Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

Writing and playing poker as if they were activities worth doing well.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 93: Back on Track

Well. That was interesting.

If you read the 2+2 Forums enough, eventually you will come across the concept of "life tilt." It's usually used in a humorous/exasperated way, extending the notion of "tilt" in poker (playing in a non-optimal way due to an emotional reaction to circumstances) into the rest of life. The phrase "life tilt" is funny in part because it's so clearly used as hyperbole, e.g.: "The way the guy to my right counted out his stack of hundreds by TWOS put me on life tilt." or "My girlfriend's constant hinting about a ring is putting me on life tilt." (Okay, maybe that last one isn't so much hyperbole for the 2+2 demographic.)

So consider this, to begin with, my confession. My confession of the sin of pride.

I have always claimed to tilt less than most poker players I know. Having seen at least my fair share of bad beats (more than my share? don't we all think so?), the miracle card just doesn't faze me that much. Rude comments don't piss me off enough to affect my game. Needling doesn't get to me. Even playing with people I loathe just doesn't put me off my game the way you might think it would. At the poker table I'm pretty thick-skinned and relatively unflappable. When playing alone at home online, I may rant and rave out loud ~ my array of invective can be quite impressive ~ but I like to think that my play remains pretty steady.

So what the hell happened the last couple of weeks?

Life tilt happened.

There was the incredibly frustrating trip to AC. There were some disappointing developments in my personal life. Logistics got the better of me on a few occasions; things I thought were settled ~ over-and-done ~ turned out to be unfinished business. And I was playing poker with a vengeance: way too much and with the wrong motivation (the desire to make up losses). I was not going to the gym, not sleeping enough, eating like a 400 lb. shut-in, and failing to keep enough company with people who love me and vice versa.

I have known for a while now that I am vulnerable to the cumulative effects of multiple stressors. In the last ten years I've had two episodes of fairly severe depression, both brought on by the convergence of several highly stressful events (in one case, for example: a car accident, quitting a job where my supervisor was a nutcase, and the collapse of a relationship all in the space of a couple of months). What I think I've failed to recognize is the much milder version of the same syndrome. There have been no catastrophes in the last couple of weeks, but the stressometer was definitely starting to redline. And I was not taking the proper steps to manage my response. This is classic vicious circle material.

Naming it does not solve the problem, but it's a start. Okay, so I'm pressing the reset button.

Here's the thing: I cannot sustain this experiment without a high level of self-scrutiny and a degree of self-discipline that I'm simple unaccustomed to exercising. And the key to this is management of my emotional well-being. I'm never going to be a poker genius; I don't have the raw talent and I'm not young enough to bake the skills in so that they are purely intuitive. If I'm going to have any edge at all, it's going to have to come from mental and emotional maturity. That means I must make the things that contribute to strengthening that equanimity a priority ~ a priority way ahead of the actual poker-playing.

To play good poker, my head has to be in a good place. And for my head to be in a good place, I have to be leading a good life. Duh, right?

If it's so easy, let's see you do it.

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Blogger bastinptc said...

I hear ya, Sis. It's not easy; it's hard. So hard, in fact, that I don't bother. If I did, I doubt very much that I would have something to write about.

Seriously, I have been thinking about temperament in regards to playing poker, which may or may not have anything to do with emotional maturity.It may go back to that question you asked a few weeks ago: a writer (artistic) who plays poker or a poker player (strategic) who writes? I'm not so sure that both are always compatible, at least not for me.

11/20/08 8:45 PM  

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