How a Stoic Mindset Can Make You a Much Better Poker Player

Poker Stoic

This
article
was
written
by
blackrain79.com
contributor
Fran
Ferlan.

When
looking
at
a
high-stakes
professional
poker
player
losing
a
half
a
million
dollar
pot,
or
busting
out
of
a
huge
tournament
“in
the
bubble”
and
taking
it
in
stride,
the
word
“stoic”
might
come
to
mind.
While
colloquially
referred
to
as
someone
who
is
calm
and
emotionless
in
the
face
of
adversity,
this
kind
of
definition
doesn’t
quite
do
justice
to
the
original
philosophy
of
Stoicism
and
doesn’t
really
tell
the
full
story.
Like
most
things,
the
original
meaning
and
the
ideas
have
changed
and
molded
with
the
times,
and
what
we’re
left
with
today
is
a
superficial
understanding
of
what
once
was.
There
is
a
lot
more
to
being
stoic
than
merely
showing
(or
even
feeling)
no
emotion
and
accepting
your
cruel
fate.
It’s
not
about
suppressing
emotions
either,
for
doing
so
tends
to
backfire,
sooner
or
later.
The
surface-level
understanding
of
Stoicism
would
indeed
have
us
picture
a
totally
cold
and
detached
person,
but
it’s
just
a
facade.
It’s
not
about
the
appearances,
it’s
about
the
underlying
principles
beneath
the
surface
that
guide
our
thinking
and
behaviour.


What
is
Stoicism
and
How
it
Can
Make
You
a
Better
Poker
Player

Stoicism
is
a
holistic
philosophy
that
encompasses
physics,
logic
and
ethics.
It
surmises
that
the
path
to
a
good
life
is
to
be
found
in
pursuing
virtue,
using
reason,
and
living
in
accordance
with
nature.
According
to
the
Stoics,
the
four
main
virtues
were
wisdom,
courage,
justice
and
temperance
(or
self-discipline).
Certainly
great
things
to
have
at
your
side,
especially
when
things
don’t
go
your
way.
And
they
won’t.
Anyone
who
has
played
poker
for
some
period
of
time
can
attest
to
that.
Quite
simply
put,
stoic
philosophy
emphasizes
virtues
as
a
means
of
achieving
what
they
called

Apatheia

(Greek:
ἀπάθεια;
literally,
“without
passion”).
It’s
not
to
be
confused
with
apathy.
The
most
accurate
translation
would
be
equanimity,
similar
to
the
Buddhist
concept
of
the
enlightenment,
(i.e.
a
state
of
stability
and
composure
in
the
face
of
adversity).
In
practical
terms,
it
means
reacting
logically
and
reasonably
to
external
events
beyond
our
control,
rather
than
our
decision-making
process
being
hijacked
by
emotions.
That
is
not
to
say
to
be
emotionless
or
robotic,
but
clear-headed,
objective
and
aware.
Awareness
being
the
key.


Poker
and
Stoicism

The
Hidden
Connection

The
less
aware
you
are,
the
more
likely
you
are
to
react
negatively
to
external
events
beyond
your
control.
The
poker
fish
are
the
best
example
of
this.
They
don’t
make
their
decisions
based
on
odds,
probabilities,
previous
action,
player
types,
ranges
and
so
on.
A
lot
of

advanced
technical
poker
knowledge
is
completely
foreign
to
them.

Sure,
they
might
be
familiar
with
some
concepts
to
a
certain
extent,
but
knowing
that
something
exists
and
being
able
to
apply
it
effectively
are
not
the
same
thing.
I
might
have
some
theoretical
knowledge
about
internal
combustion
engines.
It
doesn’t
mean
I
have
the
slightest
clue
how
to
go
about
fixing
my
car.
Poker
is
deceptively
simple,
and
fish
are
notorious
for
overestimating
their
skill
level
and
playing
in
games
they
have
no
business
being
in.
You
will
often
hear
players
say
something
along
the
lines
of:
I’m
not
a
math
person.
I’m
more
of
a
feel
player.
This
is
mostly
a
BS
excuse.
Sure,
intuition
and
gut
feelings
are
not
to
be
underestimated,
but
they
are
usually
the
consequence
of
acquired
knowledge
and
reasoning
that
isn’t
quite
articulated
yet.
It
can
be
useful
at
times,
but
it
can
also
be
dead
wrong,
because
emotions
can
be
unreliable
at
best,
and
highly
destructive
at
worst.


Example
of
How
a
Poker
Amateur
Reasons
Incorrectly

You
may
think
someone
who
is
overbet
shoving
on
the
river
is
bluffing
because
they’ve
been
overly
aggressive
and
have
been
pushing
you
out
of
pots
for
more
than
an
hour
So
you
decide
to
make
a
hero
call,
only
to
be
shown
the
absolute
stone
cold
nuts.
The
problem
is
you
only
considered
a
piece
of
the
puzzle,
and
built
a
narrative
around
it.
You
didn’t
consider
previous
action,
bet
sizing,
their
probable
range,
the
board
runout
and
what
have
you.
You
were
probably
more
motivated
to
get
even,
or
to
make
a
sick
call,
or
show
you
won’t
be
pushed
around.
Probably
a
combination
of
those
actually.
Either
way,
you
let
emotions
(anger
or
pride)
guide
your
decision-making
process,
even
if
you
weren’t
quite
aware
of
it
at
the
time.
You
did
make
a
conscious
decision,
and
there
was
certainly
merit
to
your
line
of
thinking
(i.e.
the
villain
WAS
overly
aggressive
and
could
have
been
bluffing),
but
it’s
not
the
whole
story.
It’s
a
single
piece
of
the
variable
that
stood
out
to
you
because
of
previous
events
and
your
personal
involvement.

And
that’s
the
core
problem:
We
might
think
we
are
making
rational
decisions,
and
we
aren’t
even
aware
of
the
ways
our
decision-making
process
is
compromised
before
it’s
too
late.


How
to
Mitigate
the
Negative
Effects
of
Emotional
Based
Reasoning
in
Poker

If
we
could
mitigate
the
negative
effects
of
emotions
and
let
the
rational
part
of
our
brain
take
the
wheel,
poker
would
be
a
fundamentally
different
(and
quite
easier)
game.
This
is
where
a
little
bit
of
stoic
wisdom
can
come
in
handy.
This
article
will
provide
some
insight
into
the
mind
of
one
of
stoicism’s
most
stellar
personalities,
the
Roman
emperor
Marcus
Aurelius.
Marcus
Aurelius
was
quite
an
impressive
person.
He
was
dubbed
the
Philosopher
king
by
his
contemporaries
and
was
known
as
the
last
of
the
five
good
emperors
of
Rome.
He
ruled
from
161
to
180,
and
his
reign
will
mark
the
beginning
of
an
end
of
a
period
which
will
later
be
called
Pax
Romana
(lat.
Roman
peace),
the
golden
age
of
the
Roman
empire.
As
one
of
the
most
prominent
Stoic
philosophers,
a
lot
of
what
we
know
about
Stoicism
today
can
be
ascribed
to
Marcus
Aurelius
and
his
capital
work,
“The
Meditations,”
a
series
of
letters
and
notes
he
wrote
to
himself
as
a
means
of
self-improvement.
The
work
was
never
written
to
be
published,
but
his
ideas
survived
to
this
day
in
one
form
or
another
long
after
the
emperor’s
passing
almost
two
millennia
ago.
All
the
quotes
cited
come
from

The
Meditations
,
so
with
the
history
lesson
aside,
let’s
get
into
the
actual
tips,
starting
with
the
cornerstone
of
Stoic
philosophy…


1.
Some
Things
Are
Out
of
Your
Control


“You
have
power
over
your
mind

not
outside
events.
Realize
this,
and
you
will
find
strength.”
Marcus
Aurelius
As
poker
players,
there
is
a
lot
we
can
do
to
improve
our
results,
and
how
much
we
win
or
lose
depends
greatly
on
us.
We
choose
the
game
to
play,
we
choose
a
site,
a
table,
a
seat.
We
choose
the
stakes,
when
to
play,
how
long,
what
cards
to
play,
how
to
play
in
a
certain
spot
and
so
on.
We
are
just
not
entirely
sure
about
the
outcome
in
a
lot
of
situations.
And
it
certainly
can
be
a
deal-breaker
to
many
people
who
want
to
be
in
control
of
their
life’s
outcomes,
and
playing
dice
just
isn’t
their
particular
cup
of
tea.
But
for
the
rest
of
us
degenerate
gamblers,
it’s
a
cruel
reality
that
we
need
to
make
peace
with
in
order
to
survive
this
brutal
game.
You
need
to
be
aware
that
the
prospect
of
loss
is
ever
present,
and
disasters
are
just
waiting
to
happen.
And
there
is
absolutely
no
way
around
it,
no
matter
how
good
you
are.
Sometimes
you
will
do
everything
right
and
lose
anyway.
It’s
beyond
you.
But
the
way
you
react
when
things
don’t
go
your
way
is
the
true
mark
of
character.
Everyone
can
play
well
when
the
deck
keeps
hitting
them,
but
as
soon
as
things
go
south,
their
game
collapses
along
with
their
fortunes.
And
this
is
what
makes
poker
a
lucrative
endeavour
for
some,
and
a
losing
investment
for
most.
The
key
Stoic
takeaway
is
this:
True
wisdom
is
identifying
and
separating
what’s
within
our
control
and
what
isn’t,
and
focusing
exclusively
on
the
former.
So
how
do
we
do
that?
With
another
piece
of
advice
from
Marcus
Aurelius…


2.
Stay
Present


“At
every
moment
keep
a
sturdy
mind
on
the
task
at
hand,
as
a
Roman
and
human
being,
doing
it
with
strict
and
simple
dignity,
affection,
freedom,
and
justice

giving
yourself
a
break
from
all
other
considerations.



You
can
do
this
if
you
approach
each
task
as
if
it
is
your
last,
giving
up
every
distraction,
emotional
subversion
of
reason,
and
all
drama,
vanity,
and
complaint
over
your
fair
share.”
Marcus
Aurelius
Making
peace
with
things
beyond
our
control
and
focusing
only
on
what
is
within
our
control
means
letting
go
of
past
and
future.
The
past
is
fixed
and
impossible
to
change,
the
future
is
uncertain
and
impossible
to
predict.
That
is
not
to
say
that
Stoics
were
just
living
in
the
moment,
partying
non-stop
and
to
hell
with
the
consequences.
Quite
the
contrary.
They
did
in
fact
think
extensively
about
what
their
life
would
and
could
be
like,
and
what
was
the
best
course
of
action
to
take
in
order
to
live
a
virtuous
life.
They
also
meditated
on
what
has
transpired
already,
but
not
to
dwell
on
past
mistakes
and
misfortunes,
but
to
learn
from
them.
But
when
they
weren’t
pondering
life’s
biggest
questions
and
were
engaged
in
a
certain
activity,
they
were
all
in
on
it,
for
they
believed
that
anything
that
is
worth
doing
is
worth
doing
well.
Otherwise,
why
are
you
doing
it
in
the
first
place?
So
the
next
time
you
sit
down
to
play
poker,
make
sure
you
are
focused
on
the
task
at
hand.
Remove
all
distractions
like
your
phone,
email,
Netflix
etc.
Make
sure
you
are
not
to
be
disturbed,
either
by
external
forces
or
by
your
own
internal
turmoil
of
any
kind.
Leave
the
past,
the
future,
and
your
ego
at
the
door
and
play
to
the
best
of
your
abilities.
Focus
on
every
hand
individually,
street
by
street,
action
by
action.
Pay
attention
even
when
you’re
not
directly
involved
in
the
hand.
It’s
the
best
way
to
pick
up
on

information
or
reads/tells
about
your
opponents,
because
your
mental
space
is
free
from
all
the
considerations
you
usually
take
when
involved
in
a
hand.

Don’t
let
your
mind
wander
off.
You
can’t
expect
to
have
great
results
if
you
keep
missing
key
pieces
of
information.
Information
is
power,
and
every
little
piece
of
it
helps.
Stay
inquisitive,
stay
present.


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3.
Expect
Adversity


“When
you
wake
up
in
the
morning,
tell
yourself:
the
people
I
deal
with
today
will
be
meddling,
ungrateful,
arrogant,
dishonest,
jealous
and
surly.
They
are
like
this
because
they
can’t
tell
good
from
evil.



But
I
have
seen
the
beauty
of
good,
and
the
ugliness
of
evil,
and
have
recognized
that
the
wrongdoer
has
a
nature
related
to
my
own

not
of
the
same
blood
and
birth,
but
the
same
mind…
And
so
none
of
them
can
hurt
me.
No
one
can
implicate
me
in
ugliness.



Nor
can
I
feel
angry
at
my
relative,
or
hate
him…
To
feel
anger
at
someone,
to
turn
your
back
on
him:
these
are
unnatural.”
Marcus
Aurelius
People
are
here
to
take
your
money
and
you
are
there
to
take
theirs.
It
is
not
a
cooperative
endeavour.
Poker
in
its
essence
is
closer
to
a
Hobbesian
nightmare
than
to
a
utopia.
It’s
a
dog-eat-dog
world.
It’s
fair
in
so
far
that
the
rules
regulate
the
behavior
of
the
participants,
and
the
participants
adhere
to
those
rules.
It
has
evolved
a
lot
from
the
lawless
gunslinging
days
of
the
wild
west,
but
at
its
core,
it’s
still
you
against
everybody
else
and
vice
versa.
Sure,
there
is
a
sense
of
camaraderie
and
mutual
respect
between
players,
especially
in
live
games,
but
at
the
end
of
the
day,
you
are
still
there
to
take
their
money
and
prevent
them
from
taking
yours,
and
you
are
to
use
any
means
necessary
to
achieve
that,
as
long
as
it
is
within
the
boundaries
of
rules
and
fair
play.
The
Stoic
takeaway
here
is
that
other
people
will
be
out
to
get
you
in
some
way
or
the
other,
and
sometimes
they
will
get
the
better
of
you
in
some
particularly
nasty
way.
They
may
keep
3-betting
you
light
because
you

overfold
to
3-bets
out
of
position.
They
can
get
frustrated
with
your
aggression
and
keep
calling
you
down
and
hitting
their
miracle
gutshot
draw
on
the
river.

Or
they
can
go
on
an
insane
monkey
tilt
and
shove
63
offsuit
preflop
you
snap
call
with
your
pocket
queens
and
the
board
runs
out
like
this:
Q2♠9♣4♠5
The
universe
won’t
always
cooperate
with
you.
The
cards
won’t
always
fall
your
way,
and
the
people
will
be
out
to
get
you.
And
they
will
get
you
sometimes.
It
won’t
be
fair
and
it
won’t
be
pretty,
and
you
won’t
see
it
coming.
Just
remember
that
the
universe
isn’t
conspiring
against
you.
Which
brings
us
to
the
next
point…


4.
Don’t
Take
Things
Personally

“Choose
not
to
be
harmed

and
you
won’t
feel
harmed.
Don’t
feel
harmed

and
you
haven’t
been.”

Marcus
Aurelius
Poker
is
random.
People
aren’t
used
to
randomness,
and
they
don’t
interpret
the
world
as
such.
We
are
pattern
seeking
creatures,
and
if
we
don’t
find
a
pattern,
we
are
more
than
happy
to
make
one
up.
Chance
isn’t
conspiring
against
you.
Things
don’t
happen
TO
YOU.
They
just
happen.
This
kind
of
thinking
might
sound
fatalistic,
but
it’s
actually
quite
a
relief
once
you
actually
internalize
it.
The
law
of
large
numbers
pretty
much
guarantees
that
a
series
of
highly
unlikely
and
highly
unfortunate
events
will
happen.
And
sometimes
they’ll
happen
in
a
quick
succession.
And
they
will
happen
to
you.
People
aren’t
equipped
to
deal
with
large
sample
sizes
and
long
term
probabilities.
This
is
something
that
only

professional
poker
players
typically
learn
how
to
deal
with.

Most
amateurs
instead
are
overly
focused
on
the
present
moment,
this
particular
situation,
this
particular
hand,
this
particular
bad
beat.
Or
a
series
of
them.
And
since
we
are
also
incredibly
gifted
in
pattern
recognition
and
narrative
building,
we
don’t
analyze
cold
hard
data
on
a
graph.
We
are
reacting
to
what’s
happening
to
us
in
the
moment,
and
what’s
happening
is
we’ve
lost
a
huge
pot
in
a
particularly
vicious
way.
And
it
keeps
happening.
And
it’s
happening
to
ME.
We
are
all
protagonists
in
our
own
stories,
and
it’s
quite
apt
to
jump
to
the
victim
narrative.
It’s
a
way
of
ego
protection,
and
it’s
a
normal
instinctive
reaction.
It
takes
some
serious
brain
power
to
overcome
it,
and
it’s
anything
but
easy.
It
might
be
worth
remembering
that
bad
things
happen
to
everyone.
One
of
the
great
things
about
poker
is
it
doesn’t
discriminate.
Play
it
long
enough,
and
you’re
bound
to
run
extremely
hot
at
times,
and
extremely
cold
at
others.
Sure,
some
people
will
run
worse
than
others,
but
on
a
long
enough
time
line,
the
survival
rate
of
everyone
drops
to
zero
anyway.
So
it’s
more
about
the
journey,
and
how
we
deal
with
the
inevitable
obstacles.
Some
do
it
better
than
others,
because
they…


5.
View
Obstacles
as
Opportunities


“Here
is
a
rule
to
remember
in
future,
when
anything
tempts
you
to
feel
bitter:
not
“This
is
misfortune,”
but
“To
bear
this
worthily
is
good
fortune.”
Marcus
Aurelius
You
will
get
unlucky
sometimes.
You
will
do
everything
right
and
still
fail
miserably.
But
so
will
everyone
else.
What
separates
the
winners
is
the
way
they
approach
failure.
They
don’t
fear
it.
Because
if
you
don’t
risk
failure,
you
can’t
succeed.
And
if
you
never
fail,
then
you
probably
don’t
ever
try
anything
new
or
challenge
yourself
in
any
way.
If
everything
is
coming
easy
to
you,
you
might
want
to
watch
out,
cause
you
might
just
be
going
downhill
at
a
slight
slope.
The
winners
are
those
that
take
the
best
out
of
disaster,
and
use
it
as
a
way
to
better
themselves.
They
use
it
as
fuel
to
improve,
to
see
their
shortcomings
and
work
on
them
consciously
and
deliberately.
Where
some
people
see
disaster,
some
see
an
opportunity.
It’s
a
matter
of
perspective.
Remember
that
everyone
will
get
their
fair
share
of
fortune
and
disaster
respectively.
The
ones
that
deal
with
it
the
best
will
be
the
ones
that
will
rise
on
top.
Eventually.
The
next
time
you
get
your
aces
cracked
by
a
whale
with

HUD
stats
of
78/5/1
and
lose
your
whole
stack,
think
how
much
better
you
could
react
than
a
vast
majority
of
the
player
pool
you’re
competing
against.

Because
bad
beats
and
coolers
happen
to
everyone,
fish
included.
And
the
fish
are
the
ones
that
are
more
likely
to
start
tilting
like
crazy
and
spewing
their
chips.
Because
they
see
a
disaster.
And
a
shark
sees
an
opportunity.
It’s
nature.
And
the
Stoics
were
all
for
living
in
accordance
with
nature.


6.
Be
Grateful


“When
you
arise
in
the
morning,
think
of
what
a
precious
privilege
it
is
to
be
alive

to
breathe,
to
think,
to
enjoy,
to
love.”
Marcus
Aurelius
Ending
on
a
more
positive
note,
be
grateful
for
the
fact
that
we’re
able
to
play
this
great
game
in
the
first
place.
When
you
lose,
remember
that
it
is
a
privilege
of
the
few
to
be
able
to
afford
losing
money
playing
cards.
And
the
fact
that
some
people
are
able
to
actually
make
money
in
the
long
run
is
a
miracle
in
and
of
itself.
It
pays
to
count
your
blessings
every
once
in
a
while.
Sometimes
you
win,
sometimes
you
lose,
but
it’s
the
reality
of
life.
There
is
nothing
to
do
but
to
ride
it
out
as
best
we
can,
and
rejoice
in
the
fact
that
we
can
play
a
silly
little
card
game
every
once
in
a
while.


Summary

Being
calm
and
composed
in
the
face
of
adversity
is
something
we
should
all
strive
for
on
the
felt,
as
well
as
away
from
it.
And
you
don’t
need
to
study
a
bunch
of

advanced
poker
strategies
in
order
to
realize
this.

But
we
humans
are
tragically
ill-equipped
to
deal
with
poker,
with
our
insane
monkey
brains
running
amok
with
all
sorts
of
complex
emotions
and
sensations.
The
idea
that
we
can
sit
down
at
a
table
with
a
bunch
of
complete
strangers
and
take
each
other’s
money
back
and
forth
for
hours
on
end
without
tearing
each
other
to
pieces
is
nothing
short
of
a
miracle.
However,
in
order
to
not
just
be
able
to
do
so,
but
to
make
sure
we
are
the
ones
who
leave
with
said
money,
it
might
be
prudent
to
keep
our
insane
monkey
brain
in
check.
Fortunately
for
us,
the
great
minds
of
antiquity
have
a
few
tips
on
how
to
go
about
it.
Firstly,
we
need
to
accept
and
recognize
that
things
are
either
in
our
control
or
beyond
it,
and
it
is
up
to
us
to
differentiate
between
the
two,
and
focus
exclusively
on
what
we
can
control.
And
what
we
control
is
our
mind,
in
this
particular
moment.
This
moment
is
all
we
have,
for
the
past
and
future
don’t
really
exist
but
in
our
mind.
So
we
should
get
the
best
out
of
today,
this
hour,
this
minute,
and
leave
our
regrets
and
anxieties
behind.
Expect
things
to
go
bad,
because
they
will.
When
you
plan
for
the
worst,
nothing
can
surprise
you.
It’s
not
about
being
pessimistic,
it’s
about
being
aware
of
potential
adversity
and
challenges.
It’s
harder
to
fall
in
a
hole
if
you
see
it
up
ahead.
Don’t
take
things
personally.
Things
are
things.
The
universe
isn’t
out
to
get
you.
You
aren’t
cursed.
When
you
face
an
obstacle,
embrace
it.
Instead
of
saying,
this
is
a
disaster,
say:
this
is
an
opportunity.
Ask
yourself:
how
can
I
make
the
best
of
the
situation?
What
can
I
learn
from
this?
Finally,
be
grateful,
even
for
the
difficulties,
for
they
are
there
to
make
you
grow.
Lastly,
if
you
want
to
learn
the
complete
strategy
to
crush
small
stakes
poker
games,
make
sure
you
grab
a
copy
of
the

free
BlackRain79
poker
“cheat
sheet.”

Poker and Stoicism

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