"I'd Won Half a Million Dollars...."
Reflections from a Client
Seven years ago when I was 21 my grandpa gave me $10,000 to buy into the World Series of Poker Main Event (my grandpa is a badass). Long story short, I got really far in the event and made it to the final two tables, outlasting about 6,000 players and nearly shitting my pants playing against some well-known pros.
With my final hand (and with an above average chip count) I made the mental mistake of holding onto cards longer than I probably should have (pocket 99 vs. KK) and I ended up busting out. To put it in perspective I made half a million dollars that tournament; if I had just outlasted another 2 players, I would have made about another 130 thousand dollars, another 9 players and I would have made over 1.2 million dollars. The margin for error was very low and the stakes were very high.
After the tournament I replayed this final hand in my head like a vivid movie scene over and over. Over the following years, I had looked for ways to overcome some of my mental roadblocks and regain my love for the game but it just wasn’t happening.
I didn’t play that much poker after as I had a lot of things that got in my way; the primary thing being myself.
Flash forward a few years later and this is where Zach comes in. I have known Zach for some time now and met him through a mutual friend when I was living in San Diego. Right when I met him I knew he and I were going to get along. He was a serial entrepreneur and like myself, he liked to push life’s limits.
When I moved back to my hometown in Northern California, Zach and I kept in touch. I had always been fascinated with mental performance and when I saw that he had stepped into the coaching world, we started talking about poker, and psychology. We also soon realized these two worlds had many similarities.
Last spring I reached out to Zach, on a whim, because I thought that it would be an interesting idea to go to Vegas and have him coach me through some smaller World Series of Poker bracelet events. When I texted him late one night with this harebrained idea I instantly received a reply back asking, "When we were leaving?". I thought I was going to have to explain more, but he got it.
That short conversation pretty much sums up who Zach is.
In the months leading up to the event, Zach and I practiced and trained. Zach walked me through exercises that changed my mental state. He even sat at the poker table with me to see certain tells and behaviors I needed to change (I am talking pages and pages of notes). I also found out Zach is a damn good poker player himself (and his ability to read people at the tables was essentially better than mine). Yet he had only played a handful of times.
I had never put so much effort into studying and training for an event. I finally was regaining the love I had for the game, and learning it was just a game. The stress was now out of it. I was confident and ready to take on poker again after training with Zach.
And then some shit happened…
In the months leading up to the tournament my mom suddenly passed away. My mom was my best friend. The following months were tough and some of the darkest days I had ever faced. We had the funeral, a brother’s graduation, a brother’s wedding, and my wedding.
Zach was there every step of the way. It was more than poker now.
When we arrived at Vegas, Zach and I were in the zone. Zach planned my routine each day (gym, meditation, breakfast, meditation, pump up session etc.) and stood around my table for hours and hours watching me play (I have no idea how his feet held up).
The first event I lost 2/3 of my chips in a matter of hours and got knocked out earlier than I had in any tournament I had ever played. But oddly I felt fine. I wasn’t fazed. I just moved on. Something I wasn’t able to do in the past.
Event two had a far too similar outcome; but I still felt fine.
The next day I woke up in Vegas to the news that my Grandpa had passed away (poker grandpa). I reminisced about all the times in Vegas I got to share with him, and what he taught me. I remember him saying over and over that the fear of failure and making mistakes was the one weakness I needed to change to not only be a better poker player but a better man. I knew I was where I needed to be so I planned with Zach for the next event.
The 3rd event was similar to the first two; another knockout blow…I was still ok.
Then came the final event. Zach and I prepped like crazy for this event and I had never felt more in the zone. I arrived at the table and was rolling over players for hours and in my mind was on track to take down the event. I had never felt so good playing poker.
Then my great hand (a queen’s full house) lost to an amazing hand (four 9’s) and I was out… Just like that!
Later that night Zach and I grabbed some dinner. When I looked across the table I could tell Zach looked a little peeved after a long unprofitable week of poker. I could tell he wasn’t upset for himself but felt bad for me. We started talking and he said that he felt a bit disappointed that we didn’t accomplish “the goal” and was still trying to find meaning in all of this.
I could also tell he was wondering why I wasn’t upset…I mean, I had just lost thousands of dollars in a matter of days, and everything in my life was a little less than perfect at the moment. I think he felt that I was entitled to throw a chair or something. But I wasn’t…I felt calm and ok. And that was it.
This was more than just poker.
After all this ended and I got home I reflected on this experience.
What really was “the goal?” Yes, a new Porsche, some fancy things, and an ego boost would be nice, but was that really more important that what came out of this?
I mean for the last 7 years I had been afraid to fail and now I just wasn’t. What was that worth? I had hated a game I used to love because I was so afraid to fail, now I look forward to playing…what was that worth?
Through this experience I had finally learned to fail and not only be ok, but through this process I realized that failing is a part of life and often it is when you learn the most. I didn’t learn much when I won half a million dollars in 7 days, but I learned everything in these 7 humbling days with Zach.
This lesson would have made my grandpa more proud than any pile of money I could have taken home.
I had gotten my ass kicked in poker and I was not phased. Failure itself was easy compared to the fear of failure. A concept so simple yet complicated. The mental roadblocks which had been playing on repeat in my head for over 7 years took a matter of a few months to demolish working with Zach.
The fear to fail was my biggest crutch in poker and in life. It was also a giant waste of fucking time.
Since the tournament I have applied this to my life and my business has never been better and my game is on point. Poker has always been an analogy of life to me. I plan to keep failing until I succeed. Fall down. Get up. That’s it.
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
For anyone out there on the fence about whether or not to work with Zach, here is my recommendation: PULL THE TRIGGER.
Zach was there for a wedding, a funeral, and a week in Vegas at the drop of a dime. Not to sound cheesy but to say Zach is all-in with his clients is an understatement.
Zach will pull back the layers of what you think is really important and exponentially help you grow as a person until you find what is really holding you back. I have no doubt that Zach will forget the small stakes guys like me someday and will one day realize he should be charging 10x what he is now…but until then, PULL. THE. TRIGGER.
Zach one last thing…play some more poker…you are good.