Phua Wei Seng Paul: How I became the poker player I am today

I was asked the other day at a Texas Holdem poker tournament how I was able to become the poker player that I am now even though I started playing Texas Holdem at a pretty late age – only in my 40’s. It got me thinking. There are lots of things. Here’s a list of them in no specific order…

  • I was lucky in that I started play Texas Holdem with a bankroll. Most players start out with just a few dollars’ stake. If you are a beginner, you will pretty much always lose more than you win at the start. You have to get quite a lot of miles under your belt, played thousands of poker hands, made a few mistakes, and learned from them, before you can turn the tide. And if you don’t have much money and lose it can take a long time to get the confidence and game experience until you start winning as a habit. So, I accept that I was very lucky to have had a successful career as a businessman beforehand that gave me a bit of money. So that when I lost, as all beginners at Texas Holdem do, it wasn’t too much of a problem and I didn’t get too downhearted.
  • I am very calm under pressure, even when there is big money on the poker table. You can’t make good decisions if you aren’t calm. In business l learned how to deal with pressure. That’s useful for me at the poker table, particularly with some of the big hands I find myself in nowadays.
  • I am fit. Not as fit as I was though. The younger Phua Wei Seng Paul was very fit – swimming both before and after games! Physical and mental fitness are very important. Mental fitness has come naturally to me after so many years in business, particularly in the junket business. If a junket customer isn’t happy, you have to learn how to deal with it. You have to have an agile and patient mind.
  • Since I started when I was older, I had the benefit of life experience. As you grow older, you learn to deal with situations that are quite similar to those that have come before. You learn to recognise them. You get more patient when you are older too. That’s very useful in poker, particularly in cutting your losses when you are having a succession of bad beats.
  • I’m a humble person. I never tell myself “Phua Wei Seng Paul, you are a great player!” – pretending I’m better than I am. I am honest about my abilities. There are better players than me. There are worse players than me. I’m still learning the game. Even today, in my mid-50s, I still have so much to learn. If you have the time and the dedication you can use your humility and willingness to learn and move forward.
  • Learn from Texas Holdem poker players who are better, and from yourself. During big tournaments, after I have finished playing for the night I will go back to my room and have a beer before I go to sleep and think. I will write down the games where I don’t think I played at my best level, or I didn’t make the best decisions. So, the next day I will go and see some poker pros who are there playing with me and ask them, “what would you have done in this situation?” You improve a lot that way. It is human nature to think you did the best you could. It’s hard to admit weakness to yourself when you are around the card table or at the casino. But a neutral observer can evaluate you better. Not many players think this way, but I think more should.
  • If you want to play in big games, for big money, you have to make an effort. You have to learn, think differently, recognise that this is a serious business. That’s what I did. When I realised the sort of money that was needed to buy into these games, perhaps $200,000, I said to myself, “wow, this is no joke!” So I read books. I watched a lot of videos from the big tournaments, cash games. I spent hours and hours on YouTube.
  • I used to have a very good memory when I started. I trained it. Now I am older, it’s not so good. I have to learn to win using different methods. There are lots of ways to skin a cat luckily!

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