Poker Offers a Life Lesson ; Tanking in Tournaments

life lessons

Poker can be a great lesson for life

by George Epstein
Poker players can transfer skills developed in playing poker to gain more successful and happier lives.At the suggestion of my friend, Freddy P., I am writing a book on winning at poker and life. It is designed to show how poker concepts, strategies and tactics apply to our daily lives.

Poker players can transfer skills developed in playing poker to gain more successful and happier lives.

After reading a preliminary draft, Freddy called my attention to the fact self-discipline is the most important trait a poker player can have; and, of course, that also applies to life activities. Self-discipline is essential to winning at poker and success in life. It’s a must! Freddy has demonstrated this in his own life, having been extremely successful in the various endeavors he has chosen to pursue. He’s a winner!

There are many important qualities that can contribute to a person’s achievements and happiness, but only one that produces sustainable, long-term success in all aspects of life, including playing poker – self-discipline.

Studies have shown that those who master self-discipline are better able to deal with conflicts, and to draw prudent conclusions, leading to better decisions. They do not allow their choices to be dictated by personal emotions or wishful hunches.

On the contrary, those who have developed the trait of self-discipline are bound to make well-informed, rational decisions without feeling overly stressed or disturbed – in poker and in life!

Remember: “Act in haste; repent at leisure.” In that regard, self-discipline can help you: Think before you act.

Playing poker takes self-discipline to focus on the game, evaluate your opponents, use poker odds, pull off successful bluffs, build the size of the pot when you hold a monster – in short, to learn and apply the poker skills essential to going home a winner.

Improving self-discipline

According to a recent feature in Forbes Magazine, despite what you may think, self-discipline is a learned behavior, not innate. It requires practice and frequent repetition. Effort is needed to improve your self-discipline.

Forbes suggests “five proven methods to improve your own self-discipline” – for gaining better control. As a poker player, how can you apply these to improve your self-control at the poker table?

(1) Remove temptations. For example, if you are trying to better control your eating, toss the junk food. If you want to improve your focus while working or while playing poker, turn off your cell phone.

(2) Eat regularly and healthy. When you’re hungry, your ability to concentrate suffers as your brain is not functioning to its highest potential. By regulating your blood sugar levels, healthy eating improves your decision-making skills and concentration.

(3) Don’t wait for it to “feel right.” Improving self-discipline often requires changing your normal routine. Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,: explains that habit behaviors and self-discipline involve different parts of the brain.

“When a behavior becomes habit, we stop using our decision-making skills and instead function on auto-pilot.” Your brain will resist the change in favor of what it has been programmed to do. The solution? Persevere. It will take a while for your new regime to feel natural. It will happen.

(4) Schedule breaks, treats/rewards: “Self-discipline does not mean your new regimen needs to be entirely cold turkey, hard core, or drill sergeant-like in execution.” While pursuing better self-control, schedule breaks, treats, and rewards. Dieting? Designate Saturday as ice cream sundae day. Working on controlling your spending? Allow yourself a $25-splurge at the mall on Sunday. Improving self-discipline can be difficult. Reward your effort.

(5) Forgive yourself and move forward: As you strive to improve your self-discipline, there will be ups and downs. The key is to keep moving forward. “When you have a setback, acknowledge what caused it and move on.” Don’t give up.

Can you identify how these five rules can be applied to improving your poker game?

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at


Tanking in Tournaments
by Daniel Negreanu
So last night I got involved in a twitter discussion that started with poker pro Jordan Cristos condemning the WPT’s structure change to one hour levels at the final table. This has been the practice on the WPT for as long as I can remember, and while it certainly adds less skill to final table play, I fully support this decision. I’ve said this many times and I will say it again, when you think about what’s best for an event, you have to think of yourself as a small business owner (if you are a pro) that has two partners- the venue, and the tournament organizer.

In this case I’ll focus on the organizer. Many of you don’t realize how expensive it is to pay for a televised production. When you start going into overtime, the costs skyrocket to a point where it’s hardly feasible. PokerStars is able to fade the costs because they use these broadcasts as an advertising vehicle. The WPT isn’t quite set up the same way with a significant back end revenue stream. There is a huge misconception that the organizers are making tons of money off these broadcasts- it’s simply not true.

I said this 10 years ago and I’ll say it again, the skill is in getting to the final tables, then sure, you will be in a faster paced structure when the money is on the line, but it’s not like one hour levels create a total crapshoot. There is still plenty of play, especially if you don’t have players tanking for 4 to 5 minutes for every decision…

Which is a good segue into what this blog is really about- excessive tanking. The player who raised his concerns, Jordan Cristos, is widely considered by most in the community to have taken over the reigns as the new king of tanking. On twitter, various pros chimed in hoping to help Jordan understand that it’s not appreciated. At first, he came out forcefully defending his right to tank as long as he’d like to make decisions:

@SavagePoker poker is a game of patience and I’m fine with making k’s while they complain. #goodformygame #cameforme #tankingchangedmylife

@DarryllFish @RealKidPoker @SavagePoker I acknowledge a lot of peers/elites disagree with me but that won’t change who I am or how I operate

This tweet was very telling. Got it, you came for you. Got it, you see it as good for your game. Got it, you are gonna do you and not change at the community’s request. Fair enough, but later you claim that we should all “respect the game and respect your tanks,” but if you are unwilling to respect the structure and the other players, why would that warrant us respecting the fact that you are sabotaging the structures for the rest of us?

@RealKidPoker @DarryllFish @SavagePoker Ive never clocked anyone in my life cause I respect the community and the game. Get off ur horse KP

I clock people because I actually DO respect the community and the game! You came for YOU, remember? You are focusing solely on what you think is best for you, and despite the community telling you that you are being excessive with your tanking, you ignore their pleas to have you act more quickly.

You have every right to do that. It’s extremely selfish and shortsighted, but for now, you have that right as we don’t have a shot clock in poker.

@RealKidPoker @DarryllFish @SavagePoker so much hate for thinking thru decisions like everyone does when it’s crucial. I don’t get it.

Let me try and explain it for you. No one is saying that it’s inappropriate to take your time when decisions are crucial. However, when you are under the gun, first to act, and go into the tank, most everyone agrees that this is crossing a line! When someone 4-bets you before the flop and you take more than 2 minutes to respond, most everyone agrees that this is excessive tanking.

When I play with players who consistently act within a reasonable amount of time, I don’t call the clock on them when they occasionally take a few minutes to make a decision. If there is a habitual tanker like yourself, then you have lost that privilege and courtesy.

Dan O’Brien ?@DanOBrienPoker wrote:

@jcinblue @RealKidPoker philosophical principle Universality: if everyone operated that way, would the system be able to function? I say no.

This. If everyone acted the way Jordan Cristos does in tournament poker, it would cease to exist. Not only would it destroy the structures where you get only 10-15 hands an hour, it makes the game boring for amateurs, which also eats into a pros profits. This is a choice. Jordan talks a lot about respecting the game and respecting the players, but his actions show absolutely no respect for other players time or what is best for the game or the community.

We can all agree that there is a line somewhere. If a player took 20 minutes per decision, I would imagine even Jordan Cristos would think that is crossing the line? So there is a line, there has to be, and the vast majority in the poker community that Jordan Cristos claims to respect think he is crossing it far too often. He claims he isn’t going to change. He has that right, but no sir, that will not earn the respect of the community.

In closing, while you claim you are being berated by your peers, I don’t see it that way. I have no problem with you personally, you seem like a really nice kid. Having said that, I vehemently disagree with it being ok for you to consistently take as much time as you wish to make decisions. In the future, when I call the clock on you repeatedly, it isn’t personal. I’m just doing what’s best for me, the structure, the other players at the table, the poker community, the broadcast, the fans, and ultimately YOU.

I get that you don’t see it that way, but I tend to think bigger picture when it comes to stuff like this and I know that if behavior like yours becomes the norm then you and the rest of the pros will be out of a job.


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