Recently I wrote a post on Facebook that said "Positivism is for weak people". It created a lot of discussion, questions and reactions so I decided to write a blog to explain what I meant with that blunt statement.
Most people feel uneasy in the face of uncertainty. To be tied to the whims of chance and adrift in a sea of chaos terrifies most of us and that fear is the genesis of most dogmatic beliefs, from traditional religions to positivism.
Positivism gives a false sense of control, in its obtuse form of "the law of attraction" preached by some organizations, and also in more pragmatic views that focus on slight psychological benefits. But the objective of this blog isn't to disprove them but to show a superior alternative that will make you stronger not only on the felt but also in your life.
The Romans called it stoicism, it's a philosophy based on true neutrality, neither pessimist nor positive and is achieved by absolutely surrendering against anything out of our control. According to the stoics, trying to control the uncontrollable is the main source of human suffering.
But how does it apply to poker? Well, every time you are all-in in a big hand you will find yourself in your mind pleading to "hold" or, even worse, feeling the bad beat coming. What I'm trying to say is that you simply shouldn't care about the river. It doesn't matter if it's the defining hand in the WSOP Main Event, the result is still meaningless. Sweating it is a waste of thought and emotion.
We as poker players are blessed in a sense in that we can practice this several times every day. We constantly experience small losses due to things out of our control and we can take those losses and exercise our minds with them. So next time you are all-in make peace with the result before the board falls. If a bad card hits you do not let any emotion get a hold of you, do not suppress it but simply do not feel it. And do the same when you win. The feeling of joy and defeat in poker should come before the river.
All this is much easier said than done. It's not as effortless as self-pity or repeating clichéd phrases to yourself. This will be a big challenge as it almost goes against the natural flow of our emotions. Be aware that you will fail and sometimes you will break but there's no shame in that.
Just pick yourself up and carry on because you are walking the path of true strength.
Jorge "Baalim" Limon is a member of PokerStars Team Online.