Jamie Burland: Black Belt Poker might have closed but its values are still worth celebrating

Neil Channing has given so much to the UK poker scene – check out his latest venture at The Betting Emporium 

Greetings poker fans! Sad times at the end of February for me as after five years, my good friend Neil Channing has decided enough is enough and has closed the doors of the Black Belt Poker dojo. I came up in poker as a direct result of being involved with Black Belt and have been proud to wear their patch and promote the message of development through learning, an ethos I still believe in. 

I’m sad for the investors that the business has ended up going out with somewhat of a whimper when it enjoyed so many highs during its life cycle. As a Black Belt sponsored pro I have worked hard over the last four years trying to increase awareness in the brand, working with players at various levels and introducing the concept of regular coaching and training, while also grinding diligently both live and online. Although I was not a financial investor in the company it is still very disappointing after all that work that we failed to create a product that people could buy into at any sort of commercially viable level. 

Put very simply, the core value at the heart of Black Belt Poker was that if you give a person rakeback they can carry on breaking even for another month, but if you train that person, help them find the leaks in their game and then back that player in tournaments beyond their bankroll (but within their capabilities) it will give them a chance to break through to another level. 

Go fish 

I can understand that being taught how to fish is a lot less tangible an incentive than being given a fish. After all a fish is a fish, in your hand wriggling around. You can feel it and you can put it in a sandwich and eat it. We tried to show players that it’s within them to catch their own fish, but to do so they would have to sacrifice that fish in hand – throw it back into the proverbial lake if you will. What made it all the more difficult is the fact that all around this fishy lake there were other people handing out fish with no need to bother with time consuming things like training and hand analysis. They’ll only give you a small fish and once a month mind, but there he is wriggling in your palm. 

Black Belt has ceased to trade now but if you were reading the last few paragraphs thinking that you would throw the fish back in the lake, then good for you. Take the rakeback cheque at the end of the month and invest it in tools to help you improve as a player, like tracking software, a training site membership or as funds to employ a coach. You will improve and win more money (or lose less), and then you can play bigger games and earn even more rakeback. 

Onwards and upwards 

I’m actually happy for Neil that he’s decided to move on and feel that with the weight of Black Belt off his shoulders he’ll be able to quickly find greener pastures. He deserves his next project to be a big success and I hope to be involved in some way as he remains one of the hardest working people I’ve ever been involved with. Unfortunately with Black Belt he tried to play the game of give and take and found that while people are very eager and prepared to take, there was less enthusiasm around the other. Hopefully the memories of the time wasters he’s had to deal with will quickly fade and he’ll be left with the memories of the good times shared with good people.

Thankfully my progress on the online felt has continued in the right direction and the numbers in most accounts have been going up. I’ve had a particularly good month on Pokerstars.fr, coming second in their  Night On Stars tournament three times in February – I should learn to play some heads-up… 

I don’t have a secret formula aside from working out, eating healthy, watching training videos, chatting hands and putting in hard volume and longer hours. Before doing it again the next day. I might be wrong but I think this has been my best month online ever – long may it continue!

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