Pursuing Mastery: Adventures in High Stakes Poker


Over the years I’ve kept this blog fairly impersonal. Although I share some of my stories, such as my results of 30 day challenges and occasional musings about my spiritual life, I haven’t really opened up about my own projects or aspirations. So in the spirit of personal growth and stretching my comfort zone, I’m going to unite a few different passions of mine (blogging, personal growth, metaphysics, and poker) into one focused exploration of what is possible. I’m also going to video blog about this journey on my YouTube Channel.

This past winter was intense. While the world outside was cold and wet, I stayed home and retreated into myself. If it’s possible to overdose on self inquiry, I came dangerously close. Weeks of deep introspection led me to ask myself potent questions such as What do I want in life right now?

I want more excitement, more travel, and more financial success. And it just so happens that one of my old hobbies has the potential to provide all of that.

I started playing poker in 2004. Back then, poker was trendy and on TV all the time. It appeared that anyone with half a brain could learn the game and become a pro within a couple years. So I read all the right books and within a few years was earning enough money to quit my day job.

Poker turned out to be taking me on a much bigger journey than I imagined. The immense complexity of the game is daunting enough, but becoming a consistent winner requires more than just putting in time at the tables, mastering hand reading, or having the courage to execute a savvy bluff. It turns out that success in poker demands a mastery of life skills across the board.

Mastering Poker Cash Game Strategy

The intense concentration and emotional maturity that the game requires is what led me to pursue personal development. Poker is the reason I started meditating, a practice I still value fifteen years later. In hindsight, this blog exists because of poker.

I stopped playing poker five years ago, soon after giving birth to my second daughter. In the balance of time management and conscious parenting, there was no space in my life for the game. With a nursing baby and a toddler at home, spending time in casinos was not an option, and I was too exhausted after the girls went to bed to navigate the brutal battleground of online games.

Five years passed, and my girls grew up, as children tend to do. They started school which freed up some time in my days. I decided to explore poker again, for several reasons.

First and foremost, I love the depth and complexity of the game. It lights me up, and I’m easily motivated to put in the time and effort that success requires. I also prefer having several streams of income, as relying on only one source feels like the proverbial keeping eggs in one basket. Poker is also extremely flexible for my schedule, so it’s an easy endeavor to balance with all the demands of motherhood and work.

Another reason I love the game is that poker is also a great metaphor for life in general. It provides an ideal context to apply many of the personal growth ideas I address in my writing, such as goal setting and lifestyle choices. It even lends itself to the exploration of more mystical concepts such as the nature of reality.

The idea of uniting poker, personal growth, and blogging came to me after reading The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. This potent book explores key aspects of pursuing mastery in a field, many of which are quite nuanced and push the boundaries of conventional thinking. Waitzkin’s personal story is impressive, as a child and young man he earned World Championship titles in both chess and martial arts, so he certainly knows a thing or two about how to achieve excellence.

His brilliant book spoke directly to one of my core curiosities: What is the full potential of the human mind? Although that topic is beyond the scope of this article, that question made me wonder . . . How good can I get at poker?

Waitzkin’s journey inspired me to raise the bar really high. So this project is not just about making some extra spending cash. This time around, I am going to pursue mastery in the bold world of high stakes poker. That might take a lifetime, or not. There is also the possibility I might give up at some point if the goal no longer feels aligned for me. But I’m sure that I will learn a lot along the way, and not just about poker.

For those of you who are curious to witness my journey, please take a moment to subscribe to my YouTube or follow me on Facebook and Instagram. I’ll be sharing stories from my adventure, hand histories, and reflections on all the unknown experiences that lie ahead.

For the poker players reading this, some technical notes for the sake of making this goal measurable:

After a few months of warming back up to the game by playing both online and live, I’ve decided to stick with live cash games for now. I love the human element of playing live and the social dynamics and psychology that this brings into the picture.

My bankroll right now is ample for the smaller stakes games, mainly 1/2 NL and 1/3 NL. I’ve taken a couple shots as 3/5NL and that has gone well so far. My goal is to develop my skills and grow my bankroll until I can hold my own in high stakes games. I’m defining high stakes as $10/$20 No Limit or any similar or higher blind structure.