On our journey to attain poker enlightenment we are going to have to come to terms with suffering, our own and that of others. That suffering will arise as we poison our minds and witness our fellow players doing the same when greed, anger and ignorance temporarily seize us. You can read the lead up to this in my previous blog entry.

It is said, and I have passed on Buddha's personal experience last time I wrote about this subject, that it is not wise to suffer through questions of why in a world that has no answers. When we go down that road we must stop and put our finger to the ground and humbly admit that "what is" is "what is". It is within human nature to feel these things. It is not unlike forever walking barefoot in a desert full of venemous snakes, scorpions and poisonous spiders and knowing that there is an inevitability in getting stung despite any best efforts. Ok, so it's not as bad as that, but the point is we cannot change what it means to be human.

We must admit that we will feel these things and we must be aware enough to be familiar with the occurence of them when they begin to arise. I don't know about you, but I have always wondered what these Buddhist monks were up to when they were chanting and meditating all the time. It turns out they are playing a game too. Not poker, but something just as fun and serious to them. The whole thing revolves around gaining awareness of one's inner workings. Meditation is done to still the mind and there is a showdown happening everytime a stray thought walks in and tries to steal the pot, so to speak. Very good adepts of this come to a point when stray thoughts are merely witnessed as they just as quickly vanish without the slightest bit of resistence. It's a wonderful skill if you think about it. Imagine being able to have thoughts of pain, anguish , grief or just about anything else and being sufficiently well trained to be able to let all of it slide right through wihout the least bit of a lasting physical manifestation. It makes attaining supernova elite look rather pale I would say.

Let us get back to the poisons in question. Greed, anger and ignorance are best called states by us Westerners, I would think. You can slip easily into them when certain thoughts appear and they get a firm grip on you.

Greed is one that poker players are familiar with well enough. There are watered down versions of this state of mind that we succumb to often when we try and do too much with too little. Weak hands, weak bankrolls...and visions of big piles of cash. Many of us have a predisposition for it because, let's face it, we live in a philosophical landscape where "greed is good" passes for wisdom way too often (sincere apologies to right wingers everywhere). It's probably doubly dangerous to mix greed with chance. We certainly understand the mechanism by which we can lose our bearings with this one.

Anger is so pernicious isn't it? With all the effort in the world I don't imagine I will ever come to not be gripped by it at times. To be honest, playing poker has probably reacquainted me with anger in ways I did not foresee. I'm a bit ashamed to say it, but I've even taken to spewing out incredibly foul mouthed diatribes towards the heavens as if someone was listening and cared. I thought all that was in my past since I no longer commute in the city at peak hours. And tilt, what is there to say about it that we don't all know.  There is much to be gained by making gains with this one. Doesn't do any good to the blood pressure either.

Ignorance is bliss. Oops, sorry I misspoke. One has to concede that in ignorance there is an easy vector for suffering. When we fail to understand the complexity and the various relationships within the framework in which we are immersed (never mind the complexity of personal relationships) it seems like there are conspiracies to trip us up all about us. There is much of this in poker. I personally think a lot of it originates with the sense that there is a skill level that defeats all statistical uncertainty. Poker is a game of edges.

It is in the everyday training that we can overcome a lot of this. When we are good at recognizing the onset (the triggers) we can stop things in their track and practice just witnessing what is happening to us. We can breathe deeply if we want or turn our tongue in our mouths three times before speaking. Whatever quenches the fire is worth practicing. That's one level of it. On another level we can actually undermine the occurence of such things by practicing the opposite of each. To never have greed in this world we would have to all be good faithful practitioners of generosity. I have always been impressed with the generosity of some poker players here. A lot of people have a good heart. Yes, they want your money, but they don't mind doing it in the context of a fun competitive game between friends. With anger we must practice compassion. Anyone who has ever listened to the words of the Dalai Lama knows how reoccuring this message is. It is of utmost important to the world. Compassion in poker, as in life, is to walk in the shoes of another. The fool who has just sucked out on you was once you and he is a reminder that we are all born quite foolish.

Lastly, wisdom is to be practiced too. As we ammass it we are called upon to use it. I know I have quite a big bag of quotes I like to pull from, but it is really not wisdom yet until it becomes the very thing I emit when others see my actions.

When the Buddha sucks out on you on the river he smiles, but he does not do it to spite you. Do not feel anger. He is just recognizing that something wonderful just happened.

Play well fellow practitioners,