Senin, 13 Oktober 2014

Tilt = Insecurity

I recently wrote about the biggest downswing of my career in my blog on CardRunners, how it made me feel and how I dealt with it. In the aftermath, I emphasized the importance of solid self-awareness for a poker pro, which made me think about an old motto of mine: “The essence of tilt is insecurity.” The concept is universal, and has survived as one of the guiding principles in my life.
Tilt=InsecurityFeelings of insecurity are usually related to control and identity. Most human beings fear losing control of our own destiny and feel threatened by personal attacks. To combat these negative emotions we must work on our mindfulness: the more certain we are of our level of control, and the more comfortable we are with who we are, the more calm, composed, and secure we feel in stressful situations.

Poker brings out the best in some people, but for most of us, it brings out the worst. As a PLO-specialist with first-hand experience of high variance, I often find my thought processes degrading to the level of a 12-year-old after a rough start to the session:
“I played the hand perfectly, I deserve to win the pot.”
“How can you ever put me on a bluff there, you donkey?”
“Of course you have the runner-runner straight. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU HAVE???”
When the dealer favors my opponent, life is unfair. When my opponent outplays me, it’s because he read the hand wrong. When my opponent bets the river after making a perfectly legitimate backdoor draw, he’s a lucky idiot. Why am I tilted by such ordinary moments that I’m usually able to shrug off easily? The answer is simple: as the negative variance piles on, I’m not sure I’m in control anymore. “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Read your Yoda, kids.
Sometimes the insecurity goes deeper than immediate game play. A bad session can be a continuation of a prolonged losing streak, as you start to slip away from your financial comfort zone. Personally, anything less than 200 buy-ins for PLO makes me uncomfortable, but I’ve always been a bankroll nit. When you’re running low, you may also start questioning your very identity as a professional poker player: Am I wasting my life and my money gambling?
This sentiment is obviously much more common with young, emerging pros in their late teens or early 20s. They’re not just taking a shot at poker; they’re searching for their place in the world of adults. For many of them, fear of failure can be palpable. These kids are being taught to realize their full potential and poker is often seen as wasted years by their family. Pursuing the expectations of a meritocratic culture can be extremely depressing, regardless of the realism behind it. Mental health problems and marginalization should be discussed openly, and I applaud the bravery of those willing to share their anxiety.
As a 30-year-old father of two, having played poker for eight years with as many at the university, I’m confident in my choice of profession. Despite all the negativity and pressure that comes with poker, I love the game and the freedom it has given me. I’ve found my place in the world of adults, and can deal with my insecurities. I wish all my fellow degens good luck in their pursuit of inner peace.