5 More Lessons About Blogging Learned From A Poker Tournament

On Saturday I decided that I deserved a break and went to the casino about 40 minutes from my house. My intention wasn’t only to play, though; I had decided I was going to enter the tournament.

50 Clay High Limit 14g Casino Poker Chips

For those folks who have never played a poker tournament but know the general rules of poker, let’s say that it’s an exhilarating experience. From the time you start until the time you’re finished you’re always on your guard. I want to say more but I think it’ll mess up what I’m going to write here, as I’m going to expound on a previous post that I wrote about a year ago titled 5 Keys To Winning Poker Tournaments And Blogging, which expounded on my post titled 5 Things Bloggers Can Learn From Poker.

You might be able to tell already but I enjoy poker. And if you’re a frequent visitor of this blog you also know that I can find things that others see no relation at all and relate them to blogging, as I did 3 weeks ago in tying toaster ovens to blogging. I’m thinking that it might be harder for those who don’t know much about poker to understand this as much as it’s easy to relate to toaster ovens, but let’s see where we end up. By the way, I was going to make this 10 lessons but I have a feeling that 5 are going to be a long enough post; you know how I am. 🙂

1. You always need to know where you’re starting from. In a poker tournament, no matter what your buy-in amount is, you start with a certain dollar value of chips. In my case I started with $20,000 worth of chips. The thing about poker tournaments is that they’re long haul events. If you gamble too much too early and you don’t have good cards, you could be gone pretty quickly.

In blogging, you need to have some kind of idea of what it is you want to blog about before you start unless you’re a prolific writer. So many people start blogs without having any idea what they’re going to say or whether they have enough to say over the long haul. They end up writing a few posts, then burning out because they said it all in those early posts and have nothing left for the long haul.

2. You can’t sit around waiting for the perfect thing to occur. In a poker tournament, the amount of money you have to put up when you’re either the big blind or small blind goes up every 30 minutes. That means the amount you have to bet when you just want to see the flop also goes up, and at a certain point you also have to add an ante amount each hand. If you wait around for the best hand possible, all your money will get siphoned away and eventually you’ll be stuck playing a hand you don’t want to play because you don’t have money to allow you to skip a hand.

I know so many bloggers who say that they only write a post when they feel they have something to say. What they’re waiting for is perfect inspiration, which really comes only 2 or 3 times a year. You can’t build a following by waiting for inspiration, or waiting to write the perfect post. If you can’t build a following, then most of your blogging goals go down the drain, and if you’re blogging for business reasons you’re not going to get any benefit at all.

3. If you don’t have goals set up then you have no way of tracking your progress or regress. My goals in the poker tournament were simple. I wanted to make it to the first break having at least the same amount of money that I started the tournament with. That’s actually a stronger position than many people might believe because half the people will be close to bombing out after 2 hours. I had actually almost doubled my take after the first two hours; sweet!

Blogging goals are much simpler to think about if you ask me. The main thing is figuring out how many posts you want to write a week, how long you want those posts to be, and what topic you’re going to write these posts on. Further goals might be how you want to rank, making money, etc. But without knowing some kind of goal you may not achieve what you want to achieve.

4. You have to take advantage of breaks when you get them. In poker tournaments, segments generally run 2 hours at a time. However, there are short periods of time where they change out all the small chips for larger chips because the ante’s have gone up. This means you have a quick 5 minute period where, whether or not you need to go, you’d best try to go to the bathroom, grab a quick drink, and get back to your spot.

In blogging, breaks come in many different ways. Sometimes you’re asked to write a guest post. Sometimes you’re asked to do an interview. I know many people who think they’re not worthy of certain honors when really they’re just scared or embarrassed. Everyone needs to be ready to step up to the plate when their time comes to shine.

5. Hiding behind something artificial in any realm will doom you in the end. Something a lot of poker players think is that if they wear sunglasses while playing that other players can’t see their eyes and thus they’ll have an advantage. Other players will wear earphones and listen to music instead of listening to what’s going on around them. At the final table yesterday (yes, I made the final table), not a single person there was wearing sunglasses or had an MP3 player on them. As a matter of fact, since 2002 only 2 poker champions at the World Series of Poker have worn sunglasses, and they only put them on when they made a big bet.

There are a lot of bloggers who hide behind fake names and copy posts from other people. Those blogs ultimately fail and those people eventually fall away as well. Those who fall quicker are those who steal the content of others. People using fake names… well, that’s a different story. They might get the chance to build up some credibility if they write really well but it’s harder to trust someone who seems like they have something to hide.

Just so you know, I made the final table and went out on the very first hand. Hey, it was a risk and a good risk, but the one guy who stayed in the hand had a good one and that was that. Still, it felt great making a final table, and the lessons I learned about blogging via that final table are priceless.
 

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5 Things Bloggers Can Learn From Poker

It seems that every year around this time I write a post that talks about poker and blogging in some fashion. In January 2009 I wrote a post called the Psychology of Gambling. In January 2010 I wrote a post titled 5 Ways Poker Is Like Blogging. And in February 2010 I wrote a post titled Pot Odds In Internet Marketing.

Poker Chips, Poker ‘n Stuff

Why poker? Many of you know that I love playing poker. I fancy myself a pretty good player but not a great player. However, I’ve studied great players and I can see what I lack that they have. I don’t see me getting a lot of it at this juncture of my life, but one never knows, right?

Like almost anything else, one can learn some interesting ideas on how to do something from another place, or from something that has nothing to do with what you’re doing. In reality, most things are interconnected in some fashion, and if you have the time to consider it, you’ll see the connections, or the potential connections, and hopefully learn something from it.

In this case, I figure the lessons bloggers can learn from poker are something that leads us well into the next year, which begins tomorrow, and thus the timing of this article is pretty good. Of course, you could read this and think I’m just nuts; let’s find out.

1. Poker is about analyzing what’s going on at that moment. If I have an ace and a jack in my hand and the flop comes up king, jack and seven, and the other player bets ahead of me, I have to analyze a lot of things at once. Does he have an ace in his hand? How has he played previous hands? How have I played other hands in this situation? Is the amount he’s betting trying to scare me away, or is he trying to trap me? Can I get a tell from the expression on his face? Has he read my face and figured something out?

In blogging, we often start writing for ourselves, but once people start coming we need to be ready to analyze ourselves from time to time. What types of posts do people seem to like? Is my post too short or too long? Is my language easy to understand or am I talking above people’s heads? Are my visuals okay or am I off-putting some people? Just who is your blog for? The decisions can be just as immediate, and in some cases more valuable than a poker bet.

2. Poker is about paying attention to what’s going on around you in some fashion. Even those people who play wearing headphones and listening to music are paying attention to what’s going on around them. They know if one guy always raises when he’s in the big blind. They know if someone is actually thinking about whether their hand is good or whether they’re trying to trick you into doing something stupid. They watch your hands to see if you change up when you have good hands or bad. They look at your eyes, even if you’re wearing sunglasses, to see what they do. When I’m truly in the zone, I know how every player I can see plays the game, and thus I play really well when I’m paying attention.

With blogging, it’s almost the same type of thing. I notice that when I write a post that’s actually a training tip of some sort it gets a lot of attention from people who don’t normally come to this blog. I know who’s going to visit and comment when I write personal posts. I know that if I’m writing a post about a potential money making venture, whether I made money off it or not, that post is going to do well. And I know which posts probably aren’t going to do all that well either. I have to weigh all that, though, for my own personal balance. All of it helps me grow, and there ends up being something for everyone.

3. If you stay at a table long enough, suddenly there’s a great sense of camaraderie and sharing. It’s funny; you sit down at a table with 8 strangers almost every time you go. There’s a feeling out process and you get to feeling like you know people. They get to thinking they know you. Your guard gets let down, to a degree, and suddenly you find yourself sharing stories and telling jokes and finding out what other people do. You learn that some people have come a long way to play while others are there every day. And, if you’re lucky, every once in awhile you’ll go back to play and actually run into someone you played with before, and it’s kind of a welcoming feeling, which is always nice.

I often say on this blog that if you’re lucky you’ll end up being a part of a blogging community, where there are a group of people you’ll be able to count on for a comment or for support or to write something on their blog that you can participate on. The strange thing about a blogging community is that you have to also realize that very few people who are commenting on your blog now will be there 4 to 6 months later. And it may not have anything to do with you; it just is what it is. But for that moment, those people give you love, you give some back, and it all feels good.

4. Real poker players don’t view chips as money, which is a scary proposition because, unless it’s a tournament, it really is money. It’s that feeling, though, that lets them do things you and I would never consider. For instance, there’s the story of a poker pro named Daniel Negreanu, who won a poker tournament and $1.5 million one day, only to lose all the money the next day playing a cash game. Most of us would have lost our minds but he just saw it as a bad day, and went back the day after and won some of it back.

Many of us view our blogs as an opportunity to make money, which isn’t a bad thing, but blogs aren’t really money. We read this advice saying we must do this or that in order to make money blogging. It’s possible you can make money in those ways, but you might not. Niche blogging might or might not make more money than just writing in general, but if you’re writing for the money instead of for the love it’s not going to come across right to potential readers, and you’ll be wasting your time. Having mailing lists and setting up newsletters you don’t really want to write doesn’t benefit anyone and can be more work than it should be. If you view your blog as only a potential money maker, you’re going to fail; that’s just how it goes.

5. Poker playing, no matter what level you play at, means you have to be willing to risk something. When I play poker I head into it knowing that there’s a possibility I’m going to come home out between $200 and $300. Sometimes I come home way ahead, slightly ahead, or break even. What’s rare is sitting down at a table and winning the first hand, or first few hands. Most of the time you’re going to be down, even if it’s only 2 or 3 dollars, based on ante’s whether you play a hand or not. Like all games, there’s always the risk of losing.

With blogging, losing is kind of a strange way of looking at things. Instead, let’s say things might not go as planned all the time. If you write it people won’t necessarily come unless you work in getting them to come. If you don’t answer comments or make commenting hard people will be reluctant to come, and thus reluctant to read. If you’re writing a niche blog that you define too finitely you might run out of things to say. If you don’t write enough posts people might lose interest.

You have to be willing to take risks every once in awhile. You might have to court controversy to get an opinion out every once in awhile. You might have to rely on spell-check more often to help correct spelling. You might have to re-read your posts on occasion if you realize you make a lot of mistakes. You might have to deal with trolls or spam here and there or loss of a portion of your privacy. And you might have to actually attempt to show people you have some knowledge about something, or are funny, or are entertaining, and that scares a lot of people. You might even have to risk being wrong; gasp!

There was a story on a blog post I was reading a few days ago on Problogger where a guy had started blogging and, though becoming somewhat popular, figured out that he was doing things the wrong way. I’ll never say there’s a wrong way in blogging, but it always depends on what it is you really hope to do later on. What he was doing went against what he later determined was his ultimate goal, so he had to stop, then wait awhile and start over so he could hit his goals. My point is that he took a risk, got part of what he wanted and part of what he didn’t want, and he knew he could always start anew.

There you are; 5 things you can learn from poker as you continue blogging into the next year. All I’m going to ask you to do is be safe tonight as you celebrate heading into the new year, and then head into the new years with guts and glory and success on your mind. Happy New Year y’all!

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Pot Odds In Internet Marketing

Many of you know how much I love going to play poker. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it because I love the camaraderie that eventually is created by spending just a few hours with a bunch of people you’ve never met before, commiserating with everyone else who’s either won a big hand or gotten beaten in a big hand. We’ve all been there, and we all have stories to share.

One thing I like to believe I’m good at is figuring out what the odds are that my hand is good or not. Of course, having a good hand doesn’t always mean it’s a winning hand, but more often than not it works out just fine. What I’m not good at is figuring out the numbers, as in what the actual percentage is that favors my hand.

I was reading a blog post called Easiest Way To Understand Math In Poker, where the writer, named Mitchell Cogart (knew I liked him for some reason) was giving some formulas for how to calculate it fairly quickly. It’s still somewhat beyond me, mainly because it takes time to do those calculations, and unless I was playing in a tournament, I don’t like taking that kind of time figuring out anything.

However, it’s the other thing he was talking about that starts to get me into the point of this post. There’s something called pot odds that, to poker players, is very important and very intriguing. In essence, it’s figuring out how much the pot is worth to you in odds versus the odds of you having a winning hand. Just to throw out numbers, if you only have a 30% chance of winning a hand, but the dollars in the pot come out to you having a 55% chance of winning the pot, many poker players will take a chance on the money rather than their hand because they perceive the dollars are so high that you can’t afford NOT to play the hand.

I hear this on poker commentary sometimes on TV. The guy will say “there’s so much money in the pot that so-and-so absolutely has to call the hand, even though he’s going to lose.” On TV, you always know what the players hands are, so you know who’s going to win or lose. But the players don’t know that, so you see them taking time, running through all the calculations in their minds, and then they’ll pull the trigger on hands that most of us would say we know better than to play because we have no idea on how to calculate pot odds.

In a way, you can relate that to trying to learn more about internet marketing. There are a lot of products out there that will teach you something about it. Some are very good and some aren’t all that good. However, what most of us believe is that the more expensive something is, the more we should be getting out of it. Truthfully, that may or may not be true. The “pot odds” are in your favor; after all, why would someone put a $500 product out there that wasn’t going to deliver on what’s been promised, right?

Here’s the thing. Just like everything else in life, nothing works for everyone. It’s possible that the $500 product might tell you everything you need to know to make money, or it may not. It may tell you things to do that your morality won’t allow you to do. For instance, if it said that in order to make lots of money you have to kill a lot of puppies, would you do it? If it said that you had to do what’s known as black hat principles, would you do it?

While I was at my mother’s house on Friday, she was watching this network that was advertising a program called Kell On Earth, about this fashion designer who’s very successful. However, she’s a terror; there’s no way I’d ever want to deal with that type of person on a yearly basis, let alone a daily basis. She berates her employees and other people around her, but justifies it by saying she has to do what she has to do to stay at the top. I’m sorry, but if you have to treat people as if they’re inferior to you then I don’t want to be successful. It’s not my style, and I couldn’t live with myself. Yet there are thousands of people who subscribe to that and believe it’s the way to go. Notice how some are successful, but others aren’t? Once again, no one size fits all.

Some folks thought I was being too lenient when I reviewed Six Figure Blogger Blueprint. The thing is, the book wasn’t really for those of you who have been doing this for awhile. It was also free, not a full course on internet marketing. It got me thinking about things, and any book that does that for me works for me. We all judge things differently. We have to know ourselves, and what we might respond to. Like that book to the right side there, 20 Ways To Make $100 A Day Online. I bought that book, and I think it was perfect for me because I was able to take just one of its principles and turn it into a way to make money. It wasn’t overly expensive, but turned out to be just what I needed. I calculated my odds for finding something I thought I could use, and I turned out to be right.

How do you determine whether something might work well for you or not? Do you even try anymore? I say that at the risk of jumping into Sire’s response, because I know he’s said more than once that he won’t pay for anything anymore, after being burned many times early on. Has that happened to some of you as well? I’d really like to know.

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5 Ways Poker Is Like Blogging

Many of you know that I love playing poker. I’ve talked about it a few times here. I talked about it when I was in Reno last year around this time. I talked about it when I talked about the psychology of gambling. I talked about it when I wrote about my first big poker tournament this summer. And I talked about it when I talked about joining the affiliate program for Pokerstars.

I think about poker often. I don’t go to the casino as often as I have in the past, mainly because my income is a little lower than it was, so I have to pick and choose when I can go. I’ve also learned a couple of things about my game, which is odd and strange, and in a way, can relate to blogging. I’d like to share 5 things that seem to tie poker and blogging together, at least for me.

1. When I’m tired, I don’t play poker or blog all that well. I think that when I blog when I’m very tired, my articles aren’t all that good. Some might think they are, but I don’t feel much for them. Only when I’m tired does blogging feel like a chore. The same actually goes for poker. When I’m tired I really don’t want to be there, but sometimes I stay because it’s late in the evening and I also don’t feel like having to get up from the table if I don’t have to. I lose money when I play tired, and I’ve often wondered if I lose readers when I blog tired.

2. I actually have times when I blog and play poker very well. Most of you know that, unless I’m doing a research post, I write my blog posts fairly quickly. My mind is clear in what I want to say, and I can produce some pretty good posts, if I say so myself. The same goes for poker. Oddly enough, if I tell myself that I’m going to the casino during the day and I’m only staying 3 hours, I almost always come home ahead. There’s something about being focused on a goal that works really well, no matter what it is. The same also goes for chess, which Sire and I play through email. When I’m focused, I see the board 5 moves ahead in my mind and I play very well; I just need to write down those moves when I’m in the zone. 🙂

3. I love poker and blogging because of the camaraderie. When I play poker, I’m not only there to try to win. I love talking to people, and many times, I’m sitting at a table with all new people, which seems strange for as many times as I’ve gone over the years. Every table has a different vibe, but there’s always someone who wants to talk. and when I do get to play with people I know, it enhances the day even more. Knowing the dealers brings at least some stability to the process.

When I blog, I know most of the people who are coming to make a comment. When new people come, I know it’s a new opportunity to make a connection with a new friend. Every post brings a new perspective from someone, whether I know them or not. I have a great time with it, and it’s one of the reasons why I love blogging.

4. I understand poker, and I also understand blogging very well. I may not always make money when I play poker, but I really understand all the nuances of the game. I know when to bluff and I know when to go all in. I know how to stick around and wait for a good hand. I know how to pace myself based on the time limit I’ve set for myself. And I know when I’ve devoted too much time to it, even if I don’t always listen to myself.

The same goes for blogging. I really do understand blogging a lot. I know how to craft posts. I actually do know the process for putting together posts that have a lot of keywords and linkbait associated with them; I just choose not to do it. I could blog all day; I write for other people’s blogs here and there, and if my entire life was just writing blogs and I could make a full time living from it, life would be sweet. I like to think I know how to engage people. Sure, I might not make a lot of money at it, at least right now, which is like not winning all the time at poker, but I know some things, and I’m going to hopefully apply many of them over this next year.

5. I have fun playing poker, just like I have fun blogging. Fun is what it’s all about after all. Poker is my favorite offline activity; blogging is my favorite online activity. With each, I meet new people all the time that are engaging. I get to hear and read other people’s stories and words. I get to participate in the process. I sometimes make money, which is never a bad thing. If I didn’t have both poker and blogging, I don’t know that my life would have much enjoyment in it. Well, okay, my wife and I have a lot of fun, but you know what I mean. 🙂

Both of these things really are passions of mine. I don’t have a lot of passions, but these two are enough for me. What are your passions, things that you enjoy, that you know very well, that you could probably do better at but don’t because that’s not the most important thing to you? And, do you really enjoy blogging as much as I do? I’d love to hear about it.

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My Big Poker Tournament

If you’re reading this relatively early on Thursday, I’m not home. I’m at a big poker tournament, taking my shot at what should at least be a $50,000 first prize. Let me tell you the story.

Back in early July, I decided to take a Friday off and head to my favorite casino, Turning Stone Casino in Oneida, NY. Okay, it’s also the closest, but I just love going there when I have some extra dollars.

I’m not a bad poker player. Some of you may remember when I wrote about my time in Reno and came back from the casino on my first day up $650. I’ve often come home up $300 or so. I’ve also often come home without any of the money I started with. But most of the time, I’ll break even, or pretty close either side.

On this particular day, I was having a horrible go of it. Nothing was going right on that day. If I’d listened to my inner mind, I’d have left an hour into being there and come back home. But reasoning just doesn’t go that route, and it’s a good thing it didn’t.

I was just sitting at the table, thinking about a hand, when they announced that it was time for “the drawing.” Throughout the poker room, people started yelling out their table and seat number. Not wanting to miss out, I started yelling “Table 23, Seat 5.” Lo and behold, I won! Everyone cheered, and I smiled and felt pretty good about something finally going my way.

Of course, I waited a beat, then asked, kind of sheepishly, just what it was I won, because I hadn’t been paying attention. The dealer told me I’d won an entry into the $750 regional tournament on August 20th. Sweet! Now, the downside is, because I won, I’ll have to pay taxes on that amount. The upside is, if I can make it through the first day, I’ll automatically have qualified for the money, whatever it turns out to be, but the minimum I can come home with is $1,200.

How do I know that if I make it through the first day I’ll make money? What they do is determine how many people are in the tournament first. Then they’ll determine how many places they’re going to pay out. What I’ve been told is that, once they have that number, they’ll play down to that number, and once they reach it then they’ll stop the tournament for the day and start it back up again the next day.

Based on how tournaments usually go, at least 25% of the folks will be gone within the first hour. Many people are internet players, and they’ll take chances that may work while sitting at a table playing for money, but some of them will crash and burn because of those tactics. Online, it’s not about reading people, but about playing cards.

After that, things slow down drastically. I expect that the shortest period of time this will take will probably be 6 or 7 hours. We get a break every 2 hours, which is a good thing. The thing about poker is that if you’re patient, you can last a long time. However, you will have to win some hands here and there, because in tournaments, blinds go up every so often, which will take your money whether you play hands or not.

I say right now that I’m going into this tournament making sure I win. I’m also saying that I’m going into this tournament “knowing” that I’m going to make it through the first day. That’s my first goal; you have to be in it to win it. And knowing that I’ve made the money will make the second day much easier mentally.

So, wish me luck. However, just because you see a post on Friday doesn’t mean I lost and came home, as I’ll have another post ready to go for Friday, just in case I decide to stay there overnight. I’ll let you know what happens.

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