In the midst of his star-gazing, the fool becomes aware of a white glow emanating from the horizon, and looking over he witnesses the beginning of a sublime sight – the moonrise. The full moon ascends in stately manner across the silhouetted hills in the distance, and the fool can almost feel his sensibilities shifting in the power of her presence.
As the moon clears the horizon and begins to rise into the night sky above, the fool is startled to hear a howling coming from a nearby forest. Wolves are baying at the full moon, and he shivers momentarily, a little spooked by the eerie sound.
As he relaxes once again he gains a sense of the beauty of that wild call, but nonetheless scrambles up to his feet to gather firewood and start a campfire, to protect and warm himself through his long night’s moon-watch ahead.
The moon in Tarot is frequently represented with a baying dog or wolf in the picture – this is thought to represent our animal instincts and also to signify fear. Fear itself is a very basic emotion found in near all animals as well as humans, and one we have a very hard-wired physiological response to.
The fight or flight reaction as it is known in biology, is a classic pair of reactions really, a dilemma we must face whenever we are put in a threatening situation.
This certainly resonates well with in-game spots and decisions, where although under no physical threat our very survival in the game is frequently put at risk. We are forced to make quick and pressured decisions between sticking around to fight it out, or fleeing from this encounter and folding our hand to live on and fight another hand.
In order to make these fight-or-flight decisions correctly, we must not be run over by our own instinctive and emotional responses. This does not mean either to ignore or repress those responses, as this will actually ironically simply invest more power in those reactions. They will then go on to occur “beneath the surface” without our being conscious of them – which may well lead to disaster.
We’ve all known those people who refuse to acknowledge even to themselves that something is bothering them, and then erupt volcanically at a seemingly minor event because they’ve been bottling it up for so long. Repression is not a good strategy for dealing with anything. It just prolongs and exacerbates the suffering while limiting one’s ability to work through it.
The moon also represents the realm of delusion, of fantasy. It is certainly easy to get lost in a fantasy world with regard to one’s own self-image in poker – it’s easy to feel like king of the world when we bink a big tournament, but without solid long-term results it’s no real indication that we’re a winning player.
Equally, a losing spell doesn’t necessarily show that we have holes in our game – it may do so, but whether a losing run has any statistical significance really depends on the sample size. In tournament poker it can take thousands of games to get any sort of meaningful sample size together, depending on the average field size that is.
Something that we can learn from more instantly is our performance in-game, by which I mean specifically our own innate sense of whether we are playing our A game. There are plenty of times when we may be in B game mode or worse, and it is important to recognise these sessions for what they are – sub-optimal (although they may still be profitable, if our overall game is good enough!). We may be playing sub-par because we’re tired, unwell, or have other issues preying on our minds, but whatever the cause, we must be self-aware enough to notice it and take appropriate steps.
If you think you’re god’s gift to poker, unless you’re Selbst or Esfandiari you’re likely clouding your own judgement due to the obscuring presence of your own ego. Now don’t get me wrong, poker is a game of aggression and the human ego can certainly be harnessed in a variety of ways in making our way through a field of players. I’m not suggesting we need to be Buddha-like to succeed in the game. We do need to get out from under the thrall of our ego to the point that we can see the room there is to improve though.
Once again, simply being aware of our own ego reactions in game will give us that edge we need against ourselves (!) to prevent our ego distorting and undermining our decisions as we play. If we think we know it all already, there’s no possible way we can improve. More self-aware opponents will also be able to taunt and lure our ego out into the open and cause us to make mistakes we wouldn’t normally make, if pride becomes a factor in our play.
Humility goes a long way in poker, and this includes being humble enough to acknowledge that yes, I do have an ego, but it isn’t all I am, and it isn’t going to make my decisions for me. I’ll leave that to my cool, collected thinking mind.
There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance – and of course both these feelings relate to our ego, our sense of identity. A confident player believes in himself enough to make tough calls and bluffs in game, but not so much that they cannot learn from their mistakes. And we all inevitably make mistakes, without which we would literally never improve.
So next time you’re out walking and you see a full moon and feel just that little bit of extra tension in the air, ask yourself: am I in the thrall of my ego as the tides are obedient to the moon? Or am I able to build a boat and navigate those tides of feeling, aware of them but not ruled by them, and able to sail against the tide and land where I will?
This series is written by Lucky Luke. Luke is a writer, editor, MTT grinder and poker coach based in Oxford, UK. His interests include game design, charity, ecology and philosophy. You can follow him on Twitter
(c) Part Time Poker – Read entire story here.