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The truth about playing high-stakes poker

The truth about playing high-stakes poker

Kevin Martin bangs on his desk in frustration.

It isn’t because he just lost a big pot or suffered a computer malfunction mid-session. The Twitch superstar is mad at himself for taking on what can only be described as an ambitious and daunting task:

He played a high-stakes poker schedule while not keeping up with his poker study.

“I’ve been a shadow of myself this past month on the poker front,” Martin says.

Whether you’re grinding up a bankroll at the low-to-mid-stakes with dreams of playing higher, or you’re battling at the high stakes against the game’s elite, one thing remains constant: you simply must continue to put the work in.

“I’ve studied tons and I don’t believe that if I play I’ll just win,” says Jordan ‘bigbluffzinc’ Drummond, a.k.a. BBZ. “I have to keep studying. I have to keep earning it every single day. I have to step in there and rip out a win-rate and rip out an edge.”

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Think about it. Who would you consider to be the best in the world right now? Michael Addamo? Linus Loeliger? Jason Koon?

If you think those guys are resting on their laurels at the top of the poker mountain, you’re sadly mistaken.

“The hard players are just focused on poker,” Martin says. “That’s all they do. They wake up, go over sims, study every day, and dial in. High-stakes poker is not easy.”

The reason Martin’s desk might feel a little worse for wear right now is that he feels he let things slip out of his control. He’s constantly creating content. He’s been planning his wedding. He’s had some emotional family stuff going on.

“It’s been one of the most stressful months and I thought I could just power through,” he says.

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Look, real life comes first. We all know that. But if you’re going to continue playing poker when times are tough, you have to be prepared.

“I haven’t talked to my coach in forever. I haven’t reviewed hands in forever. I haven’t been able to look at ranges in forever,” says Martin. “Poker has not been the priority and it’s a massive lesson that I got my ass kicked. I’m fucking tilted that I let it happen.

“I’ve had two or three crippling downswings in my life and every time it’s correlated with my life being chaotic, and right now my life is chaotic.

“I’m mad at myself that I didn’t adjust.”

Compare this with how he felt in May 2022. Martin had arguably his best poker month ever. He felt unstoppable and enjoyed a career-high score of $207K.

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He puts it all down to tranquillity.

“I had nothing going on in life. I was peaceful. I had no other responsibilities and I was 100% focused on poker. And look what happened. I crushed every day. I read well every day. I demolished. I final tabled everything.”

So what should you do when you feel like Martin did when he recorded those videos?

BBZ suggests focusing on something you can control outside of poker. Something you can anchor to, where you’ll get the desired result. That will feed into your poker performance.

“If you do all the right things in poker you can be stuck at the end of the month and have horrible results,” says BBZ. “But if you never run and you pick a distance, let’s say a mile, and you run that mile every day, at the end of the month you’ll be running it faster.”

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You can also look for support from others.

“Support is massive,” says BBZ. “There’s too much ego in taking it all on yourself. It’s not sustainable. Sometimes those around you will feel hurt that you were going through something and didn’t share it with them. They want to help you.”

Build relationships with others who understand what you’re going through. Then lean on each other when you need support. “It’s not selfish,” says BBZ. “You have those relationships so you can both help each other get through to the other side.”

He’s already been shown tons of support from the poker community for his honesty.


From what Martin says at the end of the video, it seems like he’s about to take a rest, anchor to things in his real life that he can control, and lean on his support.

“Getting your ass kicked in the game you love when you try so hard and you run so bad. You lose your confidence,” he says, “But the poker dream is still fucking on, I promise you.

“I’m going to take a vacation. I’m going to get married. I’m going to solve everything and regroup then come back and chase the dream again.”

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