The one-eyed king in the land of blind men...
When the sea was calm
all ships alike
A decade ago I wasn’t wildly into golf as I am now but many of the rappers and musicians I trained were. They were often telling me of this golfer at Stanford, named Tiger Woods, who was going to blow the world away. I happened to know a friend involved with strength training athletes at Stanford and I asked him one day if this guy was as special as everyone seemed to say. He told me this story:
One day, as is often the case around the Stanford campus during the fall, it was pouring rain during golf practice. Many of the players were grumbling about how lucky the players in Arizona were to have sunshine all year around. After practice that day Tiger alone remained, continuing to hit practice shot after practice shot. They were in truly horrible weather conditions and my friend asked Tiger if he envied the golfers in Arizona.
“These conditions are the ideal and only real way to practice playing in the rain. If I was at Arizona I’d have to have all the sprinklers turned on and an assistant coach standing next to me spraying water in my face and even that would not be as good as what we have here. So, no, I don’t envy them at all. In fact, unless every tournament they ever play against me in their lives is in beautiful, clear weather, they are going to end up envying me.”
As a poker player when do you practice your emotional control? Mostly likely it’s at the onslaught of the initial hand in which you consider to have suffered a bad beat indignity. You are in a tournament and your AA loses to KK. Understandable your mind might say. You still have some chips, its early in the tournament, okay let’s just go play our best from here on out. And you do.
And maybe you do that for a few rounds, accumulate some more chips and then you flop a set and lose to the nut flush draw on the river. That sucks but I’m still in it, you might say to yourself. Wow, that is a bummer. But you bear down, tough it out and after awhile you rebuild your stack. Then you flop another set with no flush draw this time, bet each street big the whole way and get called down by a guy who hits a gutshot on the river. ARE U KIDDING ME?, you might think.
You still have twelve big blinds, down from seventy when you flopped the second set way ahead. What’s the use of even playing well if I’m going to get sucked out on EVERYTIME, you might say? You are still not out of the tournament. Why can’t I get lucky ONE TIME? There is no reason to tilt off all your chips. This is freaking unbelievable-- A GUT SHOT- I bet the whole way. Hey, well-played back there on the gutshot, Donkey. Time to settle down and build up my stack again. I can understand losing to the KK guy but if my flopped sets don’t hold up why even play?
My point is that everybody thinks they work on not tilting but we all have different levels at which we begin to say “Okay, screw it, this is way past the point of where I should continue working on this.” That is tilt talking and precisely the grand opportunity to do deep practice. There is no better time. No more ideal conditions. Do you honor it or not? So, as with Tiger in the rain, this is the ONLY true opportunity for you to practice in the conditions that will make you a superstar or even very good player. Do you go home and dream of Arizona and quads, or do you understand that hard work today leads to easy times down the road?
Here’s a great exercise you can try at home or better yet at the poker table: Figure out something that you can stand up to a certain point and then do it way, way, way past that point. I once worked with a movie star that had great pain in his left shoulder. It was interfering with his ability to enjoy much of life. He told me he could barely hold his arm shoulder high for a few minutes before the pain got too bad that he had to put it down.
“What’s the longest you could conceivably hold your arms straight over your head?” I asked.
“What? Five, maybe ten minutes, if my life depended on it.” he replied.
“Cool”, I said. “We’ll do some exercises around it this week and then next week we’ll hold them straight over our heads for an hour. It’ll be fun”
There’s just no way to argue with that. It’s absurd. It’s so past his working reality that it is nowhere near as bothersome as if I had told him we were going to “try” for 15 or 20 minutes. That he absolutely KNOWS he can’t do. He’s already consciously considered it and ruled it out completely. No way. He never got around to telling himself that he couldn’t do an hour because that’s too far out of his consciousness. And that is exactly where we want to be—OUT of the place in his mind he has already ruled out success.
If you ever “get” this last part to the point it becomes an epiphany you are in for some very interesting, highly accomplished times. If you got it intellectually and now need to finish reading some other things or go wash the car and start your day then you’re going to need an extreme amount of talent, luck and sunny weather poker to keep your money from ending up in my pocket, and those of other crazed practitioners like me.
And yes, my friend held his arms straight over his head for the hour as did I, and no he never had shoulder trouble again. How in the world can you hold on to believing you have difficulty doing something for five or ten minutes when you KNOW you can do it for an hour?
How many perceived bad beats before you start whining out loud-- five? As a great practice multiply that number by five and experience them without having any negative reaction at all. Men have done years in prisoner of war camps and years innocent on Death Row. Can you man up through twenty-five (5x5)bad beats in a row without having a childish reaction?
If you master this exercise how in the world can you later be undone by five or six bad beats in a row when it really matters?
Buddhist thought of the day:
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
Stop suffering bad beats today.
Thanks for reading.
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