I write this post at a time when writing happens to be first and foremost in my thoughts, as I am busy at the moment writing a new book. It's not a poker book, but a novel -- a thriller, in fact -- and so that's what I'm focusing on primarily over the next several weeks.
Writing a book requires a lot of patience. So does poker, of course, and I thought I might make the subject of this post how poker can influence your life, generally speaking, and vice-versa.
The ways the game of poker resembles life in general go on and on. For instance, life presents you with lots of opportunities, just as in poker you are dealt hands that likewise can be acted on and thus represent opportunities. In poker, we decide which hands we're going to play and which we're going to fold. Meanwhile in life, we decide which opportunities we're going to pursue and which we're not.
Also like in poker, in life some opportunities will look attractive but can be bad and not worth taking, whereas others might appear unattractive but in fact are worth taking. In poker, you are deciding whether to risk money in these situations, whereas in life you risk money, energy, time, and other things of value, too.
I believe that really good poker players tend to live their lives a little bit differently than others because of their ability both to manage risk and to recognize opportunities when they come along.
To give an example, some time ago I had a decision to make regarding my dog, Snoopy. He was suffering from health problems, and in fact there was a question whether or not he should undergo surgery in order to get better. The chance of surviving the surgery was 65%, and the doctor asked me to decide what to do.
Thinking like a poker player, I chose in favor of the surgery, because say I'm in a hand and I have to decide whether or not to go all in with a 65% chance of winning. That's a risk I'm willing to take. Thankfully the surgery went well and Snoopy was in good health going forward, and afterwards the doctor told me he was glad I was a poker player and understood the risk was worth taking. The fact is, someone who wasn't a poker player might've decided differently, not wanting to take the risk and thus being content with letting Snoopy live a little while longer though in poor health.
The other part of this situation that poker helps you handle is to understand and accept that you can make a correct decision but that the result isn't always going to be favorable. Luckily all turned out well with Snoopy, but I understood that even if it did not, choosing to have the surgery was still the best decision.
Poker also helps you understand how to compare the relative importance of decisions in life, generally speaking. Some decisions in poker are somewhat trivial compared to others, just like in life. That decision about whether or not Snoopy should have surgery was much more important, say, than my deciding which shirt to buy when shopping for clothes. Poker has therefore helped me avoid exerting too much energy over decisions that aren't that important, while freeing my mind to focus on ones that are.
There are many other ways that poker resembles life, of course.
Poker helps you learn how to manage and analyze information presented to you.
Poker helps you learn how to deal with "tilt" and not let emotions affect you negatively when facing certain difficulties or misfortune in your life.
Poker helps you learn how to isolate those difficulties -- kind of like separating out a bad hand from the next one -- and thus be able to move on to deal with subsequent challenges.
Poker also helps you learn how to "read" people and understand them better even when first meeting them, because the game teaches you how to apply a kind of typology when it comes to others that also often works away from the tables, too.
I could say more, but I need to get back to work on my novel. Poker teaches discipline, too, and thus is helping me stay focused on completing my thriller.
So I'll end with a cliffhanger and instead of telling you more about my novel right now, I'll just say... more to come!
Dag Palovic is a member of Team PokerStars Pro