Thursday, October 08, 2009

Playing As If Your Life Depended On It

Block plays chess with Death in 'The Seventh Seal' (1957)Have found myself over on Deuces Cracked here of late where I recently started watching a few of the instructional vids, including Tommy Angelo’s unorthodox series titled “The Eightfold Path to Poker Enlightenment.” I call Angelo’s series “unorthodox” because unlike the other series that focus mainly on strategy advice and theory, Angelo’s deals with larger “meta”-issues having to do with the psychology of the game.

I’ve only watched the first (of eight) episodes thus far, but it appears they mainly consist of Angelo and Wayne Lively having conversations about various topics, some of which one can find introduced in Angelo’s book, Elements of Poker. (Read more about his book here.) There are also some subtle animations and nifty piano music by Angelo himself that punctuate the conversation.

I have also started to watch some of the other instructional vids on the site -- a new thing for me, really, as I’ve never really partaken in this form of poker learning. Once I get through Angelo’s series I’ll come back on here and write something about it, I imagine. And I’ll also keep you updated on how watching the other vids helps with my play. (You Deuces Cracked peoples -- have any particular recommendations?)

There was one idea Angelo brings up in the first episode of “The Eightfold Path to Poker Enlightenment” that he also discusses in his book, something called “The Professional.” As I understand it, The Professional exists as a kind of guiding principle in Angelo’s mind that helps govern his actions at the poker table. The Professional is sort of like a version of himself, a person who is much like Angelo in every way except for the fact that his approach to poker is unwaveringly serious. That’s because he plays for a living, thus his very existence depends on making correct choices.

“I created The Professional to help me decide what to do,” writes Angelo in Elements of Poker. “When I need some advice about a poker decision, I just ask The Professional.” The Professional is someone whom we cannot really be, I think, but rather someone whom we can conjure up as a particularly good, right thinking version of ourselves. As Angelo explains, “when we talk to The Professional, we’re just talking to ourselves, our best selves.”

Angelo speaks of The Professional as someone who plays poker as if his life depends on it, and lives his life as if his poker depends on it. “The Professional is all meta-game, all the time,” says Angelo.

Like I say, it’s really just a heuristic device, this Professional. (If I understand it correctly.) An idea to help us clarify our thinking at the table when faced with a particular decision. Asking oneself “How would I play this if my life depended on it?” might be a little much at times, but you get the point. Such thoughts do encourage a kind of seriousness and/or focus, and as we all know, there are times when a lack of either cause us to do things we wish we hadn’t.

That picture, of course, is of the knight Antonius Block playing chess with Death from Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film The Seventh Seal. Block really is playing for his life there. Those of you who’ve seen the film know that even in this literal example of playing for one’s life, Block’s concentration wavers.

He’s only human, after all. (Unlike The Professional.)

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Blogger Rakewell said...

LOL--I think it's safe to guess that you're the only poker blogger who now has a label for "The Seventh Seal." Intend to use that one a lot, do you? :-)

10/08/2009 9:57 AM  

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