You may have heard of “Life Tilt”. This month I want to introduce a new term: Life Variance. I love poker terms which cross over into general life. They allow us poker obsessives to assert that our pastime has actually helped us grow as people.
As for the term “Life Tilt”, I’d say that’s definitely valuable. My years of experience of 3-outers on the river, five-buy-in down sessions, and months of not even reaching break even have left me a little bit more sanguine than I used to be about the swings and roundabouts in everyday life. I’m sure there are more than a couple of players out there who have been dealt the equivalent of a bad run of cards in real life and laughed derisively at what fate has to throw at them. “Is that all you got?” they say.
Over the last week or so, the path of my life seems to have taken the swings and roundabouts a little to extreme. So much so it reminded me of an area of poker mind management – variance.
To put it in layman’s terms: it’s been a funny old week. I want to share it with you, not as some kind of “obv life brag post” nor series of beat stories. No, my point here is of how exposure to poker teaches us a valid life lesson. First, the stories:
Thurs 24th, 11pm: After a protracted and sometimes messy endgame, my girlfriend and I finally break up. The next couple of months may not be pretty as I rent a desk space at the office in which she works. Sure, I’ll be off to Vegas in June, but before then it might be tough to see her on a regular basis. -12 buy ins (BIs)
Saturday 26th, 8pm: Dinner with an old friend who I feared I may have fallen out with after forgetting to buy him a present for his 40th. The evening was good fun and all is rosy with him. +1 BI
Sunday 27th, 10pm: Overall a pleasant weekend in the circumstances. I didn’t think too much about my ex and hopefully the break up won’t be as bad as I feared. +2 BIs
Monday 28th, 11am: My ex-girlfriend saunters into the upstairs office dressed to the nines, looking gorgeous and acting all breezy. My bat senses detect that this is obvious point-scoring behavior (hey! I’m a poker player, right?) and I fear that if this is the kind of game she’s playing, the wait until I jet off to the WSOP might be a long one. -6 BIs
Monday 28th, 5pm: No reply from the estate agent despite their optimism that the viewer on Friday might be a potential buyer. He was the 17th person to see the flat. Perhaps it’s overpriced. Perhaps it will never sell in this market. – 3BIs
Tuesday 29th, 1pm: Obviously unperturbed by my insta-fold to her tilt-all-in-with-the-nuts, my ex writes me an email explaining why she did what she did yesterday in case I found out and I was worried. “What did she do yesterday?” I think. It turns out her manager had commented on how good she looked and she had replied – audibly enough for the office to hear: “new boyfriend”. I never got to hear about this before she told me herself. The “boyfriend”, she confesses, was just a date. The mail has the sobering effect of making me feel better about my break-up rather than worse. Old enough to avoid the harrowing mental pictures of her shagging someone else, I realise that breaking up with her was the right thing to do; I mean, if this is what going out with her is like, imagine what it is like to be married to the bloody woman. +3BIs
Wednesday 30th, 12pm: Massive row with the ex in the store room of the office. On the one hand it was yet more evidence of how terminal the relationship really was, on the other, it was a pretty chilling harbinger of things to come: if given the chance, she’s going to make me suffer. Back to “it’s a long time till Vegas” mode. -4 BIs
Thursday 31st, 10am: Another email from the ex. This time, it’s apologising for all the things she said and generally sounding a bit less crazy. I write back apologising for all my misdemeanours in the relationship and hope that this will prove to be a turning point. +3 BIs
Thursday 31st, 3pm: A call from the estate agent: the buyer was indeed a good one and has given an offer. After a few phone calls here and there, I accept an offer which is in excess of what I originally thought I would get. +5BIs
Friday 1st, 9pm: A few mates round mine for drinks and banter. This is something that hasn’t happened much in the last few months because of said girlfriend. Perhaps I’ve been missing this. +3 BIs
Saturday 2nd, 11am: Having gotten up feeling a bit languid after last night’s revelry, there isn’t much time to get to the Vic for day 1B of Black Belt London Live. About 200 yards from my house, I shunt the back of a car which happens to be the exact make, model and year as that of my recently deceased father. The accident is unquestionably my fault and I face a lengthy sweat to see if this can be settled without recourse to an insurance claim. -4BIs
Saturday 2nd, 11pm: After tanking for about a minute, I make a call with 77 after a newly arrived internet kid shoves from the big blind in what has to be the most obvious squeeze spot I’ve seen in a while. The other two callers fold and my hand holds against his 53o. I now have 100k in chips – enough to make day 2 and most likely, reach the money. +2 BI
Sunday 3rd, 1pm: I do indeed make the money. It’s only a $350 prize when my KJs falls short of a caller’s 44 – not great for a $275 buy in, but it’s still another flag on the old Hendon Mob, and the tournament was very good fun and great banter, so all around a good job done. +2 BIs
Sunday 3rd, 2pm: Having busted early on day 2, I can as planned head to Cornwall for the week to avoid my ex in the office. I’ll have to stop at my sister’s place in Exeter to play the first ever Unibet Open Online, but given that it starts at 6pm, the timing should be fine. +1 BI
Sunday 3rd, 6.20pm: My sister doesn’t have broadband. The buy in for the event is actually more than my cash in the London Live event and I’m pre-registered. FML. -2 BIs
Sunday 3rd, 9pm: After some manic disconnect action using a dongle and some feverish internet searches for free Wi-fi in Exeter, I find myself in the Buckerell Lodge bar, curry and beer ordered, ready for the rest of the tournament. What’s more, in between disconnects, I’ve managed to triple my starting stack. +2 BIs
Sunday 3rd, 1am: Although I lost the heads up to a bad beat and a nasty cooler, my second place €6.5k win is a great end to the week. The 30 points I get for this year’s Unibet Open leaderboard won’t go amiss either! +8 BIs
A bit of crazy week variance wise, but it just goes to show. When we play poker, we bemoan the swings, citing our skill as the reason it shouldn’t happen. But what the hell makes us so sure that life is not any more capricious?
I’ve learned a few life lessons from this week – mostly about who I choose to go out with and which direction I look in when I’m driving. But the real lesson here is that coping with variance in poker helps us cope with variance in life. Five years ago a week like this would have given me a bloody nervous breakdown.