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When I Was A Donk: Nam Le

Top Pros Share Their Early Mistakes


Nam LeIn this new series, Card Player asks top pros to rewind back to their humble beginnings and provide insights regarding the mistakes, leaks, and deficiencies that they had to overcome in order to improve their games.

Nam Le is considered to be one of the most consistent no-limit hold’em players on the circuit today. The young California poker pro started cashing in major tournaments back in 2004, and since then has accumulated a massive $6 million in career earnings. His list of poker accomplishments is staggering:

He won the 2006 World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star for $1.1 million, finished second in the 2008 WPT Festa al Lago Classic for a nearly seven-figure payday, and won the 2008 APPT Macau main event for $474,000. All told, he has cashed exactly 100 times in his career, including nine outright wins.

Here, Le talks about one of his earliest mistakes when he was first having success with no-limit hold’em tournaments, and why correcting this leak was so crucial to his longevity in the game.

“I had huge leaks with my bankroll management back in the early days. I didn’t know how to manage my money. I lost a lot of money by loaning too much, and I just generally over-extended myself in tournament buy-ins. It is impossible to overcome leaks with your bankroll management, especially nowadays when the world of tournament poker has gotten so much tougher. The variance is so high in tournaments, so the No. 1 thing you need to in order to be successful is proper management of your poker funds. You have to clean it up if it’s not that strong, because it doesn’t matter how good you are or how skillfully you play, you won’t make it unless you have the proper mindset for your money.”

“I staked people back then, as well. I wouldn’t say I was a sucker, but I gave into every sad story there was. I mean, I helped a lot of friends, which I am not saying you shouldn’t do, but you generally shouldn’t at the cost of your own career. I worked at learning how to say ‘no’ to people, which is something you have to become comfortable with when you start to have success in this game. Your friends will still be your friends even if you turn them down for a loan. You shouldn’t shoot yourself in the foot when you help other players.”

“When I first became really successful, the biggest thing I bought was a house. I didn’t really change that much, other than having more friends. For players here at this World Series of Poker who have a large score, which could be their first big win in a poker tournament, I would tell them to be careful about the pitfalls of loaning and staking. If you are going to stake someone, do it more because you want to help them and not for a profit. A few years ago, it was easier to show a profit more quickly in this type of business deal. Now, with the fields being so tough, you have to be willing to go deep before showing a return. It might take years to get your money back. Just be careful when your bankroll becomes big, and be smart to protect it. Keep your risks down. It is very hard for young players, for example those who win a tournament this summer, to remember how hard it was to make that breakthrough and establish their bankroll. You have to think ahead, and when you get ahold of some money, hold onto it and figure out a way to make it last long-term. Wait three or four months before you stake someone or make that big purchase.” Spade Suit