The Power of Positive Thinking ; Asked and Answered ; Skill and Edge Affect Luck

positive thinking

The Power of Thinking Positively in Poker

by Chris Moorman
The Power of Thinking Positively in Poker

The power of the mind and positive thinking is something I’ve been trying to focus on more in recent times and I’ve come to the conclusion that positivity in life is strongly linked with success and happiness.

One of the biggest benefits of being positive/optimistic is happiness. Optimistic people believe that negative events are temporary and manageable in that they can change their actions in the future to alter events and stop the same negative events from occurring again, i.e. learning from their mistakes. On the contrary a negative person believes that nothing is their fault and wishes failure on others to aid their jealousy issues.

Now you may ask what does this have to do with poker? In my opinion positivity is essential to being a successful poker player in the long term. No matter how good you are at this game there are going to be times when things aren’t going smoothly and you are in the middle of one of those dreaded downswings. You really learn the most about a poker player and their character not when they are winning and everything is favorable, but when times are tough and they are unsure where next months rent is coming from.

Personally I had to come through my toughest time in poker within the last year. Prior to the WSOP in 2013 I was forced to get out of backing because I had over extended myself, and made a lot of bad decisions along the way. My poker bankroll had taken a big hit and I had to drop down in stakes and concentrate predominantly on online poker until I was in a better situation. I decided once I did get in a better place I would allow myself the luxury of traveling the live circuit once again.

At first I really struggled with this because I was more focused on how much was up top in any given MTT versus just playing every hand as optimally as I could. Previously I had played poker to have fun and travel the world (enjoying the freedom and meeting new people along the way) and now at this point I was playing to make money and I found that I quickly became overly negative. I noticed myself being jealous of players whom I believed I was better than and wrote them off as just getting lucky when they won certain events. I didn’t like the person that I was becoming and decided that it was serious enough that I would talk to someone about it.

A friend of mine suggested a guy called Stephen Simpson* who is an elite performance coach from the UK and he agreed to have a couple of sessions with me in which we discussed a ton of stuff that I had never told anyone about before. In these sessions we did some basic meditation and breathing exercises and I talked about what I wanted to achieve in life both in and outside of poker. He mentioned that I needed to find ‘the zone’ while playing and if I could do that then good things would happen for me. The key to finding ‘the zone’ was to be solely focused on poker whilst playing but equally important was also to be working on myself as a person outside of poker and to set myself targets consistently. It is worth noting that I went on to win my first ever live major at the WPT just weeks after my final meeting with Stephen.

Creating your own happiness outside of poker will ultimately have a huge effect on your mentality whilst playing. If I’m not happy with myself at a certain point in time (say I’ve not worked out and eaten unhealthily for a period of time) then I will find that one or two losing sessions of poker in a row can start to alter my mindset completely. Whereas if everything in my life is going well outside of poker then I tend to look at poker in a much more objective way in terms of how I played in a particular session rather than my short term results. I’ve come to find that life goals outside of poker really help your game and achievements in poker.

I’ve always been an extremely competitive person, which is key to being a professional poker player, but sometimes it can be a hindrance in this game. At times you can want to win too much which will force you into making mistakes. This happened to me this year at the WSOP. Unfortunately I had some issues with my passport and ended up missing the first 30 events or so. Obviously it was impossible to ignore the WSOP going on because it was all over my twitter and facebook feed.

I ended up watching most of the live streams at home in the UK through the night and when I finally made it to Vegas I felt like I had never been more ready to take home one of those shiny bracelets. Unfortunately this completely backfired because I spent most of the next 3 weeks trying too hard to win the tournament on day 1. I managed just one minimum cash throughout the remainder of the WSOP in the $3k nlh, which lead me to reevaluate what I was doing and helped me learn a very important lesson along the way.

Sometimes you can actually be your own worst enemy at the tables, it is important to not get in your own head while playing poker. I have a great personal example of this recently. I was a big chip leader in the LAPC main event with four people left and felt so close to winning the title that I was already thinking about what to say in the winners interview in between hands! That quickly changed though because I became super complacent, which led to me making a few mistakes in huge hands. On top of this I didn’t allow my mind to let those mistakes go and I even ended up misreading my hand in a key spot.

Fortunately for me I went on break at the right time and remembered the important things Stephen had taught me, and just did a little mental reset. After the break ended and with nothing to lose I was able to make a comeback and show that no matter how bad of a situation you are in at the poker table, never give up.

Lastly, an essential part of being a positive person whilst playing poker is to surround yourself with positive people. Lets face it, no one likes listening to bad beats or hard luck stories and if you constantly find yourself having to deal with these whilst grinding it can only impact you negatively. In a live tournament I would much rather hang out with the person on break who I can’t tell how many chips they have by their mood and demeanor than the person who wants to talk about everything that was unlucky and went badly for them in the past two hours. Try to be the former person not the latter when playing and I promise you that you’ll enjoy the game more and likely see better things happening to you as a result.

* Stephen Simpson’s website:

His book Push at Open Doors available here:


asked and answered

Gavin Griffin: Poker Questions Asked And Answered

Griffin Offers His Thoughts On Big Tournament Guarantees and Scheduling Issues


by Gavin Griffin

People in the poker community often come up to me and ask about whatever is on their mind. Some of these questions are good questions, and some are bad beat stories in disguise. I’ve been through quite a few things in my poker career and I like to help whenever possible, and in this new Card Player series, I’d like to share my experiences and knowledge. Feel free to ask any poker-related question, and I’ll do my best to answer it in the space below.

Question: I know you play tournaments regularly, did you make it out to the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open or the WinStar River Poker Series this week? What do you think of their prize pool issues? Should there be a central organization to standardize structures and schedule major events better? – Allen

Gavin: The truth is, I don’t play very many poker tournaments anymore. For instance, I will probably end up playing less than 25 this year, with all of them being in California or Nevada. I just don’t travel for tournaments anymore for several reasons. First of all, travel is expensive and tough on my family. I think you have to be young, unattached, and loving the tournament grinder lifestyle in order to justify all of the flights, hotel rooms, and other stuff needed to play live poker tournaments on a daily or weekly basis. The other option is to have a sponsor that pays for you to travel, but they’re not exactly giving those away to just anyone these days, especially American players. So, as a result of that, I did not make it to Florida or Oklahoma to play the tournaments there this week.

However, I’ve been reading about them plenty, and they are telling an interesting story. First of all, the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open guaranteed a $10 million dollar prize pool just like they did last year. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the players, they did not achieve that total prize pool and are left holding the bag on a whopping $2,055,300 overlay, probably the biggest in the history of poker. Looking at it another way, the players paid $5,300 per entry to play in a $6,671 per entry tournament. Casinos gamble with these big guarantees and sometimes they fall short. They probably came close to securing that much money in hotel rooms that otherwise wouldn’t have been filled, along with the extra traffic in the pits and poker room.

At the WinStar River Poker Series, in Oklahoma, they beat their primary guarantee of $2.5 million with 1,323 entries and a prize pool of $3,175,200. It’s their secondary guarantee that is some bit of issue. They guaranteed a $1 million first-place prize and they’ve complied with that, but second place is just north of $340,000, meaning that first place is almost triple the second-place prize. I’m sure talk of a deal will be broached with four or five people left with the payouts being that steep and truthfully, I’d be incredibly surprised if it goes through to the end with someone winning the million.

So, why did this happen? Why are there so many tournaments at the same time? The truth is, I don’t rightly know, but it seems like a silly thing that could be fixed. There are so many big tournaments these days. In fact, I didn’t even mention the other two major tournaments going on at roughly the same time, EPT Barcelona (the 100th EPT event that attracted almost 1,500 players) and one of the original WPT events, the Legends of Poker in Los Angeles. I know each casino needs to protect their business opportunities and compromising isn’t generally a strong suit of casino owners, however, it seems that if one of these three tournaments on American soil moved their schedule around, all would have benefited. If the casinos all got together and created their schedule as a group, it would definitely make things easier for us as players and, most likely, the casinos as well.

There is a question of who gets scheduling precedence. Here’s how I propose that is handled. First choice goes to the World Series of Poker. They are the longest running and biggest tournament series in the world and the entire year for a tournament poker player revolves around those six weeks in May, June, and July. After that, seniority and prize money should be the determining factors. Finally, if a tournament wants to move from its previously occupied time slot in the poker calendar by more than a week or two, their priority gets shifted to the bottom. For instance, if the owners of the Commerce Casino decided that they want to move the L.A. Poker Classic to November instead of holding it in January and February, they would have to find a time that no long-running major series is already occupying.

Truthfully, this is something that probably won’t ever happen because there are just too many complications. Casinos host conventions, events for their players, other tournaments, and so many other things that it would be a nightmare to coordinate. In addition to that, they don’t really care if it’s difficult for players to get to their tournament as long as they keep on running. Perhaps the Seminole Hard Rock will have a lower guarantee next year, or perhaps it will promote the tournament more, or maybe, just maybe, it will move it to a different time and consider the entirety of the poker calendar before releasing the tournament schedule. I know they’ll have to do something to change though, because I’m certain they can’t afford $2 million in overlays every year.

If you have a question for Gavin, send it to



Poker luck can be influenced with edge and skill
by George Epstein
Discussing basic poker rules, setting a goal is the easiest to understand and follow; and yet, most players avoid it.

How much do I want to win? If you play well, follow the rules, and enjoy your share of good luck, you are more likely to be a winner in the long run. (Short-term results don’t really count – and that’s a fact.) The real problem is luck can go either with or against you at the moment. You could easily become a loser – and it’s beyond your control.

On the other hand, while you cannot control luck, you can, in fact, influence it in many ways. Doing so will give you an edge over your opponents. While not measureable, it could be quite significant. The greater your edge, the more you are likely to win. And, after all, isn’t that our ultimate goal: To win as many chips as possible.

Variability: Ups and downs in your chip count – variability – are bound to occur. Even before you sit down to play at a table, it is prudent to have set your goal – a reasonable one, of course. How can you influence luck to help you? Here’s a good example.

Perhaps it is not a good table for you, and it would be wise to quit before you lose your entire stake. Recall that it is the players who determine the character of your table. It is no longer to your liking. (In our next column, we will discuss my preferences – and why).

Should I quit when I achieve my winning goal? It is a good game – passive and tight with very little raising pre-flop – just the way I like it. (And I suggest that would be best for you, too, especially if you play low-limit recreational Hold’em.)

You don’t want to lose back all of your winnings! Here’s one way that might help you; I often use this scheme. Make an adjustment in how you stack your chips in front of you: stack them in two (hopefully) large piles. One pile will contain half of your winning chips and all of your starting chips. Let’s call this your “money in the bank.”

The remaining chips (the second half of your winnings) become your “play money.” As the game progresses, restore any chips that may have been lost from your “play money” pile, and put the remainder of your chips in your “bank.”

If the character of the table and/or the players change substantially, you may want to quit that game for the evening and go home a winner. Alternatively, consider changing tables or simply taking a break from the game. Changing poker tables is but one way. Certainly, there are many other ways you can influence luck. Perhaps the very best is to learn and use the Hold’em Algorithm.

Don’t Avoid It! Even before being seated at your table, have a winning goal in mind. Some players may also have a “loss-limit.” The stakes you play should depend on your poker cash resources. We only risk money we can well afford to lose. (Never play for the “rent money.”) The other Basic Rules also provide opportunities to influence luck.

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


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