In this week’s Poker advice from the Stoics, Lee Davy takes a look at judgments with a little help from Only Fools and Horses character Del Boy and his four-month-old daughter, Zia.
I knew it would happen.
The day my wife tells me to take our four-month-old daughter to Little Notes music class on my own, she decides to do one of those ‘firsts’ that end up in the scrapbook.
While staring at the teacher playing Bart the Cello, I noticed my daughter was sitting up straight all by her lonesome. I brought her home and showed my wife, who started to cry, first through the sheer emotion of seeing her little girl being so grown up, and then through laughter when she did a Del Boy.
I picked her up, and after the shock of the fall had faded my daughter began to smile. And at that moment I saw innocence unaffected by the contaminated thinking that claims all of us adults.
But it will be contaminated.
She will feel judged.
The smile will fade.
The Irrationality of Judgment
With edges ever harder to find in a game that’s becoming more competitive, poker players can find one by learning from my four-month-old daughter.
We have all, at one time or another, felt judged by someone. A judgement can have a dramatic effect on the way we live. We behave in ways that fall outside our values, and over time we forget what our values are. In poker, we don’t take the innovative, riskier move, because we don’t want to look like an idiot. We don’t want to ask the simple questions because we fear our intellect being tossed around like a salad.
“Nobody is immune to the judgment of others.” Ryan Holiday, author of the Daily Stoic.
And when you get down to it, this behaviour, born out of judgment, runs counter-intuitive to how we feel, especially in poker. We all love ourselves more than anyone or anything else in the world. Like my daughter, we may have been born into this world as an innocent, cooperative, and loving being, but it doesn’t take long for the world’s influence to turn us into artificial, egocentric, selfish individuals only looking out for numero uno.
And this leads to a great point by the Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher, Marcus Aurelius who states:
“We all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”
It is an absurd contradiction that when tugged unravels a whole world of pain, anxiety and misery.
So what’s the way out?
The Way Out
The next time you are at a poker table, take a deep breath, shut off the outside world, and examine your surroundings for a few seconds. You will find that everything you experience: sight, sound, taste, and smell is being generated from within you.
We are always living in a thought-generated perceptual reality and think it’s actual reality. The Stoics believe that the only thing we can control is our thoughts, and they are right.
My four-month-old daughter doesn’t view the world as we do. She experiences it moment by moment, thought by thought. It’s why she can laugh-cry-laugh within 10-seconds of each emotion.
She is free of contaminated thinking.
You cannot feel anything other than thought in the moment, and once you understand this, the judgments of others crash into the side of your temple and fall onto the floor next to the apple core.
If you can get into this state of understanding, your poker game will soar. Your emotional state is less likely to tilt, and you are more liable to make bolder aggressive plays at the table.
The other benefit you receive from working on this principle is a clarity of thought. Clarity provides space for you to grow where before you were entwined in the weeds of contaminated thinking.
But this transformation isn’t easy.
You need to keep working at reconditioning your mind. My operating system is 42-years old. Its wiring is based on a faulty logic that has been programmed into every diode through years of past conditioning. It will take time and persistence to reprogram.
You need to read books on Stoicism, Buddhism and other great thought leaders in this field. Listen to podcasts and watch Ted Talks, whatever training vehicle you prefer to ride shotgun in. Journal incessantly so you can record your thoughts. Check-in with like-minded people and share your thoughts on this new way of thinking.
And most importantly, prepare to do a Del Boy. It’s only when we have walloped the ground that we learn to get back up, straighten our messy hair, and get back to work.