Poker Philosophy in The Terms of Life
It might be time for an update; apparently it’s been almost ten years since the previous one. For now, I’ll begin by introducing myself. My name is Olli Mikael Rundgren and I’m currently 34 years old.
I was 24 years old when I wrote my first post on poker forums, which may have revealed my disappointment and pain, both with my own life and the world of gambling, if one were inclined to read between the lines. At the time, I wouldn’t have believed that the idea of turning aside easy cash would attract such interest. In the end, my story amassed over 100 000 reads. It’s thought-provoking to return to one’s old writings; writings, that, on some levels, reflect my worldview during my twenties. I can now say I was, at least in part, lost in my life.
My decision to give up on the millions that surely awaited me in the world of poker turned out to be one of the most significant events defining my life. Along the way, there were several times when I questioned the logic behind my decision. Even so, I believe that through endurance, a sum of coincidences and asking the right questions, I’ve opened up a new world of possibilities. A world where poker credits, even if numbering millions, have little meaning and clink like empty promises.
My long search led me to something beyond amazing. When I decided, almost a decade back, to leave behind the world of games, I never would’ve thought it’d lead me to a completely new one, playing a game approaching the limits of human comprehension, one that I hadn’t even dreamed could exist.
But let’s start at the beginning.
Know your game
Playing has been a part of my life since I was a teen. I remember skiving off the last class in upper comprehensive school, pedalling with burning thighs through the flurry of winter on my way to the local youth group. My mind was on the ping-pong table and the long haired leader with the ripped jeans, whose scalp I dreamed of hanging on the wall. It wasn’t until later that I realized my brain was after the dose of dopamine that only a game and the feeling of winning could provide me with.
My youth was spent with sports and chasing after a ball, until my best friend and I discovered Texas Hold ’em in the year 2005, a version of poker provided by some foreign gambling company. This was before the poker boom hit Finland; the concept of a professional poker player was non-existent even in the ethereal realm of thoughts. The beginning was spent merely observing; The whole thing had the stench of a pyramid scheme. The whole concept seemed nonsensical.
Even back then, we were already the epitome of innovative and inventive. It didn’t take long for us to realize the perks of the still fledgling Nokia networks. We created extra accounts under the names of our mothers to take advantage of the benefits of playing as a group.
Naturally, we knew this wasn’t allowed, but there were endless excuses to hide behind:
”How would they catch you doing this?”
”Who could keep track of something like this?”
”How could someone on the other side of the world know that their opponents were sharing their cards with each other?”
”The competition is on the other side of the ocean! Everyone could be using the same exploit!”
We played Sit & Go’s, transferred chips to save each other from losing when possible. Sure, we had one hell of a time and the mood was ecstatic.
The sham added a level of excitement. It was oh so thrilling, with the support squad at our backs cheering us on as we defeated our common foe. Sometimes the girlfriend of the time would grumble from behind us, with arms crossed; you’re going to get caught! It was nothing more than background noise for a group of young and clever bucks, full of life and vigour, the unnecessary moral sentiments easily dismissed with a smattering of laughter and youthful sneers.
I can still remember that feeling after a victory. We triumphed together, exchanged high fives and rejoiced in the genuine glee of success. Some overweight rednecks somewhere in Texas just got their just desserts! Barring a small twinge of guilt, we felt like we deserved our win. Each one was celebrated with a hearty meal of kebab. We did it!
In the end, it only took a few weeks of playing before our accounts were closed and all of our winnings frozen. Apparently it was possible to get caught for this kind of thing after all.
We were in a total panic. Oh gods, we’re going to prison – at the very least getting a criminal record! What’s going to happen to our careers?! We passed the blame for the idea’s origins back and forth like a game of tennis.
A couple of weeks were spent waiting. We were afraid of consequences that never actually arrived. Beyond that, we didn’t feel any real shame over what we did. The biggest fear was that of getting caught, someone finding us out.It is easier to live with bad conscience than with bad reputation.Friedrich Nietczhe
Once upon a time, Socrates noted that “moral reasoning is about seeking the truth.”
Platon’s brother Glaucon was considerably more pessimistic. He believed that our moral reasoning was simply a case of searching for a justification for our actions. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between the two.
Platon might have been one of the first social psychologists. He described the human thought processes incredibly well. Later on, science provided proof for many of his observations. People with especially good self-esteem have to keep proving to themselves that they’re good people. The search for justification of our actions can make the human mind come up with the most outlandish explanations to support their worldview.
Regarding my best friend, my poker table partner and one of the most talented people I know, they eventually became a successful professional poker player. Back then we never would’ve thought we would once feel professional pride over being a poker pro.