This is the transcript, chapter 4 of 5, for the PaceMakesTheRace Podcast: Interview With The Gambler – Part 2, which originally published in 2015!
In November, 2012, I interviewed a full-time, self-supporting professional gambler. 2.5 years later we have gotten together for another interview. I think you will find his story continues to be interesting.
Gambler: I will say that there is a big difference from someone who is doing this full time and someone who is doing it only on a part-time basis. The amount of volume I can put in over a two week period is the amount the average part-time person probably puts in over a full year.
I can get it out very quickly in terms of let us try to roll through this and get through it. I can give you a good example. A friend of mine, this is something I would say for horse racing or any kind of betting it is, was looking for a great way to improve. He wanted to learn.
Last time I thought I was getting coaching and I have been coaching him, but not on a paid basis. He was not in a spot where he could pay me and I knew that and never asked for any money for it.
He said several times to me that he felt badly about taking advantage of my knowledge without paying me. But I told him that by forcing me to vocalize my thought process it made me better, and that I have gotten just as much out of that coaching relationship as he did.
He is someone that I think is an excellent gambler, not just in poker but in horses, as well. But doing it part-time, it is easy to see how the cumulative effect of running badly has a much greater impact on him because he cannot get through it as quickly as I can because the volume is not there for him.
That can really be mentally crushing to someone who is trying hard to work it out.
Dave: You touched on something there that I just want to expand a little. You said something really interesting.
Here you are, a winning poker player and you were willing to share your knowledge to develop another player. Again and again, we hear that anyone who has information, methodology or whatever, any information that is any good and that no one would give away and, in fact, would not even sell it.
And yet, here you are saying you coached this guy and it helped him.
Gambler: I think when you look at the basics of how to play poker, in a hurry, anyone can figure out the game very quickly.
But when you get into the harder decisions of really figuring out what to do, and what the best things are to do, I think it helps tremendously to vocalize what you are trying to do. Try to break it down to where someone can understand it.
In my quest to get better, because I certainly was not coaching him on the same exact things I am doing, it really helped me cement as a part of my game the mid-level and intermediate level stuff.
Jared Tendler’s book The Mental Game of Poker calls it the ‘unconscious confidence’ which means you know it and you do not even have to think about it anymore. You have absorbed it and can do it without any effort.
By helping and coaching someone, it really helped me internalize those things and improve my game. It enabled me to focus on the higher level of my game that required more thought from me. I think by talking through things and explaining them makes sense.
Getting my student’s view point helps, too. It is the way I see things. It might be wrong, sometimes it is, sometimes it is right and sometimes it is just the way I had not thought of looking at it. Getting that other perspective I think is also very helpful.
Dave: You basically have built your own sounding board by raising his level of play. Yes?
Gambler: To a degree. Would I do that with more than one person? No, there is not enough time in the day. With someone I respect, the way they look at things helps me to look at things a little differently.
To internalize the intermediate level stuff to where it is not something I need to put any thought into anymore, is ultimately what you want to achieve.
It is where you are able to do certain things without having to stop and say let me go over my checklist. Did I do A B and C? You want to do A B and C without thinking about it, where it just becomes an automatic part of the process.
Dave: You built a co-pilot. You are flipping the switches. That really is brilliant. What about personal gratification?
My experience with horse playing professionals is special.
They are so rare that they truly love to be able to have someone they can simply sit down with and have the other person appreciate the level of skill and the success they have achieved.
I do not mean that in a crazy, egotistical sense.
Gambler: I will say you are right. Not in an ego-feeding way, but if you go back to when I showed up at one of my kids’ sporting events and I had to answer the question about what I do for a living and I said I gamble.
The truth is that I cannot really talk to those people about what I do. I do not want to talk to my wife about it. She trusts me.
She does not need to know what happens on a daily basis because she might get worried when I am having a bad run. She might think it is time to go crazy when I am having a good run. We kind of keep a wall there.
So by having someone I can talk to, a lot of times that is what it just is – a Sounding Board. I think that is very advantageous. I think in any kind of gambling that is good to have. Whether it is someone you can talk to about horses, with questions like ‘why do you like this horse,’ ‘why did you pick that one.’
It is where someone can then break down their reasons very well. You can break down your reasons and then maybe your method will get a little better by seeing the way someone else approached it, or just by explaining, your method becomes better.
Dave: So there is a technical advantage to you. I find the same thing when I explain winning technologies.
On a number of occasions when I was trying to solve a handicapping problem, I got together with a group of handicappers. We did whiteboards together online and I asked for suggestions. I get the technique improvement, but you are saying there is some gratification.
By the way, what you are describing about how you insulate your wife from the inner workings, it is kind of like you are describing the life of a hitman.
I’m not saying you are doing something illegal but the point is you are really trying to not expose her. From what you kind of said, she is probably not as prepared to deal with the ups and downs and high pressure decisions you experience hour to hour every day. Agreed?
Gambler: Here is what is funny.
She came to me one day and said “I know you are winning, but can you please pretend to be happy when you win something? I always know when you lose something. I hear you cursing when you are losing.”
“I hear you cursing at people and your computer screen when someone does something stupid and beats you. Every time you lose, that is all I hear. Can you react a little bit when you win something?”
Dave: Do you have an office?
Dave: But you leave the door open?
Gambler: It depends on what is going on. If there is too much background noise in the house I shut the office door. That does not insulate the sound when I am very angry.
I have had to learn to celebrate a little bit. I did not do it for myself. I did it for my wife’s sanity.
Dave: Do you not think it has been good for you?
Gambler: Yeah. The challenge is to avoid getting over-confident when things are going really well because you can slip into auto-pilot and start thinking “I am so good I am going to win at everything I try.”
Then you are not really thinking through and evaluating all your decisions and that is not a good thing.
Dave: That sure makes sense. In other words, never over-think. But you said before something that I am going to paraphrase. It is kind of like muscle memory.
Most of the things you do in the heat of battle have to be automatic. You do not go searching in your mind, do you? What are the probabilities of this and that? They are just kind of right there when you need them. Is that right?
Gambler: The easy decisions should be automatic. I joke around that I have a limited amount of brain power and I do not want to use it on easy decisions. I want to save it for when I have to make a hard decision.
You should want to get to the point where the easy decision, such as when you go to the race track and you find a horse on the program that is owned for seventeen thousand dollars lifetime and is listed on the card in a race. It is an easy decision to toss that horse.
You should not waste a lot of time trying to find a reason to bet a horse that is owned for seventeen thousand with a trainer who wins 2% of his races. That should be an automatic, easy decision.
But in that same race you might have two or three horses that you really have to put your brain power into figuring out which horse is the one to bet.
It is the same thing for flop decisions which should be pretty easy. Flop decisions should be automatic. Turn decisions still, for the most part, should be things that happen so often they are fairly easy to make.
The rigor comes when you are making your hard decisions and where you have an advantage is when your opponents’ hard decisions come earlier than your hard decisions.
Dave: Couple of last questions. One is how to improve. You have given us a little look at your day, but tell me how do you continue to improve? Because you do not sound like a guy who is simply into maintaining.
Gambler: No, as I said, I do a review every day of what I did yesterday. Whether its covering stuff that I marked while it was happening or just a general review. It depends on how the day before went.
I might find some things I was not happy with or things I know I need to focus on more. I also do not want to overload myself with stuff to improve on. I will just have a list of three items, the three things today I think I can do better.
I have it next to me all day so that those are the three things I am thinking about and focusing on in the front of my mind. Then once I feel like I have gotten to the point where I do not need to look at that one as much anymore I will take that one off the list and add another item to the list.
There are always three things on the list. There are a lot more than three things I need to improve on but there is only so many things you can work on at once.
Like I said, I will schedule the three most crucial things I need to improve on and when I feel like one of them is moving forward to that level of ‘unconscious confidence’ then I will take it off the list and put something else on the list.
Perhaps it becomes something I need to revisit in a couple of months. Every day I try to make myself very aware of what I need to work on.
Dave: That is very good. I do not think we need to address this. I was going to ask if you work to improve your life experience, but you obviously do. You work to improve everything about your home life and you do manage your time with your children.
You mentioned to me that you thought there were some interesting gambling opportunities out there that many people do not consider besides poker and horse racing.
Gambler: When I mentioned earlier that for the most part when you are talking in horse racing and poker, the very best have a very small, relative edge and rely on a huge amount of volume in order to realize that edge.
The fact is horse racing, attendance is down, for the most part does not generate lots of excitement except for a couple days a year. I hate to say it because I am a fan of horse racing, it has not captured the younger generation’s interest and I do not know what the industry is going to do about that.
Dave: The game is hard right?
Gambler: Right and except for days like “derby day” you are playing for the most part in a small pool with a lot of knowledgeable players. Poker is the same way. The basic poker knowledge now is a lot harder than it was twenty years ago.
Anyone can go read “Harrington on Hold” and play pretty well in a poker tournament. Follow that book and you are going to do pretty well in a poker tournament.
You will do just fine if you follow what that book says. If you want to play cash games, there are a lot of books you can read and you’ll do okay because the knowledge is out there so the edges are small.
I would be all over this if I had the tools to use, I have not found the tools yet. Consider daily fantasy sports. If there was a HSH for daily fantasy baseball I would give you my credit card number and pay $1000 for it without even thinking about it.
Here is the thing: daily fantasy sports are available every day of the baseball season. You have a chance to direct your team, enter leagues and contests. It is fans who are entering this stuff and not serious gamblers.
Chapter 5 coming soon..
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