Sunday, September 28, 2008

Perfectionist

I normally have some idea what I'm posting about before I post, but today I am possessed of an urge to write with no real idea what to write about. I like themes usually, to be able to take a half-dozen disparate ideas and tie them together with a neat conceptual bow, but this last week has been too weird to make that work.

After my last post and my brush with Marky_Crash, the latter very graciously signed my Poker Room guestbook. I had thought that an end to it, until the following Sunday and a ten-dollar Fixed Limit Hold 'Em tournament in which we both were entered.

I did badly at first. In fact, the whole of the first hour was a series of bad beats and narrow scrapes - I came within a couple of hundred chips of busted at least three times, and would have been happy to go out in the top half of the forty-odd contestants, let alone win. But one of the great things about Limit - and one of the reasons why I have almost exclusively switched to it now - is that no matter how bad it gets, you can always come back.

After the first break I resolved to at least make it to the final two tables. This I did, just, and thereafter I decided to strive for the final table. Again, I just about made it. Lo and behold, Mr Crash was there, among other equally skilled players. I felt fortunate to have qualified for such company, money or no money.

I played well, better than usual if I'm being honest. Five players fell and suddenly I was in the money, totally unexpectedly. Just how far could I take this? I wondered.

I have always said that poker's main attraction for me is the narrative. Every poker tournament is a story, a tale, a journey and travail: the language of poker is not just the unfamiliar words (sorry Kavita) but the application thereof, the story of each hand, the battles and skirmishes. I am shocked that there are not more films and novels about this game.

In a film, of course, Marky_Crash and I would end up head-to-head at the table. A titanic battle would ensue, culminating in a do-or-die hand where he would turn over pocket aces and I, the amateur, against all the odds, would somehow prevail.

Bizarrely enough, this is precisely what happened, and I won $164. Marky was most encouraging, probably more than I would be after being robbed with those aces. A true gent.

Since then I have been pretty much on a losing streak, or at least what seems like one: in actual fact my win rate has been rather higher than usual since then (sticking to Limit seems to have helped) but my ROI is negative. Bad draws, high pairs buggered, every flush knackered by a slightly higher one... poker players see patterns everywhere, justified or not, and it's hard not to believe the Poker Gods are trying to redress the balance, put me back in my place.

But then that's what it means to be an Adaptive Perfectionist. We don't just revise downwards, but upwards too. Nothing's ever quite good enough. Every success is just a waypoint to something better: every failure a questioning of self. It entails a belief in a universe both fair and unfair - unfair because you must work harder than everyone else, get luckier, be better, for the same measure of success; fair because you have to have faith that your work will in some way be rewarded, that there is a logic, a system, something more than just pure random chance.

Can a person survive without some faith in logic, in cause and effect? Are these things, these totems we cling to, important because they're real or because they're not?

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