KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “Marcus Aurelius”

We All Make Mistakes

“We all make mistakes – especially at home.”

I found these words at the Daily Stoic, in an article about Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher who became Emperor of Rome from 161-180, then broke with tradition in selecting his incapable son as his successor rather than a proven leader.

Ironic, isn’t it?

It was Marcus Aurelius who said this:

“Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. … I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him.”

Marcus taught us to approach our fellow humans as kinsmen –  think of everybody as a brother, sister, cousin, etc. – to be loved and not hated, despite the flaws of being busybodies, arrogant, deceitful, envious, or unsocial.  His point is that people are flawed, flaws are part and parcel of the human condition, thus we should expend extra effort to condition ourselves not to overreact.

Poker is a competitive game involving incomplete information.  Even in games like chess where nothing is hidden, there will be mistakes.  In poker, less information leads to more mistakes.  The same is true in many other activities – investing, relationships, negotiating, weather forecasting…

We all make mistakes.  The Stoics acknowledged that, and developed their school of philosophy around forgiveness – of themselves and of others.  We cannot control others in a manner that prevents mistakes, bad attitudes, negative emotions, poor judgment or devious conduct.  We cannot expect to conduct ourselves to be mistake-free.  The Stoics reasoned that we must work at controlling how we react when these inevitable things happen all around us.  Otherwise, every one of our days is surely to be ruined.

Two millennia later, Marcus Aurelius’ words ring as true as ever.

I’m re-reading The Mental Game of Poker, by Jared Tendler, which is an excellent book.  Tendler offers strategies for letting go of mistakes – whether made by yourself or other players who end up winning despite their errors – that put us on tilt, which further blocks the brain from making correct decisions.  Among other strategies, Tendler advocates writing as a tool for working through aspect of your “mental game.”  Here I am.

I have made many mistakes.  I continue to make mistakes.  I will make many more mistakes.  Poker mistakes cost me money.  Other mistakes cost me in other ways.  I own my mistakes, and they are the experiences from which I can learn the most.  I hope I can learn, and also forgive.

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Tilting From the Sidelines

NOTE:  This entry was originally posted on a different site on January 25, 2017 and has been slightly edited prior to re-posting here.

It started innocently enough.

At a $2/5 game at Maryland Live! casino, I’m dealt 8h 7h on the button.  No one raises.  Suited connectors like these are an excellent value for seeing a cheap flop, especially multi-ways, especially in position.  I limp in.

So far, I’ve invested $5.

The flop is As Th 7s.  This gives me bottom pair with a very weak kicker.

After a check or two, somebody bets $20 and another player calls.  Is there really any reason to continue here?

No.  Putting more money into this pot is a losing proposition.  I don’t have any draws, other than runner-runner Hail Mary types.  The board is very drawy, I don’t have the right draws (like spades or 98), and I’m not Aaron Rodgers.  So I fold.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to myself as “Player 1.”

I’ve been trying to make more notes on my poker game, partly to force me to pay closer attention to the action (which is necessary if you want to write down the salient points) and partly to review later and analyze key hands.  While this hand is playing out, I’m tap-tap-tapping notes on my phone, which I’m holding on my lap underneath the table.

“All-in,” says the dealer.  Wha—?  Looking up at the table, I see that two players remain in the hand.  The turn and river cards have been dealt, one player has bet $200, and the other has raised all-in for about $600.

It takes a couple seconds to sink in.  Before the showdown somebody tells the dealer, “get ready to call the floor.”  The poker room is running a High Hand promotion today.  Every 20 minutes, the highest hand on any table in the room gets a $500 bonus, and each new high hand has to be verified by a floor supervisor.  I glance at the monitor and see that the current highest hand is quad-something.  It doesn’t really matter what… any quads are lower than any straight flush.  I resist the urge to puke.

The first guy calls the all-in bet and the raiser turns over his cards, and scoops the large pot with his A-high flush.

I only lost $5 on this hand, but it feels like I lost $1500.  Call it the “opportunity cost” of folding on the flop for $20.

Maintain poker face.  Looking calm, disinterested.  Don’t force the table to listen to me whine about what woulda / coulda / shoulda happened.

Feeling #$$J&##@*&>!!  Invisible TILT.  Injustice tilt.  Internal raging fire tilt.  FOMO tilt.  I-could-book-a-nice-win-and-go-see-a-movie-tilt.

 

When the cards are shuffled and cut, the order has been determined.  As often happens in poker, had the same community cards been delivered in a different order, the outcome would change.  Dramatically.

For solace, I turn to the 2nd century Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, who wrote:

  • “Begin each day by telling yourself:  Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.  But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading.”

At the poker table, the other players are my “brothers” in the sense described by Aurelius, and so is the dealer.  In a different way, so are the cards.  As inanimate objects, the cards are the most ignorant of all as to what is good or evil.  The cards never show any gratitude or loyalty.

According to Aurelius, I should not be angry with my brother.  But I was.  I was really, really, really, really, very pissed off.  I still am.  This entry could be a happy-brag-blog rather than a tilt-whine-blog.  The rest of my session didn’t go well either (two lowlights:  AK v 77 on KK7 flop and AK v KK (who flatted pre-flop) on KQ5-A flop-turn.  In both cases, the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be an oncoming train).

What will today bring?  For one thing, today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness…

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