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5 Poker Life Lessons

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Play the game long enough and you’ll realize that you haven’t been playing poker, it’s been playing you.

If you let it, poker can be a sublime metaphor for life. Every table is different, even when you play the same people. Moods change as can the personalities. Through it all, the game is a great life teacher. Here are 5 poker life lessons waiting for you at any given moment.

1) Be More Patient

Above anything else, if you do not exhibit patience playing the game of poker you will be felted quicker than you can say big slick. As the saying goes, patience is a virtue… desired by many but acquired by few. Waiting for the appropriate moment to get busy is as valid in your daily life as it is at any table.

2) Have Emotional Control

If you love roller coasters, you might be okay with big rushes. But I don’t know anyone willing to ride one every day. For most people, the possibility of profiting from playing a card game is terribly invigorating. But with every ounce of emotional investment injected into the game, the depths of a downswing can feel that much harsher, dark even. Poker will teach you that if you want to get and stay ahead, you need to be strategically and emotionally skilled.

3) Lose Gracefully

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s not personal. It’s just business”. Tell that to the guy or gal who is shipping their stack to an opponent. Fewer things feel more personal that that moment. Many people experience money in this way. This is what makes losing gracefully such a challenge. If you can handle a donkey hitting a miracle card in stride, there isn’t a whole lot you can’t handle away from the table. Trust me.

4) Win Gracefully

If you’ve ever been on the losing end of a crushing loss against all odds, you know how harsh it is to see a guy stomp on your proverbial poker grave in tasteless celebration. The purpose of competition is for the participants to improve. Winners can’t be winners without losers. Being classless kills the spirit of the game. Winning gracefully is about empathy. You’ve been on the other side of the ledger before and that’s why you’ll know the value of respect.

5) Keep Perspective

Those who like poker tend to like it a lot. You’ve heard the legendary stories of the monster sessions some of the pros are known to have played (see Greenstein, Barry). Sometimes, the game is just that absorbing and when you’re playing well, why turn the taps off? However, it is easy to let anything, let alone poker, take you to an unhealthy obsession. Self-destruction happens (see Ungar, Stu). It’s easy to see that if you can’t take a step back and keep the game in perspective how it can blow up in your face.

While most people don’t seek out the game of poker to attain some level of enlightenment, it is interesting how life has its own plan sometimes. These are just a few lessons, what are yours?

Kelly Doell, PhD is a mental performance consultant. Check out his other work at www.KellyDoell.com

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