Heed the Voice: Navigating Life at the Poker Tables

Heed the Voice: Navigating Life at the Poker Tables

When the voice speaks, heed it. The opinionless voice. The quiet voice. The voice of inner wisdom. The voice that knows when it’s time to quit, or change seats, or add on, etc.

The voice is your only advocate. But it’s easily drowned out by the loudmouths and bullies in your head who don’t really have your best interest at heart. That’s why sometimes you have to calm yourself down a bit, just to hear the quiet voice.

Bad Quitting

The quitting affliction is rough stuff. You’re battling against the absorption, the addiction, the mindless compulsion to keep playing and keep playing because poker is so fine and additionally it’s the greatest thing ever and I can’t even fathom a non-poker universe right now so please, just deal the cards.

Despair not. There’s hope. You can train yourself to hear and heed the voice, one session at a time, one year at a time, one decade at a time. When the voice says to quit, you’ll stand up and cash out. Or if you’re playing online, you’ll cash out and stand up. And you’ll do so without hesitating or second-guessing. Like C-betting a dry board.

Bad Quitting

Sounds easy enough. And it would be. If not for the tantrums.

When you’re stuck, the bully in your brain throws a fit:

Of course you’re going to keep playing, you fool. How else can you get even?

If you’re winning, the pushback is just as strong, and customized:

“You’re ahead for the night. Big deal. You’re still stuck for the month.”

“You’ve already blown your curfew, so what’s another hour?”

“Remember when you played till noon and busted the whole table at Billy’s bachelor party six years ago? Let’s do that again!”

When the quiet voice says lock up a win, lock it up. When it says run for cover, run. And when the noisy voice fights back with this classic appeal – This game is too good to quit! This game is too good to quit! – find the lie within that truth, and then walk away.

Heaps of Accumulated Permanent Regret

Here’s one of my most reliable self-torturing techniques, perfect for right after a bad case of bad quitting.

How much more money would I have if I quit every time the quitting voice spoke?

If you were to run out your poker life a million times in these two universes, which one do you think would score higher? The universe where you quit whenever the voice says to, or the one you’re living in?

“When you’re angry, or elated, the voice doesn’t know or care how you got there. It only knows who you are and what you’re doing and feeling at this instant, and it speaks only to your current situation and your current condition.”

If you picked the voice-heeding universe, then doesn’t it make sense to make that universe your reality as soon as possible? Think of the effort you’ve put into improving your results by way of improving your betting skills. What I’m suggesting is that you apply equal energy to other profitable improvements as well, such as finding your way home when you’ve lost your way.

Changing Seats

The guy on your left is loud and loose and he’s got you on edge. A seat at the other end of the table comes open. The quiet voice says take it. The pride-and-shame voice says stay put. The pride-and-shame voice is worried about how it will look, whereas the quiet voice is oblivious to such matters. It has no fear of judgment. Or anything else. It just knows you’ll make more money and you’ll have a better life in this moment if you change seats now. So you heed.

Adding On

You’ve got 150BB on the table and 150BB more in your pocket. The two main profit sources have 300BB each. The game is hot. Chips are flying. This flurry will end when the donators go broke which could happen anytime. Your scared-of-being-out-of-action voice says don’t add on. It says keep that 150BB in your pocket to rebuy if you lose what’s on the table. The quiet voice says strike now. It says to put every dollar on the table and turn on the A-game. So you heed.

Trust and Obey

The voice remains calm through every storm. That’s why you can trust it.

Trust and Obey

When you’re angry, or elated, the voice doesn’t know or care how you got there. It only knows who you are and what you’re doing and feeling at this instant, and it speaks only to your current situation and your current condition. That’s another trustworthy feature.

The voice can be frustrating because it doesn’t answer questions. It just keeps cranking out directives. Which means you can’t count on rationality as a guiding principle. Your bully mind will rebel, again and again, which is best seen as hurdles on the track. You just keep bounding over them, or not.

Why do we disobey the voice?

Because we think we know better.

How can we make ourselves less disobedient?

By training ourselves to heed, the same way we would train a pet, with patience, repetition, and love.

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