Are you trying to improve your win rate? What about the value of your poker time? This week, James ‘SplitSuit’ Sweeney joins us to explore the many ways poker players can squeeze more value out of their poker time through simple mindset adjustments. Touching on strategy and mental game, this episode will give you a fresh perspective on how to accomplish your poker dreams and goals.

Featuring: Zac Shaw and James 'SplitSuit' Sweeney

Zac: James “Splitsuit” Sweeney, it’s so good to have you here to talk poker again today. How’s it going?

James: Not too bad, you are always so damn excited for these things, I don’t know how you do that but congratulations.

Zac: I gotta keep up the energy, winning or losing in this game, you gotta keep up the energy and I’m excited to have our conversation today. It’s something that I’ve thought a lot about, even as a recreational player and I know a lot of players out there are wondering, what is the value of their poker time, what is that worth and maybe before we talk about that, why does it matter what my poker time is worth maybe.

James: Sure, so let’s just talk about time in general, or actually let’s back up even a step further and just talk about value metrics. So there are two major things that everyone wants more of. Everyone wants more time to live and everyone wants more money and those are the two things that we’re constantly striving for and as poker players, obviously we’re extremely focused on the money part of it but often times it can get difficult and where poker players kind of fall apart is that they focus so much on just the straight financial money part, the chip stacks, all the financial stuff but don’t focus at all on the time part of it.

And as you get older and older and realize time is more and more precious, it becomes a very important factor and consideration on what is your time worth? And particularly when it comes to poker stuff, but just in general in life like understanding what your time is worth and doing things and making activities and making choices that maximize your time and maximize your dollar return and getting rid of things that waste your time and lower your value return, these are things that I think are really, really important and this has kind of been a mindset shift that’s taken me quite a few years to really wrap my head around, but I think in this stage of my life I’m a little bit better at it and kind of want to talk a little bit about that today. So do you have experience with this kind of stuff or how do you think about time and money?

Zac: Sure, I mean in the past, I’ve read a lot about how to calculate the value of your time and lots of self improvement sites and that sort of thing and it’s a great exercise to do, there’s a bunch of different ways to do it but ultimately, as I’ve heard you say, looking at money as a tool to accomplish what you want to do in life rather than just an abstract amount is where it starts and then you can kind of create an awareness of how much your time really is worth. You might be surprised I think.

James: Yeah, exactly right and that’s kind of what it really all revolves around and boils down to is your … kind of that value of your time. Like what do you consider an hour of your time to be worth? What do you consider a minute of your time to be worth and then making decisions around that but only through the lens of money being a tool, right. The issue is that a lot of people, poker players included, they’re really, really addicted to money. They idolize the money and they fantasize about the money but they don’t look at money the right way. Money is nothing more than a tool, it’s something that’s awesome and in poker we can use it as a score chart, a score sheet. But at the end of the day, it’s just a tool. You use money as a tool to get things that you need and want and if you start viewing your time in the same way, you spend money to get things that you want and need then all the sudden, the way you make decisions changes quite a bit.

So for me, like everything I do nowadays I think about return on time. It’s not like just recently or anything like this, I’ve been thinking about this for quite sometime. Everything I do comes down to, what is the return on this, right? How much time do I need to put into it, how much money do I need to put into it if anything and then what’s my return on that. And then I asked that about a whole bunch of different options that I have right at that moment. Because at this exact moment, you and I are recording a podcast but I have the option to hang up right this moment and go right an article, I could start writing a book, I could start making a course, I could start making new videos for CORE, I could go write a blog post about anything. I could go for a walk and not spend any money whatsoever but I’m trading my time for that walk so, I need to think about that at all times, what are my options available to me right this moment and really start thinking about money and time as tools to get what I want and create decisions that wrap around that to make my life more profitable. Because at the end of the day, that’s really what I’m trying to do.

Zac: And I imagine for all those players out there grinding 40, 50, 60 hour weeks. That’s not me. I envy those players and they certainly value their poker time in once sense but this could be so, so motivating to know every hour that you have a dollar amount to match against your results and just your performance and to feel like you’re actually doing something ot a quality level that is worth your time, which is like you said, a nonrenewable resource. It’s the only thing that we can’t get more of in life.

James: Yeah exactly. But I’m gonna pitch something to you because you said something kind of interesting right there and maybe this kind of goes against what we talk about at, Red Chip and just in the poker community in general but I still want to say it. Like why do you envy people that are putting in 40, 50, 60 hour weeks playing poker?

Zac: Envy might not be the best word, maybe, I should say more along the lines of I highly respect that. I know having done some long grindy hours myself that it takes a lot of dedication just to achieve consistent results and play your A game across such a large expansive time and I feel like the people who I’ve talked to who are out there really crushing it are able to pull it off, whether it’s a long session or a long week and they really just get into a zone and get great results and at the same time they can sense when they’re not in that zone and I think that is another aspect of, you know, how you value your time is what is it producing if you’re in your A game versus your C game.

James: Yeah, 100%. So the time that you put in at the tables, 100%, understanding is this A time, B time, C time and if you’re putting in a whole bunch of time at C time where your hourly win rate is maybe break even, maybe slightly losing, maybe slightly profitable, is that worthwhile versus the other things that you could be doing with that time even if it’s just saying, “Hey, instead of playing another five hours of garbage poker and just playing my C game,” maybe I say, “You know what, I’m gonna skip the session, end it early and go get an extra few hours of sleep.” That could actually end up being far more profitable in the scope of your entire life so, you have to think of those things. And it’s really interesting that you talk about that in terms of the full time poker player.

A lot of people fantasize about playing poker full time and for some people that’s gonna be 100% the right play but for most people it’s not and here’s why. Because when you’re playing poker professionally, let’s just say you put in 40 hours a week, same thing you do at your normal 9 to 5 job, okay fine. You’re putting in 40 hours of playtime but for every single session you put in, you probably need a little bit of warmup time to get ready for that, you probably need a little bit of decompression time in terms of your session’s over, trying to get your mental state back to where you can perform normally within society. Particularly if you have a wife and children and then there’s also gonna be your study time.

So your 40 hours of playtime at the end of the day might turn out to be 60 or 70 hours of actual poker time throughout the week. So a lot of people will just say, “Well this is my hourly rate,” and they base their hourly just solely based on their time at the tables but you really have to take your hourly for every hour that you put into poker and it’s the same thing whether you’re thinking about playing full time, playing part time, playing here and there, understanding at the end of the day, your poker time and your time in general has a cost and you want to make sure that of course, you’re making a value out of that. That you’re turning everything that you put time into, every dollar, every moment that you put into poker is creating a return at the end of the day but then making sure that return is actually worthwhile. Now, at the end of the day, that’s why I love poker, right?

Because poker’s like one of the only hobbies where you can put the time into it and actually walk away profitable at the end of it, right? Most golf players will never, ever do that yet they’re going to go burn 40 to 100K a year in greens fees and equipment and travel and all that kind of stuff. Poker you could actually make that into a profit, at minimum break even on it, which is pretty great but you could make actual legitimate profit. And that’s pretty sweet. You can’t really do that with woodworking, in most cases, fishing, or hiking or those kind of things so, that’s the beauty of the game but at the end of the day, you still have to think about how many hours are you putting into this?

What is it looking like in terms of actual return and then making sure that every hour you do put into it is put into it smarter. So this kind of brings up like where you and I kind of started talking about this a little while ago before we started the call is thinking about kind of learning poker in general, right? And how many people want to go the absolute cheapest, right? They want to spend no money. So okay, let’s take that route. So that person is spending zero dollars but they’re putting in heaps and heaps of time, right? They’re out there, they’re watching YouTube videos, they’re reading articles, they’re scraping everything. They’re reading blogs, they’re talking as much as they can. Maybe they’re getting active on forums, hours and hours and hours and hours but they’re not valuing their time at anything. They’re valuing their time at zero but at the end of the day, you have to think about your time as something. Because that hour you spent just learning poker is great, maybe there’s some return coming in, hopefully there is but at the end of the day, what else could you have done with that hour?

You could have gone and worked an hour at McDonald’s, made 7.50 … I don’t know, what the heck is minimum wage nowadays? But you could have turned that into profit, you also could have done absolutely nothing and just gone for a walk and totally relaxed and maybe that doesn’t net you money at the end of the day but that could net you utility at the end of the day. So always ask yourself, what your time is worth and that’s gonna change the whole equation because when you value your time as money, instead of spending five or ten hours studying on your own and trying to learn a skill set or trying to learn a particular element within poker, you could say, “Okay, well could I just spend some money, far less time than five or ten hours to learn that thing I want to learn?” And all of a sudden, you’re left over with more hours that you could start playing poker with and also earning more money at the same time because all of a sudden those hours are more valuable because you have more education.

So that’s the way you need to start thinking about this. Rather than just like, I’m gonna try to do everything without spending any money. That kept me in a really bad place for many, many years. I left a lot of money and a lot of time on the table because I just wanted to do everything as cheaply as possible and you pay for that in the long run. You don’t feel like it because you’re not spending dollars right that moment. And I’m not saying like go start spending more than you can possibly spend, like do not do that, I don’t ever preach doing that but really start thinking about your time and really start making sure you’re making smart decisions that value your time and also puts proper emphasis on the money as a tool rather than an idol.

Zac: It’s a little difficult in poker because everyone approaches poker at the beginning, you know, when you first start playing, you don’t necessarily have expectations of winning, you’re having fun. You know, you’re putting your $20 down to play in that home tourney and if you have fun, well that’s $20 well spent. And we’re obviously talking about thinking about poker on a different level than that and I think a lot of players, that gets baked into their mindset at the beginning, you know? The whole point of poker is to play it. Studying it seems like something, yes, that I’ll do when I have time on YouTube or maybe I’ll pick up a book but really that’s all in service of just wanting to play the game that we love so much. And of course, we get entertainment out of it and social aspects and it helps us with our mental game, not just in the game of poker but in life but this kind of mentality of looking at it as a tool to achieve what you want to do and having an awareness of your hourly value of your time is really the mindset that creates winners in this game. Otherwise it’s kind of hard to be a winner.

James: Yeah, 100%. And what you’re describing I think is perfect, right? In the beginning, we just play because we love the game and we’re really just playing because it’s fun and that’s great but why not try to have fun and make money at the same time? Because the players that don’t study inherently will not win in the long run, right? They might make a little here and there, they might have a couple winning sessions but in the long run, they’re gonna get buried unless somehow they’re playing in the softest game ever, which is not necessarily the case for most of us. So you have to work and improve in this game. So once you make the decision to say, “Okay, I’m gonna go from just playing for fun, taking it a little bit more seriously and really trying to make at least a break even win rate but of course, focusing on making a positive win rate. Well that’s gonna take either time and or time and money and the people that just try to do it for time, they try not to spend any money, they try to just go the YouTube and the blog and the articles route or maybe they buy one book, right?

That’s not the end all be all, there’s a lot of extra time and money that should be getting spent in this game properly and responsibly, right? Don’t go buy a $500 course if you have a $60 bankroll. Do not make financially irresponsible decisions because you’re trying to say, “Well my time is worth $500 and hour.” No it’s not if you have a bankroll of $60 bucks, almost certainly, so really be honest and reflective about it but at the end of the day, spending some money to save yourself some hours and thinking about what that is worth so that way you can learn things faster, you’re learning things more efficiently, you know you’re learning it the right way because you’re buying it from respectable sources. You’re like, “Okay, I know this is gonna net out,” and then you can get back to playing because that’s what we want to do at the end of the day, you can go back to making a higher win rate and of course, putting in time at a higher win rate means more money for you and that inherently is going to increase your hourly rate and how you value your time and then you’re going to continue that process going forward.

So, I’m not saying that everyone listening to this is just trying to learn for cheap and free, although inherently, they probably are to some extent because this is a free podcast. But at the end of the day, you really have to start thinking about that. Not like shying away from ever spending money, rather saying, “Okay, what is that money going to do, does that save me a lot of time and effort?” So like for me, I’ll buy courses online here and there. Like I used to buy Udemy courses in a decent chunk and now I’ll just buy them from really respected people that I’m like, okay I know I’m gonna learn a lot from this but the questions I ask myself is, “Okay what are my other options?” Right? I could just not buy this course and for instance, I bought one recently on copyrighting and it was specifically focused around bullet points.

I thought that was something that I might enjoy, the price was okay but again, what is price? Price is just saying, am I gonna be able to pay that number and make a return on it? If I spend $100, I can make a return far faster than if I spend $10,000 but at the end of the day, the question, the process is still the exact same. What’s the return on it? So it keeps me from thinking about dollar amounts and getting super shocked about sticker price. I have to stay focused on, this is how much I have to invest, do I think there’s going to be a reasonable return, do I think it saves me the time that I could have spent time doing other things that I think could be more profitable?

And if yes, pull the trigger. Not just like constantly shying away from ever spending money thinking, “Oh, I’m just going to learn it all on my own.” There are lots of things that I tried to learn on my own that I spend hundreds and hundreds of hours doing but at the end of the day, what’s better? Trying to learn it all on my own and being a one trick pony that maybe is like, jack of all trades, knows a little bit but not a ton and spent a whole bunch of hours and all of sudden is like 48 years old with not like an immaculate skillset or hire someone to do it really, really well and do it the first time and save me all those hundreds of hours that I tried to learn it on my own. So, you have to ask yourself those questions and if you’re not, I really suggest you start asking yourself that immediately. Ask yourself that right now. What else could you be doing with your time other than listening to this podcast? Is this worth your time? And then start thinking about your time in that way and make decisions accordingly rather than just like, I want to do everything that’s free and cheap and where’s that get you at the end of the day?

Zac: Yeah I think, you know, everyone’s on the quest for a better win rate, better results, a better hourly rate but the truth is that you’re advocating and I totally couldn’t agree more, I mean you’re advocating for thinking about it more of increasing the value of your time and that has a dollar amount and of course it also has personal aspect too. If you, like me, don’t really see the allure in sitting in a poker room for 12 hours, then maybe it’s not worth it even if I could make a ton of money. So you have to factor in the other aspects of the lifestyle. And that’s a big part of playing poker and one of the reasons why people fantasize about that pro-poker lifestyle, it has nothing to do with all the hard work that you have to put in studying. It has everything to do with the idea that you can just go wherever you want, play a tournament in the tropics, go over here, go over there. Win a bunch of money from a bunch of whales but that’s not the way it works and hard work is what it takes to succeed and pretty much anything and poker is really no exception so, you know, focusing on the value of your time is the way that the winners do it.

James: Yeah and what you said there is really spot on. Like there are a lot of the people that really want to become professional players, and I don’t, there’s no shame in that at all if that’s what your goal is, like none at all. That’s a fine goal. But the questions still need to be answered, right? People just don’t want to work a 9 to 5, they want to be their own boss, they want to maybe be able to do some traveling but they essentially want to own their own kingdom. Okay, no problem with that at all. I totally respect that. I’ve wanted the same and continue to want the same thing on a day to day basis.

That’s why I’ve set my life up the way that I have but that I still have to ask myself the question, if I’m gonna create a 9 to 5 job for playing poker full time because most people will take, “Okay, this is what I make per week, divide it by 40 because that’s how many hours I put in at the tables.” But no, you need to divide it by all the hours you put into poker and all of sudden your win rate starts to look a lot different. And I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, maybe you make 60K playing poker and you would have made 75K in your job and you say, “Okay, I’m making less money, my hourly is far different but I value my time so much and I value not having a boss so much that this actually makes more sense.” That could be the case and that’s why you have to look at it at a personal scale because how you personally value your time and how you personally value your money is gonna be a personal thing.

You’re gonna look at it differently than I’m gonna look at it. 22 year old James looked at it far differently than 31 year old James does and that’s just part of what happens because things change, right? I have a family now, that’s far different than if I was just a single young guy who had very different living expenses. So, how I value time, how I value money will change. How you do it will change as well but you have to start thinking about your time as a valuable resource and when it comes to poker obviously people are going to look at this and say, “Well you’re biased. You run a training site and you want people to spend money.” You are 100% correct on that, there is no argument whatsoever.

But I want you to spend it responsibly and I want you to be truthful when it comes to your valuation of things. Not just, “Oh my goodness, that costs money, I don’t want to spend money. End of conversation.” That can’t be the end of the conversation. You have to say, “What is my time worth?” How many hours is it gonna take me to reasonably learn it on my own and if I try to learn it on my own by scraping through free resources, am I 100% sure that it’s the right info? How many times have you watched a YouTube video of someone teaching you how to do something and it turns out later they didn’t know what the heck they were talking about. Or they knew it a little bit so you got sort of to the result you wanted but something blatantly messed up or even worse, you end up breaking a graphics card because you install it incorrectly and totally break something, right? How many times has that happened? So you know that if you spend money from a reputable person who’s teaching you, you’re getting the right stuff.

So you’re inherently going to learn it more efficiently, you know you’re learning the right stuff, you’re learning it in less hours and then all those extra hours, the delta between what you would have taken learning it by yourself versus how much time you have left over now that you’ve learned it from somebody else, all those extra leftover hours can be put to use, start making more money at the table. That’s awesome. Or you can start learning new stuff and you start getting that increased, increased, increased win rate. So, you have to be truthful with these things and if you take nothing from this podcast episode other than start valuing your time and start thinking about money as a tool, that’s all I could ask for. The rest is stuff that you get to as you start thinking through these things and making this a part of your daily process.

Zac: Absolutely. And I mean the last thing I want to add, and maybe at the risk of sounding a little marketing-y, but would you rather learn from someone who is getting paid to entertain you or would you rather learn from someone who is getting paid to make you learn so that you can win. And that’s kind of what we’re all about here and why we have these conversations all the time is because we’re actually trying to make winners out there. We’re not just trying to make people feel good about their imagined poker playing prowess, we want them to be able to be telling us the stories as they do of their success so that we can keep being driven to do this awesome stuff that we do.

James: Heck yeah, exactly. And there’s nothing wrong with entertainment based teaching if you can find someone who does really entertaining stuff, really, really efficiently and teaches you, by all means, rock and roll with that. But if it’s a little bit boring, well as long as you’re getting the right stuff and you’re learning it efficiently and you’re being able to put it to use, I mean, at the end of the day, that’s all you can really ask for, at least in my opinion. That’s how I visualize it.

Zac: No knocks on anyone, I mean, you gotta get into this game somehow, it is not easy when you’re first starting out to make sense of all the complex strategies but that’s what we’re here to do on the podcast and I gotta thank you again for dropping by. It’s always like a clarity bomb when you stop by so, hope to talk to you again very soon.

James: Indeed, thanks for having me, Zac.

Zac: Take care.