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Generation Next -- Ben Eliass

Ben ‘BoyWonder’ Eliass Slays Opponents With the Power of Now

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: May 28, 2010

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Ben EliassBen Eliass lost the precious bankroll that he had built up from a small deposit online, and it disturbed him. He lost sleep, and felt guilty, anxious, and confused. Life had been good … well, at least before poker had come along. So why, in a matter of minutes, had this inconsequential loss of money rattled Eliass’ mind, causing him to lose his newfound sense of peace and happiness?

Back in 2006, Eliass’ love for life had been reawakened after years of sensing a lack of purpose in his day-to-day living. Also around this time, he’d been introduced to poker, a game that both intrigued and challenged him. But the physical, mental, and emotional distress of losing his bankroll had rocked his new world. Why? For the answers, he turned within.

“I began to see the game as sort of spiritual practice,” said Eliass. “I had been learning to do the same thing in my everyday life at the time. So, I began to use poker as a form of meditation. That bankroll loss was a wake-up call for me to focus on the mental aspect of poker in order to grow my game to the next level.”

Eliass also developed a daily routine of being mindful before sitting down in that day’s cash games. He would set a goal, and would focus on that goal alone during the entire session. If he felt that he’d been too loose in a previous session, tightening up was his goal. Being mindful of a specific purpose for each session enabled Eliass to feel that he was in control of his success for that session. More importantly, it once again forced him to be present and not subconsciously slip into autopilot mode.

Be alert. Focus on breathing. Be in the now. These simple thoughts became his mantras, in life and at the poker table. By concentrating on these affirmations, Eliass transformed himself into a very successful winning player, and a highly regarded coach at LeggoPoker.

Craig Tapscott: Why had poker upset you so much when you lost your first bankroll?

Ben Eliass: I discovered that this game, because it’s so ego-related, had the power to take away my consciousness.

CT: What had you been doing that made you feel happier and more fulfilled before poker?

BE: Around 2006, I was going through a tough time in my life. On the surface, I was successful. I had my health and good friends, yet there wasn’t any real enjoyment in my life — and I didn’t understand why. I started reading some philosophical literature, and applied some techniques. That opened my eyes to an entirely new world. I learned to use my senses, to be present and in the now. That was an awakening, and it was one of the keys that began to enable me to once again enjoy my life.

CT: So, share with me how that internal awakening translated to your poker game.

BE: I felt that I needed to develop an edge over my opponents. I knew that just by focusing on the now, I would have an advantage, and it also would guarantee that my opponents wouldn’t have an edge over me.

CT: But how did you use that knowledge practically at the table?

BE: Initially, I started to focus on my breathing while playing. I had Post-it notes all over the place to remind me. Every time I lost my presence or consciousness at the table, glancing at the notes brought me back to the present, back in the game.

CT: Any other practical tools?

BE: I experimented with several things. The strongest tool was the idea of finding the perfect bet size. Let’s say that I’m playing in a $3-$6 cash game. When I continuation-bet a flop, a number for the bet-sizing pops into my head, and I just click it in and bet. The difference now is that I will pause (in this case, let’s say that I’m value-betting) and ask myself if I can bet $1 more, $2 more, and so on. Eventually, I’ll reach an inflection point where I think I will be played back at, or floated, and so on, and then I choose that bet size and click it in. Does this mean that my bet-sizing is better now than if I didn’t pay attention? I think so. More importantly, by paying such close attention, it will have an indirect effect on all of my game. It helps me stay in the present moment. Spade Suit