Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What You See Is What You Get

I visited the eye doctor last week for an exam.I visited the eye doctor last week for an exam. Had been too long since my previous visit, like three years or so. The last time Vera Valmore and I went to the movies I noticed things were perhaps a little fuzzier than they should be, and so scheduled the appointment.

Sure enough I was in need of a new prescription, and so I ordered myself a new set of lenses to go in my frames. A couple of days ago I was told the new lenses were ready, and so I dropped off my glasses at the office here in town in order to have the lenses switched.

They have another office where the lens-switching business actually happens, which meant I could either drive there or wait a couple of days for them to carry the frames over and back. Since I had another pair I could wear in the interim, I just dropped my current pair off and today am awaiting the call to retrieve my glasses with the new lenses.

Unfortunately, I’ve discovered the back-up pair isn’t the same prescription as the pair I’ve been wearing the last three years, but rather an older pair with lenses that were current maybe five years ago. Which means things are even more fuzzy for me with this pair. They also kind of pinch a little, making me even more anxious to get them off my face and get my newly-updated, well-fitting glasses back.

My eyesight isn’t so bad, really. Am a bit nearsighted is all, although like I say I definitely need the specs to see a movie screen or even to watch television or drive. Wearing the old pair is demonstrating for me how my vision has weakened just a touch over the years. And besides giving me a slight headache, it is also making me think about how one’s perspective changes over the years, too.

Since I had another pair I could wear in the interim, I just dropped my current pair off and today am awaiting the call to retrieve them with the new lenses.In poker, going back and reviewing an old session is always revelatory. We constantly learn things, and thus it is almost always going to be the case that we’ll see our former play differently given the experience and knowledge we’ve gained in the meantime.

Of course, unlike one’s vision, which necessarily degenerates over time, one would expect to “see better” when looking back at past decisions made at the poker table. I’m not just talking about “hindsight” being better but rather the fact that playing hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands more hands necessarily gives one a wealth of experience and (hopefully) understanding that positions a person to give a better evaluation of the decision-making one made before.

But even as you read me claiming that, you’re probably thinking how it doesn’t always work that way. We don’t always learn from our mistakes. In fact, a very common theme among many players who’ve put in a few years’ worth of study and play is to say they actually feel less clear about the game than they did at an earlier point in their careers. Like my vision, their understanding actually seems to have worsened over time rather than improved.

In some cases, this apparent decrease of understanding is clearly happening, such as when a player fails to keep up with changing strategies and the game “passes him by.” Other times it is really more about a lessening of self-confidence, with doubts about one’s decisions becoming significant enough to have detrimental influence on one’s results.

In any event, this sort of “rise-and-fall” trajectory whereby a player fails to recapture earlier levels of success seems incredibly common in poker. I suppose we all have our “peak” moments in whatever endeavor we attempt, but in poker so many of us keep on playing well after that moment has passed. Doesn't it seem like for most of us that day when we saw everything best -- that day when we really felt like we “got it” -- is way back somewhere in the hard-to-recover past?

Then again, I could be wrong. Perhaps I’ll think differently about all of this once I get my glasses back and can actually focus.



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