Sunday, February 03, 2008

Poker and Life

Sure, I have always been a gambler but Poker always fascinated me. I began by reading a book on the subject and then watched a video. In the last 3 weeks, I have become better than 90% of amateur players. My game is solid and I am improving with each hand, each tourney, each passing day. The one thing I have learned is that Poker and Life work together in such a way that it would surprise many. Think of poker as useful philosophy. A never ending learning process of strategy and psychology where luck plays its part but nowhere near the extent those who do not know may believe.

Granted, I am still an amateur so I cannot bring any light to those who have been playing for years. I am still green and learning the ropes, but if anyone knows me, the learning curve for me is always about 10x greater than those around me. Benefits of a high IQ, a mind for numbers, and a unmistakable and unshakable competitive spirit. Poker is a metaphor for life. A couple of hard lessons I have learned:

1. If you don't have "the nuts", don't put it all on the line. In poker, you must be tempered. "The Nuts" does not refer to your cahonas; it refers to the best possible hand you can havein a given situation. Amateurs watch TV and see pros going "All In" on a hand. It's exciting, it's exhilirating, and it's often really stupid and desperate. Risking everything is only a good idea if you are short-stacked with very little outs. Going "all in" in life is the equivalent of mortgaging your future for a gamble or even worse.

2. If you're short stacked, learn to be selective. Everyone gets down on their luck. Fortunes wither and nearly disappear. It's time to tighten the belt and only spend the money when there is a chance of bettering your position.

3. When you are in a position of power, lean on your opponent. Power is for the brave. If you cannot wield your power to impose your will or better your position ... what's the use of having power?

4. Reigned in aggression is the key to being successful. It's a mix of aggression and patience. When you are strong be fearless; when you are weak, wait your turn patiently and do not act until you are sure you can take the upper hand.

5. If you're going to bluff, make sure you know your opponent. This is a clear and unmitigated fact. You know your opponent and every angle before you decide to bluff.

6. Distractions will kill you. If you're going to play for real make sure you can concentrate for as long as the game is going. Taking care of the kids, conversating with your spouse, watching tv ... you can do all that when you're done.

7. Learn from every experience. As with anything in life, this is key. Poker players need to have a LONG memory to not only recognize situations but learn from their mistakes.

8. Know when to fold a loser. You're 2-7 offsuit is not going to hold up against a flop of A-K-J so no matter what you got in the middle someone's got the nuts and you are fucked. Get out!

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