Poker lessons from the Stoics: Begin with the end in mind; The path and bearing the pain

Poker lessons from the Stoics: begin with the end in mind; the path and bearing the pain

Lee Davy shares a few lessons of Stoic philosophy that can help you improve your poker game including beginning with the end in mind, sticking to the path, and bearing the pain.

Two of the most famous Stoic pieces of literature are Letters From a Stoic and On The Shortness of Life by Seneca. Tools of Titans author, Tim Ferriss, was so heavily influenced by Nero’s advisor that he created The Tao of Seneca: Letters From a Stoic Master, an audio book based on Seneca’s writings. And the great philosopher is also featured prominently in The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance and The Art of Living by Ryan Holiday.

Stoic philosophy not only helps you move through life with a greater understanding of what you can and cannot control, but it’s also the perfect philosophy for poker.

With that in mind, here are three pieces of advice from Seneca, lifted from the pages of Holiday’s most recent masterpiece.

Begin With the End in Mind

“Let all your efforts be directed to something, let it keep that end in view. It’s not activity that disturbs people, but false conceptions of things that drive them mad.” Seneca

Poker as a profession takes its attractiveness from freedom. But you have to respect the power that freedom imbues. If you wield it incorrectly, it will cut you in two.

When you remove the alarm clock, there is no reason to wake up. The ding-a-ling-ding represents structure. It is the beginning. Then there is work. Then there is the end.

Poker doesn’t abide by those rules. Poker is a free spirit. There is no beginning. There is no end.

But there should be an end.

Find it.

Understand it.

Without an ending, how do you know what daily actions to take? How is effort directed?

Why are you even playing?

Is it to buy a new car?

Is it to buy a new pair of pointy shoes?

Or is it to save the seven Boeing 747s full of children who die of Malaria each day?

Don’t mistake chaos and dysfunction for freedom.

What does the end look like for you?

Stay The Course

“Tranquillity can’t be grasped except by those who have reached an unwavering and firm power of judgment. The rest constantly fall and rise in their decisions, wavering in a state of alternately rejecting and accepting things. What is the cause of this back and forth? It’s because nothing is clear and they rely on the most uncertain guide – common opinion.” Seneca

Professional poker players with pissed off parents after they dropped out of college to see a flop, turn and river are ten to a dozen.

But it shouldn’t be that way. Those parents should be proud of them for taking the path least trodden. For those poker players, it would have been easier to stay in school and join the flock. It was far harder to battle through the baize.

All the greatest poker players have a stubborn streak running down their spine. It allows them to stay on course despite the violent ups and downs. They have an unwavering commitment to get to where they want to be.

Variance is designed to throw people off course. It’s sickening. And yet I have seen it treat people like punching bags and they get up off the canvas, brush off the dirt and keep on folding.

They don’t know if they will win.

They can’t predict the next card to jump out of the deck.

But this is the course, and they will not stray from it.

What about you?

Bearing The Pain

“You cry, I’m suffering severe pain! Are you then relieved from feeling it, if you bear it in an unmanly way?” Seneca

If you are a parent, you have no doubt uttered the following phrase after your child stops head butting the floor in despair.

“Do you feel better?”

And of course, we know they don’t. We speak those Stoic words of wisdom to remind our children that having a tantrum serves no purpose except to weaken the physiology and increase anxiety and stress.

So the next time you are about to launch into a tirade of ranting and raving over a bog standard bad beat, remember the wise old words of Seneca. It won’t make you feel any better to drop your guts on the floor in an unmanly way.

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January 4, 2017: posted in News And Reviews No Comments

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