Reflections…….looking back/going forward……..after the WSOP 2011

The WSOP has come and gone and as each year comes to a close, there is a period of reflection and analysis and thoughts of how my life fits into the whole picture. Lots of time is spent reading blogs, reviewing play…. realizing the high level being played today by not only well known pros but by the average Joe/Jane. The following are two examples of many that I enjoyed reading and there have been many others in the past few days that are relevant. The first here is by a professional that breaks down the different aspects of being a player and the second by a passionate amateur that strives to gain knowledge and find her way while balancing a multi layered life. post “A Love Affair”

In my professional life I am an artist and have been successful at doing my work and have a long career teaching and lecturing around the country. As my poker interest (some say sick obsession) has grown in the past eight years, it has been quite a balancing act. My productivity has been greatly reduced which is due in part to my new found interest and also just a result of my age…..I am so far out of the profile of a poker player that if I ever had a big win it would make front page news everywhere…. in and out of the poker world.

In the Internetpokers blog, he refers to Outliers, the immensely popular book that emphasizes the importance of long term study and related work to become successful. The author sites a figure of 10,000 hours and in this blog, an analysis is done of what this really means. When I first read the book, it was not a new concept for me as I have heard variations of these themes for my whole life in the art community. In a blog from several years ago, I wrote about this from an art standpoint. It just hits home for both of my worlds. The following is an excerpt… just substitute poker related jargon in place of the references to art.

“Another point made that had an impact was from the book by Peter London, No More Secondhand Art. In chapter one he explains what it takes to really conquer your art and how just having a creative mind is not enough.

He describes what Monet and Rembrandt did to get the images we see. He talks about “drawing for ten hours a day, six days a week for forty years” and that Monet “excavated a huge hole, then diverted a river to fill the hole, planted it with lily pads, then built a Japanese bridge over the whole thing, all at a vast expense. Then he bought a boat, made a floating studio out of it and for twelve hours a day, for over twenty years, he paddled around that pond and painted and painted until his eyes glazed over”.

Most of us cannot make that type of commitment today and how hard are we willing to work and how much time are we willing to give, how much sacrifice are we willing to make before we are maximizing our creative selves and creating the work we strive for.

The next question is how hard will you do this without being recognized in some way? We all must ask ourselves if we are doing this for ourselves or other reasons like making money and/or fame? For me, I love the attention when a nice thing happens and I love it when a piece sells but I cannot imagine that I would not have my hands deep in the middle of my work and trying to figure out where it is going, it is part of my being.”
One of the things that I promote in addition to hard work when teaching and speaking to groups is creativity. As I have studied over the years, it just amazes me how related these two totally divergent parts of my life are alike. They are both subcultures that have a very recognizable demographic that are so different that it is scary. One is largely older females and the other is mostly very young males. Even with these major differences, the similarities are quite striking.

To be successful in either world, creativity is a necessary in addition to the long hours required . Creativity is this word that means different things to different people. It is really an easy concept but gets muddied up in some cases. Creativity simply is “problem solving”. This aspect comes more naturally to some but it definitely can be learned. In poker you see lots of different styles……some may be through thoughtful analysis, strictly math based, gut feel, crazy play with little thought and the list goes on and on. The creative player is able to use all of the tools available and use his/her problem solving skills to make decisions. It does not surprise me to see some great writers, musicians, and artists in the poker world… there are many creatives out there….

Another similarity is both are solitary endeavors. Yes, you have your art/poker associates or friends to bounce off of. You can study in groups, read books and prepare with others but in the end it is all on you to get the job done…. to be successful or not…… it is in your own being that your own fate resides. Having a good support system does give you a better chance to succeed but you and you alone must do it.

Of course, all of these skills no matter how hard a person works, no matter how skilled and creative a person may be, the luck factor comes into play……also being in the right place at the right time….. I have seen gifted artists that have never seen or heard, and have seen incredibly talented poker players playing in free pub leagues……. This is where another factor comes into play that do not see discussed very often and that is mental toughness……thick skin and tenacity.

A few weeks ago, I was watching an episode of the WPT and an interview by Mike Sexton and he said something that really made an impression. When asked the biggest difference he saw between young (internet) players and the older ones that have been around for a long time. He explained that the young ones have no fear of failure, do not look at money the same way and really have nothing to lose. I have really given this a lot of thought lately…… while I have the financial security to afford to play at a higher level it just hurts to lose a whole lot of money so that just puts limitations to a degree.

For the most part the younger players do not have families or responsibilities and if they go broke, they just find a way to reload and hit it again. As the older player matures and may have been broke several times they are not so eager to have to start over and may have responsibilities and do see the value of money. It is hard, hard work.

It seems that it all boils down to what are you willing to do, give up, compromise on, what you realistically can expect. While you can lie at the table, lie to your friends, build an image you want to project, the most important thing any player must do is not lie to themselves or start buying their own pitch. It is easy to talk the talk but not so easy to walk the walk. In the many poker rooms I have played in and the many games I have played live and online, the thing I see so often is players that do not know where they are or look at themselves in a thoughtful and many time, painful way…… I work on that myself everyday and not really pleased when I have to admit my limitations but in a way do take solace in that because of that knowledge alone does give me an edge in many situations. I try to grow with each new experience, read, listen and watch….I keep it real and delight in each new level of success.

Always know where you are……..

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