113 – Dara O’Kearney – Becoming Hyper-Focused

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In this episode, Dara O’Kearney, a professional poker player, author, and award-winning podcaster, breaks down how to form a habit and train your mind like an ultra-runner. He shares how his competitiveness has given him an edge at the table – and why he needs a 12-minute cool-down period after a bust. Elliot and Dara talk stamina, mindset, and how to align your recovery days and tournament sessions.

Listen in to hear Dara share tips for getting over things you can’t control – and learn what helps him stay hyper-focused despite the repetitiveness of the game.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

[01:30] – Introducing Dara, a professional poker player, author, and award winning podcaster

  • 02:05 – He started learning poker after his competitive running was coming to an end; he learned how to play at 42, but has always been very competitive
  • 02:35 – He saw the Irish Poker Open on TV and was interested in it; he started making money right away online and did well the first year in live poker

[03:30] – His blog and podcast

  • 03:40 – His blog started right away; he used it as a “dear diary” and instead of talking about bad races and soreness, he talks about bad beats and has over 500 entries
  • 04:35 – Dara’s podcast started as being Irish-only; he took a two-year break as some rights issues over the podcast were being resolved
  • 5:30 – The podcast had growing pains; now he can speak to anyone on the podcast and people approach him to be on it

[08:10] – On the difference between live and online games

  • 08:30 – Online, it’s about getting in the zone; you can be in your routine
  • 08:45 – With live games, you’re outside of your time zone and are out of your routine; he prepares for the distractions that may arise in a live game

[09:45] – On the competitive edge running has given him in poker

  • 09:50 – Physically, he has great stamina; it helps him at the tail-end of events when his opponents are losing steam
  • 10:14 – His mind is trained for repetition from ultra-running marathons; he also knows he can’t do anything about the things he can’t control, as they’re part of the game
  • 11:10 – He prepares for what can go wrong in his mind so he can run through the scenarios beforehand

[13:15] – On his 12-minute “grieving period”

  • 13:30 – He usually experiences a bad beat at the beginning of the session and at the end; once he has slept he forgets and is mentally reset

[15:25] – Running advice

  • 15:35 – The hard part about running is starting; if you can form the habit over a month, it gets easier
  • 16:10 – Listen to music or a podcast on your run to do something else that keeps your mind off the mundanity of it
  • 16:45 – He believes something cardiovascular like running is better than focusing just on muscle-building gym workouts

[18:00] – Dara’s book “Poker Satellite Strategy”

  • 18:05 – He moved from limit cash to sit-n-go’s, then he moved to satellites; it was the best decision of his career
  • 19:00 – He didn’t want to let the satellite secrets out but when the changes to the online ecosystem changed, he moved out of satellites into normal MPTs
  • 19:55 – His friends wanted to know how to qualify for a big tournament; it started with satellite tips, then he did a webinar
  • 20:41 – He then did a video and was advised to write a book; he feels good hearing readers share their accomplishments with his advice

[22:45] – The question to always ask in a satellite

  • 22:50 – Always ask, “What’s the upside as compared to the downside?”
  • 23:00 – He gives a hand example from a satellite tournament

3 Key Points

  1. Build your stamina to beat out your competition in long sessions.
  2. If you take a month to form a habit, it gets easier.
  3. Always ask, “What’s the upside compared to the downside?”


***If you’ve enjoyed this episode of The Mindset Advantage podcast, please subscribe and leave us a review over on iTunes to help spread the word about the show. Thanks!***

About the Author Elliot Roe

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