How Playing Poker Helped Me Write 50,000 Words in 6 Days

How Playing Poker Helped Me Write 50,000 Words in 6 Days

On first glance, this title might seem the equivalent of: “The Surprising Connection between a Pineapple and a Spool of Thread.”

After all, writing must involve long evenings spent with a fountain pen, and rain tapping on a tin roof in a candle-lit room.  And poker is a game played in smoky saloons where everyone has more guns attached to their hips than they have clay chips!

It took writing my first solo book, The Singer—a young adult novel about a shy seventeen year-old that aspires to winning a reality singing show—to learn what the two seemingly very different pursuits have in common.

The Speed

My basic poker strategy has always been to focus on my hourly winrate instead of my ROI. That usually means playing a ton of tables at once, and often making decisions with only a fraction of a second. I like listening to the type of music that would be played during a movie’s climactic chase scene to set the tempo.  Bring on the alt-rock and rap!

Superficially at least, that approach to poker seems completely at odds with the process of writing. I used to think writing meant pouring over every word until it was perfect, like some kind of monk hunched over an antique book of scripture. But thanks to the book Write. Publish. Repeat. I no longer see it that way. I felt an immediate kinship with the author, when he said he liked to write while listening to Eminem!

After reading that book, I was inspired to move from the planning stages of The Singer into writing it.  I didn’t delay.

I shut myself in my office, glued my headphones to my ears, and wrote. It turned out that the same process I used for playing poker was great for writing! In six days, I had the first draft of my novel— which came to a little over 50,000 words.

The System

It felt like a major accomplishment to have the first draft done, but after reviewing it, I realized it needed more scenes. This process reminded me of how exacting I am with my setup when I play poker.  I can only play 50 tournaments at a time because of how much work I’ve put into streamlining the process: from my physical setup all the way down to the individual hotkeys I use.

So my speedy writing process had a leak — even though I wrote the first draft quickly, not planning it out enough led to lengthy revisions. Much like in poker, I could have been much more effective if I’d started with a better system,  or at least one with a cat that was better at organizing. Thanks for trying, Mr. Ed!

The final word count of my book is around 64,000 words.

For me, writing and playing poker are the easy parts of the process.  The valuable time improving these pursuits is in studying and planning for them.  For the next book in my Reality Girls series, The Chef, I am going to improve my setup and spend less time going into the tank after writing!

The Heart

How many times is it said of someone in poker that they “have heart”? And I’m not just talking about Antonio Esfandiari saying it on the final table WSOP broadcast!

To me, “heart” is a more illustrative version of talking about drive—the kind of motivation that leads to better decisions because you care about something so much.  In poker, that kind of drive can motivate players to think on a higher level that leads to greater success. Heart can come from a financial incentive, but it can also come from love.

In writing, I think heart is even more important than poker. My drive for writing the Reality Girls series comes from many places. Of course, I am a poker player so I would love to crush a young adult bestsellers list!

But most of my drive comes from a deeper place. I want to spread a message of motivating people to reach for their dreams and to overcome the obstacles they face in getting there.

For many years, I struggled with bulimia. It was something I had to work hard to fight my way out of, which started when I was barely a teenager. I’m donating a percentage of sales for The Singer to the National Eating Disorder Association, with the hope that I can help others through my writing.

Right now, it’s my dream to get a publishing deal with Amazon through Kindle Scout.  I was thrilled when my book was selected yesterday to have a campaign on their site.

The more nominations I get on Kindle Scout, the better the chance there is of them publishing it. And if they do publish it, then the people that nominated the book on Kindle Scout will get a free copy.

If you feel motivated to help me reach my dream of being published by Kindle Scout by nominating me via this link, I would be extremely grateful!

What’s your dream?

An Open Letter to PokerStars

An Open Letter to PokerStars

If someone were to ask me in chat on your site right now, “U Mad Bro,” unfortunately the answer would be “Yes.”

I’d like to preface this by saying I’m clearly a huge fan of you— I dressed up as a Supernova for Halloween, and even made a PokerStars Jack-o’-lantern.

If I were a meme, I’d be that creepy girlfriend, and you’d be the one I was stalking.

 photo ILOVEYOUSTARS_zpspl61ht0z.jpg

Earlier today, I noticed this statement posted by you on, which says, “The Sunday Million 9th Anniversary tournament has been moved to Sunday, 15 March. The reason for the change is to avoid conflict with International Women’s Day on 8 March.”

You may be thinking, how could I object to changing the date of a tournament due to a holiday whose goal is to celebrate women worldwide?

Before I can answer that question, I have to ask you a few of my own.

Of the 45,000+ anticipated players in the event, do you really think such a sizeable fraction actively celebrate International Women’s Day?

Doesn’t the new date,  which is Mother’s Day throughout the United Kingdom, potentially create even more conflicts?

Is it fair to those that had already made arrangements for this event to have to make expensive changes to their travel plans?

Because I’m an optimist, I want to believe that the reason for doing this doesn’t involve the concern of missing a massive guarantee and needing to find an excuse to push it back a week in order to run more satellites.

And I think I’ve found the reason: you’re going to use International Women’s Day as inspiration to put a renewed focus on women playing on your site—which is great because I’ve noticed some things that made me worry that you might have forgotten about us:

  • There are fewer women’s tournaments and satellites on PokerStars than there used to be;
  • There is very limited participation by PokerStars Pros in the $55 Women’s Sunday, including many weeks with one or zero Red Spades playing, and the bounty on these players was removed;
  • Perhaps consequently, the field size in the Women’s Sunday tournament has shrunk substantially;
  • The PokerStars Women section of your site seems to be mostly defunct, and this is how it has appeared to me for months:

 photo PokerStarsWomen_zpsuu96faiv.png

  • The Women’s Sunday final table write-up no longer exists;
  • The freelance articles for PokerStars Women, which offered up unique perspectives from many different angles, have been cut.

All of these aspects used to add up to a unique buzz one could only achieve by being part of the PokerStars Women community.

Of all the articles, I think many miss the Women’s Sunday write-ups the most. For a lot of the women, this was their first final table, and being worthy of your coverage made them really excited about playing on your site.

And the lack of participation by your pros in the flagship ladies tournament, well, that makes me mad too, bro.

The good news is that everyone loves PokerStars Women’s mission, tone, optimism, social media, and the immense amount of community it can inspire — we just need more of it to bring the spark back to remind women how much fun they have playing poker on your site.

You have the power to make the next great poker boom— through inspiring the 50% of the population that’s often overlooked in poker.

And that is a holiday we all want to celebrate.

GL us,



Latest DragTheBar Videos

Latest DragTheBar Videos

For my two videos on DragTheBar in January, I had fun reviewing a $3.50 Rebuy 180-man!

A Piece of the Pi: Hotjenny314 plays a $3.50 Rebuy 180-man

Part one of this two part 180-man series follows the game from the beginning leading up to the final table. Key concepts discussed inclue: early play, rebuy 180s versus non rebuy 180s, speculative hands, adjusting for the ante, adjusting based on stats, using your HUD, and 3 bet percentages.

The second part of this two part series begins at the final table and takes us to the conclusion of the tournament. This video focuses on: 3-bet shoving ranges, Nash ranges, ICM, ICM as a mid-stack, and exploitive heads-up play.


Fun Hand vs. Vanessa Selbst

Fun Hand vs. Vanessa Selbst

This hand is from the weekly 15,000 FPP SNG on PokerStars where the Stars Pro has a bounty of $350. Since they open for registration at different times every week, I don’t always get to play them as the majority of the time when I check for them they have unfortunately already filled. I enjoy the challenge of adjusting to the single large bounty though, and would play them every week if I could!



This hand played out entirely different versus Selbst because she had the bounty!


Which unfortunately I didn’t get! But I did end up cashing in 3rd this time for $300.

On to the next one…or at least on to the next time I manage to register!

Pump Up the Volume!

Pump Up the Volume!

Last week, Collin had to make a last minute trip back to Maryland to see his family, and I had to stay to watch our pets. So, I decided to grind my heart out:

That game count was composed of mostly 180-mans, and some 45-mans, 27-mans, MTTs, and one single table. The solitary SNG was one of the two weekly 15,000 FPP VIP One Tables that run on Stars. These SNGs have a $350 bounty on the Stars Pro, and $1k for first (with 4 places paid).

After scoring the knockout of the Stars Pro early when I cold 4-bet shoved close to 50 BBs with AQ>QJ, I really wanted to get the win! At the same time that tournament was short-handed, I was heads-up in the weekly €55 EPT Ladies satellite, where I took second the prior week for around €200. This week though, only 1st place had a prize, of €500. After losing a few flips, the ladies table didn’t pop back up to the top of my stack, but I did take down the VIP one table, for a total cash of $1,350 in that SNG!

Most importantly, I found that focusing on putting in my highest volume week so far for 2014 helped me to maintain playing my A+ game, even when getting up to my total peak of 55 games running at once!

Being home alone, meant that I could sing (scream?) songs without anyone hearing—well except for Wilbur, who was camped out next to me while I played.


The song I sang more than any other:

The successful week underlined to me the importance of focusing on volume: both of my number of games and of the blasting music! It can be easy in poker to be very results-oriented, whether that is winning a tournament and thinking you’re the best ever, or having a downswing and thinking you’ve forgotten what the point of a c-bet is.

For me, focusing on volume (as well as studying) helps me to be driven by what I can control in poker. I’ve played almost 23,000 tournaments this year and am so excited to cross the 30,000 goal that I set for myself at the beginning 2014—while singing along to whatever song blasts from my speakers!