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Three Keys to Commitment in Poker

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by Mike Wasserman

At the end of 2009, I committed to move into a training house to learn how to master 180 man sit n’ go’s. What did it take for me to make this decision? How could I give myself the greatest chance of success? I simply employed the three keys to commitment.

There are many topics that relate to commitment in poker or any trade at the professional level. I am going to focus on three key points today: full immersion, financial responsibility, and long term vision.

Full Immersion

When it comes to learning a new skill or refining one, the most effective method is full immersion. Imagine that someone NEEDS to learn a new language. I’ll give you two scenarios to choose from:

A. The person gets dropped in the middle of Mexico and can’t survive without learning how to communicate as fast as possible.

B. The person studies Spanish for 1-2 hour a day for a year

While you may have a larger vocabulary using method B, your ability to communicate to fulfill your basic needs will be stronger using method A. If you don’t figure it out, you are going to die. I know this is extreme, but it’s to make the point that putting yourself in an environment that is conducive to you excelling is the quickest and most effective way to get there.

For me, immersion was achieved by moving into a training house to be around people who knew more than I did. You could achieve immersion by joining a Skype chat group to discuss strategy or posting on message boards every day. The internet is a great tool for communicating with others with similar interests.

If you can physically be around other people on a similar trajectory and with a similar mindset, you get the benefit of interacting with them outside of the poker environment as well. You get to know them as people and see what makes them tick. You can gather great insights into how to be successful in a given area by seeing how other people, with all their shortcomings and strengths, found a way to do it. In all likelihood, they just made a decision to do it and stuck with it until they achieved their goal. Pretty simple. But not easy.

Financial Responsibility

This leads us to the topic of Financial Responsibility. I am not talking about bankroll management here, but more about saving up money for a rainy day (or year). Commitment to a goal requires preparation to support yourself while you achieve your goal. I would not have been able to drop everything and move to Texas if I did not have ample savings set aside to fund the trip. If you’ve read my article, The Making of a Poker Pro, you would know that I made a couple of nitty, difficult decisions, such as poker v. eating, which created a mindset and set me up for financial stability.

Because of this, I had well over a year of expenses set aside for my immersive adventure. I gave myself one year to see how far I could go before I would revisit my goals. It turned out that within six months my entire life had changed. I won a bunch of money, found a mentor and backer, and moved to Las Vegas with my “crew”. It didn’t last long, though.

Two months after moving to Vegas, online poker got shut down in the United States. For most poker players, this was devastating. At first glance, it was for me too. Upon further reflection, I realized that I was extremely lucky and benefited immeasurably because of it. Those details are for another time. I moved in with my backer in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico approximately six months after making the decision to pursue poker as a profession. Absolutely incredible! I definitely ran well in that way. This is clearly an example of how full immersion can lead you down unforeseen paths.

It’s also important to understand that taking this leap of faith may lead to you neglecting other areas of your life in the short term in order to make large strides in whatever you’re pursuing. This fact is easily overlooked, but it’s important to understand that you have to be willing to give up relationships, hobbies, leisure time and so much more to ensure that you are focused and moving forward, toward your goal(s).

Long Term Vision

This leads us to Long Term Vision. Long term vision is key to commitment. I could have mentioned this first, but without setting yourself up financially to take the leap and diving in with 100% of your being, you aren’t going to achieve your long term vision. Take some time to think about why you are pursuing your goal and where you want to be in one month, six months, one year, and five years. Breaking your goals into smaller achievable chunks is an effective method. Start small and work CONSISTENTLY. In this quick clip, Tim Ferriss explains it well.

I’ll close this out with a quick story of one of my students. When he came to me, he was playing mostly low stakes tournaments online and wanted to play mid to high stakes tournaments. After working with him for about a year, he decided he wanted to quit his job and pursue poker. I never recommend leaving a good job to play poker full time unless you have an abundance of money set aside. He had the minimum of 6 months savings set aside. I suggested saving up a year’s worth of expenses because he had a wife and a newborn child to take care of, but he was confident that he was ready.

I have not worked with anyone who asked more questions or worked harder. In less than six months, he had moved up to high stakes tournaments, sold some action, and had a 150k score. Once you make the leap, it seems like the universe just gets out of the way. Two years after our first session, he could be my coach!

I have read about and seen this formula work many times over the years. I imagine you have too. There is something magical about committing to something and putting all of your being into it. Sure, there will be downswings and unforeseen obstacles, but they are just speed bumps on the road to success.

Make the decision. Set yourself up to succeed. Have a clear vision. And you can do whatever you choose.

You can reach Mike Wasserman at:

Twitter: @StrungOut12


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Mike Wasserman

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