I recently mentioned that for me to show myself and others that I'm playing poker in a truly new way, I can show this by accomplishing something I haven't done previously. Specifically, I mentioned turning $250 into not $1250, but $3000 or $10,000.
So, I burned my $18 bankroll (after withdrawing most) and deposited $250. It just eclipsed $1,250, at the beginning of the weekend, after a dozen consecutive winning sessions. I closed the last table Thursday with $1,253.
Then, (as if) on cue, I started giving it back. I felt like I was playing the same, I felt like I was making good or decent table selection, and doing all the right things. But it was lose or break-even, and it wasn't like I was getting the short end of the stick all the time. Yet obviously, something was different. I knew better than to blame it all on "bad luck" vs. "good luck".
This is what a story will look like when you first see it. Vague, indefinable around the edges. Hard to wrap your brain around or even your arms around. This is the moment of truth. Real-live red pill/blue pill stuff. You have 2 choices:
1. Explain the story. Justify the story, come up with reasons why it's not you, not your story. Make sure the case for acting out this story is airtight, in case this comes up again next time.
2. Go into the story. Identify it, become aware of it, drop it. Never think about it ever again.
They will be anything but obvious, especially as you are first learning to spot them. Let me finish the example of mine, so that you can see the resolution, the transformation.
As I see myself "giving it back", hovering between $1,250 and $1,000, I do start to see some patterns emerging.
Bigger cash tables:
Dismissed because the players aren't any better. Often, more ATM-ey.
More aggressive play:
An expectation to win all the time. "Why haven't I already won all the money?"
Related, I think back, and I can even remember times when I was trying to quit for the night, and I was, for instance, up $399. I set a goal of $400 and I'm out. And yet, almost invariably, I lost. Often, a lot. So, what is the story of me continuing to win?
I know it now. Do you? If not, it's not surprising. Often it will only be apparent to the owner of the story. Only they have the context to jump to the end. (Ironically, if you learn to do this in a group, you find often everyone in the room knows the story EXCEPT the owner.) This story, for me, it can be summed up in two words:
I am a pure gamer, I've been playing games my entire life. I found a Commodore Pet at age 4 and never looked back. And when I win a game, specifically winning over and over, it means no more getting to play.
Game night: I win, time for bed.
I win the same game 5 consecutive: Nobody wants to play with me.
I beat my younger brother all the time. He never wants to play with me.
This formed the pattern of me learning to play games. Play them well, but play them so well I can control the outcome. So I CAN LOSE ON PURPOSE ENOUGH FOR PEOPLE TO KEEP PLAYING WITH ME. So I CAN KEEP PLAYING FUN GAMES.
It fits across the board. When I got my first $10 ever online (free), I turned it into $1,000. In a week. Then, I lost it all, until I had but $44 left. I then won 2 $44 SNG's and back to $350.
If I lose at low bankroll, it means I don't get to play anymore. So that's why I always have managed to rescue fallen bankrolls. But, look at the larger, more sinister, less obvious half of this story:
I lost on purpose when I won a lot, in the past. I was following a pattern, set for maximum enjoyment, as measured by approval of other players and more importantly, ability to play more. And more and more and more. Anything to play more.
This is why stories, once identified, require no effort at all to transform into awareness. Once I see the silliness that was my old pattern, I stop acting it out. Applying effort is universally a mistake. If you are making an effort to drop a story, you're masking it, hiding it, justifying it. Own it and it's gone forever.
I see that whatever the reason, however subtly I do it, I sabotage winning too much. This time when I defined a level of "too much", I even hit it on the nose. So, I've ignored whatever compulsions I feel or don't feel, to lose at poker because my bankroll is so large. I commit to its health, I will not sabotage it for a stupid story that is already dropped.
This time it is different.
So, what was the specific story? Well, the specifics aren't important, they're simply the ways in which I was acting it out. They will all show up in time, as old habits that I now ignore (i.e. raising more vs aggressive players). Sometimes the story has a simple answer, sometimes you never identify it directly. There is no need, you know this once it's gone.
In the past, I would be starting a strategy post today. Why?
I have been having success on the tables. More specifically and importantly, I can see the roots of my understandings, growing, evolving into cash profits. And I see with a high degree of clarity. I can now share my visions of the truth about "winning at poker" with confidence that I know of what I speak.
But I'm not going to launch into that post, not today. Why not? That's the post I AM going to put up today.
I have noticed a pattern in my life. When I have a lot of success at the tables, whether cash or in tournaments, either I know I'm playing well, or I know I'm running hot. I think I have a solid ability to assess my results on this level. But yet, both come and go. And there is simply NO logical reason why I should start playing worse, instead of continually, continuously, better.
So, let's go into this. Instead of repeating the old pattern, telling the old story, I choose to continually play better, now and continously. Let's identify the cause(s) of playing worse, and in awareness, drop them.
Possibility #1: Secrets in the Open
Hypothesis: The revealing of strategies helps my opponents. Not only am I teaching them correct, fundamentally sound poker, but I am also showing them how I interpret my own strategies, and any secret tricks. Is this a plausible cause for my inevitable decline?
Answer: TBD. (Hint: "No.")
Well, I wish I had time to finish now, but no such luck. So, I will sit with this and see what answer comes back as "Yes."
One obvious part of the answer: make this streak unique. Like, for instance, 3 times as long as any before. Or, turn $250 into $3000, or $10,000, not just $1,250. Then, write about what I obviously DO know.
If you are waiting until you can leave your job, so that you can go home and start having fun, you are moving horizontally.
If you are thinking about what you will say at the party, on the way to the party, you are moving horizontally.
If you base your self-worth on your personal appearance, or your monthly paycheck, you are living horizontally.
If you justify your mistakes, you are living horizontally. If you defend your mistakes, you are living horizontally. If you brag about your successes, you are living horizontally.
If you aspire to something you are not, you live horizontally. If you regret the worst choice you ever made, you live horizontally.
Think of everything you do from birth until death. Think about how much of this journey you are in charge of, and how much time controls. 0% vs 100%.
Moving horizontally is agreeing with the passage of time. Imagine if you could resist the flow of time, or stop it all together. Stop for a breath, and truly imagine that you have this ability.
Moving horizontally is "helping" time. Helping it move you from birth through life to death like patrons at Disneyland. It will move you from the entrance of the park to the exit and it's dark and you will wonder where it all went.
Now it's important to remember in this story, time has no motive. It has no power you don't give it. So if anything happens with you through time, remember it is all you.
Now, it's not only because you think about tomorrow, that tomorrow comes. We are flowing in a river, a river that flows horizontally. But while you are here, why spend the time marching?Looking downstream, looking back upstream, looking horizontally?
There is another fundamental direction. If it helps, think about drawing a stick-figure on a piece of paper. Now place that paper on a flat table, and explain to him what direction "up" is. He can only see, only think in 4 directions. But this is where the analogy ends.
Moving vertically is not transversing a new spatial dimension. It's encompassing space and time itself. If I had to give it a direction, I would say, "inwards".
You can't move vertically by doing more, by walking around and seeing more. Not by giving more money, getting more money, or getting promoted.
To move vertically, you simply must be more. You already know how, you know you do. I am not going to tell you how, or where, or why. You already know these things.
You move vertically by being THAT person. More and more each day.
Increasing awareness has many "side effects". To me, they are fascinating signposts, showing me that I'm on the right path.
For example, the more awareness I gain, the more I realize I DON'T know. As Denis Leary's father put it, "most of the people older than you are smarter than you." And yes, more years on Earth playing the game of life generally leads to more mastery.
Meanwhile, I have continually encountered more patterns and habits internally, things I did but I didn't really know why. With awareness, often I drop the pattern or habit entirely. In that moment, I gain a new space in my life. The enormous size of that space both awes and inspires me. The things I'm capable of, given such a fresh new freedom.
What do I do with this? I really think I have the ability to teach poker. That I can write a column about poker that is both informative and reasonably correct. Yet, I struggle to put this knowledge into play. I know it's somewhat unrelated, but I refuse to wave my hands at it and say, "those who can't do, teach." That's teaching for the flocks, not teaching by revealing mastery. Or, maybe it's just that I refuse to teach something I am unable to implement. The real answer, I suspect, is that I know the really important game isn't poker, it's the one that contains poker. The games I play with my Mind will always be there, no matter how proficient I get at poker. So my scholarly poker studies are waiting for now. What good is having a treasure map if you can't sail?
For me, to teach what I know, is not yet about "how to play poker". There is plenty available out there for that. I wouldn't flinch if someone said 90% is better than the stuff I write. I don't claim to be able to judge the quality of my own poker writings.
What I know, is about getting from playing "bad poker" to "good poker". I think the threshold that remains for most poker players is this awareness. We can all spot amateurs by their basic lack of probabilities and game mechanics. But after this first initial learning curve, the river straightens out and dumps players in the ocean. And from there, they get to choose how, and where, to sink or swim.
10,000 hours is the magic number for mastery, according to Malcom Gladwell, and I think he has found some fascinating, and accurate results. Bill Gates, The Beatles, Bill Joy. Even the "geniuses." But this is training, programming. Doing something so many times that it becomes second-nature. Surely even some people will take more than 10,000 hours, for given skill sets.
But 10,000 hours is not necessary. I submit that awareness alone short-circuits this. Learning becomes active, enjoyment and passion become universal. This is where there is a massive shortage of existing written material. How to take the lessons of Zen and apply them to our actual worlds. How to take the short-cut to the "10,000 hours" mastery level, in poker, or in anything.
I'll do what I can to record my journey here, and I think that best sums up the first two years I've written here. But how do I teach, the more I realize I really know nothing?
Traditionally in the West, teaching requires:
a) learning, acquiring knowledge, and
b) imparting that knowledge onto others
This is not going to happen for me, at least anytime soon, and likely never. I have dropped the burden of "the past", and I don't plan on making an exception for this. Think about your favorite movie, how many times you've seen it and how well you know the story. Now imagine a genie visits you and offers you this gift: the ability to experience everything as new, watch this movie and every movie for the first time, over and over. Do you accept? I did, this is what life is like when you stop building your personality, basing your current life on your previous life up until now.
Everything in this reality is flowing, nothing is static. Any illusion of stasis exists only because you choose to see something as so. So, I will teach, but about how to swim. The things I as masterful about are:
evolution of process
evolution of societies
chaos vs. order
It occurs to me, as a random place to end this post, that I am playing Zen like I'm playing poker. I know all of the "right actions", but I find myself doing alternative ones anyways. Then getting mad about it. Creating conflict, quite literally out of nothing.
While waiting for your music download to finish, why not Play Poker. It's a great way to pass the time while making some extra cash. And you'll likely get a chance to chat poker with people from around the world.