How great players handle the highest pressure
In early June I made my first foray into the poker broadcast booth by providing Mandarin-language commentary of the GuangDong Ltd Asia Millions for PokerStars TV. I was partnered with Andrew Mao, another guy from China, and Team PokerStars Pro Celina Lin.
I had done some commentary in Taiwan previously but it wasn't live. The first time you broadcast live on-air it's quite challenging. We provided commentary for the entire tournament, which turned out to be more than 20 hours of air time. It's very tiring, talking that much! Your mouth gets dry, you need a lot of water and a lot of caffeine. But being able to see that kind of tournament firsthand and broadcast my ideas to the entire Chinese-speaking population was a great experience.
It was really fun and really exhilarating for us to see so much money going into the middle. It absolutely made me want to play but the buy-in was $130,000 and pretty much everybody came in for three bullets. It was basically a $400,000 tournament. You can buy an apartment for that much money!
The event featured some of the world's best players, like ElkY, Isaac Haxton and Sorel Mizzi among others. Watching them and providing commentary on their play, I realized that they make mistakes just like anybody else. And then they move on.
Playing that kind of tournament and to be able to let things go and not care about a mistake afterwards, made me realize, "Oh, everybody is human after all. Nobody's perfect. These people do make mistakes but it's about how you recover from them that separates the great players."
That can be a problem for me. Sometimes in the past, when I was not running too well, I'd put a lot of pressure on myself, maybe be a little bit too hard on myself if I made a mistake. That caused a lot of mental pressure going into every game. Every single time I made one bad decision it would feel like the end of the world.
With these guys showing me how they handle bad beats and bad plays, and especially bad decisions, I took a step back and reminded myself, "Nobody's perfect." We all make mistakes. These guys were making decisions, on the fly, for millions of dollars. They were sometimes coming out right and sometimes they were coming out wrong. When they were wrong, and clearly wrong, it didn't seem to affect their play afterwards.
I thought guys like ElkY and Isaac Haxton, given their results would play completely perfectly, but that's impossible. No one plays perfectly. Seeing them make even small mistakes gave me more confidence in myself.
Providing the commentary and watching these great players do their thing really gave me the itch to play. I wanted to be out there with them, but I can't commit that much money to one tournament. I might be able to put in one buy-in, but three $130,000 buy-ins is a little too rich for my blood. I think the commentary booth is the closest I'll get to that kind of tournament.