Phil Ivey has been talking to Barry Greenstein about how he became one of the best poker players in the world. The pair of all-time great players sat down to discuss the old days with Ivey explaining what it was that made him different.
Phil Ivey’s Road to Greatness
It is always interesting to hear directly from an all-time great about how they did it. Usually it involves insane commitment to the point where most mortals would not even begin to consider emulating them.
In Ivey’s case it all began with an innate ability to become obsessed. Obsessed about anything he chooses that is.
Most of us have experienced that feeling of not wanting to stop doing something when we’re really getting into it. Ivey says he has to set time restrictions when he plays video games because he will play for the whole day.
With poker obsession leads to thinking about the game for every waking minute. Although not a healthy state of being it will certainly improve your results and lead to a deep understanding of technical concepts.
Greenstein reminds Ivey of the time he started playing golf and woke up at 6.30am for a whole year to improve. Ivey responds that he actually lost $1.5 million in golf bets during the first year and so the daily practice was necessary.
The Phil Ivey Stare
Ivey’s level of focus was something that had never been seen before. The sheer intensity was akin to what Tiger Woods and Michael Schumacher did to their respective sports. If you wanted to beat them you simply had to raise your game to a level that wasn’t comfortable.
Greenstein agrees that Ivey wanted to win more than anybody else. In fact, it is surprising that Ivey himself didn’t realise how focussed he was until he went through a period of not trying so hard.
The will to prove everybody wrong was another factor. Like most of us, Ivey had to contend with the naysayers and that gave him so much extra motivation.
All of this intensity in Ivey’s professional life eventually led him to a realisation that he wasn’t enjoying it like he should. The money is always nice, but winning a high-stakes poker tournament should be a cause for celebration. Instead Ivey only felt relief.
Now, in what might be considered the latter half of his career, Ivey is focussing on feeling some joy from his accomplishments.
How Ivey Keeps Sharp Past 40
Most of us who have passed the 40 mark will attest to the increased difficulty of keeping both physically and mentally fit.
In years gone by Ivey had a reputation for very good physical fitness, but it is only now that he is working hard on the mental side.
Pursuits like meditation and yoga are helping him to achieve peak performance against the younger generation who are also leaving nothing to chance.
Ivey will likely be a much different character at the tables once his legal troubles are finally behind him.
The first 20 years of his illustrious career were all about making money, with no other concerns. Probably the next 20 will see a much more relaxed persona with still all of the frightening skills we are accustomed to seeing.
In the post-covid world there will no doubt be a rush of live poker. High-stakes tournaments will be offered all over the planet as things get back to normal, and we can expect Phil Ivey to be as thirsty for action as the rest of us.
We can’t wait!
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