MTT grinder and PokerCoaching coach Matt Affleck (Matt Affleck) came to poker in 2006 under the influence of the Moneymaker Effect. During his studies at the University of Washington, he developed in Sit & Go and MTT-online, and after “Black Friday” began to travel the world for the sake of live play.
On July 16, Matt took part in an unusual release of the Chasing Poker Greatness podcast – unlike other guests, he talked not only about himself and his path in poker, but also about the importance of control over their well-being, the reasons why a significant part of poker professionals do not like poker and much more. You can listen to the full recording of the podcast in English at YouTube channel Chasing Poker Greatness, and in this article, a translation of Matt’s most interesting thoughts, divided into thematic blocks, has been made for you.
How poker success relates to energy concerns
The best sessions are usually the longest and literally drain energy – before after them I did not play for a day or two, because I could not focus properly. I once told Elliot Ro about this. [прим. переводчика: популярный у американских покеристов ментальный коуч] – I was worried that on Mondays after Sunday session I feel very strange, as if in a fog. I suggested that the point is in the euphoria after victories and drifts, which interferes with thinking clearly. But he simply said: no, it’s all about the energy expended in the session.
Sunday sessions are always very long – they used to wear me out for the whole week ahead, but after talking with Ro, I started taking weekends on Saturday and Monday and noticed how much my state of health changed during and after the game. It is noteworthy that the effect of large drifts turned out to be exactly the opposite of my expectations: I received such a great charge of energy that after sleep I sat down to skate again for several hours.
Poker books say that after a big skid, you can’t sit down to ride again – you need to take a break in order to avoid mistakes in a euphoric state. Now, from experience, I know that this is not the truth, but just advice that should be followed in only two situations:
- If a skid makes you self-confident, causing a feeling of the ideality of your own game, which was not there before;
- If the dipran session is exhausting you.
Online tournament grinders should not ignore the energy aspect, otherwise they will not be able to be not only successful, but also mentally healthy.
If you feel an excess of energy, you need to use it, realize it. This also applies to downswings. Most often, during a period of failure, people reduce the load so as not to tilt, but I do differently – I start learning more and skating more, because a workaholic wakes up in me who says: “You have to work harder and try harder to overcome this!” For example, I didn’t start well on my last successful session. In the first hour I introduced four buy-ins to one of the tournaments, in a couple of others I had to make rebuys – $ 100 and $ 200 each! – so I immediately realized that the session would cost me dearly. But since I was well prepared and tuned in to the game, and I made decisions close to optimal, I felt good and continued to load up the tournaments. It paid off – I have formalized the best-cached online career since Black Friday. My philosophy is this: if you feel good and play well, keep grinding, even if you hit a downswing, because any of the tournaments you play can “shoot” and you shouldn’t miss the opportunity.
But if you get up in the morning and realize that you are not in the mood to play today, you feel strange (sluggish, irritated, apathetic), there is no anticipation of the session, you avoid thinking about poker, and so on – do not sit at the tables. In the past, I made the mistake of sitting down to play in any state and thus decreasing my profit. More often than not, I had enough and still have enough energy to play long sessions five days a week, while in 12 years I did not take even a month for a complete rest from poker – a maximum of 2-3 weeks. But now, if I understand that it is better not to sit down to play, I take the day off and do something else.
Since I combine grinding with coaching, I usually switch to creating content for students or doing myself all day – walking, sleeping, going to some events. Earlier on the weekend, I reproached myself for being lazy, but this is a big mistake: poker players have to rest like any other people, otherwise they will not be effective and happy at a distance. Rest is not about laziness, it’s about taking care of yourself.
I have a universal tip for poker players of all limits and experience: always listen to yourself and evaluate your energy level before, during and after a poker session. You will be surprised at how your results will grow and your well-being will improve if you do not forget to control your energy when organizing the work day.
This tip will not only work for those who are constantly looking for excuses to take a day off, using minimal changes in their well-being in order not to play poker. If you recognize yourself here, you constantly lack energy for poker – it’s time to work on motivation and psychological approach to the game. Perhaps – for many it will sound painful – you should take a full break from poker for a long time and do something completely different, because in the current state you will not achieve good results.
One final tip: don’t compare your energy and grinding ability to the most successful poker players like Nanonoko. Each of us has an innate energy limit – those who go to the very top at the expense of grinding are lucky to have a higher limit than the rest. You cannot change your innate characteristics, but you are able to use them correctly to achieve good results.
Why poker pros love poker
I have seen and know personally a lot of poker players, for whom the game is nothing more than a way to achieve the goal, they do not get pleasure from it, and some even look unhappy during the game. I was lucky to be born a person who, even after 12 years of almost continuous grinding, still loves to play every day – now I am interested in the game even more than ever.
The problem is that poker, for all its diversity, remains a very monotonous game. In the beginning, you enjoy the fact that you start earning something in it, then – that you have become a professional and now you do not need any other job. But when your growth in the game slows down and it turns into a routine, and learning ceases to bring significant improvements, it’s easy to lose interest. This is partly because the process of learning and studying different formats and disciplines in poker is greatly underestimated – people prefer to specialize in something, artificially limiting the variety of poker for themselves.
I had the experience of briefly losing interest in the game after Black Friday. At some point, I decided to stop specializing in MTT and began to travel to other countries to play live cash – this lasted for about 5 years. Then I took up the online cash game, playing eight 6-max tables at a time. When I chose cash instead of MTT, I relied on lower variance at the same level of earnings per hour, as well as a stable schedule – you enter when you want, play as much as you want, and is not tied to the duration of the tournament and other aspects. Played for three hours – walked the dog, cooked a meal, watched an episode or two of your favorite TV series, played again for two or three hours – cool, right?
So the idea seemed great to me, but at some point I realized that I was starting to burn out and in fact I do not like all this. Cash turned out to be too monotonous, monotonous and repetitive for me, so I did not achieve the same level of pleasure that MTT gave me. Now imagine the regulars who have been doing this for 5-10 years – it is very difficult to continue to love this.
But I really appreciate that experience, because it allowed me to understand that I really love MTTs and their constant volatility – situations are always a little different, you need to learn all the time in order to successfully cope with them. You cannot act according to the same template and you have to put up with it – there will never be two identical situations, so you need to have creative thinking. Tournaments are a very intriguing activity, much more difficult than cash.
That being said, I still love to play live cash, because it has more depth than online, and you also communicate with people, which makes the game more interesting. In addition, you can use offline more information on your opponents, which is not available in a more “robotic” game through the room.
Matt as a coach: challenges and tips for students
I returned to coaching last year – it helps me first of all. When you train others, you notice your mistakes and weak points in thinking, you get the opportunity to improve yourself.
One of the skills that any coach should, in my opinion, have is the ability to explain complex things as clearly as possible, and this is not so easy to learn. Why don’t many professional poker players, especially high rollers, go to coach? Because they understand what they are doing and why in different spots, but they do not have the ability to explain it. In addition, for some of them – for example, Phil Ivey – there is no interest in describing their complex thought process when making optimal decisions in such a way that an ordinary mortal can understand it. Just a waste of energy and time for nothing.
At the same time, I watched several times videos from people over whom I have a clear advantage in the game, but they are just amazing coaches. However, people are not born as coaches – of course, there are some innate skills that help to go easier in this direction, but in order to be a good mentor you have to constantly improve. To do this, I collect honest feedback from students and change my style and presentation taking them into account.
I am often asked what are the most common mistakes students make. In fact, there is only one mistake – an untimely appeal to the coach.
For example, usually no one goes to the coach when they hit the field in cash or have just dragged a major tournament. People come when they have stopped in development, got into the most severe downstream or wanted to change the format and discipline. To follow the gaze from the outside only when everything is bad is one of the variations of untimely treatment. I always tell my students to go back to training when you win something, because this is the perfect time to invest in improving the game when paying a coach doesn’t hurt your bankroll.
Another problem is the search for fundamental knowledge in training. Before you go to a coach – especially for private lessons, because it is quite expensive – spend $ 20 on books on poker basics. Believe me – the mathematical basis of the game has not changed over the past 10-20 years, you should not spend large sums on a coach to explain to you what the book will give you for a lower cost and in a format that you can return to again and again. If you find it difficult to perceive information in text, in audio or video format, and you also cannot understand how to apply your knowledge in the game, then contact a coach.
If you start studying with someone and they give you homework, be sure to do it. Many come to training with a mentor, expecting that everything will be simple – the coach will tell you what to do, you will do so, and you will start earning more. On paper, this is correct – adjusted for variance – but homework plays a major role here. The coach never works on the game and does not play for you – the main burden falls on the student, because it is he who needs to apply what he has learned in the game, and the coach only controls and directs the progress. By not doing your homework, you are delaying your own success and delaying the process of mastering new information, trying – consciously or not – to shift responsibility for your results to the one who trains you.