Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (2012) in Bluff magazine under the same title
Indulge me today. I want to take you back in time.
A few years ago. Poker seminar. Mine. So, I’m doing my dance, prancing far from the podium, using an animated style of lecturing. Just between you and me, it’s an act. When I go into “Mad Genius of Poker” mode, I’m faking it. Always.
But many decades ago, I discovered that people remembered important concepts better when the explanations were delivered with flair. So, I ruffle my hair, rip $100 bills into tiny pieces, shift from a rant to a whisper in five seconds – whatever it takes. And here’s the deal: I’m not modest about promoting my advice, because I know it’s right on the money.
It better be. Let me take you back in time.
Decades and decades of poker analysis back up every word I utter. Yes, it’s an obsession. And, yes, maybe I should have done something nobler with my life. But I didn’t. I played poker. I researched poker. I published poker. I created computer algorithms to bring poker to life. I calculated it, categorized it, crunched it, and I cared about it. Always.
I care about you, too. That’s because something grabbed hold of me about 1980 and made me realize that poker players might all be soul mates, in a sense. We understand the terror of a long losing streak and the satisfaction of survival. We’ve each tasted the thrill of winning pots back to back to back. We’ve conquered. And we’ve felt a peculiar pain of lonely desperation when fate fizzles out.
So, I studied poker and figured stuff out. And then I shared it, and sharing made me feel special. You became my family. Along the way, some say I became an egomaniac, because I seemed so sure of my answers. So what? I seem sure, because I am sure.
Here’s the problem. Poker players sometimes form opinions hastily. And sometimes those opinions differ from my advice. Often the opinion is one that I, too, might have expressed had I been forced to make a guess before doing the research. But that’s just the thing. I did the research.
Anyway, after this particular seminar, an approximately 24-year-old hippie throwback confronts me near the stage. He says, “I disagree with your advice.”
“Do I get to guess which advice you disagree with?” I teased in an upbeat tone, trying to be charming and possibly failing.
Correctly taking that question as rhetorical, he continued. “You claim that, in the long run, a pair of aces makes more profit against many opponents, instead of just one. I’ve been beating no-limit hold ’em games for three years. And you’re way off base on that one, I’m guessing.”
“I’m not guessing,” I replied softly, locking eyes with him.
And then he said the most amazing and unexpected thing: “Oh. Okay.” He shook my hand and, seeming grateful, walked away.
There were others waiting to speak to me. And I’ll let the next guy serve as a catalyst for my main message today.
“I thought that ‘even money’ line was cute.”
So, I said, “Thank you.” And I made it sound sincere, even though it wasn’t.
That ‘even money’ line isn’t supposed to be cute. It can change the rest of your life in a very positive way.
The quote is: “In the beginning, everything was even money.” Not cute. Not silly. It’s the key to the core. What? I said it’s the key to the core. Sorry if I didn’t express myself clearly the first time.
In fact, it’s everything you need to win at poker. And it’s everything you need to conquer life. Here’s why.
What would happen if every time you had a two-way decision at poker, you flipped a coin and acted accordingly? Should you fold or call? Flip a coin. Okay, now fold that straight flush. Obviously, you would lose pretty quickly. That’s because you know how to make poker decisions that are superior to a coin flip.
Still further back
Okay. Let me take you back in time.
It’s 14 billion years ago, before the big bang or whatever sparked the universe into existence. It’s a time before there is time. There is nothing. No matter. No thoughts. No information.
Everything is possible and everything is impossible. Everything waits to take the stage and the stage is empty. At this moment there is nothing to handicap. There is no probability. Everything is even money. That’s because, without information to analyze, all outcomes are equally likely.
Do you see where we’re going? The original state of everything is even money. Only information and analysis can make something not be even money. So, here’s the secret that will improve everything in your life – just as it has improved everything in my life. Your job in poker and in life is to challenge the assumption that something is even money. That’s all there is. Doing anything successfully requires skill in defeating that even-money assumption. Nothing more. Rarely, something might actually turn out to be about even-money, but you won’t know that until you analyze it.
Let’s say it together: “In the beginning, everything was even money.” Wait! Say it again. Think about it. Think deeper. Think some more. As long as it sounds cute to you, it’s not working. When it hits you full force, it will profoundly strengthen you poker and life decisions. Always.
Priests, prophets, philosophers, and poets eternally seek the meaning of life. And the quest for that meaning deemed futile, silly, and sophomoric. And yet it was all clear from the very beginning, when everything was even money. — MC