David Sklansky wrote an amazing poker book called ‘The Theory of Poker’. UK poker pro John Tabatabai decided to follow it’s advice: “It’s quite an enlightening experience discovering that you never have a losing day in poker”

In a bid to prevent tilt and improve his online game John Tabatabai discovers Sklansky dollars

It’s been quite a while since I experienced the normality of the daily grind. And although 10 hours a day of online poker doesn’t hold quite the same excitement that it did a couple of years ago, it is my bread and butter, and something I’ve been looking forward to returning to for a while.

This time, however, I’ve made a few changes to my regime. First, I’m now giving much more consideration to the preparation needed for the daily grind (sleep, food, exercise). Second, I’m trying to cut out the small mistakes that over thousands of hands cost me a lot of money. Third, I’m now reviewing my hands thoroughly after a session to see where I’m going right (and wrong). Lastly, and as you’ll see, most importantly, I’m trying to improve my emotional intelligence when playing. So far, I’m happy to report, the changes have been successful.

But in a game that has so many good players passing chips back and forth across the tables it’s sometimes hard to see what makes the difference between a good player, a great player and a break-even player. Many of the internet’s best players are like human calculators and extremely perceptive at the tables, yet some do a whole lot better than others and I fail to believe it’s down to pure luck.

I was intrigued by some comments made by Brian Townsend and Eric Liu who said they did not believe they were significantly better than many of the other decent $25/$50 no-limit Hold’em players. Their explanation for having an edge at these games was their ability to manage their bankrolls, play without tilt or in the wrong circumstances.

Sklansky dollars

Despite having a rather tilty disposition in the early days of my poker career I’ve managed to calm down significantly. But I had, until recently, failed to master emotional tilt.

After what appeared to be a fruitless search for the solution to my problem I stumbled upon the term ‘Sklansky dollars’, a phrase coined by The Theory of Poker author David Sklansky. It basically refers to the money a person theoretically ‘wins’ when they get their money in good, regardless of whether their hand holds up or not. This idea appeals to me for the simple reason that whether I win or lose, as long as I get the money in with the best hand, I still effectively win. The only way I lose Sklansky dollars is by playing bad and outdrawing my opponent, which means I win real dollars. That’s also good because I can use them in shops, bars, restaurants, etc.

It’s quite an enlightening experience discovering that you never have a losing day in poker (well, providing you’re a decent player) and this revelation left me feeling rather chuffed. In a bid to not lose my ‘Sklanskys’ I’m forced to play as perfectly as I can so I do not suck out on anyone. This has had a fantastic effect on my game, and I’m pleased to reveal that I’m doing well at the moment.

I shared the theory with a good friend of mine, who has run very badly over the last few months and, despite infrequent volleys of foul language, has also found it beneficial. If two of the most privately angry people in poker can find calm in the world of Sklansky, then this is a very powerful tool indeed.

Poker has the uncanny ability of making the bad runs sickeningly obvious and the good runs fade into normality. The key, then, is to remember that over the long-term poker is a mathematical game. So when my wallet isn’t bulging with real notes it’s reassuring to know that Mr Sklansky has opened an imaginary savings account for me that will line my pockets when he decides it’s time.

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