Back around 1987 or 1988 my parents purchased a Macintosh Plus. It probably cost something like $3.5k in 2012 dollars, which is the kind of purchase that makes a born-again nit like me shudder with anticipated buyer’s remorse. Considering our family used it for the next 8 years, and considering it saved my dad the hassle of writing a dissertation on a typewriter, it turned out to be a pretty savvy purchase. Now seems like a good time to thank my parents for pulling the trigger on buying this expensive computer, which no doubt had a profoundly positive influence on my life:
Babby’s first computer. Thanks Mom & Dad!
Eventually, my dad completed his dissertation. I don’t know if the Mac Plus actually helped him write it; it’s not like five-year-old me was interested in watching my dad mash words onto a screen. For all I know he did write it with a typewriter somewhere. What I do know is that the Mac Plus helped my dad did with a most-essential non-dissertation-writing activity: graduate student procrastination. This was a boon to five-year-old me, for obvious reasons. Dad would fire up the external modem. A few mysterious beeps and screeches later, we would have at our fingertips a list of games we could download from some University of Pittsburgh BBS. We filled up quite a few 800 kilobyte disks (at the BLISTERING rate of 300 bytes per second). It was essentially my introduction to playing games and, moreover, to that sweet feeling of accomplishment that comes from beating an opponent or solving a puzzle. Seeing as I more or less play a game to make ends meet these days, I often think back to these old games that opened and molded my growing mind. At least I think of the more original games. Entertaining as it was to play “Mac-Man,” I don’t devote much thought to Pac-Man or Pac-Man ripoffs. Except when I inexplicably mention them on this blog. Yep.
Anyway, the occasional game sticks with me. For whatever reason, it bubbles up from memory into conscious thought. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to play the game on an emulator. One such game is The Fool’s Errand. It’s a cleverly-designed, reading-intensive puzzle game that I lacked the intellect and patience to beat as a six-year-old; as a 29-year-old with two degrees, I at least lack the patience. But seriously, I’m about 60% through the game and may actually conquer it if I don’t lose interest. I admit that I solved some of the puzzles from memory, but this is definitely the furthest I’ve ever gotten in this game. Take that, six-year-old me!
Here’s a solution to one of the puzzles in the game. You’re welcome! Note that I solved this the same way I learned how to play poker (by mashing buttons and hoping things worked out)
So, I got to and (somehow!) solved the above puzzle. “MUCH to ACCOMPLISH.” It’s an interesting phrase. In the context of the game, it’s a phrase snapped at the titular fool by a busy craftsman. The craftsman has shit to do: he has to finish monogramming eight copper dinner plates by sundown. He has a well-defined, attainable goal with a well-defined deadline.
In the context of my own life, accomplishment and goal-setting are quite different. Some of my “accomplishments” in life have been pretty straightforward: do well in school, pass the bar exam, etc. However, I struggle to define goals in poker (and, I suppose more broadly in life as well; it’s not like I have any well-defined goals for this blog, except for taking several hours to write a weird nostalgic tangent about a decades-old computer game before attempting to make some sort of tenuous, rambling connection to poker, in which case MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!). I have an ill-defined negative goal: “don’t go broke.” And so far, I’ve stuck to it (brag: without even having to get a real job!) But I’ve never had a really positive goal, like “make $x by the time I reach age Y.” I feel like people working actual jobs have “make $x by age Y” goals; hell, ING based an entire annoying commercial on this premise. So why don’t I set these goals too? A couple explanations (excuses) for this come to mind, one of which seems more valid than the other:
1. The Arbitrary Goals Will Make Me Play Worse and Be Miserable Excuse: “I don’t want burden myself with large-scale expectations that might I feel bad about failing, which will make me play worse poker and increase my likelhiood of failure.”
This excuse is ironic, and not in some sort of awesome hipster way. The sad fact is, I already set arbitrary goals for myself in poker. I do it all the time, just on a seemingly smaller scale. I often get angry when I make mistakes in individual hands, blaming myself when other players would just blame variance or, better yet, just move on and keep making good decisions. Even if on some intellectual level I know I cannot attain the goal of making each poker decision perfectly (and even if I did, I would not be guaranteed to win), failing to do so hits me in my emotional soft spot. It tilts me, even if it doesn’t tilt me as much as it used to.
Furthermore, the “negative goal” of not going broke is nothing if not a “large-scale expectation that I might feel bad about failing.” I was nearing that emotional nadir a year ago when I could feel the busto monster stalking me, his breath reeking of rotten failure. That probably wasn’t too good for my in-game decisions!
The Sleep of Bankroll Management Produces Busto Monsters
So, I already make myself play worse by feeling bad about failure, either real or imagined or anticipated failure. It doesn’t really matter if I die from a million pinpricks or a two chainsaw whacks; whether my failures at poker are on the scale of failing to make one correct decision or failing to meet a longer-term goal, my goal should be to keep my emotions from turning them into larger subsequent failures, not to avoid opportunities that can result in failure. Essentially, this excuse blows.
2. The Jedi Excuse: There’s a great line in a great movie: “Adventure, excitement… a Jedi craves not these things.”
It was this movie, and by the way Yoda is a coward (click on the pic t hear why).
Basically, I felt that not setting positive goals would help me be satisfied with what I have. It would totally suck to make $X, where $X is very comfortable to live on, only to always be bummed about not making $Y, where $Y > $X. Being content with a relatively modest lifestyle seems to me a reasonable trade-off for not having to sell my labor out of necessity, so why ruin it by making $X some number I’m unlikely to reach?
Also, I always thought that avoiding “positive goals” was a good way to avoid one of poker’s ugliest and, unfortunately, most common emotions: envy. Envy blows; it ruins friendships and bums people out in general. Honestly, I don’t want for much and only rarely feel envious. So, if not having a positive goal keeps me from being an miserable, jealous prick then so be it!
But, the thing about poker, or any competitive pursuit, is that want of ambition leads to stagnation, and stagnation leads to failure. The busto monster lurks there, waiting to devour your heart and shit out your digested dreams. Well, I’m going to try my best not to fall into his clutches. So, I’m going to spend the rest of the year coming up with goals for 2013 as well as goals to accomplish by my 35th and 40th birthdays. Monetary goals, health and fitness goals, all sorts of goals. Maybe I’ll even write about them in this here blog! Can you feel the excitement?!?!!?!?!? As for some shorter-term goals…
0. Come up with those aforementioned goals. And better goals. Less vague goals.
1. Focus more on expected bankroll growth rather than mere expected value. This essentially means no more MTTs unless I put serious work into my MTT game. This is probably a subject for another post (good lord I’ve spent so much time on this one…so many words…I swear one day I’ll plan a post out before I start writing one) but I doubt I’m psychologically fit for MTTs at the moment; I get so easily and strongly attached to the prospects of how much my stack is worth in a MTT that I play worse (and feel worse playing when I make mistakes). Am I a winner in MTTs? Probably! But the variance of MTTs will crush you if you’re a merely “good” MTT player and not a super duper ridiculous soulcrusher elite MTT god like Dan Smith or Vanessa Selbst. Even though I enjoy the challenge/glory/dynamism-of-thought that MTTs offer, I am probably better off (from a bankroll growth perspective) grinding cash games.
2. Fix all the stupid physical ailments that keep me from getting into good physical shape. I hold out hope that getting into physical shape will help me get into better mental shape, which will not only be evidence against Cartesian dualism but will also help me make more money at poker and be happier generally. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: eat it, Descartes!
3. Customize this blog so it has the look I want, and also write some more coherent entries and articles. Maybe even stuff about actual poker decisions as opposed to peripheral mental game type stuff. Or maybe more stuff about old Macintosh Plus games I was unable to beat as a child (a game called Zoony comes readily to mind).
Hope you take less time to read this than I did to write it! ‘Til next time!