Evan Jarvis: Cultivating a Loving Mindset

Evan Jarvis: Cultivating a Loving Mindset

Lee Davy sits down with Evan Jarvis of Gripsed Poker to talk about the greatest tournament in the world, how he became such a zen master, and his most vulnerable moments.

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This is an abridged view of the audio interview which is 44-minutes long and well worth a listen.

Ask any poker player if they lose more money through technical failings or emotional ones and it’s the emotions that get them every time. And this is why I love the sight of Evan Jarvis walking into my sphere of influence. He is, after all, one of the few poker players to realise this and then create a business teaching poker players how to improve in these areas.

Evan Jarvis: Cultivating a Loving MindsetWelcome to the greatest day in a poker players’ year.

“For a poker player, this is the biggest day of the year. It is our Christmas. For most people, this is the highest stakes tournament you will play in, and against the weakest number of players, you will ever compete against all year. This isn’t your typical $10k buy-in tournament in terms of the skill level, just look at the raw number of entrants, compared to other $10k events in the world.”

I hate not being able to play. I feel weak, inferior, not worthy. Stories created by a mind reaching back to a childhood that existed in a world of lack.

“If you are someone who loves the game, or are a savvy player, it is the tournament you should take advantage of. One popular way of getting the funds is for people to create leagues. Each week, you put in $100 bucks, there are 10-players and after 10-weeks you have $10,000 in the prize pool and the player with the most points get to play.”

Nice idea, does Evan have any others?

“A lot of the kids and seasoned vets just sell action. We all know people who like to gamble. It’s a good way for someone who has a bankroll to play in a $1,000 buy-in event to then take a shot at this event for an amount they feel comfortable with. This is the last gold rush in the poker world, and I only see it getting bigger. Even if the game gets tougher, this is a unique situation where you have people playing well over their heads. If you sell enough action to be comfortable you will do fine in this event – you are more likely to bring your “A” game.

“The screw ups are the ones taking a shot at the full $10k. I made that mistake in 2008. I cashed in an event for $40,000, I was like, ‘$10k events are easy’. I went to play the $10k WPT Niagara, and I was so outclassed. The Main Event at the WSOP is different than any other $10k event in the world.”

And the recreational players aren’t dreaming of winning. Instead, they are dreaming of making it to the first dinner break, Day 2 or cashing.

“I talk about a concept called ‘mini bubbles’ in my training programs. A lot of people want to get to the dinner break, then Day 2. For them, it’s not about winning the $8m. There’s the story that anyone can win on any given day, but for the Main Event they just want to create their story. The longer they last, the greater their story is.

“In 2012, Day 5, there were two older gentlemen on my table in their 70s, and they stood up and high-fived each other. They were talking about just entering being a bucket list goal, and they were so grateful that they had made it so far. I think it’s important to recognise that not everyone has the same agenda when they sit down to play this tournament. This means the strategies and counter-strategies are very different and unique to each opponent. Not everyone is playing for first place. Not everyone is playing to cash. If you are tuned in, you will know how to use this to your advantage, and where to gather chips.”

Talking about stories, I wanted to know what the narration was like inside the mind of Evan Jarvis?

“My biggest self-sabotaging inner dialogue? The first is a feeling of not being worthy of any results or success that comes my way. If I play poorly, it’s because I am not as good as my friends or a bad player. If I do well, I will tell myself that I just got lucky and caught some breaks. If my default is that I am not deserving or worthy then anything good, that happens to me is just luck.”

What have you been doing to change this?

“I have been doing a lot of body work and yoga.”

What is a body work?

“Think of a deep tissue massage and then think as deep as possible. They are going deep into your body and rearranging things, getting tissues that hold on to bad memories and getting rid of them – they are smoothing you out.

“Rolfing is one of the things; Thai massage is one of the things – the Hawaiian healers are excellent with this stuff. It’s one of the most painful massage experiences you will get, and then you process an experience or memory that was keeping you trapped. There are usually tears of relief because you can finally let go of that thing that’s holding you back. Very often the story is associated with an experience you had when you were very young. At the time that reactive behaviour served you. As you grow up, you still play out that same behaviour because we believe it will help get you through the new behaviour, but it doesn’t work. It helped you when you were three years old listening to your parent’s fight at home, but you don’t live in that environment anymore.”

What does working on deep tissue have to do with memories that are living in the mind?

“The mind and the body are the same things – part of the same organism. We store memories in our body tissues. There are areas we protect, and we don’t move them at all so the memories stay there. When those tissues open up via massage or yoga, then the issues in our tissues come to the surface, and you think: ‘Whoa where did that come from?’

“When it comes to the forefront you can talk to someone to process it, get a different perspective, or if you don’t have anyone to talk to then write down the memory. By writing it, you can see the experience for what it is without the emotional attachment. When the experience is in the mind, emotions, take control, and you can’t look at it objectively. Until you put it into words, you can’t process it.”

And yet so many people will be afraid to do that. What you are talking about is being vulnerable, and there is a fear that if people show their vulnerability and then let go of the bad stuff, there will be nothing left; no identity, they won’t know who they are?

“People get so attached to their story because the ego wants something to identify with. We can say this is the story I have right now. It doesn’t serve me. I am replaying it over and over, and I am not getting the results I want. You can say you want a new one. You start writing it down, grow into the new story, and start living it. You can’t have the two stories at the same time because they are so different.

“When I wanted to quit smoking cigarettes in 2013 I wanted to play the Aussie Millions. I knew I needed stamina, and so I needed to stop smoking. That was a significant enough motivator that allowed me to quit smoking. Unless the change in the story is so extreme, it’s hard to get motivated to avoid pain rather than seeking pleasure. You need to make your new story extremely pleasurable. Once you make little changes, you can see yourself becoming the hero in the story you want to create.”

All of these emotional issues are triggered by some event that happens either externally or internally. What are the biggest triggers you have seen during your coaching?

“Losing money is always a big one. A bigger one is when we don’t meet expectation. If we don’t have our own we take on expectations others have of us. They are usually too high. Anytime there is a difference between reality and what you felt it would be like there will be stress. It always leads to people thinking they didn’t do as well as they should have done.

“Also talking to the wrong people about poker can be a problem. The people who don’t play poker don’t understand it. If you tell them a good news story, they don’t know how much skill and luck is required and start to think you are great, and the game is easy. If you spend too much time with them, you will take on their unrealistic expectations.”

Evan is one of the most mindful people I have met in poker. Where did his focus come from?

“One of the big turning points was when Greg {Merson} moved out after winning the Main Event. I had this nice apartment, and was all by myself when I realised I had just lost my very good friend, and I didn’t know if he would come back.

“What can I do to replace that? I tried to bring in other people, and it was interesting. I set out to become the best poker player that I could. But the main driving force was to be competent enough in my game and to make enough money to try and travel around the world and play tournaments with Greg and Tony {Gregg}. I loved being around them so much. And I was so motivated to get that love and friendship back in my life. It drove me to get off my ass and become more empowered.”

“I saw the level they were living on, and I wanted it. I wanted to take a trip when I wanted; I wanted to take people on trips with me and to pay for them. When you have a certain amount of money that meets your basic survival needs, it’s about sharing it with other people. Those guys provided me with experiences that I would never have had on my own. They took me to Macau, and we stayed at Phil Ivey’s place for a week. Tony flew me down to PCA and let me stay with him in a 5-Star Hotel. That set me up to have my best year ever. When you are around people who take care of you, you have more energy to take care of other people.

“I continued to work hard on my game during this time. Then a big turning point happened for me in February, I had a second place finish in the Supersonic for $35k, and I chopped the WPT Fallsview for $70k. I make all of this money, and I didn’t feel any different. I went to spend a week with my Grandparents. I started spending my money on other people, and I realised the love was missing.

“So how can I cultivate more love? Cultivating appreciation for everything: plants, oceans, etc. Nature, and other people. The more I practice appreciation, gratitude, love the more I can bring it to my relationships with other people. When you bring it, people want to be around you. They want some of the good stuff. I find I am interacting better, and with better people, and so why would I want to change that? The worries of trying to win a tournament vanish. If I can put food on the table, cover my rent, have fun with my friends, and serve, what more do I need?”

Who are Evan’s role models outside of poker?

“For motivation, Eric Thomas the Hip Hop Preacher on YouTube. A little bit of Tony Robbins. He gave me the first download of the ideas. Elliot Hulse from YouTube did a strength camp channel where he talked about the healing process. I have had a lot of yoga instructors that taught me a lot. It was a community I discovered when I had a lot of people staying with me at my apartment playing SCOOP and WCOOP, and I would get on my bike and leave because it was stressful.

“There was a lot of bad energy so I would spend a lot of time with loving people at the yoga studio. Poker players are great but they are competitive, and it’s not the energy I wanted. The yoga community cultivated the loving feeling, and gave me another way of living.”

I often feel that way about the WSOP. On one hand, it’s a beautiful place, but then I always feel like taking a long shower when I get home to rid myself of the bad energy.

“I was in the hallway last year seven days a week seeing the excitement turn into the tilt. I could see it was a painful place for people who believed they were coming here thinking they were going to win it, going back to high expectations we spoke about before. If you need to win a WSOP tournament to change your life, change your life first and then return to the WSOP and you will have a better shot.”

I have been in that frame of mind so many times. It’s the easy way out; the path of least resistance. Winning a tournament feels more comfortable that pulling up your sleeves and getting the work done.

“Ironically, financially you might be able to take some shortcuts, but regarding the hard stuff, the internal stuff, the story stuff, no money allows you to skip it. Money helps superficially, but inside you are still the same person with the same problems. The beautiful thing about the work is it’s free; it just takes time and honesty.”

So get to work.