5 Lessons Poker Has Taught Me About Life

Poker is not an inherently noble pursuit. It does not necessarily offer poignant moments of introspection or life lessons. On the surface, poker is a simple game played with 52 cards. To play it well against good competition requires an array of skills, but you don’t have to be a Field medal mathematician to succeed. When played in a casino or card room, the strong take money from the weak. No one gets Gandhi points for sitting down to a poker game. So what, if any, lessons, can be taken from this odd and seemingly selfish pursuit?

Lesson 1. Patience Pays

Patience is frankly not my strength. I like immediate results and hate waiting in lines. But if you play poker without a good dose of patience you’ll make some very bad decisions. Let’s just say I am a work in progress on this dimension, even at the poker table. However, at least I try to remember when I am in traffic, eighth in line at the one open register at KMart, or waiting to hear back about whether my new health insurance check has cleared that I should not respectively: lay on the horn, say loudly “what’s wrong  with this place,” or threaten a lawsuit. Impatience leads to hasty and generally bad decisions. If things are not going your way, bide your time. Don’t self-destruct, and likely the tide will turn.

Lessons poker has taught me about life

Lesson 2. Don’t Worry About Others’ Behavior

In poker, there are opponents commonly referred to as “calling stations.”  No matter how large a bet you make, they’ll call you down with even the remotest chance of winning the hand. This sounds like a good thing until they get that miracle on the last card dealt and you lose big. Then you feel like flipping over your chair and cursing them, along with anything else in your rage path. Play poker long enough and you realize that other people have the right to make any decisions they want.

The only thing you can do is assess whether you played correctly, no matter the result. This is true in life as well. The only person you have control over (hopefully) is yourself. Let others make their own calls, and adjust as you can without being enraged at them when their decisions impact you. Obviously in some situations of safety and stability there are limits.  But in most things, Doris Day it and que sera, sera.

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Lesson 3. Not Everything is Controllable

Related to the previous point, in poker you can not control the next card that appears. You make the best decision possible with the information at hand. If your decision generally leads to a good result, great, you made the right decision. When it does not, learn to love the variance, bad luck, whatever you want to call it.  Away from the poker table, life’s bad breaks are often more challenging to accept. However, giving up the illusion of complete control is key to staying sane.

Lesson 4. Don’t Play with Money You Don’t Have

To play poker well and for a long time, you need a stake that you can afford to lose. Things can go sideways for an extended period even when you play well. You have to have the funds to absorb those swings. Managing your finances should follow a similar logic. Buying a house out of your price range with poor assumptions about how you can swing it is a recipe for disaster. Building credit card debt to help finance furniture, a car, or vacations will have you swimming upstream forever. Budget, embrace frugality, and plan for emergencies at all times.

Lesson 5: Ethical Grey Areas Abound

Life entails trudging through a moral quagmire. It’s New Year’s eve and a drunk guy is blowing off hundreds of dollars rapidly through epic poor play. Do you thank the heavens for your good fortune, or leave not wanting to take advantage of this out-of-control soul? Profitability in poker requires taking advantage of weaker players. Again, not a noble enterprise. But if you love playing and want to do well, a necessary evil.

Many of us work jobs to support our families that do not necessarily offer great social value. Maybe we’re not helping big tobacco sell cigarettes to kids, but the welfare of the consumer is not a priority for most corporations. However, your job clothes and feeds your kids, allows them to go to college, and keeps your family safe. Living the ideal life of our young fantasies seldom happens. As with poker, sometimes we have to allow for the grey.

 

For the uninitiated, poker may seem an odd and perhaps sketchy pursuit. But the lifestyle allows one to meet a great range of people, and creates some interesting and challenging moments. Lessons can be learned anywhere, and the poker table is no exception.

5 lessons poker has taught me

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5 Great Gifts For Your Favorite Poker Player

Christmas. You know it’s coming. I know it’s coming. As much as we may want to hold it off, that desperate, happy, exhausting, gift giving time of year is absolutely, unavoidably here. So Poker Pilgrims would like to help you out by giving you suggestions for great gifts for the poker player in your life.

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. However, we love all of the products and services listed here. We promise! For more information, see our Disclosure page.

 

  • A book to curl up on a long winter’s night and brush up on their game. Which book, you ask? Here are some of our favorites:

For the Beginner: We love Phil Gordon’s Little Book series, starting with The Little Green Book: Lessons and Teachings in No Limit Texas Hold Em

 

 

 

Poker Tournament FormulaFor the Tournament Player: Arnold Snyder’s Poker Tournament Formula is a must read for any player who wants to get serious about tournament poker

 

 

 

Poker Cash GamesFor the Cash Player: Harrington gives some good solid advice in Cash Games (How to Win in No-Limit Hold ‘Em Money Games) Vol. I that still holds up today.

 

 

 

Peak Poker PerformanceFor the Experienced Player who wants to enhance their play: We love Peak Poker Performance by Dr. Patricia Cardner and Jonathan Little from D&B Poker which covers the mental and physical aspects of being ready to play your best game.  If only we could do a better job of following their advice!

 

Positively Fifht StreetFor anyone looking for a great poker read and crime story: James McManus’ Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binions World Series of Poker

 

 

 

Great Gifts
Happy XMas! by Mrskyce
  • A set of beautiful and durable playing cards to enhance the home game: We love these Copag Cards and use them heavily at our own kitchen table
  • A subscription to a poker training site to help them brush up their skills. We are admittedly biased here, as Advanced Poker Training pays us to do work (and blog) for their site. However, we can honestly tell you that their approach to training is the best that we’ve seen. Rather than just offering a series of videos and articles about how other people play poker, APT invites you to play your preferred game (tournament, cash, sit n go, whatever’s your poison). They then analyze your play and send out a weekly plan with practice exercises and advice about how to work on your leaks.
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  • A fun poker t shirt: There are a variety of t-shirts out there that can be found with a quick amazon search. However, we have created a few Ts for our own personal use, that you are welcome to gift to your loved one.

 

  • If you’ve got real money to burn, every poker player’s secret dream is a buy in to The WSOP Main Event for a mere $10,000. If that is a bit out of reach, perhaps a buy in to a smaller event at a card room near you.

 

We hope that our list of great gifts for your favorite poker player has been helpful. I know that I would love to get any of the above (hint, hint Paul). If you have ideas for other good gifts that you have either given or gotten, be sure to let us know in the comments below!

 

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Welcome to Our Pilgrimage

Welcome to Poker Pilgrims!

I am Heather and I have built this site with my husband Paul in order to share our thoughts, experiences, and research as we work toward (and hopefully experience!) a grand adventure in poker travel.

Paul and I are both avid poker players and travelers. It has long been our dream to travel the country for a year, playing poker along the way. As our youngest children approach college, we can see this dream within reach and are now getting serious about planning for our journey. Our target date is September 2022. It feels so close, yet so very far into the future.

 

Poker Pilgrims
Poker Pilgrims

 

Along the way we hope to share with you what we learn in all areas related to our journey:

Poker

  • We have created a map of poker rooms across the US in order to help us plan our journey
  • We will share reviews of the poker rooms that we visit and allow you to offer your ratings as well
  • We will review poker books that we have found helpful as we work on our game
  • We will also share various thoughts and insights that we have from our years of (mostly tournament) play
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Travel

  • We plan to share the tips and traps of spending a year on the road
  • We will let you know of any resources we find for travelling on a budget
  • We will of course blog about our journey once we embark

Finance

  • We invite you to come along on our journey to Financial Independence as well, as we hope to fully support our trip from the road
  • We will share our budgets, spreadsheets, plans, and financial updates as we move toward the Pilgrimage

Philosophy

  • We will also share with your our developing thoughts on life, optimism, and the pursuit of everything

We hope that many of you, whether poker players, travelers, seekers of financial independence, or all of the above will find something here to help you on your own journey in life, wherever that may lead.

 

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