Poker routines #24: Dara O’Kearney

Poker Routines #24: Dara O’Kearney

Lee Davy catches up with Unibet Ambassador Dara O’Kearney to talk about his morning routine, his study buddies and why his wife is so awesome.

Dara O’Kearney is my type of man.


Poker Routines #24: Dara O’Kearney The Unibet ambassador is the type of bloke that you meet in your local home game, sitting there in his Ziggy Stardust t-shirt, talking about life in the trenches. O’Kearney has an obsession for poker, anyone who knows him knows that to be true. But do you know a lot about Doke’s poker game – how it’s formed, and how he has remained a professional poker player for so long?

Let’s give you further insight.

Describe your morning routine.

By morning I’m guessing you mean afternoon, as I sleep through the morning. After I wake up, I usually catch up on mail and social media messages before getting out of bed. I then go for a run (usually one hour, but once a week I go three hours or more). I then have breakfast, and coach for a couple of hours. If I have no coaching scheduled, I study and then start playing online between 5 and 7 pm (earlier on Sunday).

Tell me more about your coaching role?

At the moment I’m a headline coach for BRS Staking, and I do one 2 hour group session a week and one one-to-one 2-hour session with a BRS player each week. Also, I have 20 private students I give one to one coaching. My coaching is based around “teach a man to fish”: I try to teach the key concepts and how to use the available software tools to study rather than answer “how should I have played AQ here?” spots over and over.

For people who don’t have the money to spend on coaching yet, I also publish a regular free strategy newsletter which you can sign up for at my blog.

What stakes are you playing?

I play mtts, between $10 and $215. I usually start regging around 6 pm, and finish (regging) around 2 am. I generally play 5-6 days a week. I try to stick to 12 tables these days (I’ve done as much as 24 in the past) because with players generally getting better and edges getting shorter it’s important not to be too rushed in decisions. At “peak hour” I might go as high as 15 or 16 though. When I go deep, I stop regging to get the tables down to 9, so I can give extra focus to whatever I’m deep in.

Do you have goals in poker?

No. I just have loose goals for volume and improvement.

So how have you managed to become a professional poker?

I think I have an obsessive personality, so that as soon as I get interested in something I devote myself as fully as possible to it. Before poker, there was running, chess, backgammon and Bowie fandom. Once I got interested in poker, I was devoting all my waking hours 7 days a week to it.

For the first six years I played, I didn’t take a single day off. Even now I find it difficult to take days off from playing. I try to force myself to take at least one a week, but invariably I end up doing other poker related work for at least some of my day off. I don’t have any goal beyond “get as good as I can in my current obsession”. I moved on from previous obsessions once I plateaued and realised I had gotten as good as I was ever going to be. Thankfully that hasn’t happened with poker yet.

Do you use any tools to aid you with your poker,?

PokerTracker, Holdem Resources Calculator, PIO

How often do you spend on the latter two, and can you talk a little about how they have changed your game? 

On average I do 30 minutes a day with HRC and 2 hours with PIO. I’ve always been a ‘give me mathematical certainty’ sort of guy. I worked out Nash push fold ranges from first principles with a spreadsheet years ago (it took six months!) and back in the day when the best way to analyse a spot was to solicit the opinions of the best players you knew and hope there was broad consensus. I was less motivated by the uncertainty. Now, I can use HRC given the stacks, payouts and assumed ranges and solve exactly what is profitable preflop, and by how much. Postflop is a bit trickier, but I can use PIO to see what an unexploitable strategy looks like in a given spot, and then start investigating how to diverge against opponents playing very sub-optimally.

What is your process of review?

I tag hands for review with my study partners or make an entire hand history. My study partners currently include Daiva Byrne, Jason Tompkins, Gareth James, Sameer Singh, Daragh Davey, David Lappin, Dan Wilson, Alan Widmann, Espen Jorstad and Padraig O Neill. These were people who contacted me, or I contacted them. Review sessions are informal and happen whenever I have spare time: I just round up a few bodies, and we go through hand histories or whatever we are looking at currently.

How else do you improve?

Study using software tools, some reading and training videos (usually just to get ideas on productive areas to study with the tools), talking hands and situations with study buddies, watching high rollers (again often just to get ideas on productive areas to explore with the tools).

Is poker easy, does it come naturally to you?

It did initially because I had a natural aptitude for it and games were insanely soft ten years ago. These days it’s much tougher, and I study and work harder than ever.

Do your surroundings affect your ability to play well, and if so how?

Not massively, I tend just to block out my surroundings and any other distractions once I start playing and click into the zone. That said, my wife has done a great job making my working environment as pleasant as possible.

How does poker make you feel?

Fulfilled, annoyed, elated, defeated, schizo.