Saturday, July 10, 2004

Hand History, Game Film, and Living Life Backwards
"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." - Soren Kierkegaard
That's one of my favorite quotes from anyone. Kierkegaard knew his shit. Professional athletes, thanks to modern technology, are able to videotape their performances and sit down with a coach and critique every detail and decision the athlete made during their competition. That's an amazing way to figure out what you did right, also how to learn from your mistakes and gain a better understanding of your opponents. You can replay your low points over and over until you figure out how to correct them.

In poker, specifically online games at Party Poker, you can request detailed synopsis of every hand you play, or in batches of 100. Numerous poker bloggers load their hand histories into software that crunches the numbers for them and breaks down how they are playing in extremely accurate detail. I like to sift through the computer printout hand histories and my own scribbled notes and figure out my mistakes and how I played against different types of players. I'm attempting to become a winning poker player, and that requires many disciplines... one of which is decisive decision making.

I wish life gave me a printout of my daily hand history... or rather, a detailed report of the decisions I made each day. Before I go to bed each night, I could go over my entire day, moment by moment and see where I made mistakes... if I underestimated a situation and skirted around a touchy decision or I made a costly aggressive decision.

I'm a better poker player today after seeing in black and white, the end results of my decisions every day I play online. Some days the analysis gets me high; I did almost everything right and had a winning day. Other times, I thought I made the right choices... but life (insert fate, luck, Buddha, God, etc.) had a different path set for me and I lost due to circumstances outside my control. And then other days, I see mistake after mistake and poor decision making plaguing me the entire day... and those days are when I lacked focus and hade my head up my ass for whatever reason.

When I worked on Wall Street, I had a knack for noticing cycles and trends in stock prices and picking obscure winners. When I look over my hand history from Party Poker each night, I am able to pin point my strengths and weaknesses... and the next day I have a gameplan ready to roll to take advantage of my strengths and plug the holes in my liabilities.

If I could replay all the errors I made each day in my waking life, I'm sure I could spot trends or bad cycles or finally figure out answers to personal problems that have been plaguing me for decades. Unless you're on a 24 hour reality series, it's hard to figure out a detailed analysis of your everyday decision making. You pretty much have to trust the people in your life, the folks around you everyday, to point out your mistakes and weknesses. And you see how many poor decisions those people make every day... so do you really want to put your blind faith in advice and criticism from people who are barely keeping their own lives together by a single piece of fragile thread?

Humans lie all the time. The more poker I play, the more obvious it becomes for me to pick up on when people are lying to me. Computers won't lie to you. After crunching the numbers in my online poker play for about three months, I realized that I played too many marginal hands and didn't put enough faith behind my stronger hands. I quickly adjusted my play, and had the best month of poker ever in my life this past May. I spotted a trend and made the proper adjustments. I reaped the benefits of my improved play when I cashed out part of my poker bankroll to follow Phish.

Again... if I only had a computer program to crunch the numbers for my waking life, I could be told specifically like ... "You worry about things too much beyond your control. You made too many weak decisions in the late afternoon when it boiled down to jeopardizing what people thought of you, and you punked out like a pussy and let public opinion sway how you continued the rest of your journey for that day."

The blogs helps. So does my own personal non-web based journals. I try to keep a majority of my personal life off of my site to maintain a comfortable aura of privacy. I can look back, like Kierkegaard and read in between my lines to decipher my underlying feelings at the time of each entry. Sure it's easy to live life backwards, but the blog is the closest thing I have to a daily hand history. I don't have any software to tell me what I did wrong, but I have some sort of a blueprint to the frame work of my thinking mind during my waking life. Someday I'm going to figure out some of my mistakes and try to be lesser of a burden on all things in my life.

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