Despite the sheer volume of poker lingo that has seeped into American culture, and now throughout the world, many people think poker is nothing more than a game.
Yes, poker is literally just a game. When things go poorly,
it’s not a bad idea to remind yourself of that fact. Sure, money is involved, and for some of us it’s our livelihood. But life and death are not at stake, and if we are indeed poker professionals, then we’re playing a game for a living. We should feel pretty blessed.
A lot of people also feel like poker is a waste of time, and contributes nothing to “Society.” Well, fine. It’s not some noble endeavor that involves saving lives. Few people are fortunate or brave enough to engage in a living where they do that every day.
People do all sorts of things to earn a living. To make money.
Money is power, and having a lot of it gives you the ability to shape the world around you. Sure, some poker players spend their money on frivolous items to give the illusion of a baller lifestyle. Others flex their financial muscle in more constructive ways. In fact, the authors of this book have used their poker talents to raise tens of thousands of dollars for various causes. You don’t have to take it that far.
There’s a lot of middle ground. If you’re a winning player, poker provides the opportunity for you to make changes in the world, however small. It’s up to you what to do with that opportunity.
Poker is also an activity that builds community. A huge number of people across the world enjoy playing poker with their friends and family, or against strangers from all over the globe. Not only is poker a weekly opportunity to connect with your friends, it’s also a way to make new ones from all walks of life.
Another concern many have is that poker is a niche skill, and that playing for a living will result in a resume gap that looks bad. Maybe it will look bad on paper.
But getting a job is about more than just submitting a resume. People go on job interviews. Instead of having “poker professional” become a black hole on your resume, you can use it as a talking point. The fact is that a lot of people love poker and love talking about poker. Especially boss-types. You just need to articulate what broader skills you developed playing poker.
If you play poker for a living, you should have a thorough understanding of variance, risk management, and equity analysis. These are real skills that apply to a diverse range of fields. In fact, many financial institutions have begun recruiting former poker players for just this reason.
Dealing with variance will help you learn to manage anger, frustration, and even over-confidence. Everything in life has variance. There is always an element of chance. Poker
shows you this more literally than other activities do. It shoves it in your face. There are factors outside your control. Butterflies are flapping their wings all over the world.
As much as you want to control your opponents’ actions, the best you can do is influence them. Acceptance of this fact, combined with an understanding of why people act the way they do, is valuable in all social interactions. The lessons learned from a life in poker can be used to improve both personal and professional relationships.
If sportswriters were forced to play poker professionally for a year, their stories would be a lot more objective. When a great player has an off night, it would not be seen as the impending decay of his skills. It would be recognized for what it usually is. Variance.
To use an example from an international sport, look at how writers responded to Roger Federer losing the 2008 Wimbledon final to Rafael Nadal in perhaps the greatest tennis match ever. They acted like it could be nothing less than the end of his mighty career. They pointed to the fact that it capped a run of three consecutive Grand Slams he hadn’t won. The horror!
It’s true that he lost the match to a younger player who was overtaking his ranking as the number one player in the world. But despite the apparent end of his dominance, he went on to break the all-time Grand Slam record by winning three of the next four. Was there some decline in Federer’s level of play? Maybe. Had the distance between him and the next best players contracted? For sure. But the writers
always overreact based on a small sample size. Perhaps if they had to deal with the daily variance of poker, they would be better equipped to sift through the transient noise.
In order to succeed at poker, you must think logically and objectively. Learning to think more clearly at the table can help you think more clearly in other areas of life.
So yeah, poker is a game. A game that teaches lessons. Can’t life be viewed the same way?