Best Poker Month Ever!
February 2015 - the best month of my year so far as a poker pro. Shweeu. That was hard.
It has been almost a year since I quit my job to play poker. Looking back, it was like setting out on an incredibly exciting, risky, adventure without a clear direction or plan, but riding high on faith and intuition. While that sounds like the premise of an award-winning novel, as a road-map for changing careers, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.
Unsure of where I wanted to focus on, tournaments or cash games, I just threw myself into the summer, attempting to do a little of both. When I failed to gain traction, I put a package together and sold pieces of my action in 7 tournaments. I bricked everything — which I wrote about HERE.
Shortly after the summer, I expressed my plans to just grind cash games, but perhaps play one or two World Poker Tour events. I’m not sure why, after getting my ass handed to me on a platter [lol that’s a funny visual], I had the urge to play MORE tournaments. Perhaps I was looking for public redemption. I wanted to prove to everyone that I didn’t make the wrong choice. That I could and was going to “make it.”
This winter, I was named as a WPT Ones to Watch. The producers loved the idea of showing my story from the angle of someone who up-and-coming to the tour. In the past, most of the players featured as a Ones to Watch were already quite accomplished on the live tournament circuit. At first, I incredibly nervous and self conscious about being put on the same list as previous Ones to Watch players like Xuan Liu, Brian Hastings, Jason Koon, Jason Somerville, and Shaun Deeb. I realized though that everyone has their own path and their own story. And I really liked the idea of representing for players who have worked really hard and want to take a few shots on the legendary World Poker Tour.
My first WPT event was the Borgata Winter Poker Open. I used some of the many frequent flyer miles I accrued from my years at PokerNews to get out there and sold some pieces to my friends. I talked about my experience in a VLOG.
TDLW - Had TONS of fun. LOVE the WPT family. Recognized leaks. Unsure if I belonged on the tour. Ready to work hard.
In my bust out hand from Borgata, I had pocket tens versus queens - nothing really to discuss. I could have chalked it up to, “Hey, that’s tournament poker.” But I knew better. I knew that there were a couple of key hands that I made giant, glaring mistakes in that ultimately led to my demise. Because I had been making a similar type of mistake over and over (consistently choosing passive lines over aggressive lines) I decided to have a session with my poker psych coach, Aaron Steinberg, to talk about it.
Over the course of an hour, we traced this obstacle in poker back to my feelings of growing up with high parental expectations, with feelings of never being good enough, and learning vulnerability is weakness. I discovered that in many ways I’d rather have the illusion of winning than accepting failure. I recognized that in times of distress on and off the table, I become passive (like if someone bumps into me I say sorry lol). If there’s anything I’ve learned about emotional intelligence, it’s that whenever anything holds us back in life, poker, career, relationships, it can be traced back to our childhood and that paradigms through which we learned to see the world. We must recognize these things before we can heal and move forward.
We talked it out and after that, I was ready to grind. I flew to Vegas and played a Venetian Deepstack event. I played out of my mind well, which happened to only be good for a little more than a min-cash.
Because of financial reasons, I decided that for the rest of month, I was going to just grind cash games. During one of the first sessions back, I made a pact with myself- I was going to play as long as I could when the game was good unless my mental game dictated that I should leave. That meant no leaving to go out with friends, no quitting because I'd rather watch TV at home, and no chickening out if the game gets crazy. This may seem like pure common sense, but it’s not always easy to stay. In high-action games, the variance goes way up. You can get stung pretty quick for a lot of money in games like that. In that particular session during which I made that pact, I was up $800-$900, and the game got REALLY good and REALLY deep.
It was a $5-$5 game and the average stack was about $3,500. It was common to go $100 preflop four or five ways. There were many times that I became uncomfortable or scared to lose money, but I took a deep breath, read the situation as best I could. It took a great amount of courage to stay in the game, to be aggressive in certain spots and to play big pots with marginal hands. That session, I won $4.7K. I shot another VLOG about all that as well.
That really set the tone for the rest of the month.
Here are few things that I learned this month that really helped me —
“Fortune favors the bold” The old saying holds true for poker. My husband stressed this to me because knows about my tendency to get into passive mode. As one of my biggest poker mentors, he asked me to just take the aggressive line whenever I was unsure. How many times have you seen an aggro nutbag win lots of money, even though they were terrible? How many times have you seen a tight passive bad player win a ton of money?
Surrender to the discomfort and discovering new territory — Surrender is a concept I use in all domains of life, but in poker, it was important for me to accept that I was going to be unsure in a lot of spots. If I’m going to be 3-betting and 4-betting much more often, I’m going to bet in spots I’m unfamiliar with. Same thing with barrelling, check raising and raising. It’s going to be like poking around in the dark a bit until I get more experience. This is the only way we get better! If we played in our comfort zone all the time, we’d never improve.
That brings me up to date. It’s the beginning of March, and I just want to keep grinding. WPT Bay 101 is next week. Of course I want to play, but financially, $7.5K is still too big for my roll. I feel so good about my game right now, but I still need more tournament experience. And to be totally upfront and honest with you guys, what I really wanted was rep the game through a sponsorship deal. I thought, “Hey, I can make videos, do podcast interviews on stops, I’ll be a Ones to Watch, and I love love love promoting poker- particularly women in the game!” Surely I’d be able to throw on a patch to help offset the cost of travel etc. Unfortunately, no such deal has manifested thus far.
I still have until Sunday to decide if I’m going to go or not, but I think my plan is to grind cash, play smaller tournaments this month, and play WPT Seminole Hard Rock in April.
And another thing I’ve really noticed is that as I have continued to grow, and my #couragejourney continues, my desire to “prove myself” in other people’s eyes has greatly decreased. Before Borgata I wanted to cash so bad just to show everyone, LOOK, I BELONG! haha, but now, I want to work hard, and do well because I love poker and because I know I can do it. Kind of another “duh” moment, but for me, it is only in retrospect that I can see it.
I talked to one of my favorite people in poker media, Lee Davy about lots of this stuff in an interview as well for Calvin Ayre. We talked a lot about Zen poker too which I LOVED being a part of.
And to update you guys on a couple other things -- TWITCH! I started a channel a couple weeks ago. It was so hard but so fun! I kind of got in my head this week about it like, "Jason Somerville and Greg Merson are killing it so hard, why would anyone watch my channel." But, after talking to my friends and getting the support of so many Twitch viewers, I know I have something different to add to the conversation. I'm figuring out a semi-regular schedule and will return this week! Also, I want to host live workouts and Q&A's for everyone that has sent me a million relationship-type questions since my FriendZone YouTube video a few years ago. What do you guys think? ALSO, my crazy ass and my crazy ass husband decided to run our first marathon. He's injured at the moment, so I've been doing this crazy ass training by myself. Any long distance runners have any tips?
Great way to end an amazing month- with my longest run so far in my marathon training. It was cold and rainy for San Diego but loved it. Now day 2 of my Mat Pilates Certification training. Got some exciting stuff I can't wait to tell you guys about. I was so sad about missing the #AmericanPokerAwards last night in LA, but sometimes goals and vision takes sacrifice. @underarmourwomen @underarmour #run #running #marathontraining #sandiego A photo posted by Kristy Arnett (@kristy.arnett) on
Love you guys