Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Poker Advice You Need to Hear, But Don't Want To

The Poker Advice You Need to Hear, But Don't Want To
People come to me all the time with their big poker goals and dreams. They are going to beat limits x, y and z by next month and then start crushing the high stakes games.

Then they will hit the WSOP and start crushing that too and make millions more! After that they will retire to their private island in Zanzibar and bask in their poker immortality.

Ok maybe it is not always quite as grand as this but I think you get the point. Too many people are counting all their future riches before they ever even learn how to beat the lowest limits!

So in this article I am going to give you the real poker advice that you need to hear but may not want to. This is especially the case if you are relatively new to the game and you haven't figured out how to profit consistently from poker yet.

Real Consistent Profits in Poker are Neither Quick nor Easy

I have played poker professionally or semi-pro for over 10 years now. And believe me it has not always been all roses and sunshine. Far from it in fact.

It took me years to really develop my game into where it is today. I had to play millions and millions of hands and spend god knows how many hours studying my game in PokerTracker, studying poker videos, reading poker books and so on.

I have also gone through countless brutal downswings over the years. A few of them were in excess of 100k hands which made me come close to quitting poker altogether.

In short, absolutely nothing has come easy for me in this game. It has been a struggle from the start to learn how to win consistently. And it still is to this day.

I think some people imagine that once you get to a certain level in poker you magically get to start avoiding bad beats or downswings don't affect you anymore.

Sure, you might get better at dealing with adversity after years of experience but it is still difficult nonetheless. I still get my AA cracked right before the final table all the time too.

And ya, it sucks.

As I often say, poker is the exact opposite of a get rich quick scheme. It takes most people years to learn how to create true consistent profits in this game.

You need to be in this thing for the long run, not just the quick buck.

The Whole Game is in Your Head

However, if there is one thing that I have really learned over these past 10+ years it is that this game is almost all in your head.

The entire game of poker can almost be viewed as one big exercise in pain. How much are you willing to take and still keep getting up to play the next hand?

Most of us have at least a reasonably decent idea of how to play a solid TAG or LAG strategy at the poker tables. And it really isn't even that hard at the micros because most of your opponents are thinking at a very basic level.

This is why the biggest battle is all upstairs (i.e. in between your ears). Much of winning at poker is just about how you deal with the endless day to day swings. It is how you deal with losing for weeks or even months on end.

Poker advice that you need to hear

People write me all the time complaining about how badly things went for them the last time they played poker. They lost every time, it was so brutal!

They will describe to me in intricate detail how they got their AA cracked 3 times in a row. And they lost every flip with AK too!

Yes, we are talking about ONE single poker session here.


I am gonna be brutally honest. Even though I never actually say it to them (because I am too nice), these are the kind of people who will probably never become successful in this game.

Because this right here is really the central challenge that poker presents to you. Can you rise above the individual hands and the specific days and start viewing this game as it was intended, as one big long term investment?

Look, you are going to get absolutely crushed some times when playing poker. Happens to me all the time. In fact if any pro tells you it doesn't happen to them, they are straight up lying to you.

There are simply going to be days, weeks and sometimes even months where there is absolutely nothing you can do. Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu could play your cards for you and they will take a big loss too.

It's all in your head.

You Probably Won't Get Rich Playing Poker

I should also point out that the chances of you getting extremely wealthy by playing poker, especially in today's environment, are extremely rare.

While this game has been very good to me overall, allowing me to travel the world and live in exotic locations as well as create a large side business teaching the game (books, coaching etc.), I haven't exactly made the millions yet!

And quite honestly, chances are that you won't either.

While we often hear about these outlier examples like Dan Colman, Fedor Holz or OTB_RedBaron online who come out of nowhere to win obscene amounts of money (8 figures in some cases), these stories are exceedingly rare.

These are extremely talented individuals who have every single trait necessary to become highly successful in this game. And if you ask them, they would all likely admit that they have run very good in their poker careers so far as well.

Most people that I know who are successful poker pros have much more modest winnings. Like a decent western income, 50kish USD per year. In some cases a fair bit more, 6 figures+ a year. But nothing too crazy.

This is why many of us choose to live overseas in a low cost tropical destination like Thailand or Mexico where you can live like a king for as little as 1K USD per month.

Look, I am not saying that you can't be the next poker phenom, get super famous and make millions. Believe me, I would love for you to actually do it and prove me wrong!

All I am saying is that if you are in this game solely to get super rich, there are probably some better ways out there to go about that than poker.

It Isn't as Glamorous as You Might Think

The other thing that they don't tell you about the professional poker lifestyle in particular is that it isn't as glamorous as you might think.

For most, it isn't about flying around the world to exotic locations and staying in 5 star resorts sipping martinis with models.

Poker advice that you need to hear
Most poker pros don't live like this!

Nope, for many of us online poker players in particular it is actually about grinding for hours and hours on end by yourself in front of your laptop at 2am.

It is endless button clicking and monotonous motions even when you are getting your teeth kicked in at the tables and the last thing you want to be doing is playing more poker!

You see the thing that most people don't realize about playing winning poker is that it becomes just like a job. Winning poker players don't play this game for the thrill or the excitement that amateurs do.

We do this to make money.

This means putting in the hours even when you don't feel like it. This also means finally fixing that tilt problem of yours.

Because quite frankly if you want to win at this game then you can't throw a temper tantrum and play terribly every time the cards go south on you like most amateurs do.

In short, poker becomes like work. It's a job. And it is stressful sometimes, like seriously stressful.

This is why I am such a big proponent of fitness, meditation and clean living away from the tables. You really need to have it together and be very mentally strong in order to win over the long run in this game.

You Gotta Want it More Than They Do

The real truth about winning poker over the long run though, like with most things in life, is that you simply have to want it more than the next guy.

When I was first coming up in poker all I did was play this game. When I wasn't playing, I was thinking about the game or reading about it.

In other words I never approached poker as a hobby like most people do. I took it very seriously right from the start.

I was that guy always at the tables playing, on your left, and re-raising you. I played so much that I remember having my account flagged on PokerStars multiple times as a suspected bot.

Yes, people actually sent emails complaining about me to PokerStars support because I played too much in their opinion.

I also had to challenge myself to get over the mental part of this game. Because it used to be a big problem for me.

Now I am not saying that I never tilt anymore because that would simply be untrue.

However, I have learned how to discipline myself enough to quit when things are clearly not going my way and I can feel the frustration building.

Sometimes I will only quit playing for an hour or so, review some of the hands and then come back. The point is to clear your head and prevent yourself from making the huge emotionally based mistakes that so many other people do.

I also made a deep commitment to consistently improving my poker game over the years. I have read so many books, watched so many videos, taken poker courses and on and on.

The point here is that I was "all-in" with poker from the very start. And this is a big part of the reason why I have been able to win consistently over the years and even turn this into a career.

Now if you can't make this sort of all-in commitment yourself, that is completely fine. Believe me I get it. We all have lives.

But everybody has at least a few spare hours each day no matter how much is on their plate. And I am not talking about sacrificing sleep here.

I am talking about putting in the hours at the poker tables or studying and fixing your leaks instead of watching the latest new show on Netflix or wasting more time on Facebook.

Look, this discussion goes way beyond poker.

It doesn't matter what you want to achieve. It could be building a successful online business, creating a popular Youtube channel or becoming the best League of Legends player.

You have to continually take massive action towards achieving your goal each and every day. If you "can't find the time in your day" all this really means is that you aren't that serious about it.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of poker advice out there these days which doesn't really give you the whole story on what it really takes to become successful at poker.

I think this is why you have so many people out there who struggle for years and years to even turn a profit at the lowest limits.

Now while it might appear that I have an overly pessimistic view of the game from this article, as I also pointed out above, I have made a living playing and teaching this game for over 10 years now.

This has changed my life completely giving me the freedom to work when and where I want which is amazing. I am writing this article right now in a coffee shop in Hanoi, Vietnam.

I also get to wake up and do the thing that I love each and every day. How many people can truly say that? So believe me, there are many positives that can come from poker as well.

But I hope this article will help bring back some sanity to the discussion of what it really takes to become a long term successful poker player.

It is neither quick nor easy. And quite frankly most will fail. Those are just the facts. But if you are willing to work hard and you have a deep passion for this game, then anything is possible.

If you want to learn the strategy that I have used to crush the micros for some of the highest winrates ever recorded make sure you pick up a copy of my free poker ebook.

Let me know in the comments below what was the best and worst poker advice you ever received.

The Poker Advice You Need to Hear, But Don't Want To


  1. Hey, Nathan. Thanks for your article, helpful as always.
    I am here with non topic question, maybe you can help me? Where can i find info about how you play multiway-pots when fish is also in the pot? What if i call from SB-BB with a lot of trash, when i see a fish bet 3x and someone call, or just someone isolate fish and fish call. You know i am in this opinion, that i like be in multiway pot almost with any two cards, when i see that fish is also in the pot. What you can comment about that? With what range preflop i should to call 3x bet in multiway-pot where is also a fish, in position and in out of position?

    Thanks. :)

    1. Hi Ernestas,

      Glad this article helped.

      I don't have an exact range for you but I agree with you that you should be calling a lot more often preflop when a fish is in the pot. You should do it with the widest range when you are in position.

      If the pot is multi-way with a reg involved as well, then once in awhile I will choose to just go for the light squeeze. I am more likely to squeeze light when out of position because my goal is just to take down the pot preflop. Hope this helps some.

    2. Also when we squeeze its likely that fish call and reg folds because he is isolating wide there. So you can outplay fish postflop.

  2. Hello Nathan,

    you asked for the best/worst advice. The best advice for me was to see poker as a game of Patience. When i lost a Hand, i wanted that Money back and tried it with loosing up and more Aggression.
    And here i come to the worst advice for me (maybe it was a good advice for others, but it didn´t work with me). It´s called Tripple Threat. Position, Aggression and selection. But then this guy said, selection is the less important of those three, Aggression is king. So i started playing very aggressiv.
    We all have seen your typical graph of winnings. Losing without Showdown and winning with Showdown and in the end. You win more with Showdown than losing without. I was the opposit of that. To much aggression and to be honest the unability to fold the baluga Situation, which means someone calls flop and river and goes allin at the river.
    Now i am near to win in the long run. In fact Overall i have won some Dollars. But it is still a Long way to become a reg. However i found, reading your book gives always some new advices, because at the first reading you can take something out of it and reading it two month later you find something new or really understand it than what you didn´t see at reading for the first time.

    So thank you for that and for this blog and may the Cards be on your side (as Long as we don´t meet)

    1. Hey Pascal,

      I agree that patience is so important especially at the lower limits. Aggression is good in poker but too much of it can be a bad thing at these stakes. Glad my book helped you!

  3. Very short, there are sites online, taking advantage of people delusional way of living live. Most people I general are lazy cunts want to have an answer for everything and are way to weak to make it in life! You wonder why in this society where manhood is get superseded by feminine bitches who have their man,s balls inside their purse. Look to man nowadays, they act like weak little whiners, trying to act huge, but a few minutes in the ring and they cry for mammie! The more soya they eat, the more losers online in poet land!lol

  4. Thanks Nathan for a totally honest perspective. Amazing to me how many come into poker assuming they'll crush the game in no time at all. Takes years to come up to speed with the regs & the rake we'll never beat!

  5. Hi, Nathan

    The worst advice I ever got? "Go big or go home". This from a guy who basically splashed into every pot he played with overbets and all-ins. He collected a lot of pots, most of which consisted mostly of his own chips.

    The best advice I ever got? "Poker is a long game played over a lifetime". What this told me is that things like "odds" are not calculated based on one night, or a week, or even a year. That guy who sucked out on a 23-1 sucker bet? How many of those does he have to make to compensate for all the times he suckered in and got squashed. You need patience not only with the cards but with yourself.

    The last good piece of advice I got was to keep current on your blog. Wish I were young enough to look forward to a life on a beach in Thailand, but so it goes. You're putting good stuff out there. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you Morgan, glad my blog helps you. And I completely agree with that advice that poker is one long term game. Great analogy with the guy who hit the 23-1 shot.

  6. Thanks Nathan Great Read Much Love and Respect . . . -D1G1TALFOX

    "You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!" -Rocky

    1. Thanks David! I love that quote haha. I actually thought of it for a moment while writing this blog post.

  7. I'm a few years behind you on the curve (been playing since 2009 and seriously since 2013) and everything you say resonates with me, poker brother.
    Poxy -50bi downswing made me want to quit at the new year but I'm getting through it and back into profit. I'd say learn all the games as well don't just stick to holdem, PLO8 is tons more fun.

    1. Thanks Bruce glad I could help. I think learning other games is great too and potentially highly profitable as well. This is advice that I should take more often!

  8. Outstanding article Nathan. I have been playing 14 years read 40+ books had an online coach and read countless articles and I'm still not a winning player. But I will be one day because I ain't giving up. Yes I've won tournaments in Las Vegas London Prague and countless times online but overall I am losing. It's your honesty that floats my boat the most and in an Industry that is always flogging complete fantasy and nonsense and promoting the latest "pretty boy" poker superstar,you are a breath of fresh air. Working in Mental Health as I do you'd think I would have cracked this game of people played with cards but it ain't that easy is it. Thanks again Nathan! This article has inspired me to keep on working at it. Have a Latte on me 😂 Mike

    1. Thanks for the kind words Mike! I try to tell it like it is in everything that I put out. Poker isn't easy for everyone :/

  9. Hello Nathan....any chance of doing an article on the process of getting setup in Thailand; such as best areas to live, things to lookout for, just any advice to make the transition smother?
    I lived in Pakchong many years ago, in my 20s (0ver 45 years ago) and I loved the culture and people very much!

    1. Hey GS,

      Good idea. Definitely something I might consider doing as my old Thailand article is getting a bit dated. Thanks and noted.

  10. good stuff Nathan, as always ,respekt.
    I've been loosing at this game for almost a decade now but still have the love and passion, and play the game to being able quit my job one day.So do you think there's no pros out there that still have the passion for the game and play for the thrill; Eventually its just fades out for everyone, and it becomes like a boring job to you?

    1. Thank you but also sorry to hear about you lack of success so far. I can't really speak for other pros but when I am playing my regular games it is mostly just a job, there is no thrill that I get out of it. I will sometimes play big tournaments or another format like PLO when it starts to feel too boring. I still have a deep passion for this game overall though. And that will likely never fade.