Pokerography: Unfu*k your poker game


Lee Davy continues his Pokerography series by diving into the pages of Unfu*ck Yourself by Gary John Bishop to see how his great book can improve your poker game.

Unfu*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head And Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop is a great little book you will read by the time you finish watching the new King Kong movie.

At the core of Bishop’s teachings lie seven personal assertions designed to help you become unstuck by the paralysis of overthinking and to move forward in life by taking action.

Here are those seven personal assertions:

• I am Willing
• I am Wired to Win
• I Got This
• I Embrace The Uncertainty
• I am Not my Thoughts; I am What I do
• I am Relentless
• I Expect Nothing And Accept Everything

Bishop talks about the effect the outside world has on the thinking that goes on inside our minds. Over 50 thousand thoughts per day turn the cogs in our mind. Most of them are complete and utter nonsense; distorted beliefs and convictions born out of a way of thinking that Bishop describes as looking at life through the glass of a funhouse mirror.

pokerography-unfuk-poker-game“The language you use to describe your circumstances determines how you see, experience and participate in them and dramatically affect how you deal with your life and confront problems big and small.” Gary John Bishop.

As a writer, I often make my wife want to throw an egg against the kitchen cupboard because of my lack of understanding of the power of words. It’s one of the wisest lessons I received from her, and one that has improved my ability to wander through this life in a more freeing capacity.

I guess the most practical way to describe this way of thinking in poker is the classic Bad Beat Story. People don’t like them, not because they are boring, but because they create negative energy. A bad beat story carries a bad vibe. It’s a use of the English language that changes every cell in your body leading to a change in your physiology as well as psychology.

Bishop reminds you that as human beings we have this innate screwed up way of looking at external events to find our answers when all we have to do is look in the mirror, as long as you aren’t in the funhouse.

You won’t find your answers out there because you are the answer.

I Am Wired to Win

You are a winner in life.

Instead of concentrating on the things that might have been. Focus on the gratitude of what you have. Don’t bemoan the fact that you are in the midst of a downswing, but decide to change your thought patterns and concentrate on the freedom you have as a poker player. The downswing is still there, no matter how you think about it.

Evolution has designed us to win. We are wired to win. And it’s important to recognise how this happens.

“We are survival machines and what better way to survive what’s to come than by reliving what has been, after all, it got you this far regardless of how bad or negative it has been. You survived.” Gary John Bishop

There is both positivity and negativity in that statement, how do you choose to view it?

In one sense we can be stuck in our way of being because we are afraid of change. Our mind relies on past conditioning to keep us moving forward because it got us this far. But what if that way of being also contains addiction, worry, and internal self-mutilation?

But turn that thought around on its head and now consider that no matter how difficult life has been you have made it this far. There is no limit to the things you can do beyond a physical limitation, and there are no physical constraints in the game of poker.

“We are wired to win – we just have to point ourselves in the right direction so we can win at something we consciously choose.” Gary John Bishop.

I Got This

My main learning point from this chapter was the virus like attitude of negative experiences. I believe that our mind and the way that we think is primarily responsible for our downswings in poker.

The edges in poker are getting more blurred. There are so many options to learn that if you get two people equally charged to win, then technically there won’t be much separating them. But imagine if one of them keeps thinking about his divorce and has low-self esteem. The other one is feeling like Gary John Bishop.

Who is going to win, heads-up?

Poker is life.

Life is poker.

Don’t fix the technical aspects of your game and ignore the toxicity of contaminated thinking. Poker players like to believe in logic and rationality, but humans don’t work that way. Our minds are as irrational as you can get, spreading lies based on a crazy way of looking at the world designed through past conditioning.

Wake up.

We are at the mercy of cognitive bias and misconceptions about how the world works, and we don’t even know, but when you do get it, you will see, that you have got this.

I Embrace The Uncertainty

There is nothing certain about poker.

The element of luck in the game creates a seismic shift in the control you have. The best you can do is embrace that uncertainty. Learn to lose.

Don’t go into a game of poker thinking you will lose. Instead, go into the game with an acceptance of what you can and can’t control. You can’t control the deck, the other people, or your seat position.

We seek certainty and avoid the uncertainty, and as soon as we settle on this, we stop learning. There is great opportunity in embracing the uncertainty. If we think we know nothing, then we open up the space to learn so much. If we believe that we know everything, then we fill our minds with that everything, and there is no room for anything else.

A poker player wins a tournament and thinks they are brilliant. That over-hyped feeling will provide momentum. But that roll only lasts for so long before it runs out of steam. The steam comes from uncertainty and the ability to let go of your beliefs and convictions about life and poker.

Be willing to be open.

“Many things we think are hard facts are half truths. They’re assumptions. They’re misinterpretations. They’re guesses. They’re based on cognitive biases, faulty information, and our conditioning.” Gary John Bishop.

Bishop also touches upon the need to accept judgment if you are going to be a winner. It reminded me of poker players competing on live final tables and showing the world their hole cards. It reminded me of Twitch, writing books, and making coaching videos.

If you want to win you have to be willing to be judged by others,

Are you willing?

I Am Not My Thoughts; I Am What I Do

This chapter was the biggest game changer for me.

As a coach, I believe in the power of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and until I read this chapter, I was stuck in a change your thinking way of thinking.

Bishop has helped change that slightly.

It’s getting shit done that produces significant change in your life, and getting shit done is also the quickest way to change the way you think.

Yes, taking action is critical to change, but you can’t take action without first having a thought – everything comes back to thought. So instead of trying to change your thinking, change your thinking by taking real actions.

Instead of allowing your conditioning to take the oars and row you towards the finishing line, start to wrestle control, and do this by thinking about what is in your best interest, and take action along those lines. Don’t allow the automated way of thinking to win.

The best way to quiet your thinking is to act and act consistently. If you are busy doing you don’t have time to think. And as long as this doing is aligned with your best interests and not stuck on auto-pilot you will find yourself in what athletes call The Zone.

Change your life by changing your actions driven by thought. The best way to change your thoughts is to take constant action.

“I am not my thoughts; I am what I do” Gary John Bishop.

I Am Relentless

The greatest poker players are relentless.

The most modern way to observe this in flow is to watch the best Twitch streamers. They are relentless, logging in every night and providing value for their fans. Are they the best players? It doesn’t matter. They are relentless, successful, and doing something that they love and enjoy.

And it’s uncomfortable logging on daily. Sometimes they might want to have a break and watch a season of Legion. But accomplishments come to those who find familiarity in the uncomfortable. And this is why extraordinary achievements are like gold dust. Nobody likes to be uncomfortable.

When I work with people who want to quit alcohol, I always talk to them along these lines:

“It’s ok to be discouraged. It’s not ok to stop.” Gary John Bishop.

Why should poker be any different?

Anyone can be the best.

Why not you?

Be relentless

Expect Nothing; Accept Everything

The final chapter reminded me of my conversations with Daniel Negreanu. He is someone who sets goals but doesn’t get too worked up if he doesn’t achieve them because he is grounded.

He has managed to become the best of the best for having a moment by moment gratitude. If you watch his Netflix documentary, you can see that he has gone through tremendous personal pain. And from a poker point of view, he began from the ground up.

But he doesn’t wear those emotions on his sleeve. He always reminds himself of the moment. He accepts life and everything it throws at him. He expects nothing, but accepts everything – good and bad.

Daniel Negreanu has always lived the life he has had, every step of the way, not the life he was expecting to have, and guess what happened – the life he expected to have materialised anyway.

Cut out expectations

Love the life you have, not the life you expect to have.