Rush Poker, as Zen practice

by PokerAnon ~ January 7th, 2011. Filed under: Philosophy and approach, Poker and life, Rush/Zoom Poker.

I haven’t been playing much lately, what with some vacation on top of seasonal activities. But I’ve been antsy and wanting to play. The easiest thing for me to do when I’m busy and distracted like this is to pull up Full Tilt and play some Rush Poker. I play $10nl there because not much of my bankroll is on Tilt and I’ve never been able to consistently keep the balance over $400. Plus I don’t have rakeback so I try to direct most of my playing toward PokerStars.

But playing against $10nl players can be very tilt-inducing when you’re running bad. It gets frustrating when you keep getting it in on the turn against half-stacks with an overpair or two pair and the guy hits a set with his underpair that he couldn’t fold. Or the guy makes a river bet that makes no sense but you’ve only got air so you can’t look him up, plus you’ve got no fold equity because he’s left himself with almost nothing left in his stack.

Top this off with some latent frustration bleeding over from somewhere in my daily life these days and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Not a very costly one, since it’s only $10nl, but a poker disaster nevertheless.

I know that I’m better than almost all the players that I’m sitting at the table with, but that doesn’t mean that I can force my blind steal into a winning hand. Or that my AK that I three bet from the blinds is going to win when I miss the flop and the turn.


What I’m trying very hard to do is to consciously turn this into a Zen practice.

I'm not sleeping...

The first attempt ended up being one of those “try — and then forget to execute” types of situations. We’ve all done those before. Told ourselves to fold more often, told ourselves to fold when we meet aggression post flop, told ourselves to not pay off opponents who chase draws, told ourselves to not try to outplay opponents who can’t fold bottom pair on the flop. And then in the heat of battle we promptly forget. In this case it was me saying, “Hey, let’s treat this as a Zen practice,” and then a moment later I’d forgotten. I remembered later on, but again I forgot a few moments after that.

The second session was more successful. I started using the breath counting exercise. Inhale – one, exhale – two, inhale – three, exhale – four, and so on. Once you reach ten you simply start again from one. But the problem is that poker interferes. I play two instances (tables) of Rush Poker at a time and when I reach three or four I usually have an action to take and can’t keep counting. So I replaced this with flipping back or checking back to try to be aware of my breathing. Every moment that I’m not required to use all my attention on poker I try to be aware of my breathing, to listen to my breathing.

Listening to my breathing was much more successful. I was much more aware of my body and much more balanced and relaxed. As a bonus, I also had my first up session after 4 losing ones, and only the second up session in the last ten or eleven sessions. But this is only the bonus. The real benefit is how I felt during and after the session; more balanced, less frustrated, and enjoying the experience of playing poker again.

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