Stoicism and Poker

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Stoicism and Professional Poker

What’s up troops!?

Today, we’re going to broaden our horizons and dip our toes into philosophy. Specifically, the philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus and Socrates…

That’s right, you cultured son-of-a-gun you, it’s stoicism!

The word ‘stoic’, as it’s used today, typically means someone who is good at putting up with suffering. But, while indifference towards suffering would be one of the marks of a good stoic, this kind of misses the deeper point.

The Stoic World

In the eyes of a stoic, the universe, the world and existence itself can be divided into just two categories – that which is under your control, and that which is not.

That which is not under your control covers… a lot. What people think of you, what people choose to do and what happens to you, for starters. A good stoic is indifferent to all these things – he hopes for good fortune, but if things don’t go his way he reminds himself that the choice was never his to make, and that we are all subject to the whims of lady luck. 

Of course, you already know all this – you know you’re not supposed to get upset about the bad beats, rivers, idiot players, software malfunctions and infinite other perceived injustices you contend with every day. Anyone who’s played enough poker realises that above is very easy to say and very difficult to execute in practise. 

So, what's to be done?

If you’re like a lot of people, those things which are out of your control cause you considerable mental distress. While it’s not very macho to say so, this shouldn’t be taken lightly – it’s part of the physiological cost you accept when you decide to trade your time for your poker playing hourly.

But, there is some hope, and it comes from the other half of the stoic world – that which you can control.

Let’s take a second to think about some of the things you have absolute control over while you’re playing poker.

1. Distractions

Skype, Discord, Facebook, WhatsApp, TwoPlusTwo – some of the most common distractions people saddle themselves with while playing poker. Only you can subject yourself to these, and only you can choose to eliminate them from your environment while you grind. Similarly, if you choose to refresh your results after every pot you play, you’re choosing to give mental energy to that which is decided by fortune alone.

2. Focus

If you decide to take your time over every decision, to look at every relevant stat you have access to, to think about every part of your range, consider every blocker effect and etc, there is no one who can stop you. Alternatively, you can think the minimum possible amount per hand and therefore learn/earn the minimum possible per hand. 

3. Game Selection

The regs in your games with the best game selection have 2 eyes, at least 80% of a functioning brain and 1 computer, just like you. The difference is that they don’t make the excuses you do for why you can’t put more effort into finding the best games. If you want to make more money playing poker, stop using 0bb/100 as the reference point for whether you should play a table or not, and play the absolute best games you can find.

What's a 'good' session and how do I have one?

If you’re like most poker players, a ‘good’ session is one where you won money, and a ‘bad’ one is one where you lost. If you see the world this way, you can hope to have a good session something like 55% of the time you sit down to play, assuming you’re crushing your games. 

For a stoic, a session is good if they did a good job at all the things under their control. Seen in this way, you can have a good session every single time you sit down to play. By choosing to focus on your input, rather than the output, over time you can change the signal behind the mostly random noise that is your results. With consistent effort, you can also considerably reduce the mental hardship you subject yourself to while playing.

That’s it for today, hope you enjoyed this article.

GL out there!


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