Melbourne, Australia. January 2012
Australia is my favorite stop on the tour. Historically it has been a haven for me, like a basketball team coming home for the playoffs. It was with high hopes that I returned.
The trip started out better than expected. I got second place in the heads up, but instead of locking up the win, I decided to let it ride. A poker player known as “Youngman” said it best, “No gamble, no future.” The next week, I played the biggest event of my life and came two away from the money. I was heartbroken.
Pattaya Island, Thailand. February 2012
Fortunately I had planned a trip to Thailand, a much needed break. It was the beginning of a drastic change in taking control over my physical health.
On my first day there I saw an opportunity; a week long detox that involved eating two raw meals per day, taking supplements and repeatedly consuming a tasteless, goopey drink that was meant to improve digestion. This, coupled by walking 8 km daily, caused me to lose a staggering 20 pounds in one week! Skeptics argue that losing that much weight in a short period of time is unhealthy. But for me, it was about mentally starting fresh and cleaning out my system with the eventual goal of adopting less extreme eating habits that I could actually maintain.
When I exercise regularly and eat healthy, it seems like everything else in my life falls into place. It’s something that many of us undervalue as a way to improve our poker game, but more importantly our quality of life. David Wells, a friend and poker player, once made a compelling argument that although simplistic, spoke convincingly to my analytical brain. “The math has been done and they’ve figured it out. Having a healthy lifestyle is worth it and super +EV!” In other words, there’s a massive gap between the struggles in obtaining overall health and the benefits reaped from it, which gives the pursuit a ton of value!
In high school I was athletic, health conscious and very ambitious for my age (one of my goals was to be a millionaire by 25). That all changed when I was first introduced to Texas Hold’em. For the next two years, my daily schedule involved waking up at noon, ordering junk food, playing 18 hours of online poker and going to sleep at 4:00 a.m. Sadly, my idea of cardio involved walking to and from the toilet. It was better when there weren’t synchronized breaks, at least I had to run! It wasn’t long before I noticed major adverse changes to my body, energy level and motivation to do anything besides play poker. Having low levels of energy for an extended period made it easy to forget how good it felt to be healthy.
As poker players, we experience plateaus which hinder our ability to improve. When this happens, how do we take our game to next level? While it’s obvious we get better just by playing, the major change comes through an epiphany where everything clicks and decisions that were once difficult become trivial. Having a healthy lifestyle is one of the more overlooked ways to do this.
Think about how often we recognize ourselves misplay a hand. Why does it seems that our mistakes are more clear in hindsight? If we know how to play the hand perfectly according to our standards of perfect, what’s stopping us from doing it in game as opposed to dwelling on our mistakes later? In the movie “Limitless” the main character takes a pill that makes all the information in his brain available. The pill didn’t expand his knowledge, it merely accessed it. In doing so he became radically focused on his goals and closer to finding his life’s purpose. In a less extreme way, this is what engaging in a healthy lifestyle does, without the negative repercussions of the Russian mob trying to kill you! Speaking from personal experience, I can confidently say having a healthy lifestyle leads to a heightened level of brain function and consequently, an improvement in our poker game.
Currently, I’m on an 84 day fitness program that I aim to complete by the start of the World Series of Poker. Black Friday has given me what I needed, a break from the lifestyle that bound me to my computer. Napoleon Hill said, “With every failure, adversity and heartache comes with it the seed of equivalent or greater benefit.” Our new found freedom gives us the opportunity to explore other avenues of life, seek balance and personal growth. The best way to ignite the process is to be disturbed about our current situation. The more disturbed we become, the more desire we’ll have to change.
I’m issuing a health challenge to the poker community.
My goal is to finish this program and inspire others within the community to start a similar regimen for themselves. Therefore, I have cultivated the following challenge:
1) Start a 3 month fitness program aligned with your goals- (I use Kris Gethin’s 84-day program which can be found here: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/kris-gethin-12-week-daily-trainer.html). I love this program because every day of the program has videos detailing the diet and exercise regimen along with several helpful tips throughout the program. Also, he’s doing the program with you which helps keep you on track. The program I’m on is designed for fat loss but if you’re looking to get bulkier that’s also fine. A program I’d recommend for this (which I’ll be taking after this one) is Dr. Jim Stoppani’s shortcut to size which can also be found on bodybuilding.com (http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/shortcut-to-size.html
My progress can be found on http://www.bodyspace.com/damizz
Update: hurt my back / hip (most likely due to bad form during workout) and have taken the last 2 weeks off from lifting but going to see a physiotherapist when I get back to Vancouver and hopefully hit the gym again ASAP.
Participants will be rated by 4 judges in 3 different categories:
1) Transformation: How has your body changed from the beginning of the program to the end? Take weekly photos! (out of 10 points).
2) Blogging: I want to know about your experiences, the challenges/struggles you face, how you’re feeling, etc. The more in-depth, frequent and creative the better! Doesn’t have to be long or tedious. just specific. (out of 10 points)
3) Stats: I’m a huge stats freak, so I like to keep track of everything. I log my meals, time of meals, supplements I’m taking, workouts I’m doing, progress I’ve made and personally take pictures every day (I want to do a youtube slide in the end) but once a week is more practical. I also weigh myself regularly and update measurements of various muscle groups every few weeks. Record your stats; weight, body fat percentage/ muscle measurements, meal logs, workout logs etc. I’d like to follow your progress. (out of 10 points)
Incentives for winner
I will take the winner of this challenge under my wing and do everything I can to help them improve their poker game. It can be anyone. I will help a losing player become a winning player and a winning player increase their ROI and feel more comfortable at higher stakes. This will include reviewing hand histories, sending hand histories of past online tournaments I’ve played, discussing online/live tournament strategy in-depth and making myself available for questions. I’ll do this for at least a year and probably longer on a less time consuming scale. I’m basically using this challenge to find a student that I can teach everything I know about poker to. There is also a future possibility of a staking arrangement. The idea of teaching someone everything I know about poker and helping them fix their leaks and improve their game drastically is very appealing to me.
Incentives for everyone
All participants have the option of getting one online tournament hand history reviewed in depth for every 3 weeks they’re in the program.
*If you’d like to start this program send a “before” picture to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than May 10th, 2012 holding current newspaper (participants will also be asked to vid skype for verification)
Me: Not a fitness expert by any means but in the last 4-5 months I’ve been self educating myself on fitness and nutrition. I think I have the right to be a judge in my own competition! 🙂
Julie Powers: Pilates and yoga instructor in the Los Angeles area. She trained for both through CorePower yoga. She has been studying fitness and nutrition for many years and loves living a healthy, fit lifestyle, as well as helping other people do so.
All American Dave: Fitness beast / guru. One of the most sought after personal trainers in Las Vegas. Trains with many top poker players including Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Laak. Check out his site at http://www.allamericandave.com
Christina Lindley: Top Female poker player and fitness model / former spokesmodel for bodybuilding.com.
This isn’t for everyone. The incentives are mostly aimed towards low stakes / mid stakes players. It’s to give people who want it, but have been neglecting it, a good excuse to start. If you don’t want it bad enough don’t even bother! After people see how amazing it feels, I suspect the majority of them will make 180 degree changes in their lifestyles.