5 Keys To Winning Poker Tournaments And Blogging

By now those of you used to reading this blog know that I love to play poker. I’ve written a few posts over the years comparing poker and blogging, including this one, 5 Things Bloggers Can Learn From Poker. I’m kicking this one up a notch and I’m going to talk about winning poker tournaments. Did I win a poker tournament? Stay tuned as we go through these 5 keys.

Photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash

1. You have to prepare for the long haul.

Poker tournaments are long. If you’re in a very large one in person it could take multiple days. The main World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas takes more than a week, not including the final table, which is usually held months later. Smaller tournaments can take a couple of days to complete, although some will end in one day; it’s rare that it happens that way.

Larger tournaments, 5,000 people or more, will take as many as 12 – 14 hours in a day. You get breaks, but you have to maximize your time. If you’re lucky and have lots of money, you can extend your break periods some, but you’ll be losing money while you’re gone so you can’t be gone long.

I played in two local tournaments at Turning Stone Casino in Vernon, NY. One was a monster tournament, and I petered out after just under 7 hours. The other was smaller, and I made it to the final table after 4 hours. The disappointment was that only the top 9 would cash; guess who fell in the 10th spot… sigh… Still, you’ve got to play the game if you hope to win.

With blogging, if you’re going to do it, you need to be ready to do it for the long haul. I’ve been blogging for 18 years at this point (ouch!), but I’m still going. I still have plenty to say on all of my blogs, but these days I’m not writing daily; those days are gone!

With that said, I’ve probably known at least hundreds of people, if not thousands, who couldn’t sustain the process longer than a few months, if that. The best piece of advice I can give is if you don’t think you can handle it long term, don’t start. Although this isn’t a tutorial about blogging, this article will give you a look into what it’ll take if you want to blog for a long time… at least you get to sleep better and take longer breaks than playing poker tournaments.

2. You have to know when and when not to take unwarranted risks.

In poker, sometimes you’re going along well when you decide to play a hand that’s somewhat questionable. Even if the cards look strong, you have to try to base your play on what your opponent is doing as well, which means you have to pay attention to every hand, whether you’re playing every hand or not.

You have to evaluate your risk based on whatever pattern you notice in that person and everyone else, along with what your money level is at the time. Sometimes you have to let go of a pretty good hand that you’re unsure of to survive to play another hand and still have the power to do something great.

In blogging, you have to decide when it’s your obligation to take on a controversial subject, and when you need to pull back and either leave something alone or tackle it in a much different way. Even if you feel strongly about something, you have to think about whether you want to take a chance on alienating a lot of people, or whether you can change how you address something so you still get your point across but don’t make people mad because you were too blunt in your opinion. Every once in a while it’s best to leave it alone and go after something else; at other times, you just can’t care, so say what you feel is needed to be said and move on from there.

3. Sometimes you have to do it your way instead of listening to how someone else tells you how to do it.

In poker, you have all these pundits and experts that talk about pot odds, and how many big blinds you have left based on how much money you have. Once I went all in and this guy called me (it means he decided to play his hand against all the money I had), saying it wasn’t all that much money to call and that he couldn’t leave it all out there because he just might win, even though he knew I had to have a great hand. I did win, as I had aces, and that felt pretty good. But I couldn’t tell you about big blinks or pot odds, but I knew how much money I was risking.

Poker manuals will say that with that much money in the pot you have to go after it, but if he’d folded he’d have saved $60 he could have used for another hand. In a poker tournament, as long as you have chips you have the opportunity to get a good hand and get yourself back into the game, no matter how many big blinds you have; pundits aren’t always correct because you never know how the cards are going to fall.

In blogging, there’s a lot of people who’ll you what you should do. Obviously, I’m one of those people who kind of tells you what you should do to be a better blogger. But everything I say might not be the right thing for you. If I say write something every day and you can’t do that, then don’t try keeping up with me on it. If I say write longer posts and that’s not your style, then don’t do it. There are some things I say that are absolutes, but that doesn’t mean you need to deliver them the same way I do. Trust your own instincts; even I might not be right all the time as it pertains to you.

by Viri G via Flickr

4. If you’re going to try to win a poker tournament, you need to pay attention to what’s going on around you most of the time.

When tournaments are going on for a long time and you’re still hanging around, you need to start paying attention to how a few players play the game. For instance, I remember once there was this guy that raised on almost every single hand, and he raised big. His idea was to get people to fold their cards early on so he could incrementally build up his chip stack. What I eventually did was just keep folding my hands until I had a really good one, then when he raised I raised way over his bet and dared him to commit. He kept folding when I did that, and soon others realized the same thing and started following my lead, which finally made him stop doing it, because he’d been throwing away money on hands that weren’t worth it.

In blogging, you need to pay attention to what’s going on with your blog. If you’re answering people’s comments with questions and they never respond, you need to verify that people are seeing your responses; you might need to add a new plugin to your blog for that very thing. If you have a plugin that’s supposed to be sending your posts to social media sites automatically, you need to verify every once in a while that they’re working. If you’re post-dating your posts (so they go live in the future), you need to make sure that’s working.

Whenever you write a blog post, you need to preview it, especially if you’ve added links or images, to make sure things are where you’re hoping they are. Every once in a while you might have to change your blog around some if you think things aren’t working well for you. Don’t throw away your time without knowing what’s going on; that kind of thing leaves a lot of people thinking about giving it up.

5. When you get to a certain point and you’re still doing well, why not take a shot at winning?

In poker, you’d think everyone was actually trying to win the tournament, but you’d be wrong. Some people get really tired and have had it. Some people are just hoping to make the money (in large tournaments, there’s a cut off when it gets down to a certain number of people, and from that point on everyone’s going home with something), and when they do they’re happy they got there are and ready to leave. To win a poker tournament, you have to be willing to grind it out, to play the odds, to bluff here and there without too much risk but enough risk to make it worthwhile, and of course lots of stamina. If you maneuver yourself well, you have a great chance of winning it all.

With blogging, some people get to a certain point and think they’re doing well enough and then seem to stop trying. At one point they were writing 5 posts a week, and suddenly they’re writing one every 2 weeks. If they were paying attention, they saw how well their blog was doing with more posts and more visitors, and maybe they were even making money; who knows.

If you’re reached a certain level, like I have, that’s when it’s time to figure out how to kick it up another notch, how to win it all, and then be ready to reap the benefits of it all. Do you write more articles, write longer articles, or change up some of the topics you write about? If you can do that regularly, you and your blog will be winners, you’ll earn great accolades, have a great sense of satisfaction, and maybe even make some money if you’ve monetized your blog.

So, did I win a poker tournament? In the long in-person tournament, I only made it 7 hours before I decided to go all in because I was exhausted; I lost that hand. I already told you about the other in-person tournament.

However, once I finished 2nd in an online poker tournament, and I won an entry into a larger tournament where the top 2 finishers would have won a seat at the Main Event in Las Vegas! It took doing all those things and more to get to that point. It took 8 hours, and when it was just me and the other guy playing head on I even took the lead for a while.

I also cashed in that tournament, earning $200… but it happened a week before all poker websites around the world were shut down for United States players; sigh… I didn’t get my money, I didn’t have a shot at the big tournament in Vegas… but at least for one day I felt like I was on top of the world!

So… if I can win at poker we all can win at blogging; let’s all go for the win!

8 thoughts on “5 Keys To Winning Poker Tournaments And Blogging”

  1. Hey Mitch,

    Thank you for sharing these 5 keys to winning poker tournaments and blogging. I found your insights very interesting and informative. Poker tournaments and blogging require focus, strategy, and skill, and your post provides valuable tips on how to succeed in both.


  2. Good post Mitch, I can relate. I don’t play much poker but that is not because I don’t like it but because I do.

    Never had a problem with it but could see myself spending more hours than I ought to at a table. Got too many things to do right now.

    I don’t blog daily the way I used to. Go through cycles where I still do, but I take more time off between posts.

    I certainly don’t focus on trying to attract eyeballs the way I used to. The people that consistently read me are the people that truly find me interesting.

    But I think that so many years of consistently producing content made a big impact so that helped set the stage for where things are at now.

    If you are new you really have to have consistency or you won’t last.

    1. Hey Josh! I love playing poker, but I think tournaments are out of my range because of how long they take to play; I get tired and then stop thinking properly. That sometimes happens playing regular player; I might get to 4 hours, start yawning, and then my concentration isn’t the same anymore.

      With that said, I’ve pretty much stuck with those 5 blogging rules since forever, though many of those early blog posts might have only been 3 or 4 paragraphs long. It was about volume more than substance often, but this blog was once ranked in the top 30K websites on the internet; let that sink in. Of course, once Big G changed the algorithms things changed drastically, and I’m still suffering from some of that nonsense… but at least I’m still blogging away.

  3. This is great. So many parallels, and I love the idea of “playing to win,” not just doing good enough.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Jill. Heck, if you paid $100 as an entry fee and then didn’t play to win, you’d have to be a moron! lol Of course, the comparison with blogging only costs time and dedication, but that will last longer than any poker tournament. 🙂

    1. I totally understand that. I’ve been playing for over 30 years, but the type of game I started with didn’t cost a lot and I didn’t win enough to get into my system. It wasn’t until 2003 or 3004 when I really got into the meat of it; it’s been “mainly” fun since then. lol

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