Friday, July 25, 2008


The real truth about it is
no one gets it right
The real truth about it is
we're all supposed to try
There ain't no end to the sands
I've been trying to cross
The real truth about it is my kind of life's no better off
If it's got the map or if it's lost
We will try, know whatever we'll try
We will be gone but not forever
Come on, let's try, know whatever we'll try
We will be gone but not forever
The real truth about it is there ain't no end to the desert I'll cross
I've really known it all along

When I was a kid, to the great annoyance of everyone who knew me, I insisted on games being played by the rules. More than that, I would become enraged if people didn't. I would rail at them for cheating when they cheated. I couldn't let the small bendings of the rules that happen in all games pass. It infuriated me.

It's hard to describe how it feels. Mostly, people describe cognition as a cold, rational process, but I don't find it that way. My head seethes and boils, and I hardly know what will come out of the pot of lavas that collide. When people cheated, the cool part of my mind might just shrug and say, well whatever, you worry about how you play and if they beat you by cheating, you can be the moral victor. But the rage in my head would scream NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, fuck that fuck that they deserve to be THRASHED for that shit.

It still does. I have a craving for justice that I cannot put aside. Even when I know that things must be unjust, I can't still that sick heaving in my head that something unfair brings on me.

I wish I had understood poker before I began to play it. It is decidedly not fair.

How could I describe what it really is? It is a bit like being cast into the ocean. Everyone wears a lifejacket, but when you begin, the jacket is almost entirely deflated. The air that it has in it to begin with is only your innate ability. For most of us, that's not enough, and we drown in chance. But some of us learn to inflate our jackets, and because we have done that, at some personal cost, and because experience has taught us to be aware of what the waves look like, we expect to float.

But we drown all the same. Poker is impossible to play if you have a need for justice, because you won't get it. What you will get is a kick in the nuts for your presumption. It feels a lot like you've been cheated when someone does the wrong thing and still wins. It feels like the universe has fucked you out of what was yours.

Life is much the same. Except some of us begin it in a boat and others don't have a jacket. But the rest of us do our best to blow furiously and try to stay afloat.

And then we drown anyway, and realise that the effort of swimming was not worth it.


So it looks like my coaching/staking deal is going to fall through. A guy I'm acquainted with, who is a very good STT player, offered to stake me to play at a higher level than I do now, and to coach me to be able to play higher.

This was a great opportunity for me, and I was pretty excited about it. But the guy wanted it for a year, and I could see a problem straight away, which is that a year may be too long.

It may not; I don't know. But this is the thing: STTs have a corpus of knowledge attached to them. Some is readily available and easy to learn; some is harder to learn but still, no problem finding it out. Some is harder to learn. There is a body of what you might consider secrets. These are valuable because you need a lot of experience to grasp them, unless someone clues you in. A coach can clue you in.

Two things are clear about this sort of information: one, it has a lot of value and two, there is not so much of it that it takes forever to learn.

Who knows how quickly I would progress? It's possible I would need the whole year. It's possible I would be at a very decent level after six months. But in the latter case, the deal would start to become onerous. I would be wanting to go pro, but would be unable to because I had to pay too much to this guy.

So I put a clause in the contract saying that either party could quit with a month's notice. The guy is not dumb though, even if he is an arsehole. He realises the same things I do: I might have everything he has to offer after six months and then bin him. I wouldn't, actually. I would allow him to make the money that would be equitable. I'd also need to be sure that I could sustain winnings at a high enough level to play professionally. If I was at a pro level after six months, three months would probably be enough. He would at that point be making quite a lot of money out of me.

But he starts to say, well, you're not going to be playing enough to begin with, so I can't be bothered much with coaching you. He says, I make 150 an hour playing poker. And the implication is that he should make that from coaching too.

But no one does. Not in STTs. And the reason is simple. There is that corpus of knowledge. When you have it, a coach has nothing to offer you. You will learn what more there is to learn by experience and observation. The only people who need coaching are learners like me. And we can't pay 150 an hour. It's not even worth that to us. It's not worth it because we can learn it; it's just the harder route.

Anyway, you do not make as much from coaching as from doing, no matter what you do. Law professors don't make the money barristers do! Coaching is something you do on top of your work, not instead of it.

So this guy wants to do a maximum of three hours a week, and I'm pretty stunned by that. It's nothing like enough. It's in his own interests to train me to be good enough to make a lot of money, because if I'm good enough, I'll play a lot more, and make him a lot more. But he doesn't get that. He whines at me that he can't count on it. And I'm like, dude, you're a coach. You're supposed to help me improve. If you don't have faith that I will improve, your coaching isn't worth as much as you think! It would be realistic to train me a lot now, and then not so much; it would barely be needed at all given time. After a few months, he'd probably get nearly as much from coaching as I did, because discussing poker usually helps you get ideas and concepts straight.

So it will probably fall through. This greedy arsehole thinks he can't screw enough money out of me, so he won't bother. Well, that's okay. I did the right thing, and I will make it my own way. It means a lot to me to make it in poker, but not at any cost (and it's like my job: I want to keep it but not at any cost).

I could have just lied to him. I could have said, fine, take the clause out and then cheated him. It's what most people would have done. It would be no big deal just not to do what we agreed and to use an account on Party to play, which he wouldn't even know about. All he'd see is that I refused to carry out our deal, forcing him to break it. (And if he still goes ahead, this is exactly what I'll do.) I tried to be equitable.

A deal for six months, with a three months' option, and another three after that, would have been fair. It's true that I would be unlikely to do enough for him to get 150 an hour for his coaching. But he probably would have made 100.

I will leave it to you to decide whether 100 bucks an hour for talking someone through a game of poker is good or bad money. A hundred bucks without the stress of playing--we don't call it grinding for nothing.

Yeah, he is assuming risk, because I could lose his money, but if he's a good coach, not much risk. And if he's not a good coach, a hundred bucks is far too much for his time (it should be pretty clear that he has confused being a good player, which he is, and the rewards for that, and being a good coach, which remains to be seen, and the rewards for that).

And finally, there is another thing he isn't grasping. He says, well, this information is worth thousands to you. And it is. But that doesn't mean I should pay the earth to get it. It's comparable to going to law school or medical school. Pass them and you're set for life. But they don't say, well, because you're going to be set for life, you must pay an enormous amount of money (although you do have to pay quite a bit for both, and I'm not forgetting that doctors and, arguably, lawyers have a value to society that makes it worthwhile for the latter to contribute to them). The training itself has a value, but it is not priced according to what it's worth to you. And there is a way he is very different, in any case, from a law school. I can learn the information in other ways. And I will. It will be a spur to my learning that I want to get there to spite the greedy fucker. I look forward in nine months to sending him my results graph, with a very decent profit, and saying "half of this would have been yours, arsehole".


I feel sad about it though. Alongside the rage, there is a cloud that rains each time life disillusions me, when the indecency or the injustice just feels unbearable, and when people are just shit. Because, you know, I'm human, I have hopes and things I want, and this guy's behaviour has disregarded that. It hurts. I know that sometimes I am the cloud that rains on others' lives, but I have the decency at least to be sorry for that. Because I'd rather be sunshine.

But what does it matter? You can't force other people to walk alongside you when you are taking a journey. You can't make them care about you. You can't know what the pot of lavas in their own heads feels like, how it makes them feel about you, about life. You can't even know whether they have one. Maybe you all have cool rational machines in your heads. Maybe your thoughts proceed in orderly trains.

Maybe you don't think much at all. You are probably better off. It never seems to lead to anything good.


At 3:03 pm, Blogger $Zero said...

Maybe you don't think much at all. You are probably better off. It never seems to lead to anything good.

but it could.

if you make good enough arguments.

At 3:08 pm, Blogger $Zero said...

I look forward in nine months to sending him my results graph, with a very decent profit, and saying "half of this would have been yours, arsehole".


that was great!

At 3:33 pm, Blogger $Zero said...

Poker is impossible to play if you have a need for justice, because you won't get it.

you will if you read the players at least as well as you read the statistical probabilities.

well, maybe that's not justice, per se, but you'll certainly win more often.

At 7:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

boots sez:

Zen, you'll feel however you feel about missing out on this coaching deal, but maybe you didn't miss out on so much.

I remember when I was gambling, talking with other guys. Some guy would be all yeah, I can show you how to make wads of money if you'll pay me.

And I'm looking at that and saying hey, if you're rolling in the dough how come you want to scam me for a few lousy bucks? And if you ain't rich just how smart can you be?

And I should pay you actual money to teach me how to make money.. why was that again?

You're sad because it feels like you lost something you never had, is what I think.

At 9:19 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Well, it's just another income stream for the coach, and you're probably too cynical about that. But I think that if you have *no* feeling of wanting to help someone get there, then you're not actually worth the money you're asking anyway. If I ever do get there, I'll probably coach, but my attitude to it is a million miles from this guy's.

I'm sad, boots, because coaching is very valuable in this game. It's like the law. You can learn the law without a teacher, but it's tough. Have someone to explain and amplify concepts and it's much easier.

Also, being staked is good, because even though you have to give up profit, you can play without any fear of loss.

At 4:57 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

boots sez:

"...being staked is good, because even though you have to give up profit, you can play without any fear of loss."

If you think I'm too cynical about coaching, you'll think I'm absolutely nutzo about being staked by a coach. Think about that for a minute. If you start running shit and losing the coach's stake, you think he's not going to turn into a nagging bitch from hell? Maybe people are a lot nicer in your neighborhood.

At 5:44 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

What nagging is he going to do, boots? He can check whether I have flaws in my game and that's good.

At 6:55 am, Blogger Father Luke said...

. . .Mama here comes midnight with
the dead moon in its jaws

Yeah. Great song.

The real truth about it is my
kind of life’s no better off
If I’ve got the maps or if I’m lost
The real truth about it is there
ain’t no end to the desert I’ll
cross I’ve really known that all
along . . .

- -
Father Luke


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