Clearer Thinking in Poker: Casy151's Blog

    • casy151
      casy151
      Basic
      Joined: 31.07.2014 Posts: 14
      Hi folks,

      I blog regularly at various sites, and write strategy articles and features for some poker magazines.

      A bit of background: I am a former pro SNG grinder, with a long-standing obsession with the kind of mental-game leaks that plague poker players.

      After completing a Masters degree in Sport Psychology, my focus shifted to coaching and writing. I make strategy vids for Drag the Bar, and am working on a Sports Betting strategy site in addition to poker.

      This blog will hopefully provide a good, thought-provoking free resource for Pokerstrategy community members.

      All comments will be read and replied to.

      *On Wednesday 6 August, I will be guesting on Collin Moshman's SNG webinar. Viewers will be able to watch me grind out a short session of SNGs, while Collin interviews me about some of the topics that my coaching covers:

      http://christykeenan.com/2014/08/05/live-free-coaching-session-collin-moshman-pokerstrategy-com/
  • 15 replies
    • casy151
      casy151
      Basic
      Joined: 31.07.2014 Posts: 14
      Staying on pace to hit long-term volume goals need not be a painful slog. I propose one adjustment that will revolutionise your approach. To do so, let me introduce you to Holly…

      Volume. Turnover. Grinding. Call it what you like; the reality remains the same. The more Holly plays, the more she earns. Simple, right?

      Indeed it is – at least in principle. However, the theory is all well and good, but it doesn’t necessary feel straightforward when Holly’s chips are being pushed towards her opponents for hours on end. It is thoroughly dis-spiriting.

      She approached me looking for some advice as she knuckled down for her first year as a professional grinder. Reaching 2x Supernova was her goal– an ambitious, but certainly achievable, target for somebody who grinds the low-mid stakes SNGs.

      However, she was being held back by an inability to pace herself.

      In her determination to get ahead in her Supernova charge, Holly would play until her energy levels were at zero every session. Then when it came to firing up her next session, her motivation would be down, and her focus would drift off after an inordinately short amount of time.

      Sometimes, the mere thought of loading up the Pokerstars client would fill her stomach with that awful sinking feeling.

      The result? A disillusioned grinder. An all-or-nothing outlook. A tilty disposition. An unprofessional approach. Boom or bust. Repeat.

      How could Holly re-model her grinding schedule, so that she would start every day feeling fresh and motivated?

      My advice to Holly was straightforward: in order to reach her goal, she needed to take a leaf out of the book of two literary greats.

      Haruki Murakami’s outstanding meditation on running and life What I Talk About When I Talk About Running offers a fascinating insight into his writing method. This is something that he nabbed from an unknown scribbler who went by the name Ernest Hemingway. No, I’d never heard of him either.

      ‘I stop everyday right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly’ (p.5).

      For Murakami and Hemingway, a long-term project like writing a novel required a steady pace and perpetual motivation. They did not want their brain to associate their craft with suffering.

      Writing until they fell asleep at the desk was a sure-fire way to decrease motivation for the next day. Indeed, it would feel like a mission just to pick up the pen, after such a draining session. So they would quit, right when it felt like they had a little left in them.

      Sound Familiar?

      The Murakami method translates to poker beautifully. Ending each session on a high, with a bit of fuel left in the tank, keeps motivation up and dodges that nasty hidden danger ego depletion (the topic of an upcoming blog).

      So the first step that I recommend when it comes to hitting long-term poker goals is to actively ignore the popular myth that you should ‘grind until you can grind no more’.

      The reality is that playing until you flat-out can’t take any more is likely to hinder your progress. If you are mentally and physically exhausted, then sustaining your motivation across time will become incredibly difficult. In short: the likelihood of burn-out is massively increased.

      When I asked Holly how many games she could manage in a day, nailing down a plan became easy. She replied ‘225 at the absolute most’. So we knocked about 10% off, settling on 205 per day (which would get her to Supernova x2 comfortably, playing 5 days per week).

      This would ensure that she finished every day happy with her volume, but feeling that she was capable of more. That final, painful, stretch from game 206-225 was simply chopped off.

      The result? Holly became eager to log in the following day. Poker was no longer something that she associated with exhaustion; every day, she would end her session with something left in the tank and a desire to hit the tables again to keep her Supernova hunt on track.

      Here’s the best bit:

      Best of all, her results improved too! No longer were the final 20 games a race to the finish, in order to tick another day off the list. Instead, Holly found herself playing a sharper, more focused A-game for longer.

      I sometimes fear that the volume-centric poker outlook is counter-productive. Some coaches and players would have you believe that stopping short of maximum volume every single day is absolutely scandalous. I disagree, and here’s why:

      It is terrible to play 500 games daily for a month or two, and then to burn out and start tilting (or even quit!).

      On the other hand, the slow-and-steady method has four clear advantages:

      a) A more measured pace is less likely to make your brain associate poker with exhaustion, meaning that those I-just-can’t-face-it days are kept at bay,

      b) Focus is stronger, and A-game is maintained,

      c) Rather than focusing on just…getting…through…..this….never-……ending…….session, which is an extremely short-termist outlook, this approach keeps the grinder focused on the long-term goal of playing the same volume daily. Once the habit is formed, it is easier to adhere to,

      d) Motivation is sustained when goals are met. For Holly, playing 205 games every day is a lot more achievable than playing 225 games most days. Therefore, she hits her target more frequently, perpetuating the feel-good and motivation.

      Every day is a small victory, as she repeatedly hits her volume goal.

      These small adjustments can be the difference between success and failure over the long-term. They have certainly helped Holly develop a strong grinding routine.

      Now it’s your turn. Tell me your grinding routine, and perhaps I’ll be able to help you optimise it. And if you think that this article could help people to reach their long-term poker goals, give it a share on Twitter or Facebook and spread the word!
    • Ramble
      Ramble
      Bronze
      Joined: 17.11.2008 Posts: 1,423
      Nice post and agree with the thinking as I have experienced it myself - will be following.
    • casy151
      casy151
      Basic
      Joined: 31.07.2014 Posts: 14
      Thanks Ramble, I appreciate the support :)
    • IvicaIliev77
      IvicaIliev77
      Bronze
      Joined: 31.05.2012 Posts: 3,928
      Welcome to PS!

      Are you by any chance PreacherCasy from DTB?
      If so, I have seen your videos about 2 years ago or so...

      Very interesting,insightful and useful advice in your 2nd post.

      I personally am big fan of steady grinding. The steadier the better. This has to be built via habits of playing certain number of games or sessions per day at as specific times as possible. Basically programing your grind in advance and forming a habit through repetition.

      Now that I coach a lot of people, my grind time is limited. What I intend to do because of it is move away to Montenegro from 1st of September. The reason why I choose to do this is because I will have no distractions there.
      Family, friends, girls and constant CrossFit training will leave behind in Serbia. I feel I will have way less distractions there and be able to play 4k games a month way easier then here in Serbia and that is a fact.

      I am just being realistic here. If I stay here, at best with all the other life activities I can grind 2 to 3k games a month at best! To play more, something has to suffer. Coaching? Spending less time with family,friends or girls? Healthy lifestyle with sports and eating???

      So what I am trying to say is that different situations and goals require different approach. My goal from September will be to grind 8k SNGs in 2 months and make 10k$ post RB. If I stayed in Serbia I would grind 4 or 5k games in 2 months max. As I need more money for this period, I choose to leave for 2 months and achieve that goal faster by 30 or 50% then if I stayed here.

      Hope that makes sense and points I tried to get across :)

      Won't be able to attend your session with Collin as I will be in Belgrade watching Partizan Belgrade live ,but I definitely look forward to recording of that session.

      Look forward to your future posts and will follow this blog/advice giving.
    • Lazza61
      Lazza61
      Headadmin
      Headadmin
      Joined: 23.03.2011 Posts: 9,724
      Hey casy151,

      Welcome to PokerStrategy.com :)

      I can certainly identify with Holly. August last year I had got to the point where I couldn't open a poker client. This went on for 10 days straight.

      I had no idea why I couldn't physically click that PokerStars icon. After moping through the forums here, I eventually found a post about Jared Tendler and remembered I actually had a copy of his book "The Mental Game of Poker"

      I read 15 -20 pages and was able to play poker again straight away. :f_biggrin:

      Regards

      Laz
    • casy151
      casy151
      Basic
      Joined: 31.07.2014 Posts: 14
      Hi Ivica,

      Nice to hear from you. Yes, I am the same Preachercasy151 from Drag the Bar. Thanks for the kind words :)

      I agree with you regarding steady grinding. However, I do feel that the steady grinders should, on occasion, do something to shake up their schedule and stop them from getting in a rut. If you play the same games, the same hours, with the same opponents every day, it is very easy to become robotic.

      Your method of staying sharp sounds good - devoting a couple of months to massive grinding, then balancing your poker/life range with gf/fitness/family stuff once again.

      I would recommend that you set yourself daily and weekly volume targets (rather than $10k post-RB, which is a nice figure but over such a short period of time, could be grossly optimistic or indeed pessimistic!). And don't forget to reward yourself if/when you do hit your targets. It has to feel worthwhile!

      Looking forward to contributing more, and good luck with your lockdown!

      Christy
    • casy151
      casy151
      Basic
      Joined: 31.07.2014 Posts: 14
      Hi Laz,

      Thanks for the welcome!

      Your story is very familiar. It is certain that you suffered form burn-out, and that you worked yourself into the ground by grinding too hard. The irony is that, if you had knocked say 10% of your volume off every day, you would have still achieved greater volume longer-term than your 'boom-then-bust' method of extreme grinding, followed by a full ten days of recovery.

      This is called Broad Framing, and it is a vital concept in poker. Sure, it may seem better to grind to the absolute maximum in a single day, rather than easing up a bit short of maximum-capacity. This is a narrow frame.

      But when it requires you to take an extended recovery period when you inevitably burn out, your play and mental well-being suffer. Not to mention your long-term volume. Broad framing.

      Jared's books are great (and he's a fellow Drag the Bar coach!), and I rarely go 6months without returning to them

      All the best,

      Christy

      Originally posted by Lazza61
      Hey casy151,

      Welcome to PokerStrategy.com :)

      I can certainly identify with Holly. August last year I had got to the point where I couldn't open a poker client. This went on for 10 days straight.

      I had no idea why I couldn't physically click that PokerStars icon. After moping through the forums here, I eventually found a post about Jared Tendler and remembered I actually had a copy of his book "The Mental Game of Poker"

      I read 15 -20 pages and was able to play poker again straight away. :f_biggrin:

      Regards

      Laz
    • IvicaIliev77
      IvicaIliev77
      Bronze
      Joined: 31.05.2012 Posts: 3,928
      Originally posted by casy151
      Hi Ivica,

      Nice to hear from you. Yes, I am the same Preachercasy151 from Drag the Bar. Thanks for the kind words :)

      I agree with you regarding steady grinding. However, I do feel that the steady grinders should, on occasion, do something to shake up their schedule and stop them from getting in a rut. If you play the same games, the same hours, with the same opponents every day, it is very easy to become robotic.

      Your method of staying sharp sounds good - devoting a couple of months to massive grinding, then balancing your poker/life range with gf/fitness/family stuff once again.

      I would recommend that you set yourself daily and weekly volume targets (rather than $10k post-RB, which is a nice figure but over such a short period of time, could be grossly optimistic or indeed pessimistic!). And don't forget to reward yourself if/when you do hit your targets. It has to feel worthwhile!

      Looking forward to contributing more, and good luck with your lockdown!

      Christy
      Hi Christy,

      Nice to finally meet you. I watched your videos and they were very interesting to me.
      Do you still grind and if so what games and where?

      Regarding things you said it makes 100% sense. I however already do tons of shaking things around and rewarding myself :) For me that can be as easy as going away for a weekend to Prague, visiting Belgrade for Partizan Belgrade game, hanging out with some girls or simply having a coffee with my best friend. Plenty of ways to recharge batteries and not to burn out from steady grind.
      Regardless of everything, when you 15 table 6 max SNGs you must have your things down otherwise you will burn money - simple as that. So robotic approach is something that has to happen on many levels but brain still has to do all the complex decisions in the process!

      About 10k$ thing post RB. I set the grind target of 8k games in 2 months(September until end of October). I know that if I can do that and have 36.7% ROI (which is my regular ITM% on large sample of games), I can expect post RB to easily make 10k$+ which is 1.30 or 1.40$ per game even post rb!
      So that's all I meant about monetary part.
      It sure would be nice to run decently on 30s and make even more but reality of course can be totally different. So I am ready for whatever happens in those 8k games, and I really do mean that when I say it!
      This will all be sort of mini challenge to prepare me for 200k SN by the end of the year (right now at around 93k or so VPPs).

      Look forward to more of the updates here and hope coaching with Collin was great (very much look forward to that video!)!
    • tonypmm
      tonypmm
      Gold
      Joined: 11.01.2009 Posts: 4,379
      It's so great that you've decided to open a blog here as well! :f_love:

      You'd better add a link to it into your signature (to appear under your every post): click 'Your profile' on the top left (of a forum page), choose 'Edit Signature' and, in the editor, click the picture with a globe and a chain ('Add Link').

      Also, don't forget to opt into the forum promo (I don't mind having my own chances lowered a bit).

      I actually read the Holly story some time ago, but its lesson never fades :f_cool:
    • casy151
      casy151
      Basic
      Joined: 31.07.2014 Posts: 14
      Tony - thanks for the signature tip :) - I'll be sure to enter the tourny too.

      Ivica - yes I still play, though not full-time any more. I have actually started a sports-betting strategy site (pre-launch) that is taking up most of my time. Add in poker coaching, writing, and my work for Drag the Bar (not to mention having a gf and a life) and I'm kept nice and busy :)

      It sounds like you have realistic and reasonable expectations when it comes to the next few months. I wish you all the best, and hope that you keep us posted with your progress.

      I'll post another blog up here soon.
    • casy151
      casy151
      Basic
      Joined: 31.07.2014 Posts: 14
      Poker players are like taxi drivers.

      No, I don’t mean that card games make them fantasise about going on Travis Bickle-esque vigilante killing sprees.

      Although, I’m sure everyone has wanted to take out the dealer from time to time
      But the main similarity between a lot of poker players and cabbies is that they get their volume backwards – they tend to work fewer hours when things are going well, and more hours when it’s just not their day.

      An interesting study considered the working habits of New York taxi drivers. I’ll spare you the dry academic text, and skip straight to the interesting bit:

      Logic would suggest that those who can select their own working hours should take advantage of inclement weather and subway breakdowns etc by putting in as many hours as possible when demand is at its highest.

      This would free them up to take more time off when the sun is shining and nobody is interested in hopping into a Joe Baxi.

      However, logic is not always the guiding force that it should be.

      You see, it turns out that cabbies are driven (NPI) by money, rather than volume. So when they hit their target figure for the day, they call it quits and go get a beer. Maximising their earn is not their priority – a pretty heinous error for those whose income is at the mercy of variance.

      I’m going to call this the Cabbie Paradox.

      As a poker coach, this sounds eerily familiar.

      It is very common to find people who still define a session’s success by its results, rather than whether or not they hit their volume target.

      The logic runs thus:

      If I can make $1000 in 50 games, then surely I deserve to take the rest of the day off, rather than play the other 100 games that I had initially intended?

      In a word

      NO.

      There was a reason why you hit $1000 in such a short time frame. Perhaps you ran well. Perhaps the games were softer than usual. Perhaps you were in a great state of flow.

      Whatever the reason, you don’t know when the next time that you hit the perfect storm will be. It’s not a tap that you can switch on and off at will – regardless of how easy it feels when things are going your way.

      Just as taxi drivers are prone to thinking that the procession of customers will never end when the rain is teeming down, poker players who are upswinging think that they can take it easy because it will always be this easy.

      It stands to reason, then, that when things are going well, you should maximise it. You should be a poker squirrel, hoarding nuts away for when times are lean – as they inevitably will be, someday soon. If you have a volume goal (and you definitely should!) this is the time to smash through it. Maximise that upswing by putting in the hours on those days when the game feels easy!

      If you do this, then the trade-off comes when it’s not going well. You can treat yourself to a shorter day, for the nuts have already been squirreled away in more bounteous times.

      The Cabbie Paradox is one whose origins are easy to trace. For self-employed people like poker players and taxi drivers, one of the most appealing attributes is the way of life. Being able to pick your own hours is a giant two fingers to the 9-5 grind, and when things are going well it is hard to find the discipline to still hit volume.

      After all – who amongst your friends can say that they woke up without an alarm clock, made four figures by lunch, then went to the zoo to drink from a hip flask and take funny selfies with the animals?

      On the other hand, when things aren’t going well, many players give themselves no option but to play until they get unstuck. This determination is bizarre for the following reasons:

      1) Most people don’t play their best when they’re getting crushed – so why choose this moment to play more?

      2) It’s a results-orientated, short-termist outlook. Day-to-day goals should be volume-based, for volume is entirely within your control and results are at the mercy of variance.

      3) Poker is about making good decisions. You may or may not get unstuck by busting past your volume target, but regardless of outcomes, doing so is likely to be a bad decision – something that should be anathema to a poker player.

      It’s clear that there is a severe logic breakdown, when it is spelled out like this. Unfortunately, the poker world is littered with people offering bad advice.

      So next time you feel the urge to slack off and quit your session early, ask yourself this:

      ‘Am I behaving like a taxi driver?’


      If this article strikes a chord with you, why not give it a share on Twitter and Facebook?

      Follow Christy on Twitter
    • Tim64
      Tim64
      Black
      Joined: 02.11.2008 Posts: 7,403
      Welcome, poker legend! Subscribed, ofc :)
    • casy151
      casy151
      Basic
      Joined: 31.07.2014 Posts: 14
      Thanks Tim, that's a great compliment from someone whose game I respect greatly :)

      All the best,

      Christy
    • FFRRAANNKKIIEE
      FFRRAANNKKIIEE
      Silver
      Joined: 30.12.2010 Posts: 3,107
      Hi casy151,

      Very nice blog,

      I'm definitely following,

      Please keep us updated :)
      Fran
    • casy151
      casy151
      Basic
      Joined: 31.07.2014 Posts: 14
      Brian take the train a lot. When he is travelling solo, he likes to read a book and relax. There are days, however, when groups of boisterous teens or arguing couples ruin his relaxing journey.

      ‘Those inconsiderate so-and-sos’ thinks Brian, ‘how could anybody be so rude and oblivious to the noise they’re making? Anybody making that much commotion on a public train is clearly a selfish person. I bet they were brought up badly by their parents.’

      This time it’s different!

      A week later, and Brian is travelling to the cup final with his friends. Some beers get cracked open, a sing-song is started. Brian is loving every second when a middle-aged lady catches his eye. He knows exactly what she’s thinking: ‘those inconsiderate so-and-sos…’

      But this is different. It’s the cup final! Brian is with the guys! He hasn’t seen some of them for years! Plus, it’s a one-off. Brian doesn’t usually act like this…

      Can you relate to Brian?

      Here’s the crucial bit: when reflecting on others, we tend to use their behaviour to make judgments as to their character. Someone who is obnoxious in public is a rude person.

      When reflecting on ourselves, we tend to use circumstances to explain our behaviour. When we are obnoxious in public, it is because of the external factors. It is cup final day, or it is because we are excited at catching up with friends.

      We do not re-evaluate our character because of our actions, but we do use them to evaluate the character of others.

      This is called correspondence bias.


      In poker, we are quick to label players as fish (or nits, or nutters, or whatever) based on a hand that we deem bizarre. We use scanty evidence to make judgments as to the character of our opponents, deeming them tilt-monkeys or probable-drunks or likely-degens, because they played a hand of poker a little strangely.

      However, when we make a reckless re-jam or a loose call, we dismiss it as a mis-read or a mis-click or a mystery. We blame the circumstances – often with due reason – for our errors in judgment. Even when we know that we are on tilt, we write it off as an anomalous development which is not representative of our typical poker game.

      Character vs Behaviour

      There are people who have multiple affairs or who commit fraud or who bite other players on the football pitch who will argue that they are not bad people, but they had a momentary lapse in judgment.

      Outsiders looking in, so quick to judge, will label them ‘scumbags’ and speculate that they are bad parents, liabilities as employees, and selfish in all aspects of life.

      Brian on the train will argue that he acted selfishly, but is not a selfish person. Then in his next breath, he will argue that the couple having a shouting match on the train are selfish people and terrible partners and bad parents.

      Correspondence bias in poker can be kept in check by refraining from making judgments as to the character or traits of opponents, based on moves that could be explained by circumstances (game flow, erroneous belief in fold equity, mass-multi-tabling mis-clicks etc).

      And, by extension, it is important to task your poker coach with keeping you in check when it comes to justifying your own play. Sometimes you will be on tilt and eager to blame it on external factors. Make your coach earn their money by keeping a close eye on the development of leaks that you are eager to blame on easily-explainable errors.

      Does correspondence bias ring a bell with you? Have a little think about scenarios in which you are too quick to extend your judgments as to behaviour onto their character, and let me know in the thread :)