Editor's note: In advance of a new audio-book version of Tommy Angelo's classic Elements of Poker, the poker author, coach and player shares this last "element" that encourages another way of looking at our favorite card game.
During bad times, we get unhappy. Let's say we wanted to be less unhappy during bad times. We could train ourselves to do it, if we were to use our bad times as opportunities to practice getting better at getting over bad times. The ideal arrangement would be if we had lots of bad times to practice on, so that we could get better even faster.
So, to help us accelerate the process of learning how to handle bad times, we decide to invent a new game. We call it: Bad Times. The purpose of Bad Times is to cause bad times for everyone. The more the better, and the worse the better.
We'd want our game to unleash waves of agony and anger, again and again, on every player. We would call our game a success if it caused depression, oppression, beguilement, defilement. Bad Times would follow us around and cause us grief, by souring our relationships, our disposition, and our grapes. We would design and refine our game to be seductive, and addictive, in multiple ways, so that its snares snag many and often.
Our game would not be like chess. At chess, whoever plays the best wins. Where's the agony in that? Our game must be viciously unjust: the better you play, the more exquisite will be your torture. To that end, we will employ a significant randomizing agent. Something like randomly selected pieces of paper with markings on them would work. We would attenuate the luck factor so that it causes the maximum amount of confusion, and delusion, and bad times, and very bad times.
Our game would not be like football or any other game that has teams. A team forms a supportive network that makes losing easier. We'll have none of that in our game. Not only will nobody and I mean nobody share your pain, they will probably enjoy it.
Mountain climbing is painful, but Bad Times would not be anything like mountain climbing. A mountain climber is so busy at not freezing to death and not falling to death that his pain doesn't really get a chance to cook properly. Our game would have gaps in the action, plenty of time for steaming, and simmering, and stewing, and boiling, plenty of time to allow the thinking mind to wander off and injure itself, so that we can practice healing it.
Let's see. What else. Oh, I know. Proximity. We'll sit in a circle, as close as we can get without touching. That way the bad vibes of Bad Times can spread easily and quickly, spraying fertile spores of conflict. And let's have comfortable chairs that stick to people who are stuck. And we'll have dealers, ghastly beasts possessing wizardly powers, able to raise the frequency and pungency of the bad times.
What would be at stake? What could we put on the line that would pour on the pain? What could we lose that would amplify the anguish? Pride? Of course there would be that, but loss of pride is not nearly severe enough to do the damage we're after here. Plus, everyone doesn't have it, so everyone can't lose it. We need something that is universally valuable. Something everyone has, and wants more of.
We decide that in our new game, the loser will pay, not only in pride, but also in cash. Money buys time, and food, and choices. Money is time, and food, and choices. Money equals food. Food equals life. Money equals life. Broke equals death. In our society, wagering money is as close as we can get to betting our lives. With so much at stake, our game is sure to cause desperation, and treachery, and man, this is truly a nasty game we are inventing here. Do you think we'll be able to get anybody to play it?
We play our new game, and the bad times come, and we remember to follow our breathing. In, and out. In, and out. By doing so, we set aside our thoughts about what went wrong, and we step away from our thoughts about what might go wrong, and for that moment, when those thoughts are gone, so too is unhappiness. By eliminating the past, and eliminating the future, we give ourselves this present. We will practice this process of elimination, using our new game, and it will become for us a process of illumination. Let us play.
World-class coach and author, Tommy Angelo is considered a modern master of poker's mental game, and has helped pros and rec players alike achieve less tilt and more focus. Called "the seminal poker text of the 21st century" by The London Times, Angelo's Elements of Poker has revolutionized how serious players approach the game. His latest book, Painless Poker, already a bestseller, can be found on Amazon.com. Connect with Tommy on Twitter @TheTommyAngelo, and visit his website: tommyangelo.com.