Deep Practice


Seated in the Brasilia Room in the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, I felt a strange sense of certainty. I was one of 3,404 other souls all-playing in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Re-Entry event at the World Series of Poker (WSOP). Just one hand ago I had made a huge mistake and it had filled me with anger. In the poker world they call this Tilt and it is the worse thing to be suffering from when playing. The dealer gave me my two cards and I peeled the top right hand corner of each one to reveal [Kh] [Th]. I knew that I had a 20 big blind stack. I decided that I was going to raise to 450 and if anybody moved all-in I would call. I raised to 450 and the player to my immediate left moved all-in. As the rest of the table pondered their next move I just stared at my opponent’s stack. I noticed that I had around 1,000 more than him. Then something ignited in my brain. A voice telling me to fold. Before I knew it, everyone was looking at me and I picked my chips up and moved them over the line. My opponent turned over two aces and five community cards later I was reduced to 1,000 chips and would exit the competition shortly after.

For hours afterwards I was an emotional wreck. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. I hadn’t just made any old mistake it was a schoolboy error. To be told that I should have just folded the hand, or at least folded to the shove, was not news to me. There was no revelation forthcoming in the ensuing debate with my mentor. If I was completing a poker quiz and the question was, “You have 20 big blinds and pick up [Kh] [Th] in mid-position what do you do?” Then I know, dependant on certain player dynamics, the answer is to fold, or open and then fold to a raise. So why did I take the wrong option? I have read every poker book there is, I am privy to the private counsel of some of the best poker players in the world and I have watched thousands of hours of live tournament being played by the world’s best players. So why oh why did I do what I did?

The answer lies in a great book called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. In the first chapter of the book, Coyle introduces you to the theory known as deep practice. To help you understand the theory behind deep practice he uses the example of Brazilian soccer players. Why do Brazil produce the very best players in the world? There are people who believe that Brazilian soccer players are better because of genetics. They are born with a natural talent for the game. Coyle brings you a different argument and one that I personally side with. Coyle believes that talent is not born; it is grown. Brazilian soccer players learn to play a type of Soccer known as Futsal from a very early age. In fact the Brazilian superstar Juninho says he did not touch a proper soccer ball, on grass, until he was 14-years old. In Futsal you are likely to touch the ball six times more often – per minute – than a normal soccer player. The players are constantly touching the ball, making a mistake, making a correction, touching the ball, making another mistake, making another correction and so forth.

The reason that I made the incorrect play in the WSOP is because I have not participated in sufficient deep practice when it comes to the game of poker. Watching and talking with the pros will only take you so far. For real deep practice you need to play, make mistakes, make adjustments, play, make mistakes then make more adjustments. In poker one mistake can mean the end of the tournament, but that is no different from a lot of other games or sports. Missing a pot in snooker and making a wrong move in chess constitute good examples.

So what can we all learn from this? The first thing to note is mistakes are inevitable and the more mistakes you can make – in a very quick period of time – the more likely you are to become very talented. So I will be getting right back on the horse tomorrow to play some more live tournament poker. The second thing to note is deep practice relates to so much more than sport. Anything that you decide to achieve in life will, or will not, be achieved dependant on your willingness to immerse yourself in deep practice. If you want to be a great writer then you need to write a lot, if you want to be a great painter then you need to paint a lot and if you want to be a great poker player then you need to play a lot. Deep practice is just one ingredient in the recipe for creating talent and I strongly suggest you read The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle to learn more on this interesting subject.

So next time you believe something is just outside of your reach. When you believe you do not have the talent to accomplish something. Remember that anything is possible with the commitment, belief and a lot of deep practice.

Greatness is not born, it is grown – Daniel Coyle

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  1. Playing Texas Hold ’em to AC/DC? How do you concentrate? lol

    • Lee Davy says:


      You make a good point actually. That photo was taken during a tournament in Prague. Throughout the whole tournament I listened to my Ipod and read books on my Kindle. Not exactly what I would decree deep practice. Since my understanding of this phenomena has improved I have been concentrating a lot better when I play.



      PS: I hate AC/DC.

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