Series of Poker Champion,” might get a few people to pull off Route 20, look around and grab a hamburger from Jucy’s.

That day, one of the greatest gamblers in the history of the world was born. His face should be carved in stone on the Mount Rushmore of poker, if such a thing existed. There are many legendary people in the game of poker, but Johnny Moss stands alone.

By the time Moss was 8, his mother was dead and his dad was seriously injured in a work accident. He was forced to work selling newspapers and about the time he went through puberty, he was on his own in Dallas, working for Western Union. The pool halls of Dallas were surely his haunts, and Benny Binion, only three years older than Moss, became his friend.

Sometime in 1923, when he was 16 years old, he landed a job at a place called Otter’s Club, where he trained to catch people cheating. Was Moss a cheater himself? He denied it, but there really is little doubt. Poker was massively different back in the road days. Multiple sources claim he did, and he used to angle-shoot in golf and pool, so why not cards?

But it was at Otter’s Club and the Elk’s Club where Moss began to hone his poker craft. A good night at these places at this time was $500. That’s about $6,500 in today’s dollars. Moss also got very, very good at hustling pool and golf, but after the Elk’s was shut down, he became a road hustler. Thanks to the Texas oil boom, and the innate ability of survival that all hustlers have, the functionally illiterate Moss would end up a very wealthy man.

The games Moss found himself in were insane. This is what he told Edwin Shrake in a major Sports Illustrated article that made Moss famous and shaped Moss’s legend more than anything else. From the piece:

“If you played a week you could win a million dollars, win it in a night if it shaped up right,” Johnny Moss recalls. “There were games, like at the old Metropolitan Hotel in Fort Worth, that nobody would believe the sums involved if I told you today. You got to be a good gambler, anyhow, to get rich in the oil business. Some of them players came out worth $40 million, what with poker and dice and oil leases and whatnot. Money didn’t mean nothing to them, but gambling did. Some of them big old-time oilmen still play in big poker games, but only for the pleasure of stepping on a professional gambler if they can. I like to see them come around.”

And why shouldn’t he? It’s frightening to think that Moss might have been a master card cheat, because he was one of the best players of the 20th Century.

His dominance at cash games from the 30s through the 70s, when he still played nose-bleed stakes, was well-known and obvious to the professional players that hunted the same jungles as Moss.

Puggy Pearson, fellow country gambler and golf hustler, was a Moss admirer. He knew the old guy was a dangerous man.

“Johnny Moss would come into a game and look around the table before he bought in. If somebody had $3,000 in front of him and another player had $4,000, Johnny would buy in for $10,000. No matter how much money anybody had on the table, he would double it. You might beat him in a pot or two, but every time Johnny beat you in a pot he broke you if you weren’t real careful. He would have so much money in front of him when he beat you that you were a goner. Sarge Ferris, an old guy named Carlo, Martin Cramer – some real characters – played with Johnny. They were all legends in their own time, but Moss was the best of them all. Nobody could beat him. (from Cowboys, Gamblers and Hustlers: The True Adventures of a Rodeo Champion & Poker Legend, Byron “Cowboy” Wolford).

Moss’s calm and collected demeanor had much to do with his success. From the Godfather of Poker by Doyle Brunson:

“I repeatedly beat Moss every big pot the rest of the night. I really was running good. I observed how he handled the adversity and kept his cool, making the correct judgment on most every hand. I was a $35,000 winner, most of it coming from pots against Moss. He was still even at the end of the night despite all the bad luck he had against me, and I knew why he was considered to be “the man” in the poker world. Moss was country cool, if there was such a thing, and confident to the point of arrogance. But I could quickly tell his reputation was accurate. He could play. Moss was the “old-timer” of the mostly youthful group traveling the circuit. Most of the other guys were in their twenties and thirties, but Johnny had plenty of spit and vinegar in him, and he loved to play.”

In the 50s, Moss came to Vegas and promptly lost about a half-million dollars playing craps, much of which he lost playing on credit. He returned to Texas, where we continued road gambling, paying the $500,000 back in annual $100,000 payments.

He would return to Las Vegas in 1961, and ran several poker rooms during the next decade and a half, including the Dunes and Binion’s Horseshoe.

The Legend of the Greek

In 1951, Benny Binion called Moss and said that famously degenerate gambler Nick “The Greek” Dandolos was looking to play heads-up and Moss needed to get his skinny butt to Las Vegas pronto. The game supposedly went on for months right out in the open – a publicity stunt — until Dandolos muttered his famous line: “Mr. Moss, I must let you go.”

It didn’t happen. At least not the way Moss told it. There is not one shred of evidence that it occurred in public like that. No newspaper articles have been found mentioning it, even though Dandolos was famous, and Binion failed to mention it during a vast oral history interview he gave with UNLV during the first few WSOPs.

Moss supposedly won $5 million from The Greek. It does make for a fantastic story.


Moss was the man of the hour at the first World Series of Poker in 1970. The event resembled nothing like today’s events. The players in 1970 played a few days of poker and voted on a champion. They voted for Johnny Moss.

In 1971, the first time a freeze-out format was used, Moss beat five other players for his consecutive championship. He also won a limit ace-to-five draw event.

He’d win his third “main event” championship in 1974, a $10,000 buy-in winner-take-all event that attracted 16 entrants. Moss would win five more bracelets in 1975, 1976, 1979, 1981 and 1988. The 1988 bracelet in the $1,500 ace-to-five draw event may be his most impressive. He was 81 at the time.

Golf Hustler

Moss won and lost millions of dollars on the golf course. One of his partners was none-other than Titanic Thompson, a famous hustler from the 30s and 40s. They became friends after Thompson tried to cheat him.

Thompson bet Moss $3,000 that he couldn’t shoot a 46 at a nine-hole course in Texas. Moss accepted.

“They didn’t know it, but I’d practiced for days with that 4-iron. I’d even given the green keeper a hundred to keep the cups where I liked them,” he said, according to Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything by Kevin Cook.

What Moss didn’t know, but was soon to find out, was that Thompson had a guy raise the lips of the cups ever-so-slightly, making putting nearly impossible. After a few holes, the scheme was over, and Moss would go on to win with a 41.

The is the huge difference between normal people and hustlers. Moss wasn’t mad, he was impressed. He just had his confederate walk ahead and tramp the cups back down. He even decided to partner with Thompson. Again, from Cook’s book.

“After that Titanic and Moss teamed up to beat other golfers out of sums ranging up to $100,000. In one legendary match Ti employed a trick that was the conceptual opposite of the one he had used on Moss. He had been thinking about those steel cup-liners, asking around until he found a handyman who helped him rig a car battery and jumper cables to magnetize a few of them. They planted magnetic liners in the last three greens of a course Ti was about to play. He had a $25,000 match set up for the following day, and brought a new box of First Flight golf balls.”

The First Flight balls, of course, had steel centers.

So was Moss a cheater? No. Did he cheat? Yes. Does it really matter?

Moss died Dec. 16, 1995. He was 88.


barbara enright

World Series of Poker 2013: Year of the Woman
by Robert Turner

As I was reviewing the statistics for the 2013 World Series of Poker (WSOP), one in particular stood out. With 79,471 total entries, women players represented a mere 5.1% of the field. Yet, at the same time, female cashes represented 10.75% of the total money won.

This is an encouraging fact.

Female participation in the WSOP has come a long way since I began playing it in the 1980’s, but we as a poker community can do much more to increase those numbers.

To move forward we must first look to the past and honor the achievements of the pioneers who blazed the trail for today’s women in poker. No discussion would be complete without talking about Barbara Enright.

To this day, Enright is still the first and only woman to make the final table of the WSOP Main Event. She accomplished this historic feat in 1995 when she placed fifth.

That was just the beginning of her firsts. She was also the first woman to win three WSOP bracelets and the first woman to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2007 along with Phil Hellmuth. Enright is still racking up those chips. To date, her total live tournament winnings exceed $1.5 million.

Though no woman has reached the final table of the Main Event since Enright, two women came close in 2012.

In fact, both Gaelle Baumann, who placed tenth, and Elisabeth Hille (eleventh) are tied for the biggest Main Event payday awarded to a woman with $590,442 earned by each.

By percentage, Baumann has the best record of any woman in the Main Event as she finished in the top .15% out of a field of 6,598 players. Only two women have lasted the longest in the Main Event twice – Annie Duke in 2000 and 2003 and Marsha Waggoner in 1993 and 1997.

This year, Loni Harwood’s spectacular run was the big story of the 2013 WSOP. The 23-year-old poker player from Staten Island, New York, won her first WSOP bracelet this year in the final $1,500 No Limit Hold’em event of the series. That win marked her sixth cash of the summer (accomplished by only three other players this year) and tied Cyndy Violette’s 2005 record for most final table appearances by a female in a single series.

And the records do not stop there. The $609,017 first place money she won surpassed Allyn Jeffrey Shulman’s record set in 2012 of the largest payday awarded to a woman in a Las Vegas WSOP event.

With $874,698 in tournament earnings for the entire summer, Harwood has also jumped to the No. 8 spot on the all-time WSOP money list for women. That total was also the most a woman has ever earned at a single WSOP in Las Vegas.

Harwood’s three final table appearances at this year’s WSOP is an impressive accomplishment for any poker player, male or female. And the fact the percentage of female participation is so small makes her achievement all the more stunning.

Harwood has just embarked on her career and has many more final tables in her future. Some legends of the game have amassed an impressive number of WSOP final table finishes, including Violette at 12, Jennifer Harman at 11 and Marsha Waggoner at 9.

This year marked not only the 10-year anniversary of Chris Moneymaker’s historic win in the Main Event that helped spark the poker boom, but 2003 was also the first year 10 women made final tables at the WSOP. Last year 14 women were at final table and that number will only continue to grow.

Female players are just as skilled as males, but I feel one of the problems facing women is the lack of sponsorship.

No matter what a player’s skill level, sponsorship money is critical in being able to compete in poker at the highest levels.

When online poker went live in Nevada, I noticed the new sites were mainly reaching out to male players. I feel women make even better ambassadors for poker, and it is a mistake to overlook them.

It is time for the legends of the game and the up-and-comers, to work together to increase the number of women players so someday in the not-too-distant future we finally have a female World Champion of Poker.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiard marketing expert, best known for inventing the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has over 30 years experience in the gaming industry and is co-founder of Crown Digital Games. Twitter @thechipburnerRobert can be reached at

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