How can we apply winning poker strategies to life under the specter of the coronavirus? We might not realize it, but poker skills and life skills often develop on parallel tracks. To wit:
Keep Your World Small
There is only so much you can handle before you become overwhelmed and unable to function optimally.
We cannot possibly absorb and analyze every piece of information presented to us at the poker table. However, we can triage this information and focus on the most important bits, thereby developing processes to handle information gathering and analysis more efficiently in real time.
With the fluid situation of the current coronavirus, there is no end to the information out there to gather and analyze, so keep your world small and focus on the most important aspects of the well-being of you and those around you. Gather reliable information from trusted sources, especially at the local level, and don’t overwhelm yourself by spending time analyzing a dynamic landscape from every angle.
Don’t Attach Yourself To Emotions
Being able to handle tough situations requires being aware of, and honest with, one’s emotions. Allow yourself to feel them, then let them go. Attachment to feelings both positive and negative ultimately causes suffering.
Tilt is essentially attachment to negative emotions, and overconfidence is an attachment to positive emotions. Both will cost you dearly at the poker table.
In trying times, we must have both a heightened awareness of our emotions, and a heightened numbness to the detrimental effect they can have on performance. It’s natural and healthy to be devastated that, for example, you cannot interact face-to-face with an at-risk friend or family member.
However, ruminating on this emotion and digging yourself deeper into an emotional hole will not help anyone. Emotional numbness does not mean “be a robot”. It doesn’t mean “be numb”. It simply means that non-attachment to feelings is a required component of acting optimally in situations requiring real-time strategic maneuvering. There’s no such thing as painless poker or a painless life, but you can learn to tilt less and reap the benefits.
Play Your A Game
Nobody’s perfect. No one acts 100% optimally. Still, we endeavor in life and in poker to make the best decisions as often as possible.
In poker, playing our A game requires lots of factors to line up just right. Our mental and physical state must be maintained to function optimally across many hours of play. We must be studying frequently to maintain and grow our edge versus a field in which many are doing the same. And we must have an all-encompassing focus on the action at the table, avoiding distraction from our primary goal of surviving and thriving.
Such is true of handling global crises. As pressure on each individual increases, playing our A game in life becomes both more challenging and more important. Making the best decisions in stressful situations requires the same attention to mental and physical preparedness, as well as laser focus on the actions happening in front of us.
Manage Your Bankroll
The most common way folks go bust is by not managing their available money correctly. Money management is critical, especially in challenging economic environments.
As any player is well aware, poker has a healthy dose of luck involved. When the bad luck hits, your bankroll needs to be able to absorb that variance. Most players understand this, but many ignore it, taking shots at stakes their bankroll can’t support, or just staying at a stake they can’t afford to lose at.
Why are bankroll sizing suggestions so conservative, often on the order of hundreds of times a single buy-in? Variance can be oppressive. You may experience months of downswings based primarily on variance. You can make all the right decisions and still lose.
In life, our “liferoll” must be constructed with a similarly conservative outlook. Life is notoriously full of variance. While it’s true the COVID-19 took many by surprise, medical experts and epidemiologists have known the arrival of a deadly pandemic was not a question of if, but when. Had the power players in government and industry organized their efforts preemptively around that knowledge, the world would be experiencing far less of the death and instability that’s running rampant. Instead, the “bankroll” of supplies we’d need to handle this crisis is woefully inadequate for our needs, and the crisis unfolds with consequences an order of magnitude greater than it would have with proper resource management.
Granted, this advice comes a bit late, as we are already dealing with the ground-shattering economic impact of the virus. Despite the chaos and uncertainty, we still have bankrolls and liferolls to manage, and our decisions now will be amplified far into the future. Don’t freak out. Be as consistent as you can within the chaos.
Poker may seem like small potatoes compared to living through the ‘Coronavirus Era’, but the skills you develop to win at poker are the same ones we use in our daily lives to be prepared, stay safe and resilient, and get through whatever life or the deck throws at us.