Poker and Mindfulness

Six of the eight episodes of The Eightfold Path to Poker Enlightenment have aired at DeucesCracked.com.

(Here’s a blog post that answers the question, “Huh?”)

(And here’s a page at my site with all the music and other stuff: EPTPE)

I’ve been answering lots of questions at the message boards at DeucesCracked.com. Today’s blog post is a revised version of a reply I wrote over there.

POSTER: “While I watch this, it occurs to me that I am mindless near to 100% of the time. This series has given me some tools to defeat that, but I have pretty severe ADD and I do not like to take the medication I am prescribed for it. I’d rather learn skills that help me succeed.”

ME: If you consider your severe ADD to be a mental problem, then what you should do is do the same thing as if you had something you considered to be a severe physical problem. With a physical problem, we do things do make our body better and stronger. With a mental problem, you should do things to make your mind better, as in, stronger, more resilient, better able to fix its own problems. Since all mental problems are in some way related to thinking (since thinking is the only mental activity there is), then the place to turn to mend your severe mental problem is to take many long, slow looks at your thinking. And the way to do that is to sit still for long stretches every morning and just be with yourself and your body and your mind, and practice the skill of concentration by concentrating on your breathing. Call it meditation. Call it medication. Doesn’t matter. Those are just words. It’s the act of deliberate, repetitive taming of the mind that matters, and works to increase your ability to be mindful.

POSTER: “How can I learn to be more mindful of myself, and less mindful of distractions, but also more mindful of my opponents?”

ME: This is where the math doesn’t add up. You would think that by intentionally detouring your thinking hundreds of times per day to pay attention to something material and current such as yourself or a reflection in a puddle, that you would then miss things that you would have otherwise not missed, such as the betting patterns of your opponents. Well, in my experience, and that of others I’ve spoken to, it doesn’t work that way. Paradoxically, the act of paying attention to things that are not your opponents will cause/enable you to pay better attention to your opponents.

It does matter what you pay attention to, and how. That’s why they call it “practice.” You do it, and you keep doing it, and you keep doing it, and you keep getting better at it, like playing guitar. No one has every learned how to play a guitar without playing one. You can’t acquire new concentration skills from me or a book. What you can learn from a person or a book is how to learn how to acquire new concentration skills. Then you have to go off and do it.