Pokertherapy: If the Buddha Married

TAGs: Editorial, Pokertherapy

Lee Davy continues his Pokertherapy series with a look at how the quality of our relationships can affect our poker game with help from If the Buddha Married author Charlotte Kasl.

When Libratus beat the humans, I imagined ’emotion’ was one of our primary leaks. We can tilt. The computer can’t. But if you pull this thread what does it reveal?

Imagine we have two poker players of equal technical ability locked in a battle over many months designed to reduce the element of luck as much as possible. What will be the defining factor in that match?


Pokertherapy: If The Buddha Married Mr Happy beats Mr Sad every time, and one of the vital ingredients to happiness is meaningful connections.

You aren’t going to find If the Buddha Married: Creating Enduring Relationships on a Spiritual Path by Charlotte Kasl snuggled next to Super System by Doyle Brunson in the gaming section at Waterstones, but that doesn’t mean it’s not equally as effective when it comes to improving your poker game.

The book helps your true nature emerge from beneath the waves of contaminated thinking. You are designed to create loving, trusting bonds with people, born out of a deep understanding and compassion.

It also helps you to separate oneness from togetherness, something that might plague recreational poker players as they bury their head in their HUD searching for mastery as the partner is left reading 50 Shades of Suicidal Relationships in the back garden while sipping their second bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

 Who Are They? Who Are You?

“We stay alive to each other through an ongoing process of asking questions: Who are you? Who am I? What do you feel, need, think, and want? What do I feel, need, think, and want? Thus our relationship becomes dynamic and alive rather than static and predictable.” – Charlotte Kasl

John Gottman is the Phil Ivey of relationships. He believes he can tell you if you are destined for divorce by watching you interact with your partner for no longer than 10-15 minutes.

In his great book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, he talks about the importance of creating love maps. You create a love map by asking questions to ascertain how much you know about what’s going on in your partner’s lives.

Poker can be a very time-intensive pursuit. If you don’t find time for asking questions and allowing your partner to feel seen in the relationship, then your love map will develop holes, and you won’t be able to find your way back to the heart.

Practice daily.

Check-in nightly, both from a physical and emotional standpoint, to keep your relationship alive and dynamic and you will see the same results on the table.


 “It’s not that issues don’t keep coming up, or that we always find solutions, it’s that we have the security and confidence to sit down and discuss any conflict, knowing that we will be heard and listened to, knowing that it will not pull us apart.” – Charlotte Kasl.

Conflict is a good thing, both in our relationships and at the poker table. But it’s only good if you harness the power in the right way. Talking about conflict allows air and light to remain in your relationship. Bury it with the other crap, and it will start to stink.

By sharing vulnerability and openly talking about the conflict you can learn from your mistakes. You also develop a greater understanding of the worldview of the person standing beneath your nukes.

If you can stand in the other person’s sweaty sandals and imagine how they feel, your poker game and relationships will benefit tremendously.

 All Life is Meditation

 “As we learn to bring attention to whatever we are doing, we find that all of life is a form of meditation. There is simply the experience of the moment, and our task on the spiritual path is to be engaged fully in whatever is happening right now, without judgment or expectation.” Charlotte Kasl.

A friend asked me how poker players measure success. I told him it was to play each hand as optimally as possible. This is no mean feat, and to do so, requires a high level of moment by moment concentration.

Incorporating a daily meditation practice takes the edge off your negative emotions. It slows you down, and with that reduction in revs comes a greater moment by moment awareness.

Presence is everything, both in our relationships and in poker.

 “If we were fully awake we would experience that to harm another is to harm ourselves, and that to harm ourselves is to harm another. There is no separation. As we come to fully understand this, we become less reactive to others and respond without fear or malice in our hearts.” Charlotte Kasl.

You are in the kitchen arguing with your wife. She is holding your five-month-old child in her arms. The baby, usually vibrant and jolly, is sullen and silent. Your partner’s tears fall into the cradle cap.

Who are you hurting at that moment?

You are at the poker table and start berating a player because he hit his one-outer on the river. You throw your money at him. Your chair hits the ground. Your expletives startle everyone.

Who are you hurting at that moment?


 “I learned that my conditioning and expectations created my turmoil, not the words or the actions of the other person.”  – Charlotte Kasl

 If we can learn to understand that we are all a byproduct of our thoughts in the moment, then we get to see the sheer beauty of humanity. Everyone is perfect as they are. Everyone has the innate capacity to reach great heights.

If they are scarred too deeply by conditioning of the past, then you can learn to find forgiveness. And what about you? How are the scars of your past conditioning affecting your relationships and poker game?

William Kassouf cannot hurt you. He cannot take you out of your stride. And if he doesn’t have that power, then who does?

 “Everybody is just doing what they are conditioned to do.” Charlotte Kasl

 Find a Tribe

 “Couples need a supportive community for their life as a couple.” Charlotte Kasl

 Poker players love talking about poker.

 Nobody else does.

 Exploring the Source of an Enduring Bond

Pokertherapy: If The Buddha Married “The marriage comes first. All other people and events come after the marriage. Children, parents, work, and play all benefit most by marital priority instead of marital sacrifice because the marriage is the central unit to all other processes.” Paul Pearsall.

 As a divorcee, I have felt the blunt force trauma of ignoring this advice. Hell, I fall into the same trap in my second relationship regularly.

The marriage comes first.

Not poker.

The game provides you with the freedom that most workers would kill for – remember that.

 Discover the Freedom of Beginner’s Mind

 “The ‘expert’ has no room to learn, while a beginner’s mind is free to know everything. Having rigid beliefs makes listening and learning frightening because we risk shattering these tightly held structures of the mind we think are us. We see through the thick lens of our beliefs.” Charlotte Kasl.

 One piece of advice that helps me wade through the mire of wanting to win an argument at all costs is to find a grain of truth in the other person’s point of view. It’s like putting the pin back into the grenade. Your partner ceases becoming an enemy; they feel heard, and they become a human being.

 Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are the next Fedor Holz because you won a tournament or two. Don’t stop working because the luck went your way. Poker can turn you into a God. God’s know everything. You can’t learn if you know everything.

 Create More ‘Us’ Consciousness

 “When we become insistent and repeat ourselves, our positive intention is to be heard. We talk compulsively to cover up our insecurity, yell to cover our shame, or give unsolicited advice because we want to connect or feel useful and important.”

 Are you really using speech play to gain a competitive advantage? Is there something else going on beneath the waves?

It’s not an easy question to answer, so would it be any easier for the person spitting in your face? There is always a reason behind an action. You don’t need to know what it is, but it helps to know that it exists.

You can buy a copy of If the Buddha Married by Charlotte Kasl, here.


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of