There are four types of people out there. Those who possess natural talent and pick things up very quickly, but lack motivation. Those who have a tough time grasping things, but work their ass off and try their best. Those who have both; and those who have neither.

I fit into the first description. After much self reflection, I’ve never really worked all that hard at anything in my life. Whether it came to school, athletics, friends, or just everyday life; things just made sense to me.

I never had to over think things or put in hard time to accomplish my goals. One of my sisters is the complete opposite. She fits into the second category. She works really hard and gets what she wants. Nothing comes easy, which probably makes attaining her goals that much more gratifying.

I view my situation as both a gift and a curse at the same time. A gift because I can take on any new pursuit and do fairly well at it. I learn very quickly. If I like it, I’ll often become obsessed, and won’t stop until either I get sick of it or until I move on to my next obsession.

However, because I usually do pretty well at things from the get go, I rarely fail and this is my curse. Sometimes failing is good because it makes you want to succeed that much more. Maybe failing is what lights the fire under those people who fall into the second category.

I feel as though I’m stuck in a place where I have had some success, but in order to truly excel I need that fire, that motivation, that drive. Natural talent alone isn’t enough to make the cut.

There are a few things that I’ve decided I need to improve in order to attain that third status – someone who has both the talent and out-works their competition. Motivation, self image, discipline, willpower, and balance.

The biggest obstacle I’m always trying to overcome is motivation. There are a few reasons why it is really hard to get motivated to not only play, but to be the best. First off, I live a comfortable life right now. I have the means right now to go out and buy whatever I feel will make me happier.

At first this sounds really cool, and believe me I’m not taking this situation for granted. But after a while material possessions become boring and most of my stuff just sits around and gets dusty, not to mention being a complete waste of money.

Part of me feels as though I’d truly be happier if I had nothing and had to work my ass off to get something I wanted. As I said before, the hard work one puts in to reach goals is a huge part of what makes attaining those goals satisfying. When things come and go as you please, there’s no real enthusiasm or excitement.

Not only that, but I think that having nothing would make me want to improve my situation and that in and of itself would give me all the motivation I needed. However, I’m at a point where success won’t change my lifestyle all that much, and that is hindering my mentality.

Also, knowing that I’ll probably never again accomplish what I’ve accomplished in the past is depressing. The logical part of me knows that mathematically the chances of me seeing another final table of an event as large as the 06 WSOP Main Event are probably worse than the Rockies ever winning the World Series – pretty bleak to say the least… That is not how a champion should feel, which brings me to my next point.

Before the 2006 Main Event, my goal was to make the final table. Now, if you were to ask someone what the odds of me actually doing that, maybe I would have been 2,000 to 1. However, in my mind I was already there. Throughout the tournament, when I took a bad beat or cooler, etc. I wouldn’t be upset at all because I knew that I was destined to make the final table.

It felt as though I already knew that I was going to be there and nothing else mattered. Other people believed in me and, more importantly, I believed in myself. I truly believed that I was the best player in the world. Whether I was or wasn’t didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I believed with absolute conviction that no one stood a chance against me.

I used to play mainly online, and that might be where my confidence stemmed from. Instead of worrying about what other people thought about me, I would talk trash to the little icons on the computer monitor. After I felt I had outplayed someone, I would very arrogantly proclaim, “owned…” Owned!! That would basically sum up how the hand played out.

There was no need for poker tracker or shark scope or any other fancy software to tell me how good my opponents were. All that mattered was that I knew that I was the best player at the tables (as did my opponents). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to turn into some Humberto Brenes and constantly remind people of how good I am… maybe in my head I will 😉 The fiiiiiiiishhhyyyy!!! The fiiiiiiishhhhhhyyyyyyy is huuuuuunnnnnnnggrryyy!!!!

I’ll be the first to admit that I lack discipline. I never stick with anything for very long. I’m always inclined to take the easy road. Maybe it’s all that math and science that’s been implanted into me that makes me want to take the path of least resistance. Honestly, I don’t really know why I feel the way I do, but that’s not what’s important. Knowing that it can pose a problem and wanting to change is what is crucial.

I can’t really explain my reasons for doing some of the things I do; I know that it doesn’t make sense to any ‘normal’ person, but sometimes I have a tough time with priorities. When I see a $25 late fee on a cable bill I freak out and throw a temper tantrum.

But then I’ll go lose $5,000 in a tournament and feel fine. Before my score at the World Series, I entered a $14,000 tournament and slept through the second day of play. Eventually I was blinded out of the tournament because I stayed up all night playing a $1/$2 no limit cash game the night before.

I know that this makes absolutely no sense, but I can’t control doing irrational things sometimes. In college I studied for many hours in preparation for a final exam in which I needed at least a 70% to maintain my “B” in the class, but then never took the exam. I even wrote a nine page essay for another final and didn’t turn in the paper because it wasn’t exactly how I wanted it – even though I only needed a 60% on the paper to maintain my “A”.

I’ve also been lacking balance in my life. Running bad, playing bad, and depression seem to go hand in hand. I find that when I start running bad, inevitably I start playing less and less optimally.

Playing bad, in turn, leads to me feeling guilty and depressed that I didn’t have the discipline to stop. That negative energy then attracts ugly situations such as coolers, bad beats, etc. that are uncontrollable and even more infuriating because they are now continually happening. And so goes the cycle – a nasty downward spiral that can devastate a bankroll.

When this situation starts to show it’s ugly face it’s important to maintain discipline and walk away. Degeneracy has a natural affinity towards this downward spiral, and I’ve noticed that the more I focus on more important areas of my life, the easier it is to break the cycle.

Furthermore, recently I’ve been playing under the wrong conditions and for the wrong reasons. One thing I’ve learned from watching my favorite athletes is their brutal honesty. They call it like they see it and I respect them for it.

Often times I try not to hurt people’s feelings. I tell them that they played great, even though I thought they played terribly. For a while I thought this was the right approach because I didn’t want them to feel any worse than they already were. However, I’ve come to realize that one can be honest without rubbing it in.

I think caring about what other people think has long been a weakness of mine. When I look back at some of my previous blog posts from a couple years back, I couldn’t care less what other people thought, and that was one of my strong suits. Being a nice guy doesn’t win tournaments. Feeling bad for someone doesn’t win tournaments. Killer instinct is what brings about success.

There are two kinds of pissed off. There’s the killer instinct pissed off and there’s the tilt driven pissed off. One of these moods is what I feel when I’m playing my best – I’ll let you decide which… When I get into a pot with someone, I want to hurt them. Bad.

I want them to know that if they are in a pot with me, they are putting themselves in a very dangerous position where they will likely go broke. Lately, however, I’ve been playing too much under the latter guise.

Playing for the wrong reasons can also be a huge detriment. Right now it feels as if I’m in a spot where I need to post some results or fade into the realm of mediocrity. I believe that pressure can either force people to rise to the occasion or choke. I also believe that there are two types of pressure – public and personal. Public pressure is when there is a momentous occasion to be decided by who wants it more.

Personal pressure, on the other hand, is living up to your own expectations and blocking out the fear that inevitably looms in the background. I usually thrive under public pressure. When I’m an underdog I tend to over perform and rise to my potential. Mainly because I love to prove others wrong. However, when I’m expected to win, at least by my own standards, I often choke. I guess this goes back to not caring what other people think.

Lately I’ve been playing to make money. Obviously I wouldn’t play if I didn’t still enjoy the game, but the primary focus of each tournament and each cash game has been to make as much money as possible.

This mentality is not healthy for a few reasons. First, when things aren’t going well, it’s easy to fall into the destructive cycle as described above. Conversely, when everything seems to be going your way, it’s easy to overlook spots where you could have extracted more value.

Some of the sessions that I’m most proud of have been losing sessions. Obviously you can’t control how the cards fall. All you can do is put yourself into situations that are positive expected value and know that over time it will pay off. I find that when I try to climb out of a hole and back to even for a session are the times when I end up losing even more money and becoming even more frustrated with the game.

Instead of trying to win money, it’s time to focus on trying to own fools. This will make the game more about fun and entertainment and less about success and tying that success to self worth. It’s easier to recover from a broken ego than it is to recover from a loss when all you’re thinking about is how much you could have bought with the money you lost.

This whole article has been about what I’ve been doing wrong or have neglected to do right. I guess I’d like to wrap it up by mentioning the steps that I’m going to take to turn things around. Meditation, preparation, and visualization are the three main things that I’m going to focus on for the next chapter in my poker career (and in life for that matter).

I realize that I’m up against people who are just as talented as myself. Therefore, what will distinguish the winners from the losers at this point is who wants it more. It’s one thing to know what it takes to succeed, but it’s completely different to actually do it. To be world class in any endeavor, you must be talented and hardworking. I know that I have the talent; I guess at this point, the only question left is, “How bad do I want it?”