I left Las Vegas Dec. 29th for Ireland and am returning home tomorrow (1/11) from the Bahamas. My trip, while not profitable financially still held some great experiences and lessons for me both in poker and life.
It is just before six in the morning. I wipe the sleep from my eyes and make my way to the balcony here at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island to catch the sunrise. I see some light peeking around the corner but alas, it is the moon light reflecting off the ocean waters. I'm sounding like Shakespeare here.
There is a peaceful quietness that is only interrupted by the sound of crashing waves and running water falls. It feels like about 68 degrees with a whisper of a wind that gives me cause to wrap a blanket around myself before I grab my computer and sit to write this report as I wait for the sun to appear.
So my struggles on the felt continued in Ireland as I reported in my last blog. This "struggle" as I call it is really more like a beating as it has been going on for over a year now and I probably would give up if I hadn't seen many of my contemporaries go through the same thing during their careers. Hopefully the lessons I am learning will allow me to pull myself up from the matt and fight back.
Turns out the gentlemen's name that sent my head spinning with the J/4 of hearts (see my last blog) was Paul Marrow. I mistakenly called him Irish but he is actually a successful English businessmen. My apologies if your reading this Paul. You see, this is what I love about poker. After battling it out on the felt we ended up in the pub until the wee hours of the morning talking about poker and life. What a great guy with a fantastic story and we spent some great time together sharing experiences. This helped to crystalize an important lesson for me and even though I lost the pot against Paul, I feel that I walked away from that tournament a much better player.
You see Paul was the most active and dangerous player at my table. The following day I played in a 1k side event and noticed something very interesting. I kept getting involved and tangling with the toughest player at that table. Why was this? Bravado? Ego? Or just plain stupidity? Every time he came in the pot I came sailing in right behind him looking to take him on. Here I was standing in the pub a few days later realizing that this has been a pattern in my game for quite some time and I think it may have finally caught up with me.
Well, I have to pause now to take in the sunrise. Excuse me a moment. Ah, that was nice. The light of the early morning is competing against the moonlight of the night. The moon is now taking on the sun as we go to the flop. Well, we'll see how that turns out. Ah, anyway back to my lesson.
There was a theme running through my play which was that I was always taking on the toughest opponent at my table instead of simply staying out of his way. It was as if I were a stranger walking into an old western town and challenging the sheriff to meet me at five o'clock for a duel. As if a light switch had been turned on I realized how stupid my approach has been when there were certainly plenty of easier battles I could have chosen at the table.
Lesson: "Choose your battles wisely."
One of the old rules of poker which I resisted was to look for the weaker players (the fish) and go after them. Look for the weakest game and sit in that one to get the money. Well, as I look back on my career I can see the same theme and pattern coming into play way too often as I would do the opposite. I went for the toughest games with the toughest opponents. I chose the hardest path and while that choice can make you a better player (if you survive) it can also stunt your growth. When you are always fighting for survival there isn't a lot of space for one to be able to relax and learn. You're always learning on the fly and that makes it tough to be detached enough from the results in order to properly observe your experience.
"One needs distance to observe something," I hear Eddie (my life coach) telling me as he holds a pen up against his forehead in a pertinent example.
I need to relax, take a step back and play in easier games against weaker opponents in order to observe my experience. In tournaments I simply need to know who the toughest opponents are and avoid them until the right situation presents itself for me to compete with them. I want to observe my level of knowledge and my actions from a point of observation that isn't right in my face. I will then be able to clearly see what my opponents are doing and more importantly what I am doing in response to their actions.
I think I'll leave the bravado, ego and my old programming at the door and try these shoes on for size. Avoiding the weaker opponents, the underdog and going after the bully violate the "laws" of the game. When you break the laws of a game you are eventually going to get caught no matter how good you are and this is one of the lessons I learned on this trip. It is the lesson that I consider a win instead of just looking at the result as a loss and it is that perspective that allows me to play on. To keep learning the lessons and become a better player and person both on and off the felt. That is my journey.
If you're going to play a game, play by the laws of winning that game even if they go against your natural tendencies to do otherwise. Otherwise you need to just give up the game.
Well, the sunlight has taken over the moon light. The moon is still in the sky but is humbly inching it's way to the horizon in defeat. He has given up, but just for a day. I'm sure he will be back to battle it out again tomorrow. A new day has come and with it my journey home. Till next time,
Enjoy the Journey,
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