Feb 25, 2018

I have been trying to lose 5 kilos for the longest time.  I know my life will be perfect once I lose those 5 kilos. I will win every Poker tournaments, crush all the cash games – and I will be doing these incredible things while wearing the clothes I have bought and stored for the past ten years in anticipation of the ultimate day I lose those stubborn 5 kilos.

It is with this goal in mind I joined Bikram Yoga and embarked upon an adventure that has been able to align my Weight goals with my Poker goals – albeit in unforeseen ways. But then, God works in mysterious ways.

Courage

When one makes an idiotic decision to start a Bikram Yoga class, it is exactly like making the idiotic decision to play professional Poker. The heat is on in more ways than one.  Bikram Yoga is a one and a half hour intense yoga class held in a closed room with the temperature rising to 41 degrees coupled with 40% humidity.  Each morning I wake up in a cold sweat with my first thought being, Holy Moly (actually, stronger curse words are my first thought each morning), I have to head to the torture chamber today. Not fun. So I gather my courage, look into the mirror and tell myself “You go girl, you can do it.” 

Lesson Learned: As the saying goes, “Everything you want is on the other side of Fear”. In Poker, as in life and Bikram Yoga, you have to be brave. Don’t chicken out - make courageous moves even when you are seated at a live tournament table with the likes of those I am usually seated with. You know who you are – Imma coming for you next time.  Just kidding. Really. I love you guys, please be kind.

Focus

So I am now in the Bikram Yoga class, talking to myself, pumping myself up in the hopes that I can make it through the one and a half hour of heat and sweat.  I have decided to shake everything off, be Zen and as Nike says, just do it. I look up and there’s a hefty, hairy man who has taken his place in front of me. He is shirtless and nearly shortless, too, as the tiny spandex shorts he is wearing leaves little to the imagination.  Now it’s a challenge of focus.  I train myself to see only my own body in the mirror but since the mind is like a mischievous child, it keeps wandering to places where it should not. And definitely must not. 

Lesson Learned: Focus is the foundation of everything in life. In Poker games, I tell myself to focus only on the players on the table, determine opponents’ ranges, and find the right spots. Instead of daydreaming about meeting Elon Musk and requesting him to invent a technology that allows you to reach through the computer screen and strangle the players who continuously shove their entire stacks of 100 BB to gain 90 chips from the pot in online poker tournaments.

Discipline

Now, half an hour into the class it feels like I’m in an early stage of a tournament. I’m cruising; I’m feeling great about the work I’m putting in. Working with balance and skill and I’m in a good place. I make a slight misstep by losing focus and turn my head slightly to the right (mainly in a gloating manner, trying to show off my ability to contort myself 10% more than the previous day). The matronly seventy something lady to my right, wearing a thin cotton flowery salwar kurta, is now moving like a yogi samurai with such grace and flow, contorting herself into the best possible posture that she would undoubtedly be Bikram’s student of the year. And she is doing all this while smiling. I sheepishly turn back to look at myself in the mirror and vow that I must be more disciplined and not be swayed by my own ego, even if I am pretty good at yoga. Pretty good is not good enough.

Lesson Learned:  Do not let your focus waiver – be disciplined so that every move you make involves focus and deep thought. Do whatever it takes to stay on the path to your goal, whatever it may be, without any distractions. Remember, that in today’s hyper competitive poker world as in life, being pretty good won’t help you reach the brass ring.  You need to focus on being legendary.

Flow

One hour into the class and I’m in the zone, or being one with the flow - my mind is clear, the moves automatic. I am thinking only of the yoga postures and my mind, surprisingly, does not wander. I don’t see the hairy man with the curvaceous bottom nor am I worried about the little geriatric gymnast to my right.  My moves are as good, if not better now than everyone in the class or so I choose to believe. It feels exactly right – like I’m 3-betting and stealing blinds at the right time as well as making amazing reads. I’m feeling fine – let’s do this.

Lesson Learned: If you can grind with the will to win and keep reminding yourself to be focused and disciplined, you will find yourself in the zone or in the sweet spot of the flow. Your hard work will pay off - just keep getting yourself in line in the early to middle stages of the tournament.  All the study and hours of practice will make your moves automatic and you will find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Endurance

It is nearly the end of class and I am dying now. No, really, I am literally dying.  In the exact situation I find myself every time nearing the money or FT bubble in tournaments.  I am sweating, I am fearful of absolute collapse, I am about to cry. But then I force myself to think of all the hard work I have put into this insane activity, the hours of practice through sickness and health, how good it feels to get to the other side. And then I also suddenly remember that I will be singled out and get lectured at by the instructor for being the ultimate wimp and all at once the cloud lifts. I am able to continue breathing through the heat, the sweat, the tears and I complete each posture with grace and aplomb.

Lesson Learned:  To endure the long of hours of grueling poker sessions - all the while keeping your mind sharp enough to make creative plays, gut wrenching decisions, basic calculations that are tough for the mathematically challenged like myself – you have to keep yourself in peak physical condition. The mental strength required for these sessions should not be underestimated and it is important to focus on building up your physical and mental stamina. 

So, to return to the title of this blog post, I’m not sure if Bikram Yoga helps me survive Poker or Poker helps me survive Bikram Yoga.  All I know is that I believe that both have made me travel the path of self-improvement and that’s the point of our journey in life.  I am nowhere close to having the level of discipline and focus that is shared by my superheroes, Aditya Sushant and Sharad Rao, but I am inspired by them and will now work harder to achieve my weight and poker goals.  Thank you, Aditya and Sharad, for being amazing and showing all of us that with hard work, dedication, and discipline, you can make your dreams come true. 

 

Maria Kirloskar

PokerBaazi Team PRO

Play on PokerBaazi.com, India's most trusted poker website.

In the past year, I’ve received several messages from young players who recently completed their graduation and just started their first jobs. My assumption is that they are all around 22-25 years old.  They usually have three questions for me – the first one being “Do you have a boyfriend”, the second one is “What are you doing” and the third one is “I want to quit my job. How do I become a full-time Poker player”… 

This post aims to answer the last question since I’m pretty sure the first two questions, as entertaining as they may be, are not of much relevance to any discussion around Poker!

 Most of us who play Poker have been seduced by the siren song – play Poker all day long, make a lot of money and live the Poker lifestyle that the Pros enjoy. But the reality is not as fantastically uplifting - this siren lures you with a golden dream that leaves many players broken on the rocks of despair and consumed by the sea of disappointment.

 I’ve read a number of articles that keep reinforcing the idea that the 9 to 5 grind in a “regular” job is the death knell to any cool, hip young Poker player.  I mean, how could you be perceived as glamorous and sexy if you work as an IT analyst or a junior HR executive when you could be living the high life as a full-time Poker professional? ut like the saying goes: 

Poker is a hard way to make easy money.  In fact, there is no such thing as easy money.

 Let’s look at the statistics.  The average tournament player will get in the money 10% of the time while an expert player usually gets in the money 15% of the time.  That means as an average tournament player, one is losing 90% of the time!

 When it comes to cash game players, they have to deal with downswings that sometimes go on for more than a few weeks.

 It may seem like I’m being negative but I’m not here to discourage anyone from playing Poker - in fact, it’s the opposite.  

Instead of looking at becoming a full-time Poker player in the early years of your work life, wouldn’t it be amazing to have a second income from Poker? Working hard at your job will help you with discipline, playing Poker as a hobby in the evenings will help you with patience and focus, while playing without the pressure of having to make rent money will make you fall in love with the game even more! 

 My advice to all of you out there who feel like you want to make Poker your career, follow these simple steps and then decide whether it is the right path for you and at what point in your life can you afford to so. 

  1. Keep a separate bank account for your bankroll whether it is Rs. 5,000, Rs. 50,000 or Rs. 5 Lakhs.
  2. Read as much as you can on Bankroll Management, then make a plan and stick to it.
  3. Play on only trusted Poker sites or in legitimate Poker rooms.
  4. Keep track of every single tournament or cash game you play and review your profit or loss each week.
  5. Study hard and continually improve your game.
  6. If you are a consistent player, apply to a reputed stable to get staked and receive coaching.
  7. Give yourself a year or two to see whether you are making money – enough to live on or more than enough as a second income.

 I would also suggest that you look around the Poker circuit and talk to some of the most successful, profitable players.  You will soon realize that most of them have jobs or own businesses. 

 There are very few young players who play Poker for a living without a financial safety net. Those that do are consistently winning players who have been playing for a few years, who work very hard on their game and other aspects such as mental/physical strength. By all means, be inspired by them, but don’t jump into taking up Poker as a career by being ill-informed or because of your ego.

 And, the next time anyone asks me what I am doing at 11:30 on any given night, I will send you a picture of me – not twerking at the MTV Pool Party, or sipping champagne on Dan B’s yacht – but in my pajamas grinding The Big 1 Lakh tourney on Baazi.  Not glamorous or sexy in any way, I can assure you.  More like Animal from The Muppet Show. That’s the reality of the life of a full-time Poker Pro ;-)

 

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