This will be the introduction and first edition of my new recurring series on poker philosophy – life explained. A journey to become better at poker and better at life.
A little backstory. . in the 10th grade me and some of my classmates started playing poker. Internet poker had its limits for the 16 year-old, so live games had to suffice. Playing with 3 frequent players and only for change in the beginning, our little venture into gambling grew into an empire with 2 years.
Our crew constantly grew and breaks between classes seemed to be shortening. The stakes grew higher. We got many notifications from our teachers and the principal, because the playing was causing many guys to be late into classes, also skipping classes just to play. We found very innovative ways to conceal our playing and poster “teacher guards” to get into glasses on time. Furthermore, it turned out that playing for money was forbidden in school territory. We had a solution though. . bookkeeping.
We marked the buy-ins and bets in a simple form into a workbook(I now wish we had kept them all…just the sheer amount of workbooks we went through is quite staggering). In that way, you only had to have money once a week, to pay your debts(done Friday after school) and you could play as much as you want during the week. You always assumed, you would at least get even at the end of the week. Of course that wouldn’t be true for everyone. With our paper mark-up system, we just got so far away from the idea of money as a material object and losses seemed to be illusionary. And that lead to quite substantial weekly turnovers. Basically every break we had went into playing. Also, classes where tables had drawers allowed playing at class time. Setting up tables and vision blockades so that our crew would sit near each other and the teacher wouldn’t see the sporting going on(yes, we firmly supported the view of poker as a sport). So all in all, I can’t even say how much time we spent playing poker in high school.
The more and more we played and researched the game(we got quite competitive, obviously) and the more we got into the maths behind it, all kinds of somewhat weird and simultaneously cool philosophical thoughts started to assemble in our hive mind and poker started to quite literally resemble life itself. . . and the hypothesis me and 2 other most frequent players set up was that one could find resemblances between every situation in life and poker and simplify each decision in life with poker logic. And that is what I would like to start doing in this series:)
This edition will have the starting example and future posts will have many poker philosophies. First, the ability to say no.
Many life’s decisions can be simplified into “yes or no” decisions. Will you do that errand someone has asked you? Will you choose the fast food or make your meal yourself? Will you take that loan? Will you get out of bed early today? The list is endless. But the commonality is that it takes one binary decision to set future actions into motion. JUST as in poker, the decision to get into the action by playing your hole cards or folding. That represents the basic decision you make.
And one action I recently learned – saying “no” to requests. I am a positive person by heart and for a period I just couldn’t say no to people. I got jammed that way, overburdened. My productivity suffered and overall mood went down, because I could not live up to my promises. But taking that choice between getting into the pot as a model, one can see that saying yes to every hand just is not profitable in the long run. If you play every hand, you are bound to lose money. If you overextend on tables and play 10 tables, when you can only manage 5, you are bound to lose money. Jim Carrey proved the point in “Yes Man” – you have to make choices and assess situation when someone asks something of you.
You might take smaller responsibilities with greater ease and encouragement, in the same way that if you have a mediocre hand, you are inclined to take part in the pot if the stakes are low compared to you stack. That means if the initial effort is seamless, the upside of doing a favour is much higher. If the stakes are higher and a raise has been made, then folding should become a serious option. But of course saying “no” to all hands is the opposite of rational also – you can not improve your well-being without entering a pot(doing favours, saying “yes”).
So I hope you got a clue about my logic. It’s been 3 years since the last discussion on the matter and the thoughts are less defined in my head. And because I no longer go to the same class with my fellow thinkers and dissidents, I need your help to (re)discover the long lost world. Post comments on the hypothesis – argue against it and find flaws in my logic or point out new connections yourself. Also, challenge the hypothesis to explain a situation of your choosing.
Time to re-watch High Stakes Poker!
Have a nice week!