PCA 2015: Dealing with the swings
Don't ask how much Team PokerStars Pros make. For some, you need to ask them how much it cost them to sign. For Theo Jorgensen, the price was $160,000.
No, he didn't pay, nor does anybody else. It just cost him a lot at first.
Jorgensen had been playing $200/$400 PLO on Full Tilt when he signed with PokerStars. Part of his agreement was that he play exclusively under the flag of the red spade, and the highest game he could find in the PokerStars lobby at the time was $25/$50. He worried that the stakes might not be big enough.
"Just like you can play too high, you can easily play too low so you don't take it seriously," he said.
So, before he put on the patch, he made a decision...one that didn't last long enough.
"In my head, I was planning on taking three months off," Jorgensen said. "I took 14 days."
That, as you might have surmised, was a mistake. A big one. After playing much higher, Jorgensen thought he could splash around all he liked in the kiddie pool.
"I lost $80,000, and I decided I could easily win that back. And I lost another 80," he said "And then I decided to take three months off."
It's the kind of downswing Jorgensen and his opponents know all too well.
"We all have a human tendency to want those chips back and quickly as possible," he said. "The problem is all the other guys know that, as well."
That was one of the stories pried from Jorgensen as he and Chris Moneymaker hosted a Q&A session here at the PCA. The subject: upswings, downswings, and all the heartache in between.
Moneymaker says, if you really want a dose of reality, you should consider Phil Ivey and Allen Kessler (we're pretty sure he wasn't joking).
Part of Moneymaker's training camp involves looking at Allen Kessler and Phil Ivey's in-the-money rate on World Poker Tour events. Moneymaker said Kessler cashes 18% of the time where Ivey cashes only 11%.
Jorgensen was quick to point out why there is such a difference.
"Ivery cares about winning," Jorgensen said "He couldn't care less if he bubbled."
But the point was, even the best poker player in the world can go a very long time without a cash, and a majority of the time will, if you can stomach the word, fail.
"The majority of poker tournaments I play, I'm going to bust. To play a game where you have so much failure is really tough mentally," Moneymaker said. "It's really tough to come back tomorrow and want to do it again."
On recognizing luck--good and bad
"The reason you can't beat online poker is you remember the bad beats and you can't remember the good ones," Moneymaker says. "Realize, you are not the unluckiest person on the planet. If a bad beat bothers you for a week, you probably don't need to be playing poker. Maybe you need to find a different hobby.""
He's not accusing anyone in particular. He's simply pointing out the fatal flaw of dwelling on the bad things that happen to you.
Jorgensen developed a solution for it.
"I started writing down every lucky hand I won and I realized, 'Maybe I'm not as unlucky as I think I am,'" he said.
But, as Moneymaker points out, when bad things happen, staying cool may be easier said than done.
He said, ""My biggest problem in a poker tournament is not my opponents. It's my mental state and me being me. I did a poker camp with (Greg) Raymer once, and somebody asked him 'Who is a better player? You or Chris? Greg said 'Well, if we're both playing our A-game, Chris is a better player. The difference is, I have an A, B & C game. Chris has an L-M-N-O-P game.' I can play really bad, and when one of those situations happens, that's when the L-M-N-O-P game comes out."
Jorgensen put it even more succinctly. He said, "Look upon your poker life as one big session."
Moneymaker laughed. "Doesn't work," he said. "If you can do that, then you have the game figured out."
On real life and poker
As their games have have gone up and down, so have their lives. Jorgensen was shot in a robbery a couple of years back. PokerStars told him to take as much time off as he wanted, and he ended up taking a three-month break.
"It would've been sick to try playing when there's that much going through your head and your family's head," he said. "I decided I wanted to travel and I wasn't going to play poker before I felt I was ready."
It's different for everybody, though. Moneymaker's father died last March.
"When I was sitting around with family, it was all crying, grimness, and sadness," he said.
He had a poker obligation that he likely could've gotten out, but he chose to honor it.
"Just being back in that social aspect, talking with other people, realizing that life goes on, it was more of a soothing thing for me."
On checking your ego
Of all the things they discussed, Moneymaker and Jorgensen seemed to agree on one thing over any other. While poker may be a flashy game full of proud people, it's also vital to put a leash on your ego.
Years ago, Jorgensen said he met a 22-year-old Finnish player who offered him some of the best advice he's ever gotten.
"Always remember there is somebody better than you," Jorgensen recalled the kid saying. "You are not Superman."
Moneymaker said that was exactly the key to his improvement.
"I found whoever I thought was the best player at the table, and I just watched them play, and figured out what they were doing," he said. "I would swallow my pride, swallow my ego and ask them questions and get into their mind."
When it comes to dealing with the swings of life and swings of the game, Jorgensen said there is one simple trick: remember it's only a game.
"It's probably the greatest game in the world, but if it's not fun, you're going the wrong way," Jorgensen said. "It can't be the most important thing in your life."
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging