The World Series of Poker is the most exciting time of the year for poker players, and the WSOP 2017 is no exception. As the biggest poker festival in the world, there’s a lot of money to win, a ton of poker tournaments to play, glory to be gained by achieving victory, and a heap of poker friends to be made.
The 2017 WSOP will be held this summer at the Rio in Vegas, and while this is the most popular event, other events abound in alternative venues around the city, including at The Aria, The Venetian, The Wynn, The Golden Nugget, Binion’s and Planet Hollywood - just to name a few.
The upside potential is huge during the summertime in Las Vegas. But the downside can also be high, and very real as well. I personally have had summers where I came home with over $100k in profits. I’ve also had summer’s where I’ve lost $30k straight with barely a single cash, and all I came home with was a bunch of decisions to regret. Now, naturally, with all the variance that exists in poker, a wide range of outcomes are possible, but that’s not the only factor at play: our results can largely be predicted by how we approach things.
Poker Secrets: The Power of Choice
The amount of choices you have to make when playing poker can be overwhelming. From where to play and what to do, our choices can be downright paralyzing, and whatever main dish we choose for the day, you can be sure it’ll be accompanied by a side of FOMO for all the events we didn’t play. And there are ways we can amplify these feelings (like checking what’s going on on PokerNews, or checking the leaderboards on wsop.com), and ways we can actually eliminate them for the most part. And so I’m writing this article to share how I’m preparing for this summer’s WSOP 2017, which will be a combination of all the techniques I’ve learned over the years for what to do and what not to do. There is a science to this, and it’s the science of success.
1) Set your focus. Set your intention.
The mind is a wonderful servant and a terrible master. It constantly wants to be working away, figuring things out, solving problems, and making things happen. The problem is, if we don’t give our mind something to focus on, it will run rampant simply trying to be of service. It’s a fine state to have a fully open mind when you’re looking to just ‘experience life’ and ‘take in your surroundings’, but when you have achievement in mind, this is not helpful behavior.
It’s amazing how quickly all the noise, distractions and bullshit get turned off once we give our mind a single pointed focus. Suddenly it knows what to pay attention to (like our health, energy levels, investment strategies, and recovery methods) and knows what to tune out (news, gossip, drama, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, gifs, memes - basically anything that is ‘exciting’ and gives us a little dopamine boost, but ultimately serves to take our focus away from what matters).
It is important to have a clear target to aim at. That’s the only way to know when we are moving towards our target, or moving away from it. Having a goal or target basically acts as a compass to tell us when our decisions are serving us or harming us. It makes it much easier to say YES to things that will help us, and say NO to things which will steer us away from our objectives. Without a goal, without values, without an aim, we have no compass to guide us: our mind doesn’t know what to prioritize over other things and we typically end up wasting a bunch of time and energy on activities that keep us stimulated and keep our bodies and minds busy, but aren’t necessarily helping us achieve what we really desire.
Whether it be a physical thing you desire, a feeling, or an experience, the formula is the same. Make that thing your top priority and remind yourself constantly that this is what you want.
I had been going through a bit of a confusing spell this summer. Not having anything set in stone, I wasn’t sure what to focus on, or what to do with my time. I knew studying and energy levels were important but I didn’t have any deadlines or clear plans, so I would either act like I had all the time in the world - slacking away and being unorganized - or I would act like I had to learn it all this very second and would go into cramming mode. The first created a state of depression and feelings of guilt. The second created a state of mania and feelings of anxiety. Neither of which would help me feel CALM, COOL, COLLECTED and CONFIDENT, which I might add are the most important things for achievement. A peaceful state of mind, combined with unwavering faith in our abilities to achieve, are extremely powerful tools.
The day I booked my flight to Las Vegas, set up my accommodation and arranged my rental car, everything changed. I woke up the next morning feeling excited, invigorated, and most importantly, feeling responsible for my destiny as a result of taking charge.
Now I’m here writing this article to reinforce in my mind what’s most important, and I’m sharing these poker secrets with my team so that anyone who’s interested in making their dreams a reality can do the same - even if their dreams are not poker related. And as I’ve mentioned many times before, the best way to learn is to teach, and the best way to ensure you actually follow through is to have accountability: people counting on you, and people you can count on to help you out when you need it. This is what I refer to as the Dream Team.
2) Empty your mind, and listen to your inner wisdom.
Once you have a goal or a target in mind you can allow your inner wisdom (i.e. your intuition) to work its magic. The mind is a very powerful servant when given a single point of focus. It can come up with all kinds of strategies, ideas, and actions which will help bring that which you desire into your physical reality. But like any good tool, it needs cleaning on a regular basis, it needs to be clear to be able to function at its best.
When we have tons of thoughts in our mind - voices speaking constantly or even yelling because they really want attention - it’s very hard to focus. The term brain fog is a real thing, and every thought is like a little bit of fog in your mind keeping you from seeing and functioning clearly. So the key to unlocking step two is to get all those thoughts out of there, so you can clear the fog and see the path to your goal as well as what obstacles might lie along the way. (How can you prepare for what you can’t see?)
There are many tools and techniques to clear the mind. Here are a few that work for me:
- Journalling: Write those thoughts down, get them out of your mind and onto the paper.
- Exercise: High intensity exercise moves the energy around and ‘shakes things up’.
- Sauna: Sweating out the toxins is a great way to reset the system.
- Deep Breathing: Breathing out the old stale carbon dioxide, and breathing in fresh nutrient rich oxygen is a great way to supercharge your system.
Is there a connection between the body and the mind? Of course there is!
If your mind is a processing unit, and its job is to process everything that’s going on in your body and your surroundings. Any toxic stuff that’s inside of you is going to lead to toxic thoughts and feelings. This is why detoxing in whatever way possible is essential to preparing yourself to work towards your goal.
Once all the toxic stuff is gone and we are no longer limited, the thoughts become much purer, empowered, positive, and help us move towards what we want.
Clean your body, clear your mind, and then you can get yourself re-aligned.
Once this is in place, quiet contemplation is the way to go. When we are in a calm, restful state we have access to a level of intuition that simply doesn’t exist when we’re in an active state. There are many studies on this. For more info, Google ‘brain wave frequency’ or ‘neuroscience’. But the gist of it is this: we have one mode of operating which is for getting things done, and we have another mode of operating which is for evaluating how we’re doing, identifying obstacles and coming up with creative solutions for them.
When we access the second state which can be reached through any form of relaxation (dance, music, deep breathing, meditation, sleep, etc.), then we can access incredible insights. It’s one of those things that’s hard to put into words, but when you practice it on a regular basis, you’ll be amazed by what happens.
I’ve been an on and off meditator since 2013. When I first learned about meditation, the goal was to silence my mind (which is basically an impossible task), but as I deepened my practice I realized that the purpose was to simply watch my thoughts and see what came up. The problem was, I didn’t like a lot of the thoughts that would come up, and I would try to ignore them, get rid of them or judge them, which only made the thoughts ‘worse’ and created negative feelings around them ‘guilt, shame, anxiety’ etc.
As my practice progressed, I learned about acceptance. I learned to just take the thoughts as what they are: a reaction to the experiences I’ve had in life. I realized that every thought I have was natural given the experiences I’d been through. It didn’t mean I had to like the thoughts, and it didn’t mean I had to be proud of all that I’d been through in life, but, by sitting with those thoughts and getting to know them instead of running away from them, I could start to see what experiences, places, people, beliefs and behaviors led to those thoughts, and this was a powerful starting place.
By knowing what experiences cause certain thoughts, we can receive more of those thoughts by recreating the experiences, or we can have less of those thoughts by no longer engaging in those experiences or behaviors. Through this progress, I realized that it was the way I was living my life, and the way I was interpreting my experience that was leading to these thoughts and feelings coming up in meditation. And so I learned if I wanted to change the way I felt in meditation, if I wanted to have a more easeful experience, I’d need to learn to live a more easeful life: one that was less rushed and one with less garbage thoughts coming in (like social media,marketing, advertising and fearful news or hateful gossip). I had to replace those things with more positive, and dream affirmative thoughts/experiences. I had to do less and rest more.
I’ve had great meditations where I can sit for hours and experience the bliss of just breathing and being alive, and I’ve had very challenging meditations where I’m judging myself, hating myself for not being good enough and my mind is running all over the place looking for solutions. And after years of doing this, it’s become clear to be that when I no longer pay attention to voices that don’t serve me, and listen to my own, that life is much more enjoyable.
Now, this doesn’t mean I never go on social media, or spend time with people who aren’t my IDEAL company, but I don’t put as much weight into what they say to me: I simply listen to it and let it go, rather than holding onto it and believing that I need to act on what they feed me. This is an extremely liberating feeling and allows for a much more easeful way of life. It doesn’t require retreating into a cave and disconnecting from everything. We have the power to choose what we pay attention to, what we focus our thoughts on, and what things we want to keep thinking about. I prefer to choose empowering thoughts which support my dream, but until I identified my dream (and sometimes I had to do this multiple times) I didn’t know which thoughts were dream affirmative vs. dream destructive.
3) Prepare your environment.
To access this state - to access our intuition - it’s imperative that we feel like we are in a safe place. When we don’t feel safe, we live in the reactive based, survival mode of being (also known as fight or flight) which blocks our ability to access our intuition and long-term decision making. Because making big dreams come true requires looking the big picture and planning out small steps to get there, being able to access the intuitive state of mind is essential and thus we MUST get out of survival mode.
So how do we do this?
Make sure your survival needs are taken care of: food, water, rest, shelter, love.
These are non-negotiables. Without them, high-level functioning simply isn’t possible. And you don’t want to be wasting all your will-power figuring out your survival needs, like where you’re going to get your next meal, hug or where you’re going to sleep that night. So planning is powerful here.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin
Doing your shopping ahead of time, planning your meals out, making sure you have access to water, shelter, and friends who can give you that feeling of love (even if those friends are animals, nature, or books) and acceptance pays huge dividends.
It may not seem fun, it may not seem exciting, but once this is done the game changes. And it changes for the easier because you’ll no longer be operating from a survival, reactive based state of being.
Once they are in place, however, a major shift will happen and you’ll start operating on a higher level. You’ll be receiving wisdom and guidance from your ‘higher self’ - as my spiritual teachers have told me. This is basically receiving guidance from your ‘best version’ because it is your ‘future self’ speaking to you, helping you to realize how you can get from where you are to where you want to be; how you can go from who you are to who you want to be.
It’s also been found in studies that we can only make deep lasting changes to ourselves while in a relaxed state or a positively elevated state of emotion. This is why using techniques like meditation and exercise are so powerful. We can train ourselves to be how we want to be when we are at ease, and we can train ourselves to be how we want to be when our hearts are racing. When we’ve trained both those states, then everything in between is just an easier version to work within.
So having an environment where we feel safe and secure is essential to be able to create changes and start on the path to becoming the person who is most prepared for what we desire and fully deserving of having what we desire. Once we’ve become that person - once we have their habits, their behaviors, and strategies - it’s not a matter of how we’ll achieve what we desire (because we’ve done that part), it’s just a matter of when it will come into our lives.
Despite being a very blessed person with an abundance of friendships, financial resources, and freedom of time (which was earned through hard work), I’ve often felt stressed and under pressure. I never felt like I was strong enough, good enough, energetic enough, and this lead to not taking action in the areas that would help me move forward in life.
The reason for this was actually quite simple: I didn’t have my priorities in order. I was more focused on the high of winning more money, getting more followers on social media and making more money off my business by making content, than I was on my own well being. How much rest I was getting, how well I was eating, what my body needed in terms of exercise and stretching, and getting enough quality social time with people who both make me feel good and remind me who I am was secondary or even tertiary to my ego-driven goals.
This has been a constant struggle for me, because one seems to be paid a much higher reward as far as brain chemistry is concerned when in pursuit of that high. The other way of going about reaching goals is a slow steady process that is less noticeable in the short run, but is noticeable in the long run. Reprogramming the brain to understand this is, and to see things from a long run perspective is very hard work, but it’s worth it.
Whenever I’ve planned out my weeks and months ahead of time, whenever I’ve taken the time to buy my food for the week and made plans to see friends after my work day, I performed at my absolute best. I had good fuel in the tank to have the energy to do the tasks I wanted, I had something to look forward to as a reward when the work was done, and I would be sure not to waste any time because I had clear deadlines and a limited time frame to work with.
So last night I wrote out my entire schedule for Vegas: my starting day, finishing day, etc. In doing that, I woke up knowing exactly what to do: breathwork, meditation, journalling, singing, exercise, eating, and sharing with my community (the result of which you are reading right now).
This was made easy by the fact I prepared my environment before. I cleaned my entire apartment and took care of all those nagging ‘to-dos’ I’d been putting off for weeks. Suddenly, I felt safe, I felt in charge, and I was able to do what my intuition told me would get me closer to my goal of winning the Main Event. I knew which distractions to avoid.
Having a winning environment is one of the key poker secrets. This means you have everything you need at arm’s reach, which frees up energy (both physical and mental) to do the more intensive work: the creative work, the study work, the hard work that we know pays off but often don’t feel we have the energy to do.
This has been a lot for one article, and it’s a lot of stuff you can start to put in place immediately. Try it out: set an intention, set up a winning environment, and take the time to relax and be calm in this environment so that your inner wisdom can start speaking to you. See what your intuition has to say. Save those thoughts in a journal. I bet you’ll be blown away by what comes out.
I’ll talk to you next week for Part Two, where we’ll get into poker specific strategies to implement to get you in peak form and ready to make your poker dreams come true. Winning the World Series of Poker Main Event and $8 million? Yes please!
If you have any questions or feedback please post them in the comments section of this article. Feedback helps me improve, and positive comments give me motivation by reminding me that I’m doing a good job. Answering questions helps me to reinforce my knowledge and acknowledge areas where I could improve by learning more. I’ll do my best to try and respond to them. My only request is that you keep them on topic and relevant to this article.
Let’s come together and assist in other in being the best people we can be!
Photo Credit: Gene Bromberg | Flickr