Poker and real life

November 05, 2014

A few days ago, I was having dinner with some friends of mine when a very interesting debate arose about the metaphors on life that might originate from our behaviors at the felt, and vice versa. The debate led us to analyze some similarities that are common to the two sectors which, after a thorough examination, do not look as different as they might have at a first glance.

Setting aside for a moment all technical-behavioral dynamics that might connect our game to our everyday lives, (for example, factors like the aggressiveness emerging at the table, the time employed in taking decisions or the percentage of risk that we decide to accept in every fold/call, etc.), I recently tried to analyze the reasons why our minds, our way of life, our cognitive and intellectual skills, lead us to love a game like poker.


Luca Pagano: Life imitates poker and vice versa

I am not a game psychologist and hence I would not have the necessary abilities to make a thorough analysis of this issue. Moreover, this would not even be the proper place to make such analysis. So, I simply analyzed my career from its very first moments, taking into account everything that has come with it and focusing my attention on the key questions: where will playing poker lead me and what will it bring me?

In general, you begin to play to understand whether, through the game, it is possible to control the thirst for competition, the desire to beat your opponent, and that of succeeding dependent on your own skills rather than relying on the mere “good luck”. Obviously, the opportunity to achieve all this while “having fun” assigns a fundamental and decisive point to poker.

In addition to this, it must be said that in most cases at the beginning, after the first successful results (probably owing to fortuitousness), you realize that commitment, study, strain and humility (not to mention the remaining dozens of features that jointly or separately lead to succeed or failure) are paths that need to be followed to achieve the abovementioned personal fulfillment.

Undoubtedly, many of you who are now reading this article have thought of the earnings, the profit that might come from the green felt and the difference between a “normal” job and that of a poker player.

Though, if you think of it for a while, real life too presents obstacles going beyond the wealth that can be achieved, only after having fixed personal limits and definite rules regarding your behavior. I think of the entrepreneur attending a meeting in the Office that will provide him with the necessary authorization to proceed with something, or the graduate who spends his nights studying. I think of a number of professionals who, to thrive in a competitive market, need to get up an hour earlier than others.

Things are almost the same for poker.

One of the friends present at that dinner made a strong statement that made me think. He said: “To really start gaining in poker you need to stop enjoying yourself”.


Do you really have to stop enjoying yourself?

Personally, as I have already stated in a recent interview, I believe that fun is a fundamental element of poker which makes it a really special job. The will of having fun in the right way, mixing pleasure with a series of “sacrifices” that in the long run will decrease in number and become the desire to be competitive, proving to oneself and to others that you know how to do what you are doing!

I think that success in poker, as in real life, cannot be separated from passion. If you lack passion and get up in the morning with the idea that what you will be doing during your day is heavy, or if you take a shower lacking the will to start a new day, then poker, as any other activity you might be dealing with, is not your path.

Nobody can prevent you from diving into another fantastic adventure.

Good luck!

Luca Pagano is a member of Team PokerStars Pro.


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