Wednesday, 10 April 2013

18-Man SNGs Coaching and Staking Opportunity!!

Hey everyone! A new opportunity is being offered for coaching and staking in 18-Man SNGs. The target is micro stakes players aspiring to reach the top, and also low stakes players who have already established themselves well in the games.

For more info check out these two pages where you will find out the criteria and how to apply:

http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/135/staking/ils007-kingwhite55s-18man-staking-teams-1318571/ - Staking Advert on 2+2 Marketplace.

http://forum.parttimepoker.com/coaching-forum/937013-ils007-kingwhite55s-18man-staking-coaching-1-50-3-50-7s.html - Coaching Advert on Part Time Poker

Really is a unique opportunity not to be missed out on, get in quick!

-Ivan

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Reflecting on 2012 and Goals for 2013

Image: Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Time flies, eh? Either that or I'm just lazy, both I suppose!

So...2012 was another action-packed year on and off the tables. I just checked my earlier post (First 2012 Post) to see what goals I'd set for 2012. The thing about making such big long-term goals is that they are subject to change with the circumstances. Ideally with big goals you don't want that, but in a dynamic environment and as circumstances change, you gotta adapt.

1) Retain Supernova Elite

Oops. This one didn't happen, but it was a very tough decision to make at the time. Around March of last year I was considering various things that were going to happen that year, and how to prioritize them in a year of chasing Supernova Elite. Firstly, I had just set up Professional Poker Videos which had taken up an enormous amount of time from Jan-Mar. Secondly, we were considering a [semi] permanent move to Australia, which we ended up doing in July. This was a really difficult decision with all our friends and family back in the UK, but in the end, we chose to follow the sun, and escape austerity.

I started my spiel for the 2012 goals by saying that flexibility was the underlying aim for the year, and I felt with those other big commitments, Supernova Elite would really be at odds with that aim. It was pretty disappointing, since I'd worked so hard at the end of 2011 to become Supernova Elite, only to lose it in a fairly innocuous way, but life is always my primary motive. Work must be to live, life must not be to work. And so the decision was made, and it was back to Supernova.

It wasn't quite as simple as that. I hate making large concessions, and one thing I was sure of was that I was going to turn this adverse decision into a positive one, not only for life, but for work as well. With that in mind I realized not having the big Supernova Elite pursuit meant I could dedicate more time and resources to coaching, and becoming a much better player myself. I was determined that this decision would be pivotal for my success in poker, and am encouraged so far that this really has been the case. If nothing else, it allowed me to be profitable pre-rakeback for SNGs in 2012, despite hardly getting a chance to play most of the year.
 
2) Get two students to Supernova Elite

Another fail haha. Ok not exactly, again I think there was overwhelming success with this one as well, even though it wasn't achieved. One of my two main students, 'Sooo Tilted', did achieve Supernova Elite, and with it a performance good enough for a tidy six-figure year. My other main student, BigTunna99 had a fantastic year despite not achieving Supernova Elite, as he earned a Diamond Star on Sharkscope (world rankings) for finishing at the top of the 18-Man SNG Leaderboards. This performance was good enough for a tidy sum, with fairly light hours compared to most of the professional SNG poker grinders.

3) All three of us reach Supernova Elite profitable before rakeback!

In a sense this one was achieved, since I think all three of us were profitable pre-rb for SNGs, despite not all getting the Supernova Elite accolade. 


4) Decide on the other goals which are most important, and an action plan which will ensure success. The action plan won't be grounded on a regimented daily plan, but instead a detailed and workable solution to the challenges, provided enough time and effort is dedicated to each.

There's a few things I could put here. For example, improving Professional Poker Videos with experience and feedback, making the move to Brisbane, Australia, enrolling into a Masters degree programme and achieving distinction average whilst doing the poker stuff. Fails would include not becoming a decent guitarist, not maintaining a solid workout programme all-year round, not learning any new languages or parts of them, not getting back into football/cricket. Looking to put those right this year! :)


Goals for 2013

My goals for 2013 are pretty ambitious, which keeps things interesting:

1) Get five students to 1-2* Supernova Elite (1-2M VPPs). This is quite tough, if only because they cumulatively would have to generate well in excess of 1 million dollars of rake (tournament commissions). And to make good money, they need to generate much more expected value than that total rake, so no pressure guys, get to work.

2) Have world-leading personal performance with strong pre-rakeback performance. I won't be able to play much volume compared to the other pros, so world-leading will likely be defined by ROI and pre-rakeback profits. For the purposes of my coaching and the blog following, I might try and win at a few different games just to show it can be done. For example, grind all types of SNGs, MTTs and Cash Games with top results. This could be an interesting sweat and offer some inspiration for those looking to get to the top in those respective game formats. It should also strengthen my coaching brand to show that the coaching services offered are of the highest quality and teach transferable skills to win at a variety of game types, making you a very solid poker player all-round.

3) Have five students at the top of the world rankings for their games on Sharkscope. For this goal, it will mean five of them finishing the year with a Gold Star or better for overall profit in a buy-in range and game type. This will be really tough, but last year two managed this, so the bar has to rise. I think if three got there it would be fantastic, but five is the ultimate goal.

Non-poker goals for 2013

1) Complete the masters degree with distinction average.

2) Eat and train great year round. That will mean putting on lean mass and going from 4-pack to 6-pack haha. We've made some awesome changes which involve moving much more towards a fish and vegetarian diet, away from red meats almost completely but still eating chicken once a week. Drinking soy milk instead of cows milk. Generally eating crap less and drinking less [often].

We have a pool at our apartment now which will be great, try to swim 3 times per week initially and everyday thereafter. Continue a pretty laid back workout programme which I make up myself after taking the best bits from a bunch of places. I've really found kinesthetic (bodyweight) exercises to be awesome, since they are sustainable when you go on vacation, you get injured less, maintain a better proportioned physique which is functional for sports, and it's something that can be sustained into old age. Add some yoga and CV training with swimming, cycling and running and it's a pretty awesome combination. Putting on brute mass is much harder, but I'm much more doing this to maintain a healthy body and mind than for pure vanity these days. It doesn't hurt though.

3) Make steps towards my ultimate life pursuit of dedicating most of my [professional] time and resources towards helping others. Poker is making this goal closer and closer each day, and I'm hopeful that from 2014 onwards I'll be in a position where I can shift from financial work to social/philanthropic work. It troubles me 'succeeding' in poker which in effect is automatically making me fail where I want to achieve the most. But in the big picture, it should open up a wealth of opportunities that would not otherwise be possible. Creating a long-term security for your family is a privilege, and one I am very grateful for and dedicated towards achieving too.

I'm studying a Masters in International Relations, and the decision to go back to study postgraduate, and in particular in that subject area was with this goal in mind.

Lots of friends inside and outside of poker think I'm mad spending time at Uni if I make a good living without it. Even if this is/will be true in the future, it really misses the point. I don't choose my vocation to make the most money, my vocation is that which is the most worthwhile pursuit I can follow with my life. In the short-term this may well be the case - to create security at home, a fund for children down the line, family emergencies etc. And also to create a situation where time isn't only 'wasted' earning money year-in-year-out, but dedicated towards the vocation of helping and inspiring others in the small ways I am able to. 99.9% of people do not have a choice in the matter, so I sure as hell better make the most of the opportunity that has been presented. Still, being able to make a few nice token donations, and having the opportunity to be a major sponsor of the 2012 Scottish Blitz Chess Championships was great. Giving back to something which helped you so much is a great feeling :)

4) I'll leave this one empty, because it's nice having something unknown materialize into something special. After all, life is to be enjoyed for the present - the past is a figment of our imagination and the future may never come.


What are your goals for 2013? I'd love to hear them!

-ILS
 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Life/Travels away from Poker...

So I meant to write about my travels in December after I completed the SNE chase, but it didn't get done so here it is! Also including what I've been up to since then.

Jumeirah Beach
First stop was Dubai. We were hoping to go skydiving over the desert but unfortunately they were having an international skydiving championship at the centre so we weren't able to which was a real bummer (slight relief too!). Dubai really is a spectacular city, with overwhelming architecture and shopping malls. Everything is larger than life and goes one step further. I've been to quite a few huge shopping malls but this was the first one which housed sharks on the lower floor in a massive indoor acquarium.

Emirates Mall, with Johnny Depp

Hottie on my right

Even though it's a trick you're still scared it's bailing!


We lounged by the beach, played some ball and watched stunt planes plummeting to the ground in celebration of UAE national day. We were lucky to have a contact who treated us to complimentary 3-course lunch at a plush hotel by the beach which has to be one of the most awesome places we've dined at. Food was mexican, portions were huge and flavours were unreal. So much awesome.

At the Rugby Sevens

We also managed to go for the final of the Dubai Rugby Sevens which was a cool atmosphere. It's held quite some way out of Dubai and has a much more anything goes/touristy atmosphere to it. Plenty of fun drunk Irish/English people there!

#doinitwrong
Next stop Sri Lanka. This is a homeland for us as my wife is Sri Lankan and I'm half Sri-Lankan. We did a lot of travelling and saw a load of cool places. Amazing light sandy beaches, green forests, and squirrels and monkeys for company at the hotels! Also tried some shisha and cuban cigar even though I HATE smoking (gotta try everything once, right? ;)).

We also had the privilege of arranging a charity project to raise funds for school books and equipment for children in Delft Island, a small island just off Jaffna in Sri Lanka. This was my wife's idea in the aftermath of a terrible civil war which caused a lot of destruction all over Sri Lanka, but in particular the north.

Luckily the war has been over for a few years now and peace and stability is restoring in the beautiful nation. We had planned to take a long bus ride (8 hours or something) followed by a boat journey to reach the island, spend some time and give out the donations. Unfortunately in December the weather can be choppy (same month the Tsunami caused collosal destruction in 2004), and a cyclone warning had been issued for areas around that part of the Indian Ocean, so we had to cancel the trip. The trip happened a few weeks later after we were back in Scotland and was a great success.

It's personal engagements like this which humbles us on another level over-and-above what we're exposed to in the media with stuff going on around the world. Stuff on the TV is happening somewhere else and is shown constantly, so we become desensitized to it. As soon as something happens right in front of you, on your doorstep suddenly it's real. Make like real.

Real snaps, real smiles

Beach at Lighthouse, Galle
Brutha from anutha mutha
Addicted to chips and beer

Wasn't à la carte! #who the hell orders salad?

Apple flavoured shisha


In January I randomly decided to book a short weekend in the Highlands in Scotland. We stayed just outside Fort William metres from Loch Lochy, it was absolutely stunning. Snow and ice-capped mountains, tranquil scenery everywhere, the perfect way to unwind from a pretty hectic previous few months. I'd say if you do the trip, the journey is even better than the destination, the drive is simply phenomenal. We took the west coast route through Loch Lomond which is another fantastic spot.

Tartan, anyone?
At Inverlochy Castle, surrounded by gifts of the Norwegian monarchy! So insane
Warm fire ftw


Letterfinlay Lodge, cozy place with charming staff overlooking the Loch!


Still don't get it, a teapot?!?!
Most recently I had friends and family over for a get together which involved me being forced to down two cups of cocktails after jagerbombs (std) followed by a TEAPOT(?! less std) of the same cocktail. As you can see I really was physically forced, so no chance of cheating a quick breather. The jug had so much ice in it that it actually wasn't too bad.
After the teapot...
We also went for a mini-hike up Arthur's Seat, a pretty neat hill in Edinburgh. On the way down from the top we [accidentally] decided to go a route which turned out to just be the sheer cliff face. After a bit of freaking out from my better half, we decided to do some rock climbing back to where we were and go the proper way down a path.
Just a 20 minute walk from our city apartment in Edinburgh, cue the bagpipes

This>poker ainec (well...yeah seriously!)

Monday, 28 May 2012

Learning from the Karate Kid



If you haven't watched the Karate Kid, you haven't lived! But just in case you really haven't, basically it's about an old karate master (Mr Miyagi) who trains a young school kid (Daniel LaRusso) to defend himself against the big bullies and kick ass in a karate competition against them.

The overall plot might be a bit lame, but the method to mastery is pretty cool. Basically Mr Miyagi makes Daniel do all kinds of stupid tasks like sweeping the floor and waxing cars, seemingly just for the sake of pissing Daniel off and making him do loads of work for him. Maybe my students see where this is going!

Anyway, it turns out all these annoying chores are making him great at blocking and striking, and all the while he really was training hard. All the stuff that didn't seem to achieve anything really did underpin his eventual success. Of course, once these foundations were down, Daniel begins training more conventionally practising blocking, punching, kicking etc. I think this is the exact same model that coaches and students need to familiarize themselves with for poker and many other pursuits.


Learning at the start is tough, painful and frustrating. It also seems to produce rubbish results. In the last couple months I've been getting back into guitar and learning from one of my poker students. At first my fingers were agony, I couldn't switch chords without pausing for 5 seconds and didn't know much more than Es or As. We've worked pretty consistently, nothing crazy just each week, but I've also tried repetitively practising the same basic things over and over most days. 20-30 chords later, a few songs and some great theoretical understanding which brings everything together, I'm definitely a happy chappy and growing in confidence in my playing each day.

I find three key problems when it comes to poker coaching, both from a student and coach perspective: 
  1. In poker you can improve drastically each week and have worsening results constantly over that period. Variance in poker is there whether you like it or not, but all-too-often students conclude it's their play or the strategy that is the problem, and are simply unwilling to fully understand the implications of variance in poker. Variance doesn't need to be an enemy - just like you run bad, you will at many points run seriously hot and just win everything, I promise! We forget the wins ("I'm a great player, so I was supposed to win anyway") but remember every bad beat ("wtf, AA gets cracked AGAIN, so rigged".

  2. Poker players are egomaniacs. Well, not exactly but it's a provoking statement with quite a lot of truth. Most poker players share a number of similar traits: very competitive, hate losing, love winning, don't play to take part etc. Along with this often comes bravado and over-excuberance, and over-estimation of how good we really are. Ask yourself: are you a good cook? Are you a decent poker player? I wonder how impartial the judgement is in answering each question. I think when it comes to cooking, there isn't any stigma attached to sucking at cooking, whereas in poker there is. Everyone's in it to win, but for cooking I'm happy if you cook me a great meal, I don't have to be great myself.

  3. Coaches know everything, are never wrong and are ready to teach you exactly what you need to know in a few hours. I think the most important thing here is short-term perspective. Speaking from personal experience, all the hugely successful coaching relationships I've had have been long-term. By long term I don't mean 2 weeks, or a month or even 3 months, I mean a solid year+. I find that it takes 2-3 months minimum just to get through the initial learning curve and overcome the "I'm getting worse before I get better" cycle. That's another huge problem, it's likely in trying to adjust your game you will over-adjust, or after a week of running good conclude you've already learned everything from the coaching and are playing like a beast. Unfortunately there's still serious leaks and they compound as you crank up the volume - OUCH! This is why in private coaching and in my coaching series/forums, the framework is set for long-term coaching and studying commitments. It's consistency building from foundations that brings long-term success, not just pushing hard for a week or two. Cracks in the foundations will come out if coaching/learning is done this way. 


Generally speaking, if you are contemplating studying or working on anything, be it a university thesis, hand history review or ICM analysis, the more horrible, boring and unattractive it seems, and the less immediate reward it offers, THE MORE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE IT WILL REAP. This was such an epiphany for me. It's not to say that these areas of study bring the biggest improvement, it's instead saying that nobody else is willing to do the hard work, so this is where you can improve and they can't. It's the extra reps you push out at the gym, that extra burn you take in a run, or that extra quality time you give the important people in your life.

I've used this quote before in this same blog (shameful!) but it's so good and relevant to what I'm talking about I'll end with it here. Hope this painful read brings you your competitive advantage in the future! Good luck!


"The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that bit "extra"" - Bear Grylls

Oh and also: "Problem: attitude" - Mr Miyagi 

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Motivated to Succeed



In my last blog post I eluded to the fact that this next post would cover the topic of motivation. Whilst I have forgotten half of what was in my mind at that time, I'm hoping I can still remember the other half and it can be of value to eager readers...so read on!

Jared Tendlers' insight into the mental game of poker has been a revelation, and really a breath of fresh air in the poker literature. I think this has been demonstrated in its enormous success and the benefit countless individuals have attributed as a direct result of reading the book, listening to the podcasts etc. Moreover, his work is unique in the fact that it targets the entire poker community from noob to top pro, affecting them proportionately in much different realms of the game.

With that said, I wanted to suggest an area of motivation which I think Tendler fails to adequately pick up on, at least in the recent article on motivation I initially referred to in my last blog post.

I believe our hard-wired fight-or-flight mechanism plays a crucial role in basically everything we do. It can be seen most obviously when we face life or death situations, or when we walk close to a cliff edge, or in fact, even when we're about to go into a job interview or chat up the opposite sex. These are just some trivial examples, I would suggest you can draw a link to pretty much everything, it will just be less direct in most cases...

So that brings me on to grinding poker. In a nutshell, I think fight-or-flight has a significant role to play in our levels of motivation to grind. This is pretty obvious, not some groundbreaking assertion. However, I think if we're aware of this fact, it can alter our perception of where our motivation stems from.

Tendler does touch on this idea when discussing the idea of "laziness". He asserts that to stay motivated, one has to push oneself. I feel that if people knew how to push themselves, they simply would. It'd be like intellectual viagra.

So I would like to explore how to push yourself a bit further. Using my preamble about fight-or-flight, I believe the key to pushing ourselves is to understand and manipulate our hard-wired fight-or-flight response. It is often said that we never feel quite as alive as when we feel terrified, and this can be thought of as a "heightened state of awareness". This sounds pretty useful for a poker player. That's often how being "in the zone" is described. The opposite to being in the zone, or having a heightened state of awareness, is to lack awareness, consciousness and clarity, instead to drift without a clear purpose and without drive. I think these ideas describe laziness and dreaming (but not burnout).

If one agrees that triggering fight-or-flight does in fact lead to those feelings, and those feelings are directly equivalent to the opposite of laziness and dreaming, then we can conclude that we gotta get ourselves some of that! I don't want this post to go on forever so I'll bullet point a few suggestions of how to stimulate and positively use fight-or-flight to your advantage:


  • Remind yourself daily that your life is like sand in an hourglass, and the sand is falling to the bottom constantly. You don't know how fast the sand is falling and when it'll all run out.
  • Think of a family/friend bereavement, allow it to attach significance to your present opportunity which you can simply throw away, or in honour of whoever has been lost, you're going to actually make something of every single thing you have or get in the future.
  • Watch the news each day, you'll see enough terrible stuff going on to realize you gotta make the most of the chance you've got. To make this more lucid, really try and visualize and imagine being in the position of the person who is in the middle of the atrocity.
  • Think about whatever it is that gives you butterflies in your tummy or the heart beat a bit faster. Link that to a sense of purpose and a decision to act NOW and not waste your present opportunity.
  • Remember the greatest triumph/achievement you ever had, how you felt and what it would feel like now, and what it would TAKE to get there.
  • Affirm what it is that makes you great, or what it is you're going to achieve in the future that will be great. Think of how special that is, and how hard it is to be like that/do that. Really consider all the steps and sacrifices involved, and let that be a lesson of where SUCCESS+GREATNESS COMES FROM.

The first few examples might seem rather morbid, and yeah they are, sorry! Hopefully the last ones cheer you up a bit :). But what is crucial is to leave with a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE regarding all of these. Positivity is your battery, and it needs a full charge to remain motivated and inspired. So you have to think of those morbid things as a fuel for your positivity, that you really do have a huge opportunity to succeed and crush, not to curl up in a corner and feel depressed and a victim of everything that has gone before you.

A final word on burnout. I stated earlier that burnout is dissimilar to laziness and dreaming in that fight-or-flight cannot positively influence it the same way. In fact, burnout is basically a result of overloading yourself. Fight-or-flight is emotionally and sometimes physically exhausting, so actually overdoing it would LEAD to burnout! As Tendler says, rest is the key, in terms of how much sleep you're getting, how much time away from the computer you are getting, how much time away from thinking about poker you are getting, and how many breaks you take during your actual grind.

I often think of great tennis players between games when they get those couple of minutes to eat a banana and gulp some juice. They often seem to just be somewhere else, in another world. You would think that the importance of a slam final would ensure they stay focused on the game at all times, but these small breaks are absolutely crucial for re-charging and recovering, mentally even more than physically. Now poker is far more mental than physical, so the benefit of a break to recharge and recover psychologically is enormous. I also think to world championship chess matches, the super grandmasters will pace up and down or walk around away from the board numerous times in a game, only a minority of them sit at the table for the full duration of the game without getting up.


On that note, I wish everyone all the best in taking more breaks and feeling alive!

Monday, 12 March 2012

How to Grind for Long Hours

This post is what I wrote in reply to a 2+2 thread asking about how to grind for long hours. Enjoy/discuss :)


Peeing before you start your session is probably #1 on my list.

Incremental improvements as sipping criss said is definitely key. You'll find a lot of guys who can mass table, but you'll actually find a lot less who can grind hard for long. They're basically two different skill sets, like sprinting or long-distance. Both need to be trained well to reach/maintain peak performance. That's why when you take a long break away it takes some time to get back into the swing of things. However, similar to muscle memory it comes back quicker than before you'd done the training.

I can see the advantage and logic in the argument about less sessions for longer. When I grinded at 3M VPP pace, this was pretty much what I had to do. I'd say though the single biggest reason why that was the case is because if I took a bunch of breaks, I wouldn't be able to force myself to grind as hard as I did, since there was so much inner resistance against what I was doing. It's a bit like getting down to study or do some house work - really a pain in the ass to make yourself do it in the first place, but once you've started it's much easier to get it done. So I was tapping into this idea.

The reason why I wouldn't advocate that approach is pretty much from a health and lifestyle standpoint. Unless the game type you grind makes it essential for you to grind at long single stretches, it simply is not worth it one bit in my opinion. It's worth researching these things yourself rather than just taking my word for it, but the damage that will be done to your lower back, your eyes, your fitness, your diet and your mental well being simply does not justify getting an extra couple hours grinding in. Ultimately, say you got up at 8am each day, between 9am-6pm you have 9 hours available. That allows 1 hour to get ready and enjoy your breakfast, maybe have a walk outside in some fresh air for a bit, grab a coffee, or to do a cardio workout. You'll easily get enough hours in, especially if you don't take all weekends off/grind a lot on Sundays.

A final point regarding this is that you cannot compare the hours you're putting in on grinding online poker to a 9-5 40 hour-a-week job. Two reasons: the job specification is so much different, an employer would get shut down for making you grind so long at single sittings doing this in front of a computer, it's a recipe for disaster in the long-run. That's why legislation forces them to give you breaks usually three times in a day, sometimes twice. Secondly, 40 hour-a-week job is usually constrained within 9-5 Mon-Fri hours, whereas grinding online poker is not. Therefore, you can be more liberal in your grinding plan given your greater flexibility in this job.

Overall, and this relates most closely to the gym analogy, intensity is way more important than duration. In fact, if you are training at correct intensity, the point of diminishing rate of returns of the sesh is not very far in at all. I've recently completely changed my training programme where I now train at very high intensity for anything from 5 minutes to 25 minutes, not including 15-20 minutes of warm-up/stretching/yoga. If you are training for cardiovascular, some important research has shown where high intensity for lower duration can also beat long training in terms of cardiovascular improvement as well as strength gains. It isn't as black and white as this though, otherwise marathon runners would just do the same thing. That's another topic though.

f.lux and Gunnar ftw


My next post is likely going to be a response to an article recently written by Jared Tendler on motivation. It's a great article I'd recommend checking out, link to it is on his Twitter page. However, I will be suggesting an important element that I think is missed in his analysis. CONTRAVERSIAL!!

Thanks for reading pls come again

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Break the Silence!

I'm disgusted at my lack of updates so decided to just write a post randomly. I think sometimes it's better just to be spontaneous and not worry about planning everything - something I need to work at. But it isn't something to work at, it's actually the absence of working at anything, simply doing.

For me personally, I can see this pattern all over the place. I've been super busy on a project I'm currently doing (yes I will spill the beans SOON), and sleeping pattern, diet and workouts have fallen by the wayside. It's not that I haven't been able to keep things in-sync, it's rather that I'm choosing between doing them right, or simply not doing them. This is a regurgitation of the last post I made lol, but us men have a habit of not learning the first time. So hopefully after being ridiculous a few times, I'll get the hang of it.

In the spirit of spontaneity, I will simply end this post abruptly for no other reason.

Good luck everyone, hope things are going well this year - feel free to share!