The need for control

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The need for control

Okey, so I got this sudden urge to put my thoughts on paper (so to speak, obviously). I'm not even sure why, I just felt the need to express things that are raveling inside my head. And what platform would be a better one to do that than a poker forum, where there are many people with similar thoughts, similar struggles. I hope that maybe someone can take something away from this, or atleast identify with some parts of it. Any comments are welcome.

Today I played some poker. Lost 9 buy-ins. I did not feel good after that. I felt really angry, in fact. That feeling, when you have a bad session and you feel very strong emotions, 98% of them being very negative ones, is the closest thing to hell that I've experienced in my 21 and a half years on earth. Which I'm actually grateful for: I've never experienced true horrors of life, such as losing someone close to you, or experiencing serious abuse of some sort, physical, mental, or both at the same time, in worst cases.

Can you compare the feeling of losing someone you love to a tilt caused by a bad poker session? Well, the latter thing is milder, obviously. Losing a couple of buyins doesn't really compare to losing a wife or a child. But I'd argue that there are some similarities underneath the surface.

Whether you lost a loved one or 4 buy-ins, it often seems to be the case that one blames himself; "I should've paid more attention", "There is something I could have done differently that would have changed things for the better" or "I wish I never did this or that in the first place, maybe things would be different then".

I think these feelings and thought patterns are atleast partly rooted in narcissism, ego. We often feel like we are in control of the things that are happening around us. And we like that feeling. We spend most of our lives, perhaps even all of it, creating order, purpose and control for ourselves and for our lives.

But what if things aren't going in our favor? We get upset. Angry. Like I did when I lost 9 buy-ins today. I blamed myself. Of course I knew that variance was a big part of my bad session, but at the same time, the intensity of the emotions I had to face didn't go head to head with the conscious mind that perceived variance to be a big part of what had happened.

As poker players we're forced to face the harsh reality on a regular basis: we are not in control. Not in the short-term atleast. In a way we're not really in control of the long-term either. Every bloody term is pre-determined if you really want to go down to that rabbit hole. It can be hard to accept. And I guess you really don't even have to go that far, there's not that much to be gained in practice anyway. What really is important is that the "control" you think you have is an illusion, atleast to some degree. Realizing that will save you from intensive pain. Things will happen. And as humans we're not capable of grasping all the variables that goes with it. We're forced to just be aware of it. We can hold on to it, but that won't work out very well. To stop the suffering, you need to let go.

So you play 500 hands of NLHE and your winrate is 4bb/100. How often you end up winning after playing these 500 hands? 55% of the time (I used 80bb/100 standard deviation).

55% doesn't sound particularly high to me. It means that you lose 45% of your sessions. Do you feel bad everytime you have a losing session? Why? It is probably because on an emotional level you assume that you have more control over the result. Maybe on an emotional level you assume that you win, I don't know, 80% of the time? More? Atleast you act like that. I sure as hell can act like that at times. By describing "emotional level" I mean the level that has the control of how you feel. A deep level, way deeper than your conscious mind, and thus you can't see it, you can't rationalize your way to it. Not in the short-term anyway. Maybe in the long-term you might be able to, if you have the patience and the will to do so. It requires courage to let go of the need for control.

Why are we so bad at letting go? Why are we so affraid of letting go? Well, I guess it makes perfect sense. The world can be a terrifying place, and if we're not in control, the world will swallow us, it doesn't even have to chew. Or will it? Maybe it won't. Maybe everything will be just fine. Maybe the "control" we thought we had, that we liked to hold on to, was the very thing that was holding us back all along. Maybe that's the thing that swallows you before the universe does.

PS. Einstein said: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” The only einstein quote that I've seen that I have to disagree with. I often have a messy desk. I don't particularly like the fact that it's messy. I did some cleaning yesterday. Felt better. So to answer Einsteins question: Maybe it is a sign of a clear mind? Or a sign of a mind that likes things to be in order but at the same time knowledges the fact that not everybody has the same need and that after all, it really doesn't matter that much. It's just that order feels good. Better than chaos.

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