Thursday, January 24, 2008

Poker Imitating Life, Imitating Poker, Imitating Life.

Four years ago this month, I was walking home from a doctors appointment. I'm not positive of the exact date. I suppose I could check my medical records and figure it out. What matters mostly is my cell phone rang. I put the phone up to my ear and heard the voice of my friend Jorel telling me all about this internet poker site that he'd recently joined.

Two things jump out at me from this first paragraph.

1- I've spent four years doing this.

2- I take phone calls from Superman's dad.

The poker seeds had actually been planted two months earlier when I read James McManus' book Positively Fifth Street. Like others, I thought to myself, hey I can do this.

"A minute to learn and a lifetime to master."

I went home, signed up and an hour later I was playing Jorel in my first sit and go. My poker era had officially begun.

I had plenty of confidence early on. I realized that alot of the work I had done for the past 10 years had unintentionally prepared me for a career in poker.

And while I was easily able to convince myself that this life experience gave me what I needed to play poker, what hadn't occurred to me was that the lessons I would learn at the poker table would become equally important when applied back to my life.

These new experiences at the poker table would have no choice but to effect my everyday way of thinking.

Poker has really taught me to pick my battles. To let go of things (feelings) and move on. To be a good sport. To accept that sometimes I will be lucky, other times unlucky. To always consider risk and reward before making any decision. Poker has been the absolute greatest reminder to not let things I cannot control in life determine who I am, or how good and happy I feel.

These life lessons have become so interchangeable with poker, that any discussion of their origin can turn a little bit into asking "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

What inspired these thoughts was flipping through "The Week" magazine and seeing their page of quotes compiled from around the world. As I read through them it occurred to me how these words in quotes applied to both life and poker.

If I understand something in life or poker, I can apply it to the other.

A few examples:

"Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out." (Art Linkletter quoted in the Memphis Commercial Appeal)

Not too deep. Simple and true. When life gives you lemons, you gotta make lemonade. At the poker table, things do turn out best for the players who stay on their game. Just because I got unlucky and lost a big pot doesn't mean it has to be a bad day. I can still make the best of my situation. Whether than means showing more patience in a tournament or deciding how long to stay in a cash game. Make the best of it.

"There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare." (Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War).

Sun Tzu is speaking of nations and war. Yet for our purposes he could be talking about playing too many hands. Prolonged warfare is never folding. It's always fighting for chips. And putting yourself into too many hands, against better cards, cannot be beneficial, in the long run.

"Modesty is the only sure bait when you angle for praise." (British statesman Philip Stanhope quoted in the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch)

This quote illustrates why players like Phil Ivey, Allen Cunningham, Ted Forrest, etc. seem great to me. Their play speaks volumes. They don't need to tell everyone how good they are. They're scarier to me than loud talkers because they don't angle for praise. Players (Hellmuth comes to mind) who talk too much automatically seem overrated.

You want people to praise you? Keep your mouth shut. You want people to tear you down? Open it.

So true in life and poker!

"Sex is like money; only too much is enough." (John Updike, London Observer)

Yep and yep.


merryprankster said...

This jorel character sounds like a genius.

KajaPoker said...

When I read the first paragraph I thought of the same two things. Then I thought you should call up Nicolas Cage's son, Kal-el, and try to set up a reunion.