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Accepting the Challenge - Turning Pain Into Success

by Matt Affleck |  Published: Feb 08, '12


Accepting The Challenge-
Turning Pain Into Success

I will preface this blog by saying that most of the content, while rewritten in my words, is credited to Eric “The Hip Hop Preacher” Thomas. You should check out his website at or check out his Youtube channel for many of his motivational speeches at where every Monday he posts a new episode of his show TGIM, Thank God its Monday. A show to motivate you to work harder each week and achieve your goals.

I discovered some of the work of Eric “The Hip Hop Preacher” Thomas a couple weeks ago through his video, “How Bad Do You Want It” of Giovanni Ruffin (former RB for East Carolina, ). I have spent much of the last 72 hours engulfed by his messages. These messages have sent me in to his so called “Dream World”, thinking about what I really want. What goals do I want? Where do I want to be in one year? Five years? Ten years? While thinking about what I wanted to achieve in the near future, I also began to think about what I had in the past. Two years ago in 2009 I shot into the poker world. I won a Spring Championship of Online poker event for $470,000. I had a $30,000 bankroll at the time and had 100% of my action in the event (satellited in). In both, 2009 and 2010, I had deep runs in the World Series of Poker Main event with 80th and 15th finishes respectively. I had become one of the new rising stars of poker. I was featured in World Poker Tour's new segment “The Ones to Watch.” I had made it in the poker world and and had taken it for granted.

Flash forward 12 months to the beginning of 2012 and the poker world has come crashing down on me. I took everything for granted in 2009 and 2010. I thought that this game was easy and every year I was going to have a half million dollar tournament score. I thought that success was going to come to me without going through pain. I stopped working on my game because I was overridden with confidence that I could achieve my goals and aspirations without putting in the hard work. This was the mindset that led me to my first losing year of poker, since I quit my job at the grocery store back in the summer of 2006 . In 2011, I wanted success, I wanted to win Cardplayer POY, I wanted to have a million dollar year, but I didn't want to endure the pain that comes with success. I wanted everything in the world, but I didn't want to put in the work to reach that success. I am talking about the work outside of the tables. Studying hand histories, talking with other top pros, watching videos. There is so much content and information easily available about advanced poker theory, that anyone with the will to succeed can get it. There is no information that is available to the likes of Jason Mercier, Eugene Katchalov, Eric Seidel that isn’t available to anyone else, as long as you put the work in to get that information, and the work to process that information. Thats the glory of the situation that we are all in right now. Everything is there for the taking.
Accepting the challenge is what it is all about. “You have to live the best of your life for the rest of your life! Forget about your past because the only one tripping over it is you.” - Eric Thomas. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t let them drive you down. All that matters is today, tomorrow and the next day after that. Accept the challenge that there will be pain in reaching success. I went through pain this past year losing much of my bankroll. It took that pain to reilize that I actually wanted to succeed. And you know what? I expect more pain in the future before I can reilize success. People come up to me sometimes and say, “ You deserved to win the main event last year,” or , “ I felt your pain during the main event, you'll win it next year.” The 2010 main event is in the past. The only thing I have taken from that event, is the pain. Not the pain that I feel sorry for my self because of what happened. But, the pain is with me because that pain is what is going to drive me to success in the future. I was given a taste of success, but I want the whole thing now. I am going to turn that pain into success because the only way to achieve success is by going through the pain.
There is a massive opportunity coming up in the poker world in the next few years. There is the potential 2nd coming of the “Poker Boom”. People always say, myself included, “Man I wish I was where I am now in poker, back in 2004 when Party Poker was around.” They wish they were as well prepared as they are now for that opportunity that has come and gone. We very well may have that 2nd chance that people always ask for. Will you be prepared for the opportunity, if and when it comes? There will be sponsorship opportunities, fame opportunities, one of us could very well be the new Moneymaker. The question is, will you be prepared when your opportunity come ; because you don't know when you will get it? It might be in the LAPC 2012, WSOP 2012, WSOPE 2012, when you are given an opportunity in a tournament, in life, in school, will you be prepared enough that you are not practicing while you are playing? I once heard a quote, but do not know who it is by, “Luck Is where opportunity and preparation meet.” You can control the preparation and you can generate your own “Luck” by being prepared to the best of your ability when opportunity arrives. All I know is, next time I am deep in a major tournament, the next time I am given that great opportunity, I will be so well prepared, because I have put in more work off the tables.
Part one though is only accepting the challenge. You need to embrace the challenge. Turn your weaknesses into strengths. “Step out of your comfort zone and put yourself in a position where you feel stupid”. You can't be afraid to struggle in life. Wither it is in poker, school, or any situation, the only way you can enhance your self as a person is by first struggling. I relate to this with some of the mixed games right now in poker. This past fall I sat at a 20/40 stud hi table at Commerce. My first time ever sitting at a live stud hi table. I struggled, but learned so much in those 2 hours of playing through my struggles. I have never paid attention so much at a table because I knew I was weak at that game. I was trying to do whatever I could to improve. Take that mindset into everything you do in your life. “If your struggling, don’t quit, remember it is the pain that will lead to the success. You can't walk around pain, the only way to success is THROUGH pain.”

Finally, the third point is to “Become Excellent.” Someone else out there wants your spot in the spotlight. “Your not the only kid who wants to play in the NBA,NFL, attend Yale, attend Harvard. It takes that extra 1 pushup, that extra mile, that extra hour of studying.” If you really want success, are you going to let anyone else work harder than you to get it? Take for example, say there are going to be a lot of open sponsorship opportunities in the next 2-3 with new online poker sites. Are you going to let other people work harder than you to get those opportunities? There is a reason Jason Mercier is on top of the poker world right now. There's a reason he is living the life that every poker player wants to live. HE WORKS HARDER than anyone else out there. He put in more hours, more pain then anyone else. Im friends with Jason, but not super close, but every time we were at the same tournament stop in the last 2-3 years, he put in more hours at the table then anyone else. He was putting in 24 hour sessions in the mixed games at Commerce to work on his game, to make his money. Very few people are putting forth that pain, that time, in order to reach success. Over the next couple of years ill be fighting with people like Jason, Moorman, Eugene Katchalov to win poker tournaments all over the world. I have to ask my self. “Am I going to let them work harder than me?” Because as much as you, or I want to think it, It's not going to be who runs the best, it's going to be who is the most prepared when opportunities arise. Who is going to make the least mistakes with 10 left in the LAPC 2014 with a 1.5 million first prize? If your prepare your self to become excellent you will put yourself in that opportunity enough times that you WILL succeed. But remember, there will be pain along the way, but don’t let hat DIScourage, but only Encourage you to work harder for the next opportunity

These have been some of the thoughts that I have been thinking over in the last 72 hours after listening to Eric Thomas. He doesn't mention the word poker once during any of his speeches, but thats not the point. You can succeed at anything with the right mindset and attitude. The problem is, “Most of you kind of want to be successful, but if you REALLY want to be successful you need to be willing to put more time in then the person next to you.”

As 2012 moves along I will see how bad I really want to be successful. I will see how much I really want to turn the pain of last year into success in 2012. Next Monday, I leave for my first traveling poker trip of 2012. I will be at the LAPC from Feb13 – Mar1 then Bay 101 from Mar1 – Mar9. I have never been more excited to succeed on a trip then for this one. I am working hard on my game trying to prepare my self incase my opportunity comes at LAPC or Bay 101. Maybe it will, maybe it wont, but I want to give my self the best chance to succeed if that opportunity comes. If not, there will be the next poker trip (WPT Florida?). You can't control the cards, but you can control how prepared you are if the cards give you the opportunity to succeed at any given tournament. The ones who take the most advantages of those “opportunities” are the people who will succeed the most in 2012.

Matt “Mcmatto” Affleck

Matt Affleck is a 24-year-old professional poker player living in Seattle, Washington. Follow his full blog and updates at You can also follow him on Twitter @McmattoPoker where he constantly updates about tournaments, motivation and being hustled by Matt Savage at golf.

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
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