Like anyone who produces content that improves the lives of a large number of people, I get my fair share of haters. At first I just ignored them and focused on the readers who find my blogs useful. But I realize now that the haters have offered me a fantastic teaching opportunity.
The poker community is filled with countless amazing people. If you ever have the opportunity to get to know the people at the top of the game, you will quickly find out that almost all of them are kind, intelligent, loving individuals who want the best for both poker players and mankind. They strive to not only be good at poker, but also to impact the world in a positive way.
Unfortunately the poker community, especially in the small and middle stakes, is also populated with people who are disgruntled because their poker dreams have not been realized. Being disgruntled with poker is a common feeling that most poker players experience at times during their careers. Most humans irrationally think that they are supposed to win, especially if they used to win in the past. In my experience with helping disgruntled players, almost all of them used to be winning poker players who either no longer have an edge or have seen their edge diminish.
It is important to recognize that the average player’s skill is constantly rising. While some players learn much faster than others, everyone learns over time. If everyone is getting better, the people who improve the fastest will end up with the profits. Most disgruntled players learned how to play well enough five to ten years ago but have since become stagnant. Instead of spending time studying, they spent their time grinding out profit at the poker table. This resulted in them becoming break-even or losing players in today’s game.
I too fell into this rut about six years ago. When I first started playing poker, I was hungry for every bit of knowledge I could get my hands on. After building a sizable bankroll and having some success, I got lazy. While I didn’t understand this at the time, I realize now that I thought I was amazing at poker and that I no longer needed to study. My results eventually started to suffer. I found myself being jealous of people who were still having success. But instead of getting angry at them, I vowed to become a winner again.
I went back to spending at least a few hours each day studying everything I could get my hands on. I also set out to write down my poker strategy in order to identify spots where my thinking was flawed. I worked hard to fix the holes in my game. (This text eventually became my best-selling book, Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker, which you can get in the audiobook format for free.) I put in the hard work and sure enough, I started winning again. I continue to work hard to improve constantly at both poker and life. I came to understand that studying is part of the game that must be embraced, especially by people like me who are not naturally talented at poker.
People act out their frustrations in various ways. Some turn to drugs. Others start hating on people who have more success. Some quit poker. Others continue playing an outdated strategy until they are broke. Some commit suicide. The list goes on and on of what past poker players have resorted to. Fortunately, I decided instead to improve.
Today, I want to address the most obviously disgruntled group of players. These are the people who vent their frustrations by spreading hate. These players are angry and want to yell at someone. They want to bring the winners down to their level. They don’t mind looking foolish in the process. Clearly if you devote your time and energy to complaining about where you are at, you will not progress any farther.
It seems like these players fail to realize that in both poker and life, someone will always be higher up the ladder than you. Instead of working hard to improve to the level of those ahead of them, they get angry that they are not good enough or because they think they have failed. The haters turn to being vocal in a negative way in order to vent their frustrations.
Ordinarily when someone asks me for help, I do my best to help them. Haters scream loud and clear that they need help. Unfortunately, they are often so blinded by rage that they are unwilling to accept the help they so obviously need.
When I become a target of haters, I view it as confirmation that my coaching services are working well. If these mediocre, stagnant pros could still win, it would mean that the average amateur is not progressing very quickly. Conversely, if the average amateur improves quickly, it means I am doing my job well as a poker instructor.
Some people question why I want to help amateur players, when beating them on a regular basis is my primary source of income. The answer is simple. If I had not received a lot of help when I first entered the poker world, primarily through Sklansky’s books and the generous posters on the main poker forum at the time, I would almost certainly not be where I am today. I was eager to learn everything I could about the game and fortunately, a few open-minded people were happy to help. Their willingness to help an unknown random kid planted in me the feeling that I owe the same to the next generation.
While the haters only think about themselves, people who succeed work toward a greater good and look to impact the lives of other people in a positive way. I do not automatically dismiss a hater as a close-minded, ignorant person. About two weeks ago, someone messaged me on Facebook saying he was pissed that I was making his middle stakes games tougher. We had a long discussion and by the end of it, he came away realizing that his poker progression had stalled (just as mine had six years ago). He was no longer working hard to improve. I took the opportunity to transform him into someone who was hungry for knowledge. Successes like that are always gratifying.
If you find that you constantly have negative, self-defeating thoughts, I strongly suggest that you spend significant time working on both your poker game and your life. There is almost certainly something out of balance. If you are spending time and energy trying to tear positive things down, or are only working to benefit yourself, you will have a tough time living a fulfilled life. Instead, I recommend you spend some time helping other people. If you spread joy and kindness, you will find that you will live a much happier life, which in turn will help you realize your poker goals.
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