The final table of the World Series of Poker begins Monday as nine players compete for more than $26 million with first place taking home $8.5 million. Will it be skill, luck or "The Secret" -- The Law of Attraction -- that determines the winner?
Here's a clue. One day I was playing $20-$40 Omaha Hi-Lo at Hollywood Park Casino and negative energy was radiating off this Dougie Downer like bracelets off Phil Ivey's wrists. I was sitting to his left and he showed me his hand: A-A-2-3 double-suited (the best possible starting hand). With one card left to come out, there was $400 in the pot and Dougie had a monster.
A bit under his breath but still loud enough for the other players to hear, he said, "How am I going to get screwed this time?"
You see, he was expecting to lose. You could argue that he was begging to lose. And as if it wasn't enough to give off non-verbal tells, he was now giving his opponents, including a sharp player named Mo, a verbal one as well.
The last card was bad, though not necessarily fatal, for Dougies hand. Instead of keeping a poker face, Dougie looked like he got his bell rung by a blitzing Clay Matthews. Mo, who was watching Dougie instead of the cards (as most expert poker players do), bet $40. Dougie grimaced like a torture victim while he deliberated. He then turned his cards face up to show everyone how unlucky he was. There was now $440 in the pot, giving Dougie 11 to 1 odds to make what I think is an easy call.
Dougie was too caught up in emotion, plus his subconscious was sabotaging his success. Instead of making the smart mathematical play and seeing the bet, he folded and screamed, "See! If you had any doubt that I'm the unluckiest player in the world, there is my proof!"
I later asked Mo outside if he had Dougie's hand beat. He smiled and said, “It was a flat-out bluff. But with the look on Dougie's face, he conceded the pot."
Mo got what he wanted for that hand (the pot) and for the day (a winning session). Dougie got what he wanted as well: To make his case to anyone who will listen that he is the unluckiest person in the world. Life finds way to confirm what you believe. Show me a player who keeps stats on how unlucky he is and I'll show you a player who soon will be asking you for a loan.
My advice to the final nine at the WSOP is the same as it is for any poker player. Start by thinking and acting in ways that make you feel like you are lucky and a winner. Money follows money; and chips follow chips, so always make sure you sit down in a game with plenty of ammo. On the emotional side, don't bother to play if you're feeling squeezed. In April, the uncertainty of how much I owed in taxes was hanging over me so I took a break until I heard from my accountant. Fear and scarcity are feelings I never want to bring to a poker game.
Another thing that creates a feeling of scarcity is rooting against others. When you have feelings of envy or hate toward others, it's your mind's way of saying there’s not enough left for you. Like Dougie, many poker players are guilty of Schadenfreude, the German word for malicious joy in the misfortunes of others. It's a loser's mentality, since begrudging the success of others is the surest way not to get what they have. If you want Phil Ivey's bracelets or his bankroll, study him. Don't root against him.
In poker, it's not enough to want or wish for success. You have to feel it and believe it to attract it. In subtle and not so subtle ways, your opponents pick up on your vibe and act accordingly. Poker players (and potential romantic partners) can sense desperation. In Dougie's case, his deep-seated belief that he's unlucky attracts situations in which he's unlucky -- even when he has the best hand.
I'll let author Wayne Dyer offer the final word to the final nine as well as all the aspiring poker champions out there. "I have a little bit of a different take on The Secret. We don't attract what we want. We attract what we are."
-- Greg Dinkin is a Certified Health Coach and author of three books including The Poker MBA and Amarillo Slim's memoir. He won $102,542 at the 2006 World Series of Poker and explains in his TED talk how he used the power of both mind and body to lose 100 pounds.