Phil Ivey on disrespecting money, golf and tournament poker

You can’t be afraid when you play in the cash games. You have to have a certain disrespect for money. If you have, say, $500,000 in front of you, you can’t think, “Oh man. I can buy a house”. You have to think about making the right decisions and seeing what’s in front of you as chips instead of money. Many people can’t be successful as cash players because they think, “If I lose this in a half-hour it would be devastating.” You have to be able to go on with your life. All my gambling experience has made me better equipped for being able to deal with losing money.

I’ve been doing a lot better in tournaments. Before I would play cash games all night – 14, 15 hours – and go right into the poker tournament. I would end up not playing my best. I’m going to prepare better for the poker tournaments I play in. I’m going to try the best I can. In a lot of poker tournaments, if there’s a good cash game going on the side, I wouldn’t try too hard because I would want to go get into that game.

It was hard for the top players in tournaments because there were cash games going on where you could go and make more money. It’s tough to gear down for a poker tournament when the most you can win is $500,000 or $600,000. You play for that every day in big cash games. I would feel I had wasted all that time and could have been playing in a cash game. I love cash games and making real money, but I just decided I wasn’t going to waste my time or money by not giving my best at tournaments. That’s why I’ve been doing a lot better in poker tournaments.

So why do I play in tournaments? I like them; they’re very competitive – very intense down to the end. It’s much more intense than a cash game when you get to the final table.

I’m pretty stoic at the poker table. It comes naturally. It’s just concentration and paying attention to what’s going on. When I lose a tough hand, it doesn’t bother me that much. Not that I’m not emotional or concerned with what’s going on. It’s just another poker hand, it’s not that big a deal. I’ll get lucky and win hands I shouldn’t and lose hands I shouldn’t lose. I try not to put too much into any one hand of poker.

Poker is about living in the moment. Just like golf, it’s one shot at a time. You don’t want to get too ahead of yourself. On the golf course, you don’t think five shots ahead. You think only about your next shot. And of you have a bad shot, you don’t want to think about that. You forget it and move on. That’s why poker and golf are so similar when you’re playing at a competitive level.

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