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I am close to finishing my first book. Quick confession: it’s actually a collection of blog posts that I have written over the past five years. The process has been an arduous one. A journey blocked by fear, procrastination and self-judgment.

I once read that the best way to write a book is to think of it as a block of wood. That block of wood is your daily practice of writing. Over time your book will emerge from that piece of wood. It will have definition, substance and individuality – but first of all you need to keep hammering away like a woodpecker.

This is why I have so much admiration forJonathan Little. He churns out books at the rate the unemployed of the Chatsworth Estate churn out kids. The quality is impressive also. Every one of his books is like a tome. Thick, voluminous and containing more treats than a Kinder egg.

How does he do it?

“There are roughly 20-25 days per month when I am not traveling the circuit. In the past I would end up sitting at home during these times, idle – without anything to do. I remember when I first moved in with my fiancée. I was going to buy a PlayStation and grind video games all day. It felt like a good idea. I had the time, and I loved video games.

“Then one day I had a revelation. I realized that playing video games wasn’t a good use of my time. It wasn’t productive, I wasn’t really gaining anything, and I certainly wasn’t contributing to the world. It was at this time that I started to ask myself the question: ‘What skills do I have?’

“I was already making poker training videos, at this point, and I was enjoying that process. I enjoyed thinking about poker, and articulating my thoughts onto paper, so I decided to try and produce written content that could help people improve their poker game. I thought, ‘if I could write all of these thoughts onto paper, I could really help poker players to become better at their game.’

“I guess you can say it was this strong desire to give back to other people that eventually turned into the work ethic that you allude to in your questioning. I have this burning desire to make the gateway into poker an easier one to navigate than when I strolled through. When I made my journey, there were a lot of poker books, but they weren’t great. I could also glean information from poker forums, but a lot of that was trash.

“When I created my first book: Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker, I tried to gather all of the knowledge I had and put it in one clean and concise book. I say I tried because the book ended up being published in two volumes because of the quantity of information I felt needed to be included.

“My work ethic comes from a desire to help people like myself. I recognize the importance of study. I studied my ass off when I first came into the game. I know there are people like me. People who are also studying like mad, and I want to make sure they have the right material to help them during their journey.”

How do you structure your time in order to be so efficient?

“Whenever I am at home, either in New York – or Canada when I am playing online – and I know I am going to be there for an extended period of time – say a few weeks – I have a very particular work schedule that I adhere to.

“I wake up, make breakfast and when my fiancée leaves I get to work. I will go to the gym, and then when I get home I am ready to start working on whatever project I have lined up. I will write non-stop until around noon. At this time I will make myself some lunch and watch a poker training video. Then I get my head down and start writing again. I don’t stop until my fiancée gets home from work. By this time it’s 6pm.

“I have this intense desire to improve. I learned a lot from coaching other players. During the sessions I would expand my thinking about the game and feel the need to get those thoughts down on paper. This is when I started writing articles on various topics that had come up during coaching sessions. I realized there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know. I became obsessed with finding the answers and sharing them with the poker community.

“If my goal is to be the best poker player I can possibly be, I need to be doing everything in my power to get better, and model my life around that. Through experience I have found that one way to do this is to write everything down.”

Where does the drive come from?

“Essentially, I don’t want to waste my life. As poker players we have so much free time on our hands and I want to make sure that I do everything within my power to make sure I spend that time being as impactful as I can be. This is not just for self-improvement. This is for the betterment of everyone who comes in touch with my written word.”

Do you block book time when you have a book project?

“Something like that. Let’s say I have decided to work on an individual project, or a publisher has asked me to work on something. I will work on it for 12 hours per day until I get it done. Usually, this is about a fortnight.

“I have always been a grinder. I can play poker for exceptionally long periods of time. I don’t get bored and I maintain my focus. I love the game and that helps. If you give me something to do that I love, then watch me fly. A lot of people want to be doing a lot of other things when they are playing poker; not me. When I play poker, I want to play poker. When I am writing a book; I want to write a book. It’s not a chore for me. I love it.”

How do you approach any sort of mental blocks?

“It doesn’t happen often. Like I said I really love what I do, and that’s important. However, I did come across a problem when I wrote Jonathan Little on No-Limit Hold’em Live Cash Games recently.

“Once you start writing a book about poker it can take you places you never imagined. Poker is so very deep. My initial draft of the ‘Turn’ section of the book had hit the 450-page mark, and I still had more to write. I knew the ‘River’ section was going to be equally as long, and it became obvious that I had written too much. I had screwed it up.

“In order to get it right I had to dump it and start again. That was tough. I had worked 12 hours per day for a month, and now I had to dump it. It was useless. At this point I couldn’t face it anymore. I guess I had reached a block. I just felt so deflated and burned out by the experience.

“Then, one day, my fiancée had to travel to Washington on business. I decided to join her and have another go at the book. I changed my mindset from one of defeat to one of success. I switched my mental attitude completely and it worked. The book turned out to be a great success.”

How do you deal with critics?

“When it comes to poker books, the competition isn’t great. A lot of poker books are not written by poker players. Whilst you don’t need to be a poker player to write a poker book, I think the depth of knowledge a poker player has can create a totally different product.

“I am a professional poker player, and have been for the past decade. I have vast amounts of experience playing at the tables, and that is so important. Poker is a very subjective game, but I think I have garnered respect over time. People look up to me and I think it’s a crime not to be able to help people. I always make a point of ensuring my content is top quality. If I am proud of it then I have no problem publishing it. I am very proud of all my books.”

Do you record all of your live hands?

“I do write down a lot of hands, but not all of them. They are extremely useful. I use them on my weekly podcast, in articles and of course in books. I have a book that came out recently called The Main Event with Jonathan Little where I go through all of the hands I played at the World Series Of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. People loved the book because it was a live hand history from the most important event of the year. It was a good book. I ended up cashing and made some fun plays, so that kept it interesting.

“There is value in recording your hands because you can share them with your peers and learn from them. To be honest I started writing everything down because I had a terrible memory. I would amass a big stack in a tournament, and people would ask me how I had done it? Most of the time I couldn’t remember. I didn’t have a clue.

“I have always had the mindset of focusing on the hand in question. I want to get hands out of my mind as quickly as possible. If I lose a big hand I don’t want to dwell on it as it could get me down and effect my game. In contrast, if I win a big pot I just want to continue playing well.

“You have to be smart about what you note down and how you note it. I like to write down my strategy in a lot of default spots. I also found that extremely useful. I like to ask the question: ‘Why?’ Writing down why I do the things I do is very helpful to me. Everyone has some form of decision tree inside their minds, but they aren’t consciously aware of its presence. They just do what they do. If you start quantifying what you do, you can improve immeasurably.”

What hasn’t been written yet?

“Poker is huge. There is always so much more that can be learned. I have a few things in the pipeline; revolutionary things – but that’s for another time. I am keen to learn how the truly great players think. I know two guys who are two of the best Heads-Up players in the world. They are both exceptional at what they do, but they both approach the game very differently. They are doing different things, for different reasons, and I want to know why. If I can understand that, and then apply those lessons to my game, then I can improve.”

What are you currently reading?

“I never used to read a lot of books, but I have gotten better of late. Listening to Podcasts has been a great source of inspiration for me lately. There are a lot of poker players talking about some exceptional self-development books lately.

“I also read a lot of poker books. The Theory of Poker was an influential book for me. It taught me about the foundation of equity and EV at a time I hadn’t even heard of the references. I am currently reading a book by William Tipton about Heads-Up play. That’s been a very useful book. When you are playing against exceptional players, it’s important to be as unexploitable as possible. This book is helping me in this regard. There is a huge market for beginners. I think my books are pitched somewhere between amateur and professional. The Tipton book is written for the more advanced player and that’s why I am enjoying that one at the moment.”

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Lee Davy

Life can be viewed as the sum of the parts or the parts themselves. I believe in the holistic view of life, or the sum. When dealing with individual parts you develop whack-a-mole syndrome; each time you clobber one problem with your hammer another one just pops up.