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Final thoughts on Zen and Poker

Now that I've had the opportunity to re-read two poker books I also reviewed in my cardmates poker bloggs this month, I will present to the reader some interesting points brought up in the text that jumped out the most for me in my favourite Poker novels of the two, Larry W. Phillips' Zen and the Art of Poker.

Re-reading the book has definitely opened up some kind of door for me, and the text is somehow a lot different than I remembered, with a lot of the information in my opinion highly relevant not just to poker, but also to every day life as well.  Because Zen Buddhism was also adopted by the Samurai Warriors, they are mentioned because they required a certain amount of inner emotional detachment to gain ultimate self mastery in order to be able to face death gloriously during battle, fully accepting and ready for this to happen.  Zen can be so easily applied to Poker because it is a kind of war between the players doing their best to win money and losing (death) is also part of the game.  As the writer so poignantly points out, going broke is like a death in Poker and winning money is successfully winning the one to one battles on the card table; it's the one's who can accept these ultimate truths that will be the best equipped.  Truth is: no one likes to lose do they, so how do we get around this?

There are a few points mentioned in the chapters of the book which really stand out for me, such as following your own path and focusing on your own your own actions, rather than keeping a close eye on what others are doing.

'Let others take their own way, and I take my own.' Japanese proverb


To use an example in the football world, what I liked from current Premier League Champions football coach Jurgen Klopp this year, was that he constantly talked about simply focusing on the next game, whatever or whoever it was against, and that was it.  This became a kind of mantra for the Liverpool players during their successful campaign, and if ever a player was interviewed he would usually say; 'We have done well, but now we are just focusing on the next game.'  One game at a time and look at the result - the first Premier League trophy in the Reds' cabinet for the first time in the club's history!  Klopp was occasionally asked about the other teams potentially doing well and catching up his team in the league, and I loved at the time how he would respond to this question - he would say something like (not qoute for qoute here) we are not worried about what the others are doing, waiting for them to fail or lose a game or play badly, instead we focus on how we perform as a team, as a club, in each game, and that is what is important for us, nothing else. 

Zen and Poker - WINNING and LOSING well

In Zen and the Art of Poker, the novelist talks about a lot of very interesting points when it comes to sport, war and playing poker.  By taking a 'longer view' for instance, building up slowly, finding harmony in game play, or the need to go two steps forward and one step back (quoting professional players who say 'they expect to make a profit in 2 out of 3 sessions,' not 3 out of 3).  Dispelling arrogance, including the 'acceptance' of loss/losing and being okay with it, and the reasons for respecting and being polite to opponents.  Even helping them to regain their balance after knocking them with a win, not 'lording' it over them or rubbing it in (for more information on this, read the book!):

Good warriors lessen opponents, bad warriors increase opponents. Those who decrease opponents flourish; thereby, those who increase opponents perish. Sun Tzu

A while ago, I posted a blog on the issue of what to do when winning big and the dangers associated with this predicament.  In the past, as I said in the blog post, I would build my bankroll to a certain amount (say £170) through Poker and sometimes football bets, only to lose a huge chunk of it by playing with too much confidence.  I am happy to say, that I rediscovered a few words on the subject in Zen and the Art of Poker, in the following chapter:

(Page 132) Poker rule #82: Be very careful when you are flush with money from a big win.

Let me summarise what is said in this chapter by using the following qoute:

'One thing is true in Poker for sure - when things are going so well that it is hard to believe what is happening, something is going to even the score around the corner.' 

Roy Cooke, Cardplayer magazine

How I have experienced this series of events!  I liked this chapter very much at it is definitely a weakness in my game and so have pointed it out for you for your own perusal as well, in case you have suffered a similar fate as me.  (For your information) You can actually download this book for free via PDF online.


Overall, I'm really happy to have re-discovered this book Zen and the Art of Poker.  I realise I have already done a review on it, but hey this is my blog account and so what :) I felt highlighting some of the points again would be useful after my second read, if anything for my own personal reference to draw a thick line under some of the more specific details it covers.  Before joining cardmates and beginning to write about my experience with Poker, the concepts of Zen Buddhism when applied to Poker kind of had fallen to the dusty corners of my mind, with many years of neglect.  While some of the rules and ideas were still there in the background that I had still been using in my game, important points like what to do after a big win had definitely been forgotten!

I will still play the game as I normally would, with an eye for learning from other sources and also not to follow the 'rules' too closely.  Keeping my new knowledge mainly to myself.  Going back to the ideas from time to time. Using the small edge over opponents to my advantage if I can.  Perhaps winning some money.  I hope I'll be a better player next month.  No big deal if I don't.

Hope you enjoyed the read all!  I wish you luck - I'll let you know how I get on playing the cash tables using the concepts learnt when applied in next month's play.  Let the Poker Gods be with you (and me).

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I have been playing poker for about 15 years. I play online currently and I've played poker in casinos, card rooms, local games and with friends. I play NL hold'em tournaments and cash games and can also play Pot Limit Omaha, a game I also love.
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Comments (3)
Nemoruso17 user
User's aura Nemoruso17 1881
Let the Poker Gods be with you (and me).

I hope so ;) 

1 replies
Maroonfish user
User's aura Maroonfish 785

Hopefully 🙏

Vetal user
User's aura Vetal 1910

Jurgen Klopp did a great job.

in January it was clear who the champion was)

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