Your poker philosophy should be built on two principles: aggressiveness, and honesty. Aggressiveness is a given. Anyone who plays the game for any length of time quickly learns that the person who takes command and control of the poker game has the best chance of scoring a big win. But honesty? What's up with that?
It would seem like honesty and poker are mutually exclusive concepts. After all, victory in poker comes from deceiving your foes, convincing them to bet when they should fold, fold when they should raise, and in all ways respond to the false signals you send out. What is the bluff-poker's fundamental building block-if not an elaborate and strategic lie?
Maybe this will clear things up: When I talk about honesty, I'm talking about self-honesty. It's fine to tell lies to other players at the table; you're right that that's part and parcel of the game. But telling lies to yourself is something that simply cannot be tolerated. Just look at all the trouble it can lead to.
• You tell yourself you're not really tired, and stay in a game long after you've stopped thinking clearly.
• You tell yourself you're not overmatched, and stay in a game against strong and dangerous foes.
• You tell yourself you're not playing too loose, and let all sorts of bets leak out of your stack.
Can you think of other lies that could lead to trouble for you or for players you know? I'm not asking you just to think about that. I'm asking you to really ponder the question and get involved with the answer on the deepest, most articulate level.
Because here's something else about your poker philosophy: It's proactive. If you're not vigorously involved in improving yourself as a player, then you're wasting time, opportunity, money. Maybe this is how you should think about aggressiveness: It's not enough to be aggressive as a bettor, you must also be aggressive in getting better.
So I'd like you to do me a favor. Write up a little list of all the ways you could be more honest with yourself about the choices you make playing poker. You don't have to judge yourself harshly, or hold anything against yourself, and when you're done, if you like, you can burn the list, lest it fall into enemy hands. Do, though, tell yourself the truth, because nobody's perfect; but everyone can be honest, and I'll tell you with all the courage of my conviction that the more honest you are with yourself-and not just honest but honest and articulate-about why and how you play the way you play, the better your game will get.
That's not a philosophy. That's a fact. Remember: Deception is what you do to others; delusion
is what you do to yourself.