Book Review: Leatherass – Treating Poker like a Business
Monday, 8 March 2010
Are you the kind of player who routinely runs $100 deposits up into four or five figures before cashing out, or worse, crashing out back to $0? Do you want to make poker your full-time profession and be your own boss?
Then this book is for you.
Dusty Schmidt is not a name that ranks in your mind alongside Patrik Antonius, Tom Dwan or Phil Ivey. It’s a damn cool name, admittedly, but you won’t see him at the nosebleed stakes on Full Tilt anytime soon. By his own admission, he has neither enough gamble nor poker prowess to take on Phil Ivey for millions of dollars.
However, put that thought out of your mind – Schmidt, better known in the online poker circles that he dominates as “leatherass”, is without a doubt one of the world’s most successful online poker players with a vast career and, naturally, a gigantic stack of cash.
He may not have the eight figures in tournament earnings and ring game winnings that other names boast, but what he does have is a relentless dedication to the grind. He’s often called the consummate grinder, with a career spanning over 7,000,000 hands and countless hours put in to improve his game to the level it is today – playing dozens of high stakes tables and crushing them for a win rate previously thought impossible at the toughest games – he was making a dollar per hand over hundreds of thousands of hands.
Writing reflectively after his six-month red pro ban and a grind back to the nosebleeds from the high stakes, Brian Townsend opined that he saw little difference in skill between the average winner at the $25/$50 games and the players at $300/$600 and above. Yet Dusty Schmidt crushes the $25/$50 games and higher, playing up to 20 tables at once and often hitting the 10,000 hand per day milestone.
How on earth does he do it? Well, his new book Treat Your Poker Like a Business aims to show you just that, though it’s not like any other poker book you’ve read.
“Mine is not sexy advice — I’m not promising you that I know five ways to swoop in and steal a pot from Phil Ivey,” writes Schmidt in his opening chapters. “But maybe you’ll learn a new play you didn’t have in your arsenal before, and maybe that play only comes up once an hour. But if that wins you a hand an hour, you’ll be looking at a new profit source that’s contributing to your bottom line.”
When Schmidt first posted his graph on the Two Plus Two forums, he wasn’t met with the usual derision and mockery that awaits most posters when showing off winnings. Instead, some called it the greatest graph in online history – in November 2008 he posted a 1.2m hand graph that boasted seven figures in earnings. He did this, not by having an innate talent at the game or by running insanely hot – the things you need to make poker your profession, he argues, are dedication; self-evaluation and a nice leather ass.
I’m making something of a generalisation when I say that the book will be popular with Bluff Europe’s readers; that generalisation being that you guys are not too dissimilar to me. I can crush $0.05/$0.10, soundly beat $0.25/$0.50 and scrape out a decent win rate at $0.50/$1.00. I have hundreds of thousands of hands that prove this, backed up by a graph with variance enough to emulate cardiac arrest. So why don’t I grind out 10,000 hands a week at NL100, earning a nice wedge on top of the slave labour fees that Bluff Europe pay me to sit with an infinite number of monkeys at my typewriter? Simple – I just don’t have the discipline. Often I’ve found myself short of money and needed to cash out, or simply wasted the dollars away on Sunday tournaments and under-rolled shots at higher stakes. I’m willing to bet there’s a fair few of you reading that past paragraph and thinking, “Shit, me too.” If so, this book is for you – a winning recreational player who wants to go further.
The first thing you notice about Treat Your Poker like a Business is the price. Whereas other top-flight instructors such as Cole “CTS” South and Jason “pr1nnyraid” Rosenkrantz charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars for their written work, Dusty’s 206-page manual is yours for just $39.99. Before you argue that “this Dusty Schmidt guy” can’t be compared to greats such as Cole South, let me remind you that Schmidt is the lead instructor at renowned video training site StoxPoker. Also he has perhaps played more poker than anyone in the history of the world. No, really.
With his impressive CV in mind, you might be forgiven for thinking that Schmidt’s book will transform your game and make you a genius who can pick off 4-bet bluffs and float two streets with air knowing your opponent will check/fold the river. Well, it will – just not in the way you expect. As Morpheus says to Neo outside the home of the Oracle: “I can only show you the door – you are the one who has to walk through it.”
Schmidt describes the information in his book as “distinctly uncool” and, well, it is. The second section of the book contains the strategy tips, which are without doubt worth a read, but that’s not what you’re paying your $39.99 for. “We are here to make money,” he writes. “This is a business. Check your ego at the door.”
Throughout the 41 chapters preceding the strategy section, Dusty sets out the real flesh and bones of the book. This won’t transform you into a poker god – only you can do that – but it will certainly help along the way.
Over and over again, Schmidt emphasises dedication and constant work, consistently comparing poker to running your own business from home and trying to achieve the best hourly rate.
“Increasing my profit margins one per cent here and two per cent there is a far cry from a poker game in the Wild, Wild West,” he says. “But those incremental improvements, which I still seek today, are what made my poker business as healthy as it is today.”
After the forewords and introductions during which Dusty shows off his not inconsiderable abilities as a poker player, businessman and coach (one of his students is now a high-stakes pro at Full Tilt and PokerStars), the book begins by asking – are you committed?
Dusty argues that to be a professional poker player, you must be prepared to put in time and effort over long stretches in order to succeed. You must be the toughest boss you ever had, constantly aiming to improve your hourly rate and the amount of hands you play and forgoing distractions and temptation.
Poker is compared to a business throughout the book – your first deposit is your investment capital; the amount of tables you play is business expansion; posting on the Two Plus Two forums or watching StoxPoker videos is business study. The approach is a highly disciplined one that might put many people off. However, if you’re even semi-serious about making a secondary or primary income from playing poker, then that $39.99 is a fantastic investment.
To say it’s unlike any poker book written before isn’t quite accurate – I would freely compare it to Barry Greenstein’s Ace on the River as that, too, takes a non-strategic approach to aiding poker players. However, this is an Ace on the River for the modern age, as Dusty writes:
“I’m striving to be the ‘poker player of the future’, if you will, who focuses and measures himself based on how well he does in these smaller areas. Everything that you have read and will read in this book is not meant to affect a gargantuan shift in your game. My advice might yield one per cent here, two per cent there. But when you add those things up, it makes for a very profitable poker player.”
Those of you with pipe dreams of running a modest sum into six or seven figures, as XBLINK recently did on Ultimate Bet by turning $11 into $800,000, should do one of two things – you can ignore this book, continue with life and keep trying to chase the nosebleed stakes and Bobby’s Room. I’m sure one in a million of you will get there.
Alternatively, you can read this book, absorb some of the most important poker strategy you’ll ever read, and then sit down to grind out a living. Poker is work, albeit not in the same sense as a nine-to-five office job. You need to grind your way to glory.
Treat Your Poker like a Business is available now at www.dustyschmidt.net.
Dusty Schmidt is a golfing prodigy and poker mastermind. He teaches both his passions at www.stoxpoker.com and www.10thgreen.com.