Sunday, February 03, 2008

Patience, grasshopper

Until recently, at times I could be kind of a dick in our poker home game.
Never mind the snide comments about playing A-5 to two big bets. Occasionally I'd do that, even when I hated it when others would do the same thing.
No, the worse came two games ago, when I took my chips and went home.
That's right. Just like the rich dork down the street who owned the kickball and was mad because someone tagged him out.
I got sucked out on from a very loose, aggressive player I was waiting all night to bust. I had a higher two pair to his two pair, and he got his extra on the river. I threw the cards across the board and stormed off to the bedroom in the next room.
Regardless of my justification for it - I was trying to avoid saying anything stupid, and really got pissed only when the guy said I was "whining in the next room" - it was piss-poor behavior, especially considering the game was with friends and it was nickel-dime-quarter poker.
I took a hard look at myself and figured out what exactly was the reason for the blowout. And I realized it was my competitive nature.
My inpatient, competitive nature.
• • •
Today I ran a 5K. It's February, so I didn't expect a whole lot out of it. Racing 5Ks, truly running them the way I am capable of running them, is not only difficult, it's different than anything else I do.
You have to prepare your body to run extremely fast for three miles. And though I was doing some speed work this winter and putting in a lot of miles (in some ways I've never felt better), I still didn't expect a good time.
But I ran 22:57.
That time is hardly elite - I only finished 25/150 runners - but for me it's a really good time even during the peak summer season, and it's a great time for this time of year. I beat several runners usually faster than me and tied with another when I caught him on a steep hill near the end.
In the past 5Ks were miserable tests of will. At their worst, I'd rather have the flu than run a 5K.
But today, not only did I run well, I was never miserable. I never really wished it was over.
I know why now too.
I finally breathed deep.
• • •
I was in a live poker slump before then and a little after then, too, and the big reason was I was always forcing the issue.
This never was a problem online, and I think that's because you can multi-table, so if I"m card dead on one or even two tables, there's probably some action on the third.
But I was inpatient live, and therefore I was taking it too seriously, and therefore I was pissy and downright stupid when the cards weren't coming.
So Friday I went to my home game determined to have a good time.
And I won.
Of course, it's hard not to have a winning session when you get quads in five-card draw, and you win a big pot with Shit on your Neighbor (know it?), and you get full house over full house over full house in Crazy Pineapple (crazy, hence the name).
But I let the game come.
• • •
Usually before a big race I would go into this mode of preparing for a big time. I would jack myself up and tell myself I had to get a great time or else it would be a failure.
When the gun would finally go off, all my nerves were wound, and I'd unspool way too fast and be gassed by the second mile. Then I'd hang on and survive.
But I learned to slow down, relax the body and run the course.
And I approached this race like it didn't matter what time I got. I would just run my best, see how I felt and go hard.
• • •
The second-most important thing I learned from both the poker and the running is both are more alike than you might think.
If I relax and let it happen, good things happen as well.
But the most important thing I've learned is it's the journey, with both myself and my friends, and not the results, that truly matter.


TripJax said...

Excellent post. See it, fix it and be better for it. Giddy up!

Riggstad said...

Poker is like golf (since I don't run) in the sense that it is a competitive game surrounded by community. Good community. We have fun with friends, measure ourselves against each other, help each other improve, and most of all, spend good time in an atmosphere which allows us to escape from whatever may be our reality.

However, I think you do yourself a disservice by saying that the results don't matter. They do. For it is those results in which we measure not only ourselves, but our improvements and our achievements. furthermore, without those results, competition wouldn't exist...

It's not what is most important, but they do deserve their due...