Specialize at Your Own Peril

Crash and Burn:

This was a much bigger problem in 2004 and 2005.  It is much more obvious today, but back then a lot of new, young players couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  I think after you read this seven year old prediction you’ll agree that I was correct.


The biggest mistake that I see new, hot players make is that they suddenly believe they are the best thing since sliced bread after winning an event or two in short order. This is probably the worst thing that can happen to a young, new player. He’s the hot item in town and getting tons of offers, attention, accolades, TV exposure. He convinces himself he is a poker god, and can do no wrong.

I remember playing at a big festival back in late summer 2004. A new 22 year old was playing, and an older, successful pro at the same table was chatting it up with him.

“Yeah, with the way you’re running, you should enter all of the events. You could have a shot for best overall player and earn even more.”

The young god bristled, “Are you kidding? I wouldn’t play anything except NLHE! Those other games are bogus. They are for kids and old men. REAL poker is no-limit Hold’em.”

Long-time pro tried to be polite, “Don’t you think it’s dangerous to make sweeping statements like that? It could wreck someone to specialize in one form of one game and refuse to learn any others, if for no other reason than to get better at their specialty by excelling in general poker ability.”

Hot pro was offended, “Don’t you know who I am? Haven’t you seen me on TV? I have won hundreds of thousands of dollars this year playing NLHE! How much have you won? You don’t know what you’re talking about! Poker IS Hold’em and that is all there is to it. You old guys are living in a fantasy world. We are going to take over and you will be left behind because of your refusal to adapt to the new poker situation!”

The young guy cashed in one event during this festival. Bombed out of the rest of the NLHE events. And was virtually dead in the water for the next 18 months.

I saw him again, now aged 24. Head down, a lot more humble. Claimed he had some kind of backing deal now, and had to get a real job off and on during the past year. Did some quasi-illegal activities, according to those expose websites that abound these days.

Suddenly the young poker god didn’t seem so omnipotent anymore. Much matured, much weathered, grinding out both big and smaller tourneys, playing some mixed games on the side. Kept his mouth shut. I didn’t talk to him, but I could imagine the type of conversation we would have had if I’d brought it up…”Wow, I wish I’d listened to that guy back then. He’s been around the poker scene for twenty years. Instead of writing him off, I wish I’d done some studying and opened up a little bit, instead of blowing all of my winnings within six months after the series. I even had to sell my bracelet. That sucked. I thought I was unbeatable. I thought I’d continue to win forever. I never thought I’d actually have to play a cash game, or play anything other than NLHE. I figured I was set for life. Who would have thought that six months later I was dead broke? That guy has supported himself even during the deadest days of poker, and I blew him off like some jackass. I was a moron, a fool.”

I see young guys burn themselves out so quickly. It seems to happen overnight. On both 2+2 and poker blogs, they will win one, two, three big tourneys (or make a really high final table finish) and then strut round like false gods. They won’t listen to anyone. They are way above poker advice. They use their recent results to try to convince people who have been around a long time that they are omnipotent. It’s sad to see the eventual crash. Suddenly their nicknames aren’t around anymore on 2+2. Blogs are shut down. Online poker sites they had an agreement with drop their name as one of the “pros.”

I think probably one of the worst things that can happen is for a new player to go on a heater. It takes him much longer to recover, if he ever does, when he starts out so hot.

It’s better to be a guy who stays humble, stays grounded, cashing or winning here and there, gradually rising in the poker world, than to start out so hot and then crash.

Felicia :)


About Felicia Lee

Poker, Writing
This entry was posted in Poker. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Specialize at Your Own Peril

  1. Excellent advice. If I ever go on a heater I’ll bear it in mind!

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