Monday, February 15, 2010

A little poker wisdom from Willie Nelson

Yesterday on my drive home from Utah I was listening to my one and only Willie Nelson recording, the two-disc compilation shown above. I hadn't heard it in quite a while.

I was struck by these lyrics from "Nothing I Can Do About It Now":

I've got a long list of real good reasons
For all the things I've done
I've got a picture in the back of my mind
Of what I've lost and what I've won
I've survived every situation
Knowing when to freeze and when to run
And regret is just a memory written on my brow
And there's nothing I can do about it now.


And I could cry for the time I've wasted
But that's a waste of time and tears,
And I know just what I'd change
If went back in time somehow
But there's nothing I can do about it now

(You can listen to the extremely catchy song here or watch it embedded below, at least until somebody cries foul on the copyright issue and yanks it off of YouTube.)

Great advice to remember. You misplayed a hand, misread an opponent, mistimed a bluff, maybe even did something as boneheaded as to forget what your cards were, and you lost a bunch of chips as a result.

Now you have a choice. You can sit there and sulk about it, replaying the mistake over and over again, wallowing in your misery. Or you can say, "There's nothing I can do about it now," let it go, and move on to the next hand.

One mental exercise I have sometimes found helpful is this: When you have a problem or issue over which you have no control, picture it as a pencil in your hand. Mentally squeeze it as hard as you can, representing all the effort you have expended in vain. Does it accomplish anything? Nope. You can't remold the wood. When you're ready to acknowledge that you have done everything useful there is to do, and nothing more that you can do will change anything, then stop squeezing the pencil. Picture your hand opening and letting the pencil fall to the floor. That's it. You have let it go. It is literally out of your hands. Now you're free to put your mind to work on something over which you do have control--like the hand the dealer is pitching your way right now.

Of course, there's also the point about figuring out what you'd do differently so that you don't make the same mistake again. Sometimes you do that on the spot, sometimes later when reviewing your session privately or with a friend or coach. As long as the intention is to plug a leak in your game rather than to pour salt in your own wounds, it's a useful exercise. But then when it's done, you file the lesson nonjudgmentally in your database of poker experience, and let it go.

I don't suppose that Willie Nelson has poker specifically in mind when he sings that song, but he's got a point. As with many things in life, once the thing is done, it's over and there's nothing you can do about it now. Crying about it is "a waste of time and tears." Put it behind you and get on with the next hand.

1 comment:

Cardgrrl said...

Wonderful advice. The only thing we can do about the past is learn from it.

I try not to make the same mistake more than, oh, three or four times ~ tops.