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What Should We Do About Black Friday?

by Alan Schoonmaker |  Published: Apr 29, '11


Hi Everybody,

Over the past few days countless American poker players have asked that question, and many of their answers have been irrational. For example, idaman wrote a long comment below my, “More Objections To My Blog.” I’ll reply to only parts of it.

He wrote, “Do you actually have any ideas of what we should do? Do you have any suggestions because writing our leaders and protesting seem to be about the only options poker players have? Obviously you don’t fully grasp the concept of a democracy. I’m not saying it will do any good to write our leaders, but what other options do we have?”

The critical words are, “I’m not saying it will do any good to write our leaders, but what other options do we have?” If he believes it’s that writing to our leaders won’t do any good, then writing to them is clearly an expressive rather than an instrumental action. He’s blowing off steam, not trying to solve his problem.

Rational behavior is always oriented toward achieving a desirable result. If your actions are unlikely to produce the desired results, don’t do them. Every smart poker player applies that principle.

For example, if you think that your bluff is more likely to be called than the odds you’re getting, don’t bluff.

If you think it’s unlikely that someone will bet, don’t try for a check-raise.

Don’t make a dumb play and then insist that it’s the right thing to do just because it makes you feel good.

Since he thinks that letters won’t do any good, writing them is obviously just an emotionally-driven waste of time. It may make him feel good – because he is doing something – but it doesn’t accomplish anything.

He continued: “Again you say, ‘All I recommend is that you analyze the situation dispassionately and then take the actions which are most likely to produce favorable results. That’s what sensible poker players always do.’

“I would like your next blog to offer some dispassionately analyzed suggestions and alternatives. How else do you take on the government?”

I’m not going to “take on the government.” Sensible poker players don’t fight battles they can’t win. Would you call for all your stack with seven-two offsuit against someone who has pocket aces? You would have better odds than you would in this battle against the government. Your seven-deuce will win about 1/8 of the time. Your chances of winning this battle against the government in any reasonable amount of time are much less than 1/100.

My recent blogs definitely offered “some dispassionately analyzed suggestions and alternatives.” They said that you should switch to B&M games, carefully analyze the differences between online and B&M games, and then adjust to these differences.

Your Critical Task Is Adjusting To B&M Games.

If you’re a winning online player, you can almost certainly beat B&M games if you adjust well.

If you’re a break-even online player, you can probably beat them if you adjust well.

No matter how talented you are, if you don’t adjust well, you will certainly lose.

A few very gifted players will adjust quickly with little or no help. Most good players will have their win-rate drop at first, perhaps even lose for a little while, but they will then review their play and situation, make adjustments, and do well.

Virtually every online player without much experience in B&M rooms will have some problems adjusting to differences such as much higher costs, slower pace, larger swings, the importance of body language, and the absence of software.

Nearly everyone will adjust faster if they get help. And the faster you adjust, the better your bottom line will be.

I’m writing a series of Card Player magazine columns on how to adjust. The first one will appear in about a month. I’m also working with Chris Wallace, Adam Stemple, and Jan Siroky to prepare seminars and webinars that will help you to adjust.

My Partners

As I have often said, I’m just a psychologist, not a poker expert. My partners provide the poker expertise. Since you may not know them, I’ll give you a little background. You can get much more information from their websites. Chris and Adam have been partners for years on many projects, and they recently published an excellent book, No Limits.

On its cover Lou Krieger wrote, “A terrific book, a vastly superior analysis of the game, and one that’s easily read and understood.” I wrote, “If you want to think like a winning no-limit player, this book will help you immensely.”

Chris (“Fox”) Wallace is a well-known, high-stakes pro. He still makes the majority of his living at the tables, but has also been a highly successful coach. His column, “The Online Fox,” appears in Poker Pro, Poker Pro Europe and Poker Pro Online magazines. He has also written for Deal magazine, the twoplustwo online magazine, and multiple websites including and Blind Straddle Online Magazine as well as being featured in Card Player magazine.

He’s been on the front page of since its inception, and his piece on bankroll management remains their most popular article nearly four years after its publication. He worked with the Real Poker Training when they pioneered the screen capture video training that has become the norm for online poker training sites. He and Adam also ran one of the first serious poker training sites at until its purchase by in March of 2008. Fox is now the head cash game instructor at Poker X Factor, one of the world’s largest and most respected poker training sites.

He’s an expert on using PokerTracker and Holdem Manager to do ICM calculations and complicated hand analysis.

Fox used rakeback and bonus programs to build his initial bankroll, and he and Adam run, a rakeback site. They have often said that it’s difficult or impossible for many low-limit pros to survive without rakeback. Their experience makes them eminently qualified to help pros find a way to survive in B&M games which, of course, don’t have rakeback (but do have other “bonuses”). His website is

Adam Stemple is a long time pro/entrepreneur who has been Chris’ partner in many of the projects I just discussed. He started with Chris and now teaches for, specializing in alternate games and mental issues. His website is

Jan Siroky and I have collaborated on several projects, and he is one of the coaches I recommended in my book, Your Best Poker Friend. Jan plays professionally, specializing in tournaments. His coaching system helps players to consistently play their best or to make the next best decision, don’t play.

He teaches tournament players how to balance accumulation and survivalist strategies and overcome adversity. He combines this model with his “target marketing” system that I discussed in a Card Player article. His web site is

Do You Really Need Help?

You may think, “I don’t need help. I’m a good player and know how to adjust to changing conditions.” Perhaps you’re right, but will you adjust as quickly and cheaply as you would with help?

I see some parallels to the introduction of hand-tracking software. When it was first introduced, many players resisted using it. They either thought it was unethical, were uncomfortable with it, or believed they didn’t need it.

But the ones who used it quickly realized how valuable it is. A few people still don’t use it, but they would probably do better if they used it well.

We’re planning live adjustment workshops in Las Vegas during the WSOP. Exact dates and locations will be announced when finalized.

We will conduct a FREE WEBINAR on Friday, May 6 at 9 PM EDT.

I’ll do an hour on the psychological aspects of moving to live games, and Chris will do an hour on adjusting your play. All the info for this webinars is available at

As I said in earlier blogs, it’s your choice. You can rant and complain and write letters, but you won’t solve your problem. Or you can accept that you’ve been dealt lousy cards and get the help that will teach you how to play them well.

If you have a question, please add it in any comment section, or e-mail me Before emailing, please check my first blog, “What is poker psychology coaching?”

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of


over 10 years ago

The UIGEA is uncostitutional, because it takes away the right of the people to play poker online; and the power people at the DOJ (Bharara, etc)should be arrested first then released if, and ONLY IF, they prove themselves innocent from bribery, for money received from the B&R casinos.


over 10 years ago

I am confused. Dusty is writing blogs that are not shilling anything and Dr. Al is writing blogs shilling himself. You sure the names on these blogs were not switched at the time of writing. Of course Dr Al allows comments and Dusty still is hiding behind not allowing comments on his blog here. Where in the Constitution does it say you can play poker online TheWize1. I missed that amendment some how.


over 10 years ago

Saying anyone who won money online can be a live pro is extremely misleading. You can be a pro online by beating a very low stakes game for a very low win rate. Some online pro's don't even have a positive win rate, they just play for rake back. You can do things like that online because of the insane volume you can put in.

The only way you could possibly make a living playing live poker is by absolutely crushing $5/$10 NL or higher. Breaking even is difficult enough when you consider the absurd rake, the fact you have to tip after every pot you win, and the fact you only get 30 hands per hour. Even if you have a huge edge at a 5/10 NL live game, you could run bad for a year or two playing live, considering that a full time player can only get about 60k hands a year. Even the best players have 60k hand downswings.


over 10 years ago

BTW have any of these instructors had success at live or online poker? Its kind of weird to take advice on how to switch from one thing to another from a guy whose never done either.


over 10 years ago

We're two weeks into this now, and I wonder how many U.S. players haven't moved on to Plan B already, whatever Plan B is for them.


over 10 years ago


We're two weeks into this now, and I wonder how many U.S. players haven't moved on to Plan B already, whatever Plan B is for them.


I opened an account at Cake Poker, if that's what you mean.

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