Do You Have it in You? Dreaming Big With PokerStars

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Anyone checking out my stories on Instagram can see I've become massively immersed into the world of Poker out here in Barcelona. However, you might want to know how to start small and work your way up. At all times gamble responsibly and be mindful this is not a shortcut to fame and riches. But of course you should always dream big! 

For example you might be interested to check out my interview with Kalidou Sow. Here is a gentleman that was a needle starting at zero going the other way, then he got his life back on track, started playing poker with friends, worked his way up through the ranks and is now an ambassador for PokerStars. 

Some people just have it in them. You might have it in you! You can get involved from as little as £2.99 and join an unforgettable experience worth over £8,150. 

The EPT Barcelona Main Event has broken the attendance record once again. With 1,988 entries to date, the 2019 edition has surpassed last year's then-record field of 1,931 entries. 

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I was surprised how few women there are taking part in these tournaments as there is a real sense of community within PokerStars. It's refreshing to see that people can be so accommodating and friendly, whilst remaining focused on the task at hand.

The conversations aren't always about poker too. A lot of people were here with friends and family, sharing stories of their travels, recommending museums and restaurants. It's an international stage and it gives so many people the chance to experience new things. 

As part of my research for a previous post on What Life lessons can poker teach us? I tuned in to many of the philosophies that Annie Duke, professional poker player and author of the book Annie Duke: How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the World Series of Poker.

Jesus that's a massive title for a book. Luckily it's great and I recommend it even if you're not a poker player yourself. 

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SO HOW DO I START? 

You can start by losing yourself on the PokerStars website. There you’ll find more tournaments and games than any other poker site, with 24/7 support, secure deposits and fast withdrawals. There is a game starting every second and if you've taken two minutes to read this you've already missed.... er....wait a sec.. 120 games. (Phew). 

You can start playing for free with Play Money until you build enough confidence to play for money and work your way up the ranks. You'll also find rules and hand rankings for Texas Hold'em, Omaha and other poker games.

It's been a real blast being out here and I can't thank PokerStars enough for the invitation. I'll be looking to get some games going when I return home so drop me a line or a comment if you'd be interested in joining. 

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A Look Inside the Poker Mastermind of PokerStars 2019 Ambassador Kalidou Sow

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Today I had the pleasure of sitting down and talking to Kalidou Sow at the European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona, Poker Player extraordinaire and PokerStars ambassador. His backstory can be an inspiration to all of us. How sometimes we all have to rebrand. Hit rock bottom and start clawing your way to the top. 

Kalidou Sow was a former Basketball athlete with a promising career in the NBA ahead of him. An injury cut that career short, before it really began. This lead to a downward  spiral of clubs, excess and nihilism. 

It all reached a head one night when Kalidou crashed his car on the way back from a club after falling asleep at the wheel. The man who came out of the wreckage knew it was time to change his ways. 

He started playing poker with friends in small tournaments and gradually broke through the ranks of the Parisian poker circle. Today he is a force to be reckoned with and I got the chance to sit down and talk life, poker and croissants. 

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Kalidou Sow you're now a PokerStars ambassador. How does that rate in terms of your achievements in poker?

It's amazing for me. People come up to me and ask for my photo, it's crazy because I haven't changed. 

How do you juggle everyday life with the demands of poker? 

It's not easy when you play poker, it’s better to be a single man. I'll play an event for days ten days, then I go home. When I'm home it's family time. No poker.  

How many hours do you practice? 

I play with my instinct. I don't practice but I do watch other players. 

Do you have a personal style when you're at the table? Is style important to you? 

Before I had a son I used to go shopping a lot. Style used to be very important to me, but not as much anymore. 

Your favourite Casino? 

Bellagio in Vegas.

Sunglasses Kalidou, talk to me. Sometimes you wear them at the table other times not. How come and do you agree with sunglasses being allowed period? 

It’s important to do what you want. Sometimes I wear sunglasses to mask my expression. You don't see nothing. I'm neutral. When I'm more relaxed I won't wear glasses.  

But sunglasses or no sunglasses, I'm very focused and nothing disturbs me. 

Do you have any tips for someone looking to get into poker? 

Yes watch a lot of videos and streaming. If you watch all the players, you'll learn something. Something different from each one. You'll make many mistakes and you'll learn from them. Keep thinking about the game you played afterwards. Have a debrief. What did you do right, wrong etc? You have to evolve. It's not bad to make a mistake, but its criminal to make the same mistake twice. 

And let’s just say I'm on the poker table for the first time, what should I do? 

Know where your weaknesses are. Don't take a lot of risks. You must play the best hands. If you're just starting out go with your guts. Your impulse. You must have confidence, if you don't I'll take advantage of you. 

Photo Credit PokerStars and Neil Stoddart

The 3 Massive Life Lessons to Take From Poker

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Today I'm going to share some thoughts and research on the world of Poker, and what life lessons we can learn from the game of poker. 

If you've seen my Instagram stories you'll know I've teamed up with PokerStars who are the proud sponsors of this blog. They've kindly invited me over to Barcelona to join an event and I'll be cracking wise and learning all about the psychology of Poker with some of the best players in the world. 

WHAT CAN POKER TEACH ME? 

What are the mental benefits from playing Poker? Everyone knows that exercising the brain is good for longevity. It's why we're encouraged to do Crossword puzzles the more we get older. 

I've discovered the same can be said about Poker. There are life-lessons that you can take from the game of poker. 

ACCEPT SOME BAD LUCK 

You could be an amazing poker player. Imagine you're the best poker player on the table and you've calculated the odds that the hand you're holding has a 99% chance of winning. 

The person across from you wins, through fluke luck. That 1% didn't go your way.

Lesson 1:

You sometimes have to accept that you don't lose to the better person but you lose to lady luck. 

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COMPARTMENTALISE 

When you win at poker you're the best and smartest in the room. When you lose it was because you had crap cards all night. How many times have you heard that or told yourself that? 

You have to be able to admit your faults. Maybe you didn't play those crap cards as well as you should have? Maybe you waiting too long for the right hand, not doing enough with what you were given? 

Lesson 2: 

Admit your faults and don't rush to pat yourself on the back when you win. Even when you win, think on how you could have improved. 

THE GREAT STUDY OF OTHERS

This is a game unlike any other. You have what is known in the trade as an immediate feedback loop. Meaning on average, each hand of poker lasts 2 minutes. You can learn something about peoples behavioural patterns every two minutes. 

Was someone too impetuous to raise? Did someone go all in an attempt to bully their way out of trouble? Is someone averting their eyes, uneasy, unsure? 

Lesson 3: 

Watch people’s reactions. How do people react under pressure and what does that say about their mental state? How do you handle stress and what facade can you create to help shield your emotions? People watching, not naval gazing. So much more fun.