Things That Make You And Me Different (by: SplitSuit)

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This is not meant to be a braggadocios paper. This is meant to be a constructive paper to be used, in conjunction with other materials, to help you work towards being a better poker player. There is a very good chance that this paper will provide you with some considerations that would be beneficial off the table as well, and that is only slightly intentional. So with that as an introduction, let’s get started.
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There are many things that make me different from you, and conversely, you different from me. Is everything I do better than what you do? Not by any stretch. And the most important thing to take away from that is that everything you do is not better than what others do. Life is a game. There is a start, there is an end, and there are a million different paths to walk from birth to death. However, there are certainly some paths, or styles of walking, that will make for an easier journey…and it is that jaunt that I want to talk about.
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The first thing I do that most people don’t is think. And think in depth. Do you think? My guess is if you can read this you can, and if you are still reading, then you have an interest in thinking. But do you think in depth? The average person does not. Thinking in depth means that you don’t just come across information, internalize it, and then do with it what you feel is most profitable. Thinking in depth means you come across information, ask questions, formulate hypothesises, test hypothesises, ask more questions, consider more answers, and finally, draw a conclusion that is either definite or a factual opinion. But what does this have to do with poker?
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Everything. If you cannot think in depth, you will reach a ceiling in your career quickly. Reaching a ceiling in poker generally means your WR has hit a similar ceiling. Thinking in depth will generally allow you to keep one step ahead of your opponents, which creates profit. Does this mean you should read up on 38th level bluffing and game-theory decisions based on the second-hand of a watch when you are playing 25NL? No. What it means is that you should constantly be keeping up on the most pertinent information for your game, your opponents, and your style…while also learning and considering different styles.
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How else can you use thinking other than in game? Lots of ways. The biggest way is reading and off-table studying. I am in a very privileged position to be able to coach a game that I love…this necessitates thinking and also teaching. But most of all thinking. Thinking about putting into words why a CR with a FD on the turn with FE can be more profitable than just a c/c. Thinking about why I might want to flat call TT preflop rather than 3b a certain player. Just because I am coaching does not mean I should be the only one doing this. You should constantly be reading posts and hands and thinking “this player said a good line here is a CB/fold…why?”
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I think in terms of 3 letters rather than 4. What does this mean? It means I think in terms of the “why” whereas most people think in only in terms of the “what”. For Americans (and I have no basis of this in other countries) I cannot fault you for this. Your education system has taught you to be results oriented. You have been taught to memorize that the sky is blue, that 2+2 = 4, and that a rhombus is a 4 sided figure with crooked-line sides. You were not taught to think about the why, just memorize and regurgitate answers when tested. This doesnt mean that you don’t consider the why, it just means you were forced to focus on the what, and then praised for that…so you repeated the action. Critical reasoning and logic are not major subjects taught in American schools and the country suffers because of that, and thus, you suffer.
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Does that mean that I have always been logically minded? Good God no. I didn’t become logical until I was 19…and I would argue that I still have lots of work to do in acting upon logic rather than just thinking that way. How did I become logical? Well I was lucky to be in college and have my brain still be developing. I took lots of classes in math and business which taught a lot of theory and reasoning. So you are 28, out of college, and don’t enjoy theory…are you screwed? Not even close, and your brain is still developing too! The brain is a muscle and like trying to increase your biceps, you need to exercise it….and often. This is where thinking comes into place. Constantly be questioning. Question people better than you (be respectful of course)…do not just take things for fact.
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The last sentence is why poker has remained profitable over the last 20 years. Poker books began hitting the market and lots of pros thought that would be the end of the profitable poker era. But what good is it if someone reads a book without thinking? So they learn to semi-bluff by CR-ing Fds…but is that going to make them super profitable? No. They will not understand the principle behind that CR (creating FE, having decent equity if given action, and blur our meta-range)…they will just know “I have a flushdraw, he bet, page 82 tells me to CR!” How does that relate to you?
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How many times have you read “never fold KK preflop” “never fold a set on the flop” or “never minraise”? Probably more than you would care to admit. And how many of you saw 10+ people say it, and thought “well, that must be the right answer because XXXXX and YYYYYY said it…so I’ll take it as gospel and start winning mad dollars!”? That is wrong. You should ask why they are saying that. Consider some spots where maybe folding a set could be right, and then make your own assumptions. But what if your mental took-kit isn’t good enough to make the correct decision? ASK QUESTIONS AND KEEP QUESTIONING UNTIL YOU GET IT!
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So now that I have beat that horse to death, spit on it, and then cranked on it a bit more (obviously done for a reason hint hint), let’s move onto another subject. Something that I do that you might not is figure out how to beat myself. I believe it was Michael Jordan who said that he became twice the player he was because he spent hours learning how to exploit his own actions. Find the best, learn to beat the best, become the best. Simple. When I started playing seriously I was playing 100NL as a 12/7 ATS 24%. My WR wasn’t as high as I thought it could be, but I also noticed quite a few other people running these numbers, so I figured if I was going to understand their ranges, I could simply explore my own.
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In this simple exploration I found some leaks I had (hand selection from certain spots, stack off ranges, etc) and realized a lot of my similar-style opponents were doing the same thing (we were constantly shipping set v OP back and forth to eachother). So I spent 2 months learning how to beat not only me, but every other “me” out there. In doing this, I solidified my own game, fixed some leaks, and learned a whole new style at the same time. Within 3 months I was playing 14/12 ATS 38% and had double the WR. All from spending some time learning how to play against myself. This is still something I do every few months. I have solidified quite a bit of my flop and river game thanks to it, and am constantly striving at being the best at any table I ever sit at.
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In looking to improve myself, I also removed my ego and admit my every fault. Why is this important? Poker has no room for penis in it. My ego does nothing but hurt me at a table. Either I have an enlarged ego and I make incorrect decisions based around that, or I have a self-confidence issue that gives me a losing attitude. But if I remove all ego then I remove a huge results-measuring platform. My winning or losing doesn’t effect me because there is nothing to judge it against. I do not need to kill every person at the table. I do not feel I am going to get killed by anyone either. If I lose I am happy so long as I played well and if I win I am happy so long as I played well.
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I also admit my faults. I am not the best at everything, but I am constantly striving to be. I know that I have areas of my game I could improve in. I also constantly evaluate my faults and also ways that I can improve upon those. Also, as in poker, not every loss is a negative (that sentence makes sense, I assure you). So faults may turn out to be LR beneficial, however rare, it still happens. So make sure you evaluate what faults now are holding you back and creating loss, and fix those first. If you know your fault is tilt and that you are tilting away 3/4BI per session, then you need to patch that ASAP. If you know that you get a bit cocky and have winners tilt allocating for 1/5BI per session, then you should patch that, but focus on the tilt first. Everything is about balance and there are only so many hours in a day, and so many days in a year, so focus on the more important things that will show a gain well before you focus on the LR-lower-earn activities.
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I constantly focus on the basics. While lots of people feel as though they have the basics of CR-ing built and that they are mentally able to handle 5th level bluffing, I am constantly focusing on rebuilding my ground floor. The ground floor is always the most important. If you try to build a 2 story house on top of a basement, and dont fortify the basement level, how the hell do you expect the 2nd floor to not waiver during a windstorm? A huge thing that separates you and I is that I am constantly evaluating and reworking my basement.
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So while you are focusing on the ramifications of CR-ing the turn and light 4-betting, I am focusing on making sure my 3b-ing is strong and that my bet sizing is stronger. There are only so many things our brain can focus on during any given hand (especially when we only have 15 seconds to make a decision while 8 other tables beep at us)…so what is logically more important? The spot that comes up once every 950 hands? Or the spot that comes up every 80 hands? Or what if the spot that came up every 80 hands gave us a +/- 7PTBB earn/loss or the spot that came up every 950 hands gave us a +/-25PT/100 earn/loss? Learning to balance what is important vs. what is less important is not only important in poker, but in life? What is more important…reprimanding your kids for a -20 to you now, +150 to you later, and +600 to them later? Or not reprimanding for +55 to you now, -100 to you later, and -300 to them later? Life is about balancing…and there can always be a mathematical assessment given to every side so long as you have balancing metric against.
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My demeanor is another huge difference between me and other people. Now most people that actively join forums, and spend durations of time there, tend to be open-minded individuals that have an interest in the theme of the forum. However, remember that poker often times brings 16-24yr old males, often times of which are testosterone injected individuals that have massive ego issues (does this sound familiar?) The huge difference is that I realize this, and make sure that I do not let my ego get in the way. I do not get in my head that “I am the best and you all can just suck it”…I understand that I am better than 90% of my competition yet understand there are better people than myself and also understand that helping people that need assistance is a good thing.
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Why is helping people a good thing? Well for one I get a lot of self-gratification out of it. Utility is very important. Value = Cost + Utility. My cost is the time it takes me to write something up (for a paper like this it costs me about $450 with time balance, and for a normal post about $14) and the utility surpasses that by insane amounts. However, the utility I get might also increase people’s winrate, which would subsequently lower mine (they might lower my advantage against them directly and also take money from fish before I can get it), so say on top of that they take an extra $55/$13 per post. So I lost on average about $3.88/post, but I would say I more than gain about $9/post on utility. So the worth of my post, to me, is about $5.12…which is more than positive.
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So another part of demeanor is my attitude. I try my best not to berate, in any form, any person. I will berate people who I think are just trying to get free information without attempting to do any work (I have a severe distaste for lazy people that feel they are entitled to anything). I also berate people that are rude to others…and that is about it. And this demeanor goes way beyond just my posts, this follows me to the tables, and then into my real life. I try my best to never berate while playing, especially live when it is easiest to do so (at least on-line I always have another 8 tables beeping at me). This not only educates, but it minimizes their loss now, and also minimizes the amount I can win from others because they now know that I can think). So my demeanor is positive because it not only makes me more now (with a utility v. cost analysis) but also makes me more in terms of my opponents spew-rate. Hint: being nice and positive not only makes us more money in terms of direct cost, but also has long term ramifications in terms of utility, relationships, and overall minimal costs.
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What else makes us different? My balance of practice vs. theory. I never really appreciated this concept until I read NL Theory and Practice by Sklansky/Miller (imo, the bible of NLHE cash-games ftr). But there is a huge difference between theory and practice, and a huge correlation in success by understanding both, even just to a minimal extent. There is a reason I spend almost 2x the amount of time studying as I do playing. There is a reason my brain is constantly thinking of situations and not just grinding out the same 11/8 game. There is a reason why I play 100%vpip and play 100%LPvpip, and create other “crazy” scenarios to put myself in. The reason being that without theory, I am weak in practice….and without practice, my theory is useless.
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Life is the same way. I can be the most proficient business thinker in the world…amazing in marketing theory and entrepreneurship and overall business savvy…and yet this is useless if I am not out creating businesses or consulting or participating. And it is useless if I create 100 businesses without any backing of theory to give backing to my business rationale. It is useless if I can tell you how to “groom the “perfect” child into adulthood” if I cannot do it while in front of a child….and even more useless if I just groom a child without understanding what factors are important to their development. It is important that we spend time understanding all of it and learn what is more important in what instances (it is more important that you spend un-theorized time with your child than lack of time with massive amounts of theory). Learn this ASAP and learn how to balance. Life is about balance, if you cannot do it, learn to. Everyone is able to do this, albeit to different extents, but you can learn and improve easily.
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Something I suggest to everyone is to get a “protegé” of sorts. Why? Because it forces you to put everything you read about in this paper to use. It forces you to focus on demeanor, it focuses on you articulate thoughts (which forces more thoughts and creates a more predominant focus on theory), it forces you to think, and force you to focus on your on leaks and patch them along with your protegé’s. Obviously do with this paper what you want…and I don’t expect even 40% of to read the whole thing, and I don’t expect even 15% of those to really realize this information…but if you can put even chunks of this information to use, then you will see improved equity in poker, in your personal life, and in your longevity as a person. So I wish you luck with everything and hope you can use this for your own self-improvement and hope it all works out well for you…and hopefully in a year from now you are writing a paper to help other people with no financial earn at all =)
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SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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