Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Personality of a Poker Player

A book that hasn't impressed me much (Larry W. Phillips, Zen and the Art of Poker. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1999) has been relegated to my bathroom reading. In the midst of such unique advice as "don't tilt," I found this gem (pp.146–147), which somehow appeals to me:

(I'm re-editing this so that what is a long paragraph in the book is a numbered list here, in case I find I want to talk about specific points of the list. He also does one of my pet peeves—singular they—and I'm fixing that, too.)

The Personality of a Poker Player

It sometimes seems to be the case that people who are attracted to poker have lives that resemble (or parallel) a poker game. A list of these parallels might read like this:

  1. The suffering of some kind of slings and arrows,
  2. some brand of persecution;
  3. being ground down by events,
  4. yet having an occasional big triumph and rising above them;
  5. not terribly fond of physical work;
  6. a belief in the power of the rational mind to succeed, or make money (as opposed to back-breaking physical labor);
  7. believers in the analytical, problem-solving approach,
  8. but one also that contains a certain dash of flair;
  9. a person who likes to reduce the whole complex world to “the felt” (a small area taking place in front of [him]);
  10. a “simplifier,” a reducer of life's complexities;
  11. an escapist;
  12. a person with thick skin;
  13. yet a believer in hopefulness, possibilities,
  14. and good fortune, even last-second miracles;
  15. but a dark side, too—an occasional desire to “punish”
  16. (or to be punished);
  17. a belief in cameraderie;
  18. membership in cultural subgroups of one kind or another;
  19. societal mavericks or outcasts.

In short, their lives have actually been a poker game, and when they come across the game of poker itself, well … Eureka! They found a home … it was something that exactly mirrored their [lives].

All the time I've spent formatting that, and I find that I mostly want to let it stand on its own. If I talk about this post much, it will be in a future post, probably reaction to people's reaction to it. For now, though, I'm headed to Michigan City for some poker.