Famous Quotes For a Poker Player To Live By

Chris Wallace finds taking insight and knowledge from others help his poker game.

Chris Wallace has seen highs and lows during his poker career and thhe WSOP bracelet winner has a few quotes from famous folks that have helped him get through the good and bad.

“I mean, if I left you alone in the woods with a hatchet, how long before you can send me an email?”

-Joe Rogan, The Devolution of Stupid People

This quote from Joe Rogan is a simple reminder that everything we have is built on the backs of others. Those smarter than we are, or simply those who have already done the work so that we can take the next step and someone else can take the step after that if we add to the knowledge base. This is why it is so important that we learn from others, taking what they offer us and using it to progress farther and faster.

This is one of the reasons that I like quotes so much. They give us something to build on. We can take the smartest things that some very smart people have said, and build on them without doing all the work they did to learn everything they learned. I learned a great deal from the quote below, and I apply it to poker every day, but I didn’t have to study philosophy for years to come up with it because a very smart person put it in a book for me over 100 years ago.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

-George Bernard Shaw, Man and Super Man

I first heard this quote from George Bernard Shaw in a philosophy class in high school (thanks Mr. Rusch) and I have thought about it often over the years. It is important to want to make the world better and to try to help progress move forward, but it is also important to remember that it is the man who adapts to the world, rather than railing against it, that probably lives the happier life. This is even more true in the poker world.

When Black Friday destroyed my income and my bankroll in an instant, I was lost, enraged, hurt, and even panicked. Within a day or two I was working on what to do next, and a week later I was on the road with the tattered remains of my bankroll, grinding out a living in $1/2 No Limit games and playing small tournaments. I probably spent too much time being angry at Howard Lederer, the Department of Justice, and the fates, but I recovered and managed to make a living playing in brick and mortar card rooms instead.

“Pride only hurts, it never helps.”

-Marsellus Wallace, Pulp Fiction

Adapting to the world around you also requires that you let go of all that pride. If you play poker for pride, then you aren’t playing for money. Sometimes the play is the same, but don’t let that confuse you, some plays you make for pride will cost you money. And everything is a play. The meta-game never stops.

How can you make the most money in your game? By being seen as the biggest winner? Than buy-in big and keep that stack topped off. But what if there is money to be made if everyone thinks you are a fish? What if getting called down when you bet and having your opponents try to bluff you all night is actually the best way to make money? Can you do it? Or will your pride get in the way?

There are a couple games I play on a regular basis where I have most of the players convinced that I’m really not any good. One of them is a mixed game that is sometimes played as HORSE. Even as the reigning world champion, I have many of the players in the game convinced that I really don’t play very well. I buy in short, I don’t rebuy until I am almost to the felt, and I draw attention to my losses any time I am down.

Could you do that? When you could be seen as the strongest player in a tough game and have your ego stroked all night? If you can’t do it, then you aren’t the best player in the game because pride is taking too much away from you. You have to let go of pride, stop trying to get the world to do what you want it to do, and start adapting to it. Take every advantage that makes you money and let everyone else have all the advantages that reward their egos, their pride, their standing on the social ladder in the local card room or at their favorite home game.

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

-Vince Lombardi

This quote doesn’t have to be true for you. You can enjoy the game without focusing on winning every last dollar. But for me, poker is a job. Without the money, and the absolute need to win to pay my bills, poker is just a game, and probably one that I wouldn’t bother playing. When poker is not played for sufficient stakes, it is a boring game.

If winning is important to you, then it must become the only thing that is important to you when you are sitting at a poker table. You aren’t going to beat the rake, the dealer tips, the expenses poker will cost, and the opportunity costs that you lose when you could be doing something else, unless winning is the only thing that matter. Even at your best you could almost certainly make more money focusing on something else instead of poker.

Doing everything you can to beat the game means adapting to the game. It means giving up on your pride. And it means attacking the game with a single-minded passion that means that those sacrifices mean less than nothing to you in comparison to the joy of winning and the money in your pocket. You can go back to being human when you get up from the table, and in fact I encourage you to do so, but while you are at the table, you must be a machine.

“I just know there’s something dark in me and I hide it. I certainly don’t talk about it, but it’s there always, this Dark Passenger.”

-Dexter Morgan, Dexter

When you combine these things, you become the perfect soldier. You blend into any circumstance and you stand out only when you choose to do so. Your every move is calculated. You are in essence doing your best to become a cold hearted sociopath with no feelings and no remorse. You worry only about what helps you win and how you can take money from everyone else. Everyone is an opponent. They are all the enemy.

We all enjoy letting our dark side out to play once in awhile, and at the poker tables it be more than simply necessary, it can be fun. Ever wanted to be an actor? Being someone else at the tables can be very profitable and a great way to work on those acting chops in case you ever get your big break. How about a secret agent? A spy? You can be anything you want to be as long as it helps you win.

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Chris Wallace

Chris Wallace is a professional mixed game player and coach from Minnesota with 31 final tables to his record. He won the 2015 WSOP $10,000 HORSE Championship for his first bracelet and co-wrote “No Limits – The Fundamentals of No Limit Hold’em.”
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