Lee Davy shares a simple tip given to him by Patrick Leonard that he believes will revolutionize his game.
I blew my nose; blood spattered on the toilet tissue in my hand, and the sound of the crack sent tears tumbling tumultuously to the floor.
I hear someone giggle behind me: “He’s crying.”
I turn around in a rage, “Would tears flow from your eyes if you had been head butted repeatedly by Kevin Baldwin?”
Kevin Baldwin was the hardest kid in our school, and 20-minutes earlier I had agreed to his kind invite to have a fight. It was brutal. He beat the crap out of me. The only punch that connected from the end of my arm hit the English teacher in the face. As she lay unconscious on the floor someone from the crowd threw a Mars bar at her. It was the last thing I remember before the crack.
What is it about competition? Why do we feel the urge to be better than all the rest? Why do we fight for things that don’t matter? Why do we bleed, when we can all get along, like Jack and Hill, the pair who walked up the hill to fetch a pail of water…and then fucked whilst nobody was watching?
Like most things in life we have no choice. Some people take their commandments from God, I got mine from my parents and schoolteachers. We are taught to compete with our siblings for the chance to sneak downstairs and watch Jaws, and we are taught to compete with our peers through grades that teach us nothing except how to stress about nothing.
Sport is another way that we start to see competition as an ideology, rather than a concept. Forget all that nonsense about winning not being important, and that it’s the taking part that counts. That’s utter bollocks. When my teenage son steps onto a football field I want him to win. If not for his own foolish pride, then for my own.
I played in the Millionaire Maker. I crashed out in the final level of the day when my AK failed to beat JJ in a 40bb pot. That’s the elevator pitch when asked how I was eliminated, but in truth, the pins were plunged into the effigy a lot earlier than.
I was moving along nicely when a young American player joined my table. He had a ton of chips. Until the arrival of the chip magnet, my table was great. Nobody was playing back at me, my bluffs were getting through, and my value bets were getting paid.
Then this kid turns up.
I hated him instantly.
The poker rulebook went out of the window. What he did defied belief. He opened every single pot, irrespective of his position, and flatted every three-bet. Suddenly, I was in trouble. It was like going clubbing with your best friend, who happens to be a gorgeous woman, I was well and truly cock blocked.
I don’t react well under these circumstances. I want to fight. But if you want to fight, then you can’t fuck about. You can’t throw him bitter butterballs, you need to hit him once and hit him hard. To do that you need to be patient and wait for the opportunity to strike, like a railway union wanting a new pay deal.
I threw butterballs.
I tried to play pots with him, and he killed me. His name was Justin Liberto, and a few days later he won a World Series of Poker bracelet.
Contemplating this disaster I spoke to Patrick Leonard. He is one of the brightest young men in the game. When I ask him a question I never get the stock answer. Leonard doesn’t throw butterballs, he throws glitter balls.
I told Leonard that when I know I am being beaten up it gets me so angry that I lose the plot. I cannot fathom what is happening to me as my range widens like a cervix waiting for a baby Elephant to drop onto the floor. This is what Leonard said to me:
“When this happens to me I make a point to win every hand against them.”
Eureka! This guy empathized with me. He understood my problem, and his solution was similar to mine. Make it a grudge match. Go to war. Go all Sun Tzu too-da-loo on their ass.
That’s not quite where Leonard was heading.
“I’m not talking about winning every pot.”
Cue the confused look.
“Outplaying someone doesn’t mean you have to win the pot. Folding at the right time is a form of outplaying your opponent.”
It seems so simple and yet this piece of advice will revolutionize my game. The twisted logic of battling for personal honor, whilst getting bloody in the process, ends in pain and heartache. I always thought I needed to get the chips to beat a player in a single hand. I don’t have to do that. All I have to do is fold.
So now, instead of thinking, should I check, bet, raise or fold? I ask myself, what the correct play is to ensure that I beat my opponent in each hand?
If this means that I have to fold, then fold the fuck away.