10,000 Hours

Posted on Aug 10, 2009 by Gugel in Poker Strategy, Psychology

Back in May, I talked about the three things you need to master to become a great poker player.   But the key ingredient to greatness that I didn’t talk about is experience.  Beyond just playing lots of hands, experience includes watching training videos, getting coached, or posting in forums.  The more you play, the better you will get.  Just put in the time.

In Outliers: The Story of Success, Max Gladwell makes the argument that in order to master anything, you have to put in 10,000 hours of work.  Assuming an 8-hour day, that 1250 days or about 3.5 years (with no days off).

Take Bill Gates. Before he dropped out of Harvard and started Microsoft, he was programming like a maniac for 7 consecutive years.  Or take The Beatles.  When they got one of their first gigs in Germany, they played nonstop, all night long, seven days a week, for weeks on end.

Here’s a quick anecdote from Bill Buxton’s book Sketching User Experiences.

“A ceramics professor comes in on the first day of class and divides the students into two sections. He tells one half of the class that their final grade will be based exclusively on the volume of their production; the more they make, the better their grade. The professor tells the other half of the class that they will be graded more traditionally, based solely on the quality of their best piece.

At the end of the semester, the professor discovered that the students who were focused on making as many pots as possible also ended up creating the best pots, much better than the pots made by the students who spent all semester trying to create that one perfect pot.”

When I was in the 2 Months, 2 Million house this summer, I had a chance to ask Dani and Brian how much time they think they put into poker.  They said they definitely spent over 10,000 hours.

No matter how much talent you have, you have to put in the time in order to be successful.  Maybe 10,000 hours is not the magic number and it probably varies from industry-to-industry.  But I believe in the concept.  Poker is not an easy way to make money and just like anything else, it requires a lot of practice to master.

So here’s the practical, takeaway advice.  Don’t set goals for yourself that are out of your control.  Whether you win $3,000 this month or not is something that’s not entirely up to you.  Set goals on things you can control, like playing a certain number of hours, watching a certain number of videos, responding to a certain number of forum posts, etc.  Put in the time and success will follow.

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One Response to “10,000 Hours”

  1. Travis Johnston

    19. Aug, 2009

    I thought Outliers was a brilliant book and all poker players should read it to really understand the 10,000 hours of practice concept.

    Sadly many give up to early as discussed in: