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We can learn a lot from Kobe Bryant | Podcast #283


Sky Matsuhashi

on March 19, 2020

Kobe Bryant died alongside his daughter and some of their friends in a helicopter crash on January 26th. Kobe Bryant is a basketball legend and hero to millions of people and his death is a tragic loss. He may not have been a poker player (that I know of) but we can learn a lot from the way he approached challenges and his relentless drive to improve himself.

Listen to this podcast episode: We can learn a lot from Kobe Bryant, episode #283

Kobe Bryant – a Ping Pong Story

Mike Trudell is a sideline reporter for the Lakers and he attended the Kobe Bryant Memorial at the Staples Center. Afterwards, he visited the Adam Corolla Show and discussed a bit about the legacy of Kobe Bryant.

In Part Two of Mike Trudell's episode at 10:50 (listen to it here), Mike tells a great ping-pong related story about Kobe Bryant. This story really struck a chord with me and I thought it perfectly relates to some of the things we strive to do as poker players.

Mike played some ping pong against Kobe Bryant on Thanksgiving night when he was on the road with the team. Kobe set up a huge Thanksgiving spread and activities for the entire team to share. There are some awesome takeaways from this story about Kobe.

Kobe had a great ability to adjust to his opponents on the fly.

Kobe realized that Mike was putting a lot of pressure on his weak backhand swing. Even though I don’t know the adjustment that Kobe made, it’s obvious he compensated for his weakness and Mike’s strengths. Ultimately, this caused game 2 to be more difficult for Mike to win.

Kobe taking on some player I've never seen before 😉

This is the kind of thing that us poker players must strive to do as well. Playing the player and adjusting to the table or tournament are critical abilities that winning players share. Great players are also able to recognize the things they’re doing wrong and make strategical corrections. We can do the same kind of thing from one hand to the next, or one round to the next or one tournament to the next. We must figure out what isn’t working for us and work to compensate for any weaknesses, then take action to improve our skills.

I think what Mike said about how normal people play a game of ping-pong. They play, win or lose, they just sit back down without giving the experience much thought. That’s probably how most poker players approach the game. You go to the casino or fire up the online tables, and you just play. Win or lose, you end your session, and tomorrow, you start it up again. You’ll never become the player you want to be if you take this lazy approach to poker.

Kobe hired a coach to help him improve.

I really like the story about Kobe hiring a tennis coach to improve his weaknesses.

Kobe Bryant with Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

Getting beaten then deciding that you want to do better next time is a start. But, actually stepping up to the plate and hiring a coach to improve your game, that's how real champions get to the next level.

Of course, you can hire a poker coach (like me). Your poker coach can help you figure out where your poker leaks are and help you take steps to plug those leaks. But, you don't need to hire a coach. You can choose instead to study and improve upon your weaknesses off-the-felt. So, after a particularly bad session where you know you made a lot of mistakes, write down those mistakes in your poker journal (click here for my free 21-page Poker Journal) and work on fixing them one at a time. If you don’t know how to respond to 3bets, study and practice your 3bet defense. If one particular player is giving you headaches, dive into their database of hands to see all their showdown hands and how they play different hand strengths on each street.

Kobe doesn’t care about losing, but he works to not let it happen again.

I really like that final thing Mike discussed about how Kobe didn't care about losing. Losing is just a part of any game that you play. What Kobe cared about, though, was being better the next time because he didn't want to lose again.

On the practice court with his team.

This is what we must strive for as poker players. Results don’t matter, but if you fail to learn from mistakes and losing sessions, you’ll never become a great player. Treat losing sessions and mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve your skills. Analyze what happened and why, then work to do better next time.

This will require two things from you:

  1. Study off-the-felt to improve your strategies and your understanding of one particular situation at a time.
  2. Practice the new strategies you learn.

So, if you having a problem defending when in the blinds, you must do some purposeful study around it. Watch a video (there are loads within the Poker Forge), learn +EV defense strategies then play focus sessions where you play with purpose to practice these new strategies. Tag interesting hands to study later, then repeat this process over and over until you’re a skill blind defender.

5 Question Quiz

Question 1: A regular player at your stakes seems to be targeting you and pounding on you. How do you adjust?

A. Narrow your preflop open-raising range, and only play the top 10% of hands.

B. Review this player’s showdown hands in your database to see how they approach different hands both pre and post-flop in order to develop effective strategies against them.


Question 2: Bob789 just will not fold post-flop! How do you adjust?

A. Stop bluffing, and only value bet him.

B. Increase your bluff bet sizing to force him to fold.


Question 3: You go on tilt in 3 out of every 5 sessions and this costs you 1 or 2 buy-ins each time. How do you adjust?

A. Read The Mental Game of Poker and keep playing poker.

B. Read The Mental Game of Poker, in an effort to understand your particular type of tilt. Next, work your solution into your warm-ups and stay focused on not allowing anger or tilt to affect your play.


Question 4: SuzieQ14 always calls from late position. How do you adjust?

A. Leave the table when SuzieQ14 is on your left.

B. Narrow your open-raising ranges, so your hand is at the top of SuzieQ14’s calling range and think about what flops are good or bad for you before you get to the flop.


Question 5: Life interferes and you only have 30 minutes/day for poker. How do you adjust?

A. You do more focused work in the time that you have. 5 minutes for hand reading exercise devoted around one specific area of weakness. Follow this up with 25 minutes of play where you purposely focus on that exact same area and try to make better decisions and work to NOT repeat any mistakes.

B. You find other things to cut out of your life like exercise and sleep, and you force yourself to put in an hour and 1/2 of study and play per day.


My Answers

  1. B
  2. A
  3. B
  4. B
  5. A


Sky Matsuhashi

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