Don't Listen To Phil Hellmuth

That’s the name of the book I just finished writing with Dusty “leatherass” Schmidt. I finished my final edits yesterday, and in a marvel of modern technology and book design, you can already purchase and download the e-book at The hard copy ships January 2nd. That’s fast.

Don’t Listen To Phil Hellmuth took over four months to write, rewrite and revise. It felt like a long time because I expected the book to take just two months, and the delay pushed back my Supernova Elite chase to the point of extinction. Looking at the process, though, four months is an extremely short time frame for a project like this. After all, Dusty had to teach me the finer points of No Limit Holdem, then I had to put them into writing, and then we had to refine and reinforce the material to the point where it can teach you the finer points of No Limit Holdem. Learning something to the point of being able to teach it is an intense process.

When Dusty asked me to work with him on this project, I said yes for three reasons. First of all, there’s the money. I’ve never been overly motivated by the greenbacks, but the prospect of making good money as a writer appeals to me. Dusty’s first book Treat Your Poker Like A Business has sold very well, so I figure this book is a good bet to sell at least as well, maybe better since it’s bigger and jam-packed with strategy advice.

The second thing that appealed to me about writing this book was the chance to develop a bigger name as a writer. Ten years from now, I think I’d rather be writing than playing poker, although I imagine I’ll still be doing both. Having the opportunity to hone my craft, put my name on a book that will end up in a lot of hands, and get paid for it, was not something I could pass up.

Finally, there was the chance to work with Dusty Schmidt. He’s a polarizing figure in the poker world and possibly the biggest online winner outside of the nosebleeds. I admired his work ethic and assumed he must be doing something right strategically to be making all that money. So I thought talking to him for a hundred hours or so might be fun and would certainly be educational.

Well, we’ll see how motivations #1 and #2 pan out, but I have to say the book’s already worth it for me on account of #3. Not only is Dusty a thoroughly good dude, he possesses a keen mind for poker strategy and an ability to articulate the logic behind all of his plays. He never says, “Well, I usually do this here because I feel like it’s the best play.” Or, “I like a bet here.” Or to borrow a line from the book, “I led out here to find out where I stood.” He always has a well-defined reason for each play, and I think you’ll see that in our book. The second part of the book, “25 Hands With Dusty,” showcases this particularly well.

We had a hell of a lot of fun writing this book, and we hope you have a lot of fun reading it.

Reflections On 100,000 Hands In 10 Days

Well that was brutal. From November 19th through November 28th, I played 100,000 hands in 10 days. I only played about 13 hours each day, but the last one turned into a 28-hour, 25000-hand marathon. That's just too much poker.

My total profit for the ten days was about $5400, which is a not-so-unpleasant disappointment. That's a little over $40/hour, which is what I was making two and a half years ago by playing three tables of $3/$6. I value my time more highly than that now.

(If I had gone on to reach Supernova Elite this year, then the VPPs I earned would have been worth at least another $3900, bringing my hourly wage for this grind to a little over $70.)

Was it worth it? That’s a good question and I’ll try to give a good answer. To be brief, yes and no.

Examined from a monetary standpoint, I might have made three times as much by playing fewer hands, focusing on my opponents, sitting at softer tables, and eliminating time outs and misclicks. So there was unquestionably a more profitable use of my time. But I don't measure life in dollars. I don't even always measure poker in dollars.

So what's the silver lining we always hear so much about? Call it a cheap education and a journey of self discovery.

For one thing, I now know that I am capable of absolutely insane grinding. I already suspected as much, or I wouldn’t have made the prop bet. But you don’t really know you can do something until you’ve actually done it. And now I know that if I ever absolutely have to, I can lock myself up for 10 days and grind out however many hours and hands I may need.

Secondly, I’ve now concluded that insane multi-tabling is not the best way for me to make money. This is useful knowledge. The whole reason I started increasing tables and volume at the beginning of this year was to make more money. After all, making money is the reason a professional poker player plays poker professionally, right? Well, sort of.

While money is a primary motivation (and unfortunately still necessary at this point in my life), I also value the intellectual and psychological challenges of the game. Until someone literally finds a complete game theory optimal solution to Limit Holdem and everyone else starts applying this solution, there will always be more work I can do to improve, and there will always be new and changing opponents to adapt to. There are guys who were awful 6 months ago who are pretty good now. There’s been a rash of turn check/raises with middle pair (someone must’ve made a video about this). There’s always something.

Don’t get me wrong – I notice these things while I’m playing 14 tables of $5/$10 and $10/$20. I’m not flying on autopilot through a fog. But in trying to grind out a half million hands this year (and write two books, make like a hundred videos, play the WSOP, etc.), I forgot to leave time to study the nuances. I just filled in all of those blank hours on my calendar with more grinding. Blank hours when I should have been improving and moving up.

Does that mean this crazy grinding is not right for anyone? I don’t know. It may be the most comfortable way for some people to make money. And that’s fine. It’s possible to grind out Supernova Elite in about 1000 hours by playing six to ten tables. That’s not a rough life. I have a bit more ambition than that, though, and feel the need to indulge my ambitions. I always have. I don’t think that makes me better than anyone who just grinds like this all year. It just makes me me. And knowing that is its own reward.