December 4, 2021
[00:00:45] About this Podcast
[00:03:09] Podcast Sponsors
[00:05:26] Guest Introduction
[00:08:17] How Jason Koon is preparing for a second wind as a sprinter
[00:14:36] The mental and physical grind of becoming and remaining an elite poker player
[00:23:00] How to excel at poker without getting into the trap of gambling
[00:25:39] Foods and/or supplements Jason Koon uses to perform at a very high level
[00:32:56] Podcast Sponsors
[00:35:30] Nootropics and smart drugs that assist with focus
[00:41:07] Managing bright lights at night and the circadian rhythm with a career that requires odd hours
[00:49:36] How to deal with toxins in a casino environment
[00:51:10] How to stay in shape while traveling
[00:54:49] Meditation and keeping the mental game optimized
[00:56:34] The growing awareness of health and biohacking within the poker world
[01:00:39] Closing with Jason Koon
[01:02:43] Specific nootropics for optimal brain function with special guest Lucas Aoun
[01:03:04] Nootropics defined and how they work
[01:06:54] Executive functions and cognitive domains required by pro poker players
[01:15:36] Nootropics that may be useful for professional poker players
[01:29:06] Legal Disclaimer
Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast.
Jason: Trying to get my body going a little bit, lots of stretching, lots of skipping rope, but nothing intense. The heart rate's never hot. To play with a guy that's losing at such a massive rate and enjoying doing it, well then everything else kind of gets put on the back burner and your body, and you're just like, “You know what, I'm going to suffer for the next 30 days because I know how much money this is worth.”
Ben: For possibly even longer than you'd be able to maintain with your current approach. Something to think about at least.
Jason: I'm definitely in to be the guinea pig here.
Ben: Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
Hey! So, today's podcast is a bit of a twofer. It's a bit of a twofer. I had a chance to interview my friend and professional poker player, Jason Koon. And, Jason really just did a great job outlining the life and times of a professional poker player, and how that works, and little hacks, and nutrition tips and supplements, and fitness type of protocols that he uses to survive in that environment. However, after interviewing him, I thought, you know what, we talked about in the topic of so-called nootropics or smart drugs especially to enhance something like poker came up as a conversation topic so many times while I was interviewing Jason. I thought, “Why don't I also toss in for you a bit of an insight into specific nootropics and smart drugs that would be very applicable and appropriate for poker?”
So, I turned to one of the guys who's been a previous podcast guest of mine, a doctor from Australia who happens to be one of the most knowledgeable guys on nootropics who I'm aware of, Lucas Aoun–and I always mispronounce his last name, I'm going to do it anyways–of ergogenic health. And, Lucas has this fabulous master class online on nootropics that I've taken. It was just the most comprehensive class I've ever taken on how to use smart drugs and nootropics, what they do to the body, the different stacks that are out there, risks benefits, yadda, yadda, yadda. So, I've taken Lucas's whole course. And, I'll also link to his course and the previous podcast I did with Lucas and the shownotes for this show. But, I reached out to Lucas and I asked him if he had any insight, and he recorded an audio reply that I thought was just so helpful that when I finish interviewing Jason, the professional poker player in today's interview, what you're going to hear then is we're going to transition, hear Lucas's take on nootropics specific to poker. But really, there's some pretty cool stacks that I think would help anybody.
So anyways, a two-parter for you today and all the shownotes links to my previous podcast with Dr. Lucas, links everything Jason I talk about, links to Lucas's nootropics master class online. You'll find all this at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Koon, K-O-O-N. Bengreenfieldfitness.com/K-O-O-N.
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Alright, folks. This is a first for the Ben Greenfield Fitness show. I'm going to interview a professional poker player. Now, I have actually worked with like coached and consulted a ton of people in poker. I don't know why. I don't know if it's because their sleep is messed up or they want to know more about nootropics and smart drugs, or they're constantly fighting an uphill battle against toxins, and casinos, and there's money on the line, so there's motivation there, whatever. But, it seems a lot of poker players I talked to are actually pretty interested in this whole body and brain optimization type of thing. Again, probably because it's pretty linked to some sizable paychecks. But, I've never actually interviewed a full-on professional poker player aside from, I suppose, some people I've talked to on the show before, have dabbled quite a bit in poker but aren't necessarily well-known poker players themselves.
My guess on today's show though, you've probably seen him playing poker online if you're one of those ESPN World Series of Poker type of junkies, or you go and, I don't know, hang a camera around your neck and put a mickey mouse hat on and go to Vegas and watch people play poker. But anyways, he is Jason Koon. Jason Koon is one of the highest earners in all of poker's history. I think, he's won, gosh, over $30 million. Yeah, Jason? I mean–
Jason: That's right, yup.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. And, Jason is also super into fitness. He and I jam on this stuff a lot. You recently sent me a photo Jason. You should actually send that photo to me and I'll post it in the shownotes for today's show, which folks can find at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Koon, K-O-O-N because Jason's super fit too. I think a lot of people think poker players are just people with frumpy clothing on and pot bellies and glasses and a baseball cap over a smoky casino table. But, not only you but several other poker players I've talked to. You guys actually, you're surprisingly fit crowd, at least those of you who seem to be at the top of the poker game.
Jason: Yeah, it's a new age. I think, the stereotypical old-school gambler with a cigar in his mouth, those days are far behind us now. It's calculated, study hard and keep the brain and body in the best shape that you can.
Ben: I actually dig that. I love the idea of like an e-gamer, for example, another sport that you wouldn't have thought would be so popular 20 years ago. E-gamers are not necessarily dudes in their mom's basement shoving Cheetos in their face, they're actually keeping themselves pretty fit and doping with smart drugs. And, it's a whole new universe. So, you've been playing poker for a while, right?
Jason: Yeah, a really long time. I was a collegiate sprinter and I got hurt. And, whenever I got hurt, I needed a competitive outlet and a friend showed me poker. And, next thing I know, I was like, “Oh, my god, this is my thing.” And, that would have been in 2005 I started.
Ben: So, you were a collegiate sprinter, which is probably where you got a little bit of that background of having some bent towards fitness. What distance did you run?
Jason: I was 100, 200 guy.
Jason: Yeah. Took it really seriously for a couple years. And then, I ripped my hip flexor off my hip, and that was all she wrote.
Ben: How seriously? What was your hunter time?
Jason: I was a division two sprinter, and I'm from West Virginia. So, I wasn't one of these Southern Florida studs, but I ran at 10-7 and 100. I won my high school state championship meet. And, I was competitive at division two college meets. But, I would have never been. Yeah, I would have never been a national class guy or anything.
Ben: Yeah, I'll get called out for saying this. But, that's not bad for a southern white guy.
And so, now though, actually I think you pinged me two days ago because we were getting ready to record this show, and you told me you had kind of this exciting new thing that you've decided you're going to start doing related to sprinting again. What's up with that?
Jason: Yeah. So, there was this incredible video of this gigantic NFL player sprinting a 100-meter dash against professional sprinters at a 10-4 or something. And, this guy was 6'4, 230 pounds. It was unbelievable. And, I retweeted it and some of the poker news media replied, “Hey, we know that you were a sprinter. What do you think that you could run?” And, I said, “With the years training, if I didn't get hurt,” and that's a really, really big if because I'm 36 years old, “I think I might be able to run under 11 seconds if I took it really, really seriously.” And then, the world blows up and everybody's like, “This guy is so delusional. This is crazy,” this and that. And, a friend of mine who's very wealthy businessman said, “Hey, if you hit it, we'll donate some money to a charity of your choice.”
Jason: And, the donations will be into the six figures. So, it could be somewhat significant–
Jason: Yeah. It's kind of good juju motivation. Everybody wins if I get their kind of thing. So, I've started taking it somewhat seriously even though the World Series of Poker happened, and I had a baby three weeks ago. So, I'm taking it as seriously as I can with those things in front of me. It's so much thought.
Ben: And, it definitely is a big part of today's show I want to get into the life, the circadian rhythm, the biohacks, the smart drugs, the nootropics, all that when it comes to the life of a professional poker player. But for you, when it comes to training for getting fast again in sprinting, what's that look for you in terms of juggling that with your poker game as well?
Jason: The most important thing I realized was it has to all be recovery-based. I stay sore longer than I used to, but at the same time, I'm smarter with the way that I train, my nutrition's way better than it was whenever I was 19. So, I have a physical therapist work on me two to three days a week, doing deep tissue massage, dry needling, stem. I have a infrared sauna and Renu cold plunge in my house, so I just cycle through those every single day. And, I have Devon Allen who got fourth in the Olympics this year in the 110 high hurdles, absolute freak of nature. The guy can run a 10-2 and a hundred. I mean, he's just a complete animal. He was nice enough to kind of set me up with a workout, and he just said to me, “You're overtraining basically. What you need to be doing now since you already have a pretty high level of conditioning and fitness,” he's like, “you need to run for 11 seconds or just under that. You don't need to have crazy, crazy cardiovascular fitness.” So–
Jason: Exactly. So, it's kind of high output full recovery. My lifts are doubling up. So, I'll just do sets of two on the squats, full recovery, maybe five or six sets of really heavy weight. I'll be doing power cleans, snatches, kettlebell stuff, a lot of mobility stuff. And then, my sprint workouts are actually 40 minutes of warming up. And then, I go out and I sprint two or three 100s at 80 to 90 to sometimes at 100%. And, I'm just trying to kind of tune-up that central nervous system and get my body ready to reach new speeds. And, also doing some plyometrics. But that's really it.
Ben: Yeah, it's highly phosphogenic that sport, meaning that just when I played tennis in college, they didn't want us to run much at all and definitely not ever over a mile because you get your fast switch muscle converted to slow-twitch muscle. You train your body to conserve energy. You become good at buffering lactic acid or maintaining low-level intensity for long periods of time. But it flies in the face of power and strength training. So yeah, I mean if you're training for an event, that's whatever, 10 to 12 seconds. Then basically, the majority of your activity is all short snappy. There are books like Pavel Tsatsouline, Russian kettlebell instructor, has written books like “The Quick And The Dead” literally that get into the idea that you want to avoid lactic acid because that'll kill you, but everything is just short snappy typical workout would be 10 kettlebell swings, walk away a minute later, 10 kettlebell swings, walk away. But, everything is putting as much as you can into each swing maximum velocity. And, same as you've been training, everything is just short, snappy, quick, heavy, no bodybuilding, no endurance training. So, that's going to be cool to see how you do with that.
Jason: I was going to say I was running mid-high 11s for repeats in the hundred out of the three-point stance and sneakers a couple weeks ago. So, I think I'm a big favorite to do it if I don't blow something up.
Ben: Not too shabby. Wow. Cool. Well, you'll have to keep us posted on how it goes. And, I'm sure that the media will be following you as well.
So, again, for those of you listening in, Jason's last name is spelled K-O-O-N. and, I'll link to that quest for sprinting if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Koon.
But really, the reason that I wanted to initially interview you, Jason was, I mean, honestly, as I've just alluded to, there's a lot of stuff poker players that I've watched are doing now to optimize. But before we get into what you do and what you've seen others around you do when it comes to almost biohacking poker, what does the average day in your life look like? I don't really even know how it goes, if you wake up and just head to the casino, or if you wake up and you flip on the TV and start learning new poker moves? Walk folks who have no clue about this through the overview of what a day in the life of a poker player actually looks like.
Jason: Sure. So, the day in my life is much different than the day for most poker players. The main reason why is I'm 13 years into doing this thing full-time, and I've been playing and winning at the highest stakes for the last six years. So, I've kind of earned, if that's the right word, the freedom to be a little more selective with where my energy goes. So, if you go back five years ago, I would have been playing a lot with the Chinese crowd that I know likes to play the biggest games in the world. So, a lot of my friends are Chinese guys, entrepreneurs that like to play really, really, really big high stakes.
Ben: Are these guys who come in from China with a lot of money and go to the high roller rooms in Vegas?
Jason: Yeah. So, that's kind of how it started and how we met. But what ended up happening was I heard all these rumors of if you go to Macau, the Asian, Las Vegas, if you go over there, the games are bigger and they're easier to win. So, out of curiosity, I went over there in 2012 and the games were just massive. And, I befriended a couple guys that played in even bigger games that then were publicly available. So, I ended up flying to places like Manila in the Philippines, or Hong Kong or Jeju in Korea to play games that are just astronomically big, some of the biggest games that have ever been ran. And, during those–
Ben: And, by big, do you mean stakes for the number of people?
Jason: Yes. No, the stakes.
Jason: The number of people are very small, but you're talking games that you could win or lose $5 million in a night.
Jason: That big. You can play pots that are $3 or $4 million per hand.
Ben: Got it.
Jason: And, when these guys play, the way that they kind of structure it is different than the way that American structure poker. They really cater to VIP players. And, all it takes really is one of these VIP guys that wants to gamble huge to kind of take a month of your life away. If you have the opportunity to play with a guy that's losing at such a massive rate and enjoying doing it, well, then everything else kind of just gets put on the back burner, and your body, and everything suffers and you're just like, “You know what, I'm going to suffer for the next 30 days because I know how much money this is worth. And then, I'll go back to feeling like a normal human being after that.” So, I cycled through doing that over and over, and over, and over again.
Ben: And, when you say suffer, what do you mean?
Jason: I'm talking with some of these private games. You're playing for 72 hours.
Ben: Okay. So, you're talking about the actual mental fatigue and time that you put in.
Jason: Yeah, like me, the longest session I've ever played was probably about 46 hours. But I know I was recently talking to my friend, Phil Ivey, and he said several times he's played for 72 hours straight.
Ben: Holy cow. At the table that whole time?
Jason: Yeah. And, these guys are blowing smoke in your face. In casinos in the United States, you don't have to deal with playing in a poker room with smoke anymore. That's gone. That's a thing in the past. Poker rooms are actually pretty clean and nice. But if you're playing with the VIP player, he gets to do whatever he wants. You're catering to his experience. So, it could involve being in a really, really small room playing the biggest stakes imaginable trying to stay focused, and also trying to play at a fast pace because once again, you're their entertainment. So, if this guy is losing a bunch of money, even if you need extra time to think about a hand, you don't really get it because you don't want to be rude to him. So, you just play fast regardless the size of the pot, and you could be 48 hours in deliriously tired, famished, and playing a pot that could change your whole month, and you have to do it in under 15, 20 seconds per decision.
Ben: You said famish. Can you eat at all at the table? Are you allowed to?
Jason: You can, but I just know the way that my brain works, and I play my best when I'm fasted. Now, that doesn't mean I just starve myself to death when I play, but generally, when I do, I'm in full ketosis. I'm drinking bone broth and sipping down MCT oil, and my teas, and just kind of chugging along. And, especially in a game like that where I need to be ultra-focused, I just don't eat big meals when I play. So, it's just one of those things where if I'm two days in, I'm in a huge calorie deficit. So, not to be so long-winded about it. But to get back to your point, I did that for years. I'm not retired I still work very hard, but I earned kind of wanting to be balanced because that's what makes me happy is spending time with my wife, and now my son, and getting my workouts in. And, I study extensively. Poker players use artificial intelligence to study a bot.
So, a bot can play at a spot that would take you say a couple days to play a few hundred hands. A bot can play that same spot billions of times in hours. So, you can have a bot play a situation billions of times and then you can study what that bot did. And, you can take thoughts and abstractions away from those plays the bot made and in turn play better poker yourself. So, I do a lot of studying with my colleagues and studying by myself with AI. And, my that's kind of what my day looks like now.
Ben: How does that look exactly when you're studying? Are you in front of a computer screen seeing the actual sequences that have been played out and learning what the outcome of those are? From a practical standpoint, what does studying with the bot is doing look like?
Jason: Yup, that's exactly. So, we found clever ways to take these, the bot will converge. So, it converges towards a Nash equilibrium. So basically, what happens is is the bot plays itself in lots of situations and it decides which decisions it regrets the least. And, it does it billions and billions and times until it gets to a point where either side of the coin, let's say, the bot is playing itself heads up, it can't make any decisions that are better or worse. So, it reaches a middle point where it's kind of a stalemate. And then, once it's kind of reached that equilibrium strategy, that means your strategy isn't exploitable anymore. So, what I'll do is I'll study by looking at shapes. You can see actual numbers and statistics. But visually, you can see humans have created clever little ways to visualize a graph or what each hand looks like in a grid, and then you study those. And, we're all different but I'm kind of a visual guy. So, I study in lots of different kind of shapes. And, I'll show you sometime in person to put it into better words. But it's a statistical thing, a frequency thing but also a visual thing.
Ben: Okay, got it. So, in terms of the actual times that you are — say at a casino in Vegas, because when I'm in Vegas, it seems every time I go there, I'll ping you and I'll be like, “Hey, Jason, what's up? You want to grab a meal?” And, you'll be at X, Y, Z table in such and such a casino, like the ARIA or over at where were you last time. I think we were at the MGM. And, it seems you like bouncing around of these different casinos in different high roller rooms. But for you, can you just play any time of day that you would like? Or, do you need to go there in the evening? Or, aside from these long kind of marathon-esque tournaments that you've just described where you might be playing for hours upon hours typical day for you, can you just kind of go and play when you want to play?
Jason: Yeah. So, there's two main types of games that you play in poker. One is called a cash game. And, that is you can walk up to a table with money, you can sit down with your money, and at any time you want to leave, you can pick up your money and walk away. Just like you would say playing blackjack.
Ben: Right. And, that by the way, quick interruption, is the kind of game I like. Just so you know, the way that I think it. Perhaps, it's simply because I have a little bit of a spirit of scarcity still left in me from my upbringing and me being a big, big money saver from an early age like the guy who would get on my Halloween candy and save it under my bed, then in the summer, pull it all out and sell it to all the hungry neighborhood kids who didn't have enough candy at that time.
Typically, when I go to gamble, which I will ever so occasionally do either from in Vegas or here in Spokane, if I'm taking my wife out to a date at the casino, we're going to see a fight and we drop into one of smoke-free Texas hold 'em room for a little bit. After the fight, I'll play. And, as soon as I win, I'm like, “Ah, I'm done.” I can literally play for 10 minutes and boom. Soon as I get 100 bucks up, I'm out, done, pull, and I walk away. That's just the way I play. I've just never been into gambling, gambling as much as I suppose just winning and walking away.
Jason: Yeah. The thing with me is I actually hate gambling. I don't even know the rules to craps or blackjack. Poker was just one of those things that I realized, oh this is a skill game, I'm playing against other people, I'm not playing against the house. And, from a very, very early time in my progression as a poker player, I started to be a winner. So, I kind of had that positive reinforcement. So, yeah there's that type which a lot of players love because there's the freedom in that like you were saying. You can just, “Hey, I'm out. That was fun. Let's go.”
And then, there are tournaments. In tournaments, you have to show up at a specific time, you have to have enter the tournament, and then you can't quit until you're eliminated from the tournament. So, you're stuck to that, but the upside of the tournaments can be quite large. And, I play a mix of both tournaments. Generally, the largest action will be a cash game where a VIP player will want to sit down and play and leave when he wants to leave. But often times, when you've talked to me in Vegas, I've actually been stuck in a poker tournament where I'm like, “Hey, man, come by and say hi, but I can't leave because if I do, my chips will be blinded out and I'll lose all this money.”
So, when you were talking about my earnings in the beginning of the show, that was specifically in poker tournaments. But I also play a lot of cash games.
Ben: Okay, alright, got it. So, let's dig into to some of the things that I think that my audience and potentially even other poker players listening in are probably going to be interested in. And, that would be just how to hack this whole thing from a body and brain optimization standpoint because I feel there's some fun things we could tackle here.
So, you discussed how you prefer to be for these longer periods of time that you're stuck playing in a state of ketosis, which for me seems to make sense as opposed to the sprinting that you'll be doing where you basically want to have a lot of creatine, a lot of glycogen in your system and be able to very snappily burn sugar and creatine total opposite for a mental game. Meaning that we know ketones are the throughput for as a very stable source of brain fuel, your brain only really needs 40-ish grams of glucose a day, so you could easily get by on very few carbohydrates and have stable energy levels. You talked about how you'll use something like MCT oil, which when processed by the liver is a pretty good way to generate your own ketone bodies. But when it comes to the fueling piece, are there any particular foods or supplements that you use especially to be able to maintain focus and/or maintain ketosis for long periods of time aside from what you've already alluded to like MCT oil?
Jason: Yeah. So, I dabbled with some nootropics years ago. But what I figured out that just works for me is adequate sleep. I mean, that's the big one. And, I probably drink a little more caffeine than I should be just Nitro Cold Brews or black coffee whenever I'm playing. But other than that, I'm not slamming any supplements whatsoever.
That being said, my diet is very, very strict. I model what I eat after–it's a hybrid version, but after the perfect health diet, I believe you may have been the person that sent me in the direction of that book years ago.
Ben: Yeah, that was Paul Jaminet. Somewhat dated diet but the perfect health diet is based around, well originally was developed for healing chronic disease but it's a lot of safe starches, meaning the majority of carbohydrates are cellular, so parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes, yams, et cetera, taro, berries, some fruits versus what would be called an acellular carbohydrate like bread or processed wheat, or cereal grains, or something like that. And then, it's got a lot of fermented vegetables has a very kind of Japanese bent to it like seaweeds, herb, spices, natto, tempeh. Those types of things.
Jason: Tons of acid.
Ben: Yup, a lot of organ meats for the meats like liver, stomach, kidney, heart, marrow, brain, glands, and then a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, very DHA-rich. So, it's actually a very well compromised diet or well-comprised diet.
I've interviewed Paul Jaminet on the show before to kind of almost like–are you familiar with the Weston A. Price diet at all?
Jason: I am, yeah, yeah.
Ben: Well, you should be with a new baby because every–
Jason: That's right.
Ben: Every woman I've worked with and every new parent that I've worked with from a nutritional standpoint for breast milk, for a big healthy happy baby. We always go with the Weston A. Price diet, which is again a lot of ghee fermented foods, organ meats, et cetera. I would say the difference between that and the perfect health diet is the perfect health diet might appear if you were to look at the plate to be a little bit more kind of slightly plant-based even more fermented vegetables, a little lower on the saturated fats and the butters and things like that. But yeah, so somewhat similar.
So, that's your basic diet.
Jason: Yeah. Very, very basic kind of I eat I won't say the same stuff day after day, but I know in the morning I'm going to have bone broth, avocado, an omelet with hot sauce on it, maybe some pickles, something like that. I eat probably a little more grass-fed beef than most people would recommend. I get this beef from First Light. It's Australian Wagyu grass-fed beef. So, I grind a lot of that. I'm making pot roast with it and packing that or having rib-eyes sliced up with a salad or something like that. And, I do a lot of salmon, sardines. A lot of fats and a lot of acid is kind of and not as many carbs. Like I said, my diet's kind of a hybridized version of the perfect health diet. I'm not eating nearly the amount of carbs that they recommend. And, I'm eating a lot more fat than they recommend.
Ben: Okay, got it. Have you ever considered implementing especially for the longer periods of time like ketone esters or ketone salts? There are companies HVMN, or KetoneAid, or Perfect Keto as a few examples of companies that instead of having you consume MCT oil to make your own ketones actually throughput ketones and just mainline them into your bloodstream to shift you very readily into a state of pretty significant ketosis.
Jason: I've actually never tried that.
Ben: That's something that, I mean, if I were in your shoes, I would consider that as kind of being along with perhaps some of the nootropics we can talk about like top of the totem pole when it comes to what would arguably be burnt like a macronutrient, and probably give you even more of an advantage than something MCT oil. And again, back in the day, they used to be hard to find, they didn't used to taste that great. They still don't taste that great, but yeah, ketone esters.
Jason: I think I've had them, they're super salty.
Ben: They're a little bit salty/acidic. But man, oh man, in terms of six to eight hours of clean-burning energy with very few appetite cravings, the only thing with ketone esters–and this is the same with nootropics and with smart drugs, in general, is you want to maintain a pretty significant intake of really good clean pure water and minerals at the same time that you're consuming them, simply because it seems that when you amp up mental activity via the use of these ketones, there appears to be probably also because glucose can tend to draw water and salts in a muscle when you're eating less glucose, you need a little bit more water and salts coming in from a different source. So, if you stack the ketone esters with really good water and then a good mineral source like–I think one of the best ones would be there's a company called Quinton, and they do these hypertonic mineral sachet packets. And, that would be an example like water, the Quinton and the ketone esters is something that if you were to combine that with a really well-formulated nootropic or smart drug stack would just allow you to push your brain hard, and fast, and deep for possibly even longer than you'd be able to maintain with your current approach. So, something to think about at least.
Jason: I'm definitely in to be the guinea pig here.
Well, hello. I want to interrupt today's show to tell you about the sauna. Of course, the sauna I have that I can fit me, and my children, and my wife into for a breath work session. We can do a four-way family breath work session in that thing. It's so big, is the Clearlight Sanctuary yoga sauna. It's their infrared sauna, full-spectrum infrared. They have other saunas too, but the one I use is the Sanctuary. And, they shield against EMF exposure. They do near mid and far-infrared heat. They come with a lifetime warranty. And, they're going to give you a smoking hot deal if you use my code. It's healwithheat.com and then mention my name, and that's how you get your discount. Healwithheat.com. Call them up, write them, mention my name and you'll be into the special VIP club. So, those are the Clearlight saunas. Check them out healwithheat.com.
I'm actually really excited because I have a special guest. What's up, babe?
Jessa: Hi, there.
Ben: So, my wife is here and she's here because she's been getting super into these new, I don't know what you call them, threads.
Jason: Yeah, joggers.
Ben: That's right. Yeah, so tell people about what this new, I guess, it's a jogger that you're primarily thinking, right?
Jessa: Yeah. It's from Vuori.
Ben: Vuori. Well, they're spelled funny. V-U-O-R-I, but it's Vuori.
Jessa: Yes. I have a jogger from them and I have a couple of other shirts that I wear from them. But, what's great about them is I really like that I can play tennis in them, I can hike in them, I can run to the grocery store in them, I can basically do everything that my life demands of me in these clothes and actually, at the same time, it doesn't look like I'm going out and working out at the gym. I can look like I'm just kicking it in a day at the coffee shop.
Ben: It's jogger. It's actually kind of a sexy jogger. It's got the cropped legs, and the side pockets, and the draws–
Jessa: Yeah, they're fashionable, they're functional.
Ben: They call it DreamKnit, they're stretched fabric.
Jessa: Yes, super soft.
Jessa: Really nice.
Ben: So, they do a really good job. So, what Vuori is doing because a lot of people thought they were just a company for dudes but their women's lineup looks really good.
Jessa: Oh, they have a great lineup, yeah.
Ben: Yeah. So, you go to vuoriclothing.com/Ben, vuoriclothing.com/Ben gets you big fat 20% off. So, check them out, vuoriclothing.com/Ben. Thanks for being a guest on today's show, babe.
Jessa: Absolutely. I like to talk about clothes.
Ben: What about nootropics or smart drugs? You mess around with any of those at all? I mean, you mentioned caffeine, but–
Jason: Yeah. Say eight years ago, I did and I just felt–I won't say I really felt anything negative from them, but most of the ones that I ran I just kind of felt it was only placebo for me. I didn't feel I was getting any kind of additional–
Ben: Yeah. Okay, got it. Yeah. I mean, obviously, there's literally hundreds of different nootropics, ashwagandha, and L-theanine, and CBD, and CBN, and phosphatidylcholine. And, what I is that a lot of companies have emerged that have pretty good done-for-you stacks that combine a lot of this stuff, and in what I would consider to be pretty decent ratios versus you kind of hunting down from fringe chemical websites just one of this type of molecules. Obviously, from a synthetic standpoint, probably the most popular one for people who want to go for really long periods of time without sleep is the off-label anti-narcoleptic drug modafinil, which I've done a podcast on before. And, that would be the big guns. That would be, okay, it's time for me to go 48 hours. I don't even want to think about sleep. I've got my ketone esters. I've got some water. I've got some minerals, a little bit of that perfect health diet type of food sources for when you need food. And then, something like modafinil, which I've done a whole podcast on would be for the really, really big long efforts. But the problem with that is it can long-term kind of make you a little bit desensitized to dopamine. And, a lot of times kind of mess up your circadian rhythm long-term. But then, if you look at some of these nootropics which are arguably a little bit more natural, those would be the ones that I think would be safer. There's one called Qualia that I like. They have a caffeine-free version called Qualia Mind. That's one that I think is really, really good.
There's another company that I've done an article on, they're called Nootopia, and they send you this box of different nootropics but they're designed for specific situations. They have one stack that's called the Genius Activator, which is for just the ability to be able to process information and recall words and have better brain agility. They have another one called Social Command, which is better for cocktail parties, networking, et cetera. They have one for deep work where you just need to focus for long periods of time or one called Neuro Primer, which you take before you actually learn certain activities. That's another company in addition to Qualia that I think is making a pretty, pretty good lineup of nootropics.
Jason: Have you personally tried a lot of these?
Jason: In my experience at least in the past, I think I was taking kind of the more readily available stuff at Whole Foods or whatever.
Jason: But, it seemed the amounts there wasn't enough of anything in there to have any kind of positive benefit.
Ben: I, in an elephant, in terms of dosage as far as what I need of specific compounds, and so I've specifically identified the companies where if I take something, I want to feel it. I want to be in go zone for hours and hours.
And so, the Qualia Mind typically like seven to nine capsules of that will do it for me. That company Nootopia that sends just a box of stuff to your house, you kind of mix and match what you want for the day based on whatever social demands, focus demands, et cetera. That's another really good one. Those are probably be the top two that I like.
But then, you want to think about the actual fuel that your brain is going to be burning through as you use these compounds. And, probably the top two things to consider in terms of replenishing the brain nutrients that you'll burn through faster when you're using these, it would be choline and magnesium. And, you could take it in the morning too but some form of a really, really good magnesium like the same folks that do the Nootopia product, they make one called Magnesium Breakthrough that I like. There's another one called a MagSRT that's made by Jigsaw Health. It's more like a slow-release form of magnesium. But what you do is you take the magnesium at night and then choline in the morning. And, choline you could say that be like the gasoline that you're burning through faster when you're taking a smart drug or a nootropic.
Ben: There's a company called Quicksilver Scientific and they make just a sublingual form of choline. And, you could do six to eight squirts of that under your tongue, take your nootropic, head off, just crush six to eight hours, get back, take some magnesium to replenish some of the magnesium that you burn through. And, if you were to do that and then ketone esters, I'll bet that–I mean, not that you're suffering right now. How much money did you just win a few days ago?
Jason: 300, yeah.
Ben: Yeah, decent amounts. It's not like you're sucking it up right now, but those would be a few things to think about from nootropics or a smart drug standpoint as far as based on what you've described to me so far that I would consider kind of throwing into the mix.
And, by the way, folks are listening in, I've written articles on both of those approaches and I'll link to them if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Koon.
What about light? Obviously, there's a lot of circadian rhythm disruption especially in what many would perceive to be the Vegas life, like bright lights, late hours.
Ben: Really kind of an evolutionary mismatch in terms of sunrise, sunset, daylight cycles. It's freaking hard to even find the sun in Vegas some days I've found just because you're inside or surrounded by tall buildings. But what do you do for the sleep piece?
Jason: So, we have an amazing setup. I live out in Summerlin, which is in the middle of the desert. It's really, really pretty place. My house is really bright and there's lots of light coming in. So, whenever I'm here, I have no problem with that, I'll wear the blue-light-blocking glasses at night if I'm up late. But whenever I traveled, a bunch jet lag and the mega sessions were massive problems for me sleeping. I never found a solution for it.
It actually ended up kind of giving me PTSD because I would go to these stops and I would show up sometimes a week ahead of time, but I never seem to be able to get my sleep in order. And now, sometimes if I know there's a massive event the next day, I'll remember what it was like to not be able to sleep whenever I was in Asia. And, it stresses me out a little bit. I got to admit it. So, when I'm here like I said, I'm set, I'm dandy. But the over the sea stuff, I've never figured it out.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. I mean, obviously, when I'm in Vegas, the light is the biggest one. Not only do I travel with these little led-blocking stickers that you can buy on Amazon that you can just put on top of anything that's in the room at night, that often tends to be lit up a Christmas tree for staying at the hotel. I'll unplug as much as I can but then cover as much of the lights as possible because your skin is an eye, you have photoreceptors all over your skin. So, it's not just about putting on a sleep mask when you sleep, but the other thing is I wear the blue-light-blocking glasses both daytime and nighttime in Vegas just because that modern overhead led fluorescent lighting can cause this low-level irritation to the retina. That long-term can lead to brain fog and fuzzy thinking. And so–
Jason: The blue light during the day doesn't mess with your circadian rhythm or shouldn't you be exposed to quite a lot of blue light.
Ben: Yeah, not if you use the ones that are designed for daytime use. Because the blue light, you're getting exposed to from, let's say, overhead lights, indoors, unless they're using biological led which most businesses or buildings are not using. You are getting a non-native form of very bright blue light, different than the blue light you get from the sun which would normally be accompanied by UVA, UVB, infrared near-infrared, et cetera. What you do is you use the blue light blocking glasses but you use one designed for daytime use. There's one company called Ra Optics. And, they have a yellow lens that you use during the daytime. And, it doesn't make you sleepy, it just blocks out the stuff that causes the brain fog and everything. And then, you switch when it gets to nighttime or when it gets close to your bedtime and you don't want the bright lights to be shutting down melatonin production, then you switch to their red nighttime lens.
And so, that's what I do when I'm in Vegas. I wear the yellow lens by day and then I use their nighttime red lens at night. And so, then you're kind of getting the best of both worlds from a light-blocking standpoint.
Jason: Okay. Yeah, I know you're telling the truth here to the audience because I walked by you in the ARIA at 3:00 pm and you had those yellow lenses on.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. But they're not the dark red ones. You put the dark red ones on. If I put those on when I'm watching something at night with my family, we're looking at a screen, I'll get tired. And, if I take them off, I get awake. But then, if you really are wanting to get to sleep, that's the time when you bring out the red light glasses. And then, you just wear the yellow ones, otherwise.
Do you take anything before you go to bed especially if you've got a long day of poker and you want to be able to just smash an hour sleep or you take anything before you go to bed to kind of shut down the body or shut down the brain?
Jason: Yeah, I'm unbelievably boring. But the few things that I do to knock myself out are Epsom salt soaks like we were talking about the magnesium. That really puts me out. And, other than that, I will go into my room super dark and sit in a sauna for a little while and just breathe deep or I go outside and I have a jacuzzi in my pool and beautiful stars at night, and in Vegas actually. So, just sit out there and breathe some natural air. Right before bed, I'll walk about 3.7 miles is the loop we do, and it's just a really quiet nighttime loop. And, that's what I have to do. Just stargaze a little bit and that's all I need. And, I sleep like a rock.
Ben: That's awesome. That's awesome. It's a good practice. I mean if that works for you, then that's amazing. I find that some people especially who travel a lot for stuff this and perhaps some poker players are listening who are still traveling a lot. One thing is, and I interviewed Dr. John Lieurance about this is kind of using the first night when you get to where you're going when you need to regulate your circadian rhythm like a melatonin sledgehammer where this company sells 100 to 300-milligram melatonin suppositories or liposomal formulations where you do that for one to two nights and just kind of resets everything, and you sleep a baby no matter where you're at in the world. And then, you just kind of back off and don't use it the rest of the time.
My big one, because I just find I don't sleep well in Vegas, but if I do those melatonin sledgehammers along with a little bit of CBD, that's my go-to. And, there's actually a newer form of CBD. And, I don't know what it looks for you guys on the legal landscape, but it's called a Delta 8 THC. It's a legal form of THC that it kind of works the same way as regular weed does but without a lot of the psychedelic side effects or the impact on your deep sleep levels. And, there are companies now like Noel Creek Hemp or Cannabolix that sell these tinctures and these chews that they knock you out especially if you combine with melatonin.
So, those are a couple of things that I'll use if I'm kind of out of my element or in a place where I'm exposed to a ton of lights or outside of my circadian rhythm or something like that. But what you're doing, the Epsom salt soaks, walking, time in nature, under the stars, all that stuff from an ancestral and natural standpoint is absolutely amazing. So, I'm glad you're weaving that in as well.
Jason: Yeah, that's amazing to me. The other thing is I just can't eat four hours before bedtime basically. If I have food in my belly, I just can't sleep.
Ben: Yeah. Yeah. That's honestly the case for a lot of folks unless they're highly glycolytic athletes like crossfitters or triathletes. They're the polar opposite. They have to replenish carbohydrates at night in order to be able to sleep. But most people don't do well going to bed with a full stomach and tapering it off. Two to three hours before bed is a pretty good idea.
And then, if you are hungry, my trick for that is I make nighttime jello. So, you literally just heat up a pot of hot water and you dump a bunch of gelatin in there as you stir it up the hot water. And then, I'll put a non-caloric sweetener like stevia, or allulose, or monk fruit in there. And, these days I've been putting several scoops of the Kion Aminos. And, you just stir and stir and stir. And then, you put it into a Pyrex glass container and put it in the fridge and it sets like jello. You do one of those jello pieces. It's only like 30, 40 calories max. But the glycine lowers your body's core temperature. And then, you get this slow bleed of amino acids and collagen into the bloodstream while you sleep. So, that's my cheap–
Jason: That sounds great.
Ben: Yeah, they're so good. It's called nighttime jello. Actually, I have my new cookbook. But yeah, it's just basically super easy, super cheap to make, and dude, it sticks to your ribs, it keeps your hands out of the ice cream at night. And, that's my go-to if I'm hungry at night. But I know it's not appropriate for me to eat a full meal right before I go to bed. That nighttime jello just does the trick.
Now, what about toxins, cigarette smoke? Obviously, you mentioned that that's not as big of a deal in casinos anymore. But I seem to notice still it seems there's just–I don't know, I feel a little bit toxic when I'm in that kind of Vegas E environment. Do you still experience anything like that?
Jason: Yeah, I do. It's so dry out here too. So, there's a combination of that even if you're not having smoke blown in your face walking through a casino and kind of walking by people cranking slot machines smoke cigarettes, or whatever.
The biggest thing for me is I have to be in steam for a really long time. Man, one, we have humidifiers running through here like crazy. Every room in my house just constantly has humidifiers go on. And two, I need either a really intense sweat or I need to be in a steam shower and just kind of get that out. I'm not really digesting anything specific to deal, I'm not doing the activated charcoal or anything like that that I think a lot of people might be doing. But I just steam-shower it out, lots of water. Like I said, we don't really have to be around that, but I just try to avoid it at all.
When you're coming to Vegas. you're mainly on the strip. When I'm in Vegas, I'm kind of in an old-person neighborhood 95% of the time.
Ben: Yeah, that's true. You're kind of in a different environment because you live in Las Vegas, but you kind of live outside the city and you can drive into the strip when you want to come in, right?
Jason: That's right, yeah.
Ben: For you, obviously it's a little bit different. I would imagine not every professional poker player is training for a sprinting competition like you are. But typical day on the road, what does your fitness game look like if you weren't training for sprinting or what you would have done back when you were traveling a lot? How are you actually staying fit when you're playing?
Jason: Well, I travel with a few things. I had a shoulder injury years ago and you put me onto this crossover symmetry. And, I always bring that with me everywhere I go. And, that's actually done–
Ben: The shoulder bands.
Jason: Yup, yup. So, I grind those. I also had PRP and stem cells injected into my shoulder. It's 100% now. It's amazing. I went two or three years without being able to do a push-up. And now, I can bench press really heavy, and do handstands, and all that fun stuff.
Ben: Wait, which one?
Jason: I think it's Nayoya. N-A-Y-O-Y-A. I could be getting that wrong. It might be Nagoya.
Ben: And, what is it exactly?
Jason: It's an acupressure pads.
Jason: You know what I'm talking about?
Ben: Yeah, I know what you're talking about, a little neat and you lay on it, and it kind of gradually lulls your body into relaxation.
Jason: Exactly, yeah, and loosens up kind of if you've been sitting on a plane all day. It's a nice way to loosen up. So, I have a little foam roller kind of stretching mini yoga band routine I do in my room. And then, we're blessed that most the places we go to just have really great facilities. I train every single day that I play poker, but I never train hard. I'm just doing something to trying to get my body going a little bit, lots of stretching, lots of skipping rope, but nothing intense, the heart rate's never high. I'm never like squatting 400 pounds or anything like that. It's just really more get in top shape before I go on one of these trips, and then maintain as well as I can. I generally come back six or seven pounds lighter every single time though.
Jason: Yeah, it's kind of a bummer. I'll leave here 177 pounds really feeling strong and I generally come back at 170.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. That's something I'll often do when I'm headed off for a hefty business or travel trip is just kind of smash myself the week prior and then use the travel as a bit of a deload week.
The thing that I've been doing for the past year or so is I'll travel with those blood flow restriction bands because I can literally tourniquet my arms and legs while in my hotel room before I head to the conference or whatever, and do a half-hour, and I use one of those suspension straps that you can hang from the door and do pull-ups and everything from. And so, I just have that and the BFR bands in one elastic band. And, I'll do 30 squats, 20 push-ups, 10 pull-ups, 30 lunges, 20 of some type of core exercise, and then 50 jumping jacks and just go through that as many rounds as I can for half hour.
And, when you have the blood flow restriction bands on, the ability to be able to maintain, and sometimes even build muscle just bodyweight is amazing. And, the fact that it cuts down on the trip to the gym, whatever the extra 20 minutes you'll spend walking 10 minutes down the long hallways hunting down the gym, coming all the way back. I can just roll out of bed and strap those things on and go. It's so convenient.
So, that's what I do when I travel now.
Jason: Yeah, I would definitely look into that. I'm all about the bands already. The bands have been lifesavers. Anything that you can attach to anything for resistance. So, the blood flow stuff isn't something I've looked into.
Ben: Yeah. Now, what about meditation or anything along those lines that you do to kind of keep your mental game optimized?
Jason: Yeah, that's actually been huge for me. I had a really, really traumatic childhood and a reactive mind doesn't work well in the poker world for the obvious reasons. There's a lot of short-term luck in poker, so no matter how good you are, you're going to experience losses over the short term. And, if you're not kind of in that state of mind where you're willing to kind of let go of things you don't have control of, it can really result into some toxic mental places that no one needs to be in.
So, I've done a lot of work with meditative work and I just do kind of the basic stuff that find a chair, sit upright, feel my body weight in a chair, kind of analyze my body and then just go into a dark space and breathe without trying to think about very much at all. And, I do do that religiously and I do feel like that that sharpened me up. And, I'll even at final tables or big high-pressure moments, I'll do little mini-meditations, just one minute here and there where I kind of just zone out and breathe and try to let go. Because you're constantly in your head, your brain wants to get first place. So, you're kind of feeling attached to things that you just can't be attached to if you want to play your best poker. Or, fear sets in, and then you just start making plays that are based out of fear rather than just kind of looking out from an unbiased standpoint and saying, “Okay, I need to make this play because it's the right play,” rather than “I really don't want to lose here this time.”
Ben: Yeah, yeah that makes sense. That makes sense.
Are you seeing anybody kind of up and coming in poker or anybody that you're looking to as other folks who you think have been doing a really good job at kind of the health the fitness, the biohacking piece? I'll be honest, just talking to you as a professional poker player with as much money on the line as there is, for me to bring up something, whatever, ketone esters, and for you not to be using them, or nootropics, I'm like, “Geez, really?” I would have expected guys like you to just be full-on into this stuff. The same way as you might be into whatever, creatine and having a coach like you have for sprinting. So, is it just like so young this idea of poker players going after full body and brain optimization that there's just not a lot of knowledge right now out there in the poker industry?
Jason: Yes. It's brand new, man. I mean, just getting off the couch and going to do something and realizing like, “Oh, maybe we shouldn't be eating pizza and drinking milkshakes while we're playing poker.” This is revolutionary stuff in the poker world. But I will say there is a massive movement. It's unbelievable even since the time that I've started playing in the last 10 years, I feel like the average poker pro is just so much more fit and focused and trying to do the right things than they were whenever I started playing.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Interesting. And, I think you and I have talked about this before. If we were to come down there and do some kind of a conference or a workshop where we take some players in and just spend a day with me for Q&A and learn about this stuff and take a deep dive in it, I feel something like that needs to happen in the poker community. And, I'm on board to help out a little bit. If you guys ever decide to put something together down there, I'll fly down to Vegas and get a bunch of you guys in the room and kind of take a deep dive into this stuff if you guys are ever game.
Jason: Yeah, we love to hear it. And, poker players are the kind of people that when you show them things, they can be really dedicated to it, they understand what it takes to work hard to be good at something. It's just all new. And honestly, the nootropics kind of biohacking stuff, a lot of the information isn't necessarily clear if it's what's right and what's wrong. So, with me, I just want to make sure I don't do damage to my body because I have such a good thing going already with my body and mind. I'm afraid, “Hey, I might break myself” because I have no idea what I'm doing.
Ben: Exactly. That's the problem. You try to go from good to great, and you go from good to bad instead. That's certainly something that I've seen happen before that quest for optimization resulting in kind of a paradoxical backfiring of what you expected to happen. So, yeah, you do need to be careful, but at the same time and especially if you can do things like a genetic analysis, blood analysis, gut analysis, urinary hormone analysis, micronutrient analysis, a good food intolerance and food allergy profile, and then come in, equipped with all those labs and then just customize everything to the T, that, in my opinion, going with data and self-quantification is one of the best ways to make sure that you're not just shooting blind or taking some kind of a supplement that would have worked really well for one person but is not really up your alley from a neurotransmitter or the way you're wired up neurochemically. And so, I think that getting the testing is a pretty important component of this as well. Because then, you can ensure that you're actually making the right decision not just kind of taking something that is supposedly good but might not be customized for you, if that makes sense.
Jason: Yeah. From a nutritional standpoint, we have proof with my wife and I, and you overlooking our blood work and us modifying our diet and our supplementation. It made a wonderful difference in her health and in mine. And, I'm sure there's lots more that we could do that way. So, I'm fully open to it.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Well, cool, man. I mean, this is fascinating. And, I would say if people have their own tips to add or they want to jump in and ask questions, or follow along with your journey, or check out some of the things you're up to, I'll link to everything. If folks go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Koon. That's BenGreenfieldFitness.com/K-O-O-N.
And Jason, anything else you want to share with folks while I've got you on? And, any last little tips or tricks or hacks that you found to be useful?
Jason: Yeah. Since I'm talking to a general audience, I would say that it's very, very important to understand that poker is a skill game and it's not just a gambling kind of — or the United States government's kind of gotten poker wrong, they kind of grouped it in with people going and pulling a slot machine or rolling roulette. And, this is a game where people can be professional and take calculated risks and win over very, very long periods of time and over large samples. Even though that isn't related to kind of the health and fitness thing, I think people do need to understand that this isn't just guys being luckier, ladies being luckier than one another. And, it's a serious business. It's also not something you should just dive into and think you're going to be able to win at.
Ben: Well, I appreciate you coming on sharing this stuff with us. Again, I think we should get some folks in a room together some time and do a full-on poker biohacking workshop. I don't know much about poker, but I can at least help you guys out with the diet and the supplementation and the sleep piece. And so, that'll be fun to do some time.
But in the meantime, what I'll do is I'll link to everything that we talked about. Folks, go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Koon.
And Jason, I'll let you get back to that little two-week-old baby.
Jason: Three weeks, yeah.
Ben: Three-week-old baby. Wow. Congratulations, man.
Jason: Yeah, yeah. Thank you so much. It's amazing.
Lucas: So, thanks for having me, Ben. I'm super excited to be talking about specific nootropics for optimal brain function in the context of a professional poker player.
So, first of all, I think it's really important that we take a look at what are nootropics, who uses them, and also how they work.
So, first of all, nootropics is just a broad term that generally describes compounds that can improve any aspect of cognitive function. So, that can be alertness, focus, memory, concentration, and various aspects of executive functioning.
Now, in terms of who actually uses nootropics, well, there are many influencers, and entrepreneurs, and high performers that have sort of leveraged the power of nootropics to improve their performance whether that'd be at work or potentially on the sporting field and also in professional environments such as professional poker.
So, I think it's really important that we, first of all, break down a little bit about how nootropics actually work. Now, many people get confused when they hear the word nootropic, they wonder, are they all like that NZT drug, the limitless pill on the movie “Limitless.” But what we need to really understand is that nootropics actually work through a variety of mechanisms in the brain.
What's really important to know is that these specific nootropics all tend to work on either increasing neurotransmitter release or modulating their release, modulating neurotransmitter receptor sites modulating neurotransmitter enzymes or enzymes that degrade or increase various neurotransmitters. And then, they can also work through different parameters such as influencing inflammation or neuroinflammation in the brain. Some of them can reduce oxidative stress. Others can directly act as precursors to various neurotransmitters. So, what we need to understand is that many of these nootropics that we see on the market, they actually tend to work through a variety of mechanisms.
Now, in this sort of environment with a sort of professional poker player, what we need to look at is actually some of the key executive functions and cognitive domains required by professional poker players. So, this is really important because once we can strip out all of the essential components of a professional poker player, we can then curate and customize a bespoke nootropic stack that's tailored, directly tailored to their cognitive domains that are of high importance in professional poker. So, with this understanding, we can then apply our knowledge on various nootropics and sort of match the ones that directly target these cognitive domains.
So, a great example will be certain nootropics, as I mentioned before, certain nootropics can act as neurotransmitter precursors. And, with that understanding, we can then ask ourselves, well, hey, does a poker player need more serotonin or does a poker player respond better to increasing dopamine?
So, with that information, we can then, as I said before, we can strip it back and customize a nootropic stack that's tailored, directly tailored to a professional poker player's needs.
So, what I thought would be cool is that we dive into some of the key executive functions and cognitive aspects or domains that are required by professional poker players.
So, I think one thing that we can all agree upon is that having a good emotional control or greater emotional control is going to be beneficial under extreme stress. And, as you could imagine, poker players are under enormous amounts of stress. And so, anything that can help one with their emotional control and/or emotional regulation will likely see some decent benefits in terms of improving their decision-making.
So, the whole point of emotional control is that once we build that great emotional control, it's going to help us to make logically sound decisions. You've probably heard a lot of people talk about making decisions based on emotions i.e., look at the current environment that we're in at the moment versus being very rational and logical, which again, could be very advantageous in the context of playing poker. So, that's one key trait there.
We also know that poker players, those that actually perform well-playing poker generally have a good tolerance for financial risk being either risk-averse or you're very, very confident, and you back yourself is one really important trait, I guess, because the ability to back yourself and have a lot of confidence in your decision is really important. Because again, being in that limbo, no man's land where you're sort of indecisive or uncertain is going to increase cognitive load and decrease your ability to operate efficiently. So, I'm sure many of you can relate to this even when you're unsure on a decision.
Think about all of that cognitive power that goes into tossing up either A or B when really we want to be efficient and confident in our decision and make a decision without ruminating and I guess overthinking, which I'll touch on fairly soon. We'll go through some of the rumination and overthinking side of things soon.
What I think it's also important is understanding the social information processing skills and social intelligence, which has been shown to be a unique factor as I was doing some research on some of the key traits of professional poker players. It seems like social intelligence was one huge aspect, which is obviously distinct from general intelligence as social intelligence is basically a reflection of one's tendency to respond and to attend to social information and to process information observed in a social environment as well as being capable of controlling this social information delivered via one's own behavior.
So obviously, we can see social intelligence being able to read other player's facial expressions and even body awareness and body language. When we communicate with others, 90% of our communication is non-verbal. So, being able to observe some of the social recognition patterns from the other player is going to be highly beneficial not only for the player's own decisions but then to sort of detect and determine the opponent's potential decision ahead. So, that's pretty interesting there.
What I want to also dive into is the various personality traits of those that perform well-playing poker. There was one study back in 2013 by Palomaki, et al which found that greater self-evaluation, less rumination and greater emotional control occurred more frequently in their sample of experienced players. They also had greater self-evaluation and less rumination, which is suggestive of lower levels of the personality trait neuroticism. So again, what we want to do when designing a nootropic stack is to reduce that rumination and improve that emotional control.
We also want to be thinking about improving working memory. Now, obviously, this is really relevant to playing poker because we want to be targeting that acetylcholine system and neurogenesis and synaptogenesis, which is going to help to improve that working memory during a poker match. Again, this is really important as a good memory plus observation of the opponents or your opponents' decisions increases the potential for maximum exploitation of a hand situation.
So again, what we want to be doing is looking at specific nootropics that can target the memory systems and various types of memory because there's many different types of memory performance. We want to be targeting specific types in this sort of situation.
What I found interesting as well is that when it comes to professional poker, we want to be having a good degree or activation of what's known as forward-thinking where the decision-maker plans his or her next moves by taking into account not only their own desires but also the desires and goals of their opponents and the moves of their opponents ahead. So again, being able to connect the dots, being able to sort of think ahead, think two-three steps ahead is going to be highly advantageous for poker players.
Now, this is where it gets quite interesting is that many people talk about the importance of self-awareness and things that we can do to improve self-awareness. And again, this is highly integral to high performance and poker playing. So interestingly, as I sort of briefly alluded to before, dopamine is that neurotransmitter that many of us associate with alertness, focus, motivation, seeking out a goal, chasing our goals, chasing our dreams. But interestingly, dopamine stimulation can actually improve self-awareness and also metacognition, which is the ability of the brain to consciously monitor its own cognitive processes.
Now, there was one particular study that looked at the influence of dopaminergic substances such as L-DOPA, which is found in the nootropic Mucuna Pruriens. We're looking at about 15% L-DOPA. This particular study basically looked at the influence of L-DOPA and how it can alter self-awareness and also the retrieval of memories. So, this administration of L-DOPA improved metacognition and self-awareness. So, with all this in mind, factoring in the key cognitive domains of a highly successful poker player.
Let's now take a look at specific nootropics that can directly target these cognitive domains. So, the very first nootropic in this stack in the peak poker playing stack is something known as PRL-8-53. Now, PRL-8-53 is a synthetic research chemical that was originally designed to treat amnesia, which is a loss of memory. And, it's actually intrigued many of us in the nootropic community for decades.
Now, there was one human study basically looking at the effects of PRL-8-53 on short-term memory. And, quite profoundly, this particular study noted an improvement of short-term memory by more than 200%. Now, good luck finding another nootropic that can sort of increase that short-term memory response by 200%. And interestingly, the actual PRL-8-53 molecule is a derivative of a benzoic acid and phenylmethylamine, which was discovered in 1972 by Dr. Nikolaus Hansel who then patented the actual nootropic three years later.
So, interestingly in this particular study, we're looking at only 5 milligrams. So, we're looking at a 5-milligram dosage. And, this one particular study in 1978 which was obviously conducted in humans showed that a single dose could more than double memory as measured by word retention scores. And, some researchers suggested that PRL-8-53 may increase dopamine, which we know plays an important role in memory motivation and fatigue.
So, what I really want to highlight here is also the fact that PRL-8-53 may block serotonin production. And again, you may be wondering why is this beneficial for a poker player? Well, easy. I mean, if we know what happens when we have too much serotonin, there's research that shows too much serotonin can increase that rumination, and also high serotonin can sort of exacerbate the fear response and also worsen what's known as learned helplessness. So, by blocking that certain serotonin receptors PRL-8-53 could be beneficial to reduce rumination and reduce fear during a poker match. So again, we're looking at about 5 milligrams of PRL-8-53.
So, next up, I'd like to consider stacking that with something known as methylene blue but methylene blue at a microdose. When I say microdose, we're looking at around 250 micrograms, not milligrams, we're looking at micrograms. So, 250 micrograms to about 1 milligram. So, this is considered a very low dose. And, the reason being is that microdosing can be very powerful without raising serotonin with methylene blue because it does cross the blood-brain barrier very effectively. At high doses, it may inhibit male a monoamine oxidase A, which can increase serotonin. So, we really want to be getting all the benefits of methylene blue without raising serotonin too much. And, methylene blue does show a hormetic dose response with opposite effects at low doses versus high doses.
So, let's get into, I guess, the basics and a little bit about how methylene blue works for those who don't know much. I'm not sure if Ben Greenfield had spoken about various actions of methylene blue, but I'd like to fill you in in terms of just understanding the basics. So, methylene blue receives an electron from NADH and transfers it to cytochrome C by passing complex 1. And, this facilitates enhanced ATP production as well as decreases reactive oxygen species output from the mitochondrial electron transport chain.
So again, we're looking at a compound methylene blue being a compound that may be similar to other ATP boosters like creatine, d-ribose, coenzyme Q10, PQQ. We're seeing that methylene blue can enhance ATP production. And, it has been reported that low-dose methylene blue treatment can sort of attenuate or reduce the behavioral neurochemical and pathological impairments in animal models of Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, global cerebral ischemia, and even stroke. So, we're seeing that methylene blue being a highly neuroprotective compound or nootropic being very beneficial for poker players.
And, what's important to also note is that methylene blue promotes cortical neurogenesis, which again will be highly useful in this sort of situation. It's also worth noting that methylene blue can enhance various aspects of memory performance. And, as I mentioned at the start, there are different types of memory, but methylene blue can sort of enhance contextual memory, short-term memory, episodic memory, and also semantic memory. So again, methylene blue, I would say, leads the way in terms of optimizing different types of neurological pathways in reducing neural inflammation and protecting the brain against long-term stresses. And, we're looking at a compound that's almost comparable to nicotine because we know that nicotine is also a powerful nootropic but obviously, it does come with a few drawbacks in terms of addictive tendencies, tolerance, and also withdrawal.
And, the purpose of these compounds that I'm talking about here for this specific poker player or to enhance poker performance is that these compounds are non-addictive and they don't leave the brain in some sort of deficit the next day. They're actually supportive of brain performance without leading to depletion like many powerful stimulants such as Ritalin, coffee, cocaine. Unfortunately, these can be lead to a major deficit long term.
So, what methylene blue and PRL-8-53 would stack really nicely with is finally a botanical. I've spoken about two synthetic compounds, two synthetic nootropics.
The third one that I'd consider adding into this stack is Avena sativa. Avena sativa also known as oat straw has some pretty cool research in terms of improving cognition. What's interesting is that oat straw can also help to boost alpha brain waves, which is associated with super learning flow states and even joy. Many of you will know and even for poker performance, if you're enjoying whatever you're doing, you're going to perform better. It's generally speaking a natural tendency for us as humans. That's why many people say you want to enjoy your job. Well, Avena sativa by influencing alpha brain waves is going to improve that ability to get into a flow state and reduce distractibility and improve that alpha brainwave state, which is similar again to L-theanine. And, Avena sativa has been well-documented to acutely improve mental function in humans.
So, this is really important to note is that with various nootropics, although many of them tend to show benefits long-term in this situation with a poker player, we want to be curating and customizing a stack that is going to elicit benefits in the short-term or acutely, we want to be seeing benefits acutely which means quickly and short-term. So, that's really important when we're selecting a stack.
There are various bioactive compounds that are also unique in Avena sativa which sort of have anti-inflammatory effects and protect against neurodegeneration heart disease and other aspects as well. Avena sativa is interesting because it does also support cerebral or brain circulation, and it sort of does this by boosting nitric oxide which methylene blue actually inhibits which is technically considered a benefit, but that's for other parameters. But in terms of blood flow, Avena sativa does increase nitric oxide. So, we're offsetting that side effect of methylene blue. In addition, Avena sativa inhibits PDE4, which again also helps to support the dilation of blood vessels and also affects signaling pathways involved in the mediation of memory formation and also has an antidepressant effect. By acting as a PDE4 inhibitor, I can prolong the effects of cyclic AMP which, as I said before, is integral to memory performance, wakefulness, it's neuroprotective and is anti-neuroinflammatory.
We also know that oat straw sort of inhibits monoamine oxidase-B, which can increase dopamine levels in the brain which would work synergistically with PRL-8-53, again, going to be some nice synergy there for a poker player. So, we're sort of looking at a dosage range of about 800 milligrams to about 1,500 milligrams. This is reflective in the literature. We've seen benefits at as low as 800 milligrams.
And so, in terms of dosing, many of these compounds can be just diluted in water or taken in capsule form. Methylene blue is usually in liquid form, but again it can be found in powder form. PRL-8-53 can be either/or powder or liquid tincture. But again, it ultimately does come back to the individual response. And also, it may be also worthwhile throwing in something that can modulate cortisol or some sort of mild beta-blocker. It may be beneficial in this sort of situation. So, we can use something like taurine. I've spoken about the benefits of taurine numerous times at a dosage of around 2,000 milligrams to 5,000 milligrams of taurine. But this is, again, dependent on how aroused the poker player is feeling and/or based on their caffeine intake.
So, since taurine is going to reduce arousal, this can be either beneficial or harmful for certain individuals playing poker. Again, it comes back to how aroused or generally alert the player is already feeling pre-match. And, that will sort of determine the dosage used for taurine or whether or not it's even needed. But it does tend to modulate cortisol, it does tend to lower cortisol, and it does tend to also lower adrenaline, which is beneficial for keeping calm. Keeping cool, calm, and collected as you guys know is highly important. So ultimately, we do want to be factoring in trial and error. We want to be logging our response and also consciously self-monitoring to then sort of tweak your nootropic stack.
So, that's it from me. Hopefully, this was beneficial. And yeah, I look forward to seeing you guys soon.
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My friend and today's podcast guest Jason Koon is a professional poker player. As of August 2021, he is the 10th highest earner in history, with nearly $32,000,000 in winnings.
Originally from West Virginia, Jason Koon was raised outdoors, spending much of his childhood fishing, hunting, and playing sports. Jason Koon attended West Virginia Wesleyan College on a track scholarship where he competed as a sprinter. He would go on to graduate with a finance undergraduate degree, as well as an M.B.A.
Jason Koon found poker in college after suffering a severe hip injury. Within months, he was winning money by simply playing on the internet. By the time Jason finished university, he was winning at high-stakes poker games online. After taking a finance job in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jason almost immediately quit and decided to give playing poker for a living a chance.
Jason lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with his wife Bianca and his newborn son Calum.
After you listen in to the discussion with me and Jason, you'll then get a bonus goodie: a guest lecture by my friend Lucas Aoun, designer of the Nootropics Masterclass, 30 Days To Higher Testosterone, and Optimizing Sleep Masterclass, and previous guest on this podcast. (Save 10% on Lucas's nootropics courses with code BENG10.)
Lucas is also the author of the popular article Hair, Hormones, Icing Your Balls & 6 Other Little-Known Strategies To Boost Testosterone, Balance Your Hormones & Reclaim Your Rightful Man & Womanhood. In the second half of this special two-part podcast, Lucas discusses how nootropics work, nootropics for optimal brain functioning, how professional poker players can benefit from specific nootropic compounds, and more.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-How Jason Koon is preparing for a second wind as a sprinter…08:15
- He seriously injured his hip in college as a sprinter; started playing poker in 2005
- Was challenged by people within the poker community to run 100m under 11 sec.
- Recovery-based training; much better nutrition than while in college
- Deep tissue massage 2~3 times a week
- Sauna and cold plunge every day
- 40-minute warmup, 2 minutes of 90% exertion
- The Quick And The Dead by Pavel Tsatsouline
-The mental and physical grind of becoming and remaining an elite poker player…14:45
- Earned the freedom to be more selective with how energy is expended
- Best players are Chinese entrepreneurs who play at very high stakes ($4 million hands)
- Not uncommon to play over 24 consecutive hours with a high roller who's good at losing
- Sleep deprivation; smoke in your face; whatever the rich guy wants to do
- Jason plays his best poker while fasted, sipping bone broth and MCT oil, in ketosis
- AI is used to study and practice the craft
-How to excel at poker without getting into the trap of gambling…21:45
- Two types of games: cash and tournaments
- Ben will play, win a few bucks, and walk away
- Jason hates gambling, even though he's a professional poker player
-Foods and/or supplements Jason Koon uses to perform at a very high level…25:40
- Adequate sleep is the biggest factor
- Nitro cold brews, black coffee while playing
- Models diet after the Perfect Health Diet
- BGF podcasts with Paul Jaminet:
- Weston A. Price diet
- First Light grass-fed beef
- Ketone Aid
- Perfect Keto
- Consume clean water and minerals while taking ketone esters
- Water and Wellness Quinton
-Nootropics and smart drugs that assist with focus…35:30
- Phosphatidyl Choline (use code GREENFIELD10 to save 10%)
- BGF podcast on modafinil with Jonathan Wisor:
- Qualia Mind
- BGF articles on Nootopia:
- Magnesium Breakthrough
- Mag SRT by Jigsaw Health
- Quicksilver Scientific Choline (use code GREENFIELD10 to save 10%)
-Managing bright lights at night and the circadian rhythm with a career that requires odd hours…41:08
- Jason has suffered mild PTSD due to lack of sleep during huge events
- Ra Optics blue light blocking glasses designed for daytime use
- LED blocking stickers
- Magnesium bath salts soaks before going to sleep
- Deep breaths in sauna
- Podcast with John Lieurance on melatonin:
- Melatonin (use code BEN to save 5%)
- Delta 8 THC
- Nighttime Jello (YouTube video)
- Jello recipe:
- Boundless Cookbook
-How to deal with toxins in a casino environment…49:40
- Be in steam for a really long time
- Intense sweat or steam shower
-How to stay in shape while traveling…51:15
- Crossover Symmetry shoulder bands
- Foam roller
- Accupressure pad Nayoya
- Never train hard; stretching, jump rope, maintain fitness
- BFR bands (use code BEN10 to save 10%)
- BGF podcast with Kusha Karvandi:
- Kaatsu bands (use code BEN to save 10%)
- BGF podcast on Kaatsu:
-Meditation and keeping the mental game optimized…54:50
- A reactive mind doesn't work well in the world of poker
- Must let go of things you can't control
- Mini-meditations at the table
- Don't make plays out of fear of losing
-The growing awareness of health and biohacking within the poker world…56:30
- A massive fitness movement is just starting in the poker community
-Specific nootropics for optimal brain function with special guest Lucas Aoun…1:02:47
- Lucas Aoun's Nootropics Masterclass (use code BENG10 to save 10%)
- BGF podcast with Lucas Aoun:
- BGF article by Lucas Aoun:
-Nootropics defined and how they work…1:03:15
- Works through a variety of mechanisms in the brain
- Increases and modulates neurotransmitter release
- Modulating neurotransmitter receptor sites
- Modulating neurotransmitter enzymes
- Reduce oxidative stress
- Act as a precursor to various neurotransmitters
-Executive functions and cognitive domains required by pro poker players…1:06:55
- Greater emotional control is beneficial under extreme stress
- Rational vs. emotional decisions
- Good tolerance for financial risk
- Emotional intelligence and body language
- Improving working memory
- Have a good degree of forward-thinking
-Nootropics that may be useful for professional poker players…1:14:40
- PRL-8-53 – synthetic chemical designed to treat amnesia
- Methylene Blue at a microdose (250 mcg – 1 mg)
- BGF podcast with Dr. Ted Achacoso:
- Avena Sativa
- Taurine (2000-5000 mg)
-And much more!
- Keep up on Ben's LIVE appearances by following bengreenfieldfitness.com/calendar
Resources from this episode:
– Jason Koon:
– Lucas Aoun:
- Nootropics and Cosmetic Neurology Masterclass (use code BENG10 to save 10%)
- 30 Days To Higher Testosterone (use code BENG10 to save 10%)
- Optimizing Sleep Masterclass (use code BENG10 to save 10%)
- Boost Your Biology
- Ergogenic Health
- Advanced Smart Drugs & Nootropics You’ve Never Heard Of, Rare Japanese Seaweed For Sleep Enhancement, The Most Powerful Form Of Vitamin B1 That Exists & Much More!
- Boost Your Brain Power With These 4 Underground, Highly Effective Nootropic Compounds Most People Don’t Know About.
- Hair, Hormones, Icing Your Balls & 6 Other Little-Known Strategies To Boost Testosterone, Balance Your Hormones & Reclaim Your Rightful Man & Womanhood.
– Podcasts And Articles:
- Is There One Single Diet That Is Best? (And Why Something Called The “Perfect Health Diet” Heavily Influences Most of Ben Greenfield’s Dietary Decisions).
- Episode #152: If You Could Eat Fat All Day, Would You?
- Modafinil: Is This Wildly Popular Smart Drug Safe And Effective? (& What It Can Do For Your Sleep Cycles & Brain Health).
- The Ultimate Guide To Nootropics: How To Safely Use Better Living Through Science To Get The Most Firepower Out Of Your Brain – Part 2
- The Ultimate Guide To Nootropics: How To Safely Use Better Living Through Science To Get The Most Firepower Out Of Your Brain – Part 1
- The Shocking Truth About High-Dose Melatonin, Does Melatonin Supplementation Shut Down Your Own Production, How To Use Melatonin To Enhance Fasting & Much More With Dr. John Lieurance.
- 1 Cheap & Easy Underground Training Method For Growth Hormone Release, 5 Biohacks to Increase Strength in 60 Seconds, 7 Exercises for the Eyes to Radically Enhance Stamina & Speed
- The Official KAATSU Episode: Everything You Need To Know About How To Use Blood Flow Restriction For Muscle Gain, Injury Recovery, Testosterone, Growth Hormone & Much More!
- An Interview With “The Smartest Physician On The Planet”: Crazy Biohacking Stacks For Cognitive Function, Microdosing CBD, The Rolls Royce Of Jet Lag Hacking & Much More.
- Clearlight Sauna
- Morozko Forge
- Ra Optics
- Light Dims LED Blocking Stickers
- Crossover Symmetry Shoulder Bands
- Rumble Roller Foam Roller
- Nanoya Accupressure Pad
- Jump Rope
- BFR Bands (use code BEN10 to save 10%)
- Kaatsu Bands (use code BEN to save 10%)
– Food, Supplements, And Nootropics:
- Kettle And Fire Bone Broth
- MCT Oil
- Nitro Cold Brews
- Kion Coffee
- First Light Grass-Fed Beef
- Coconut Water
- Halo Sports Drink
- Great Lakes Gelatin (use code BEN10 to save 10%)
- Monk Fruit Sweetener
- Sea Salt
- Ketone Aid
- Perfect Keto
- Water and Wellness
- Quicksilver Pure PC Phosphatidyl Choline (use code GREENFIELD10 to save 10%)
- Qualia Mind
- biOptimizers Magnesium Breakthrough
- Mag SRT by Jigsaw Health
- Ancient Minerals Magnesium Bath Flakes
- Melatonin (use code BEN to save 5%)
- Kion Aminos
- Cannabolix (use code BEN10 to save 10%)
- Noel Creek Hemp (use code BEN20 to save 20%)
- Methylene Blue
- Avena Sativa
– Other Resources:
- Perfect Health Diet
- Weston A. Price Diet
- Nighttime Jello (Youtube video)
- What Is Delta 8?
- PRL-8-53: Enhanced Learning And Subsequent Retention In Humans As A Result Of Low Oral Doses Of New Psychotropic Agent
- A Novel Spasmolytic And CNS Active Agent 3-(2-benzylmethylamino ethyl) Benzoic Acid Methyl Ester Hydrochloride
–Kion Clean Protein: Organic natural flavors, Himalayan sea salt, and stevia deliver rich chocolate and velvety smooth vanilla flavors that are out of this world—seriously, even in plain ole’ water.
–Organifi Red Juice: Enjoy all the benefits of the 11 superfoods and their micronutrients that help increase resting metabolism, support cardiovascular health, and remove toxins to turn back the hands of time! Receive a 20% discount on your entire order when you use discount code BENG20.
–Clearlight Saunas: You can be sure that I researched all the saunas before I bought mine and Clearlight was the one that stood out from all the rest because of their EMF and ELF Shielding and their Lifetime Warranty. Mention BEN GREENFIELD and you’ll receive an extra discount on your purchase.
–Vuori: Activewear and athletic clothing for ultimate performance. Vuori is built to move and sweat in, yet designed with a West Coast aesthetic that transitions effortlessly into everyday life. Receive 25% off your first order when you use discount code BEN2020.