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How to avoid going broke in poker

How to avoid going broke in poker

From Spiderman to Mulan, Harry Potter to Rocky Balboa, everyone loves a good ‘zero to hero’ story.

But in poker, there’s a propensity to celebrate the ‘zero to hero, back to zero, back to hero’ stories, which are far too common in this game.

“I think it’s moronic,” says BBZ Poker founder Jordan “bigbluffzinc” Drummond.

You can’t avoid losing some money in poker. After all, you have to break some eggs to make an omelette.

But you can avoid going broke and having to build your way back from nothing.

Here’s how to avoid going broke in poker, according to BBZ.

BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND

If you’re near the beginning of your poker career, ask yourself the following questions:

What do you want to have? What don’t you want to have?

Once you can answer those honestly and realistically, you can begin to design the ideal path for you to get where you want to go.

“Design behaviours, habits, and routines that will help you get there,” says BBZ. “Don’t be held down by the way you define yourself right now. Instead, think of how you would design a robot to get the job done.”

Perhaps you’re not sleeping enough. Perhaps you’re drinking too much. If there are things in your life and parts of your personality which are having a negative impact on your poker playing, do your best to eradicate them.

You know where you want to end up. Do everything you can to make the journey as smooth as possible.

BUILD A CUMULATIVE ADVANTAGE

Jordan “bigbluffzinc” Drummond (a.k.a. BBZ)

Winning often leads to more winning. It’s the accumulation of tiny winning edges which accumulate over time.

“Take the NBA, for example,” says BBZ. “When a future NBA star first started playing basketball, they were bigger than everyone else. That leads to reinforcement from their parents, teachers and coaches because they were bigger.”

Having skills early on builds confidence. That confidence encourages them to work hard to ensure they stay at the top and don’t become complacent.

This plays out in poker too.

“Running really hot and having success early on is more likely to keep some playing a lot,” says BBZ. “By playing a lot they’ll get noticed by other players. By getting noticed they’ll converse with those players and share knowledge. They’ll also take some of their money and reinvest it in studying.”

The accumulation of small edges really matters and you should take them seriously.

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The harder you work, the more success you can achieve. But once you hit your goals, you have to maintain.

The problem? Most people think linearly, and according to BBZ, that’s not very helpful for competitive endeavours.

“If a person worked half as hard, do you think they would have had half the success? Absolutely not,” he says. “They wouldn’t have had any of it. It was an all or nothing type deal. If professional athletes put in half the work, they don’t get to be a professional athlete with half the salary. They just don’t get to be professional athletes anymore.”

You either go 100% top speed and you get the results, or you get nothing. Poker is a competition and often the biggest rewards come in the toughest moments.

“When you lift light weights in sets of five, you get nothing out of it,” says BBZ. “All of the juice, all of the return, comes when things get really hard. It’s the last 10 reps.

“All of the money in poker comes from going from 40 hours a week to 50 hours a week, or whatever. Balance is important, but there are some things in life where 100% of the return comes from the last part of the grind that other people miss.”

BBZ at work: Jordan “bigbluffzinc” Drummond

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GET YOUR PERSONAL FINANCES IN ORDER

Most poker players are bad with money. The industry doesn’t help by glorifying people who go broke then build it back.

“As a result, it’s not pounded into people that it’s very advantageous as a poker player to have good money habits,” says BBZ.

“Good investment opportunities will come up and it’s important that you not only recognise them but that you have the access to capital that’s required to take advantage of them.”

For example, let’s say there’s a juicy online tournament with a huge overlay. If you’re starved for money, you can’t always play. Or let’s say your friend is selling action for a massive event. If you don’t have access to the funds you can’t comfortably buy a piece. When they go on to win big, you’re cut out.

Avoid that by preparing when things are going well. It’s common practice in life, but not in poker.

“Focus on what you can control,” says BBZ. “Your financial situation in poker isn’t always something you can control, but you can control how your money is going out, volume, study habits, game selection, diet, exercise etc. It all ties together.

“In my opinion, if you can’t tie it all together, something is going to break. To make the entire process sustainable, you’re going to need all of it. You can’t play long sessions if you’re treating your body badly. Winning a tournament requires being highly alert and highly focused after nine hours of thinking. That’s where all the money is getting decided. All of the most important decisions you’re going to make are being made after you’ve already put in maybe nine hours of work.”

WINTER IS COMING

The time to prepare is when things are going well. Once you start to get crushed, it’s too late. You can’t fix it now.
“When you’re running really well, that’s when you should be paranoid and start to make plans for things to roll over,” says BBZ.

That’s why he keeps things around his house to remind him. A Game of Thrones “Winter is Coming” poster, for example.

“I like those physical cues. When it’s sunshine and rainbows, it’s hard not to focus on sunshine and rainbows. Life is just better. But when you’re losing and you’re in hell, you can’t do anything about it.”

So set aside money. Don’t get overexposed to one big series after another on the online sites. Take breaks.

“There’s nobody I know who always wins,” says BBZ. “Rigorous study habits are important for dealing with those inevitable downswings. You’ve got to be on top of things.

“When it’s smooth sailing, think about what you can do to fortify yourself against the inevitable winter which is coming.”

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