The Nature of Poker (Week 6) – Presence

Andy Black

At the heart of the debate that is central to one’s choices as to how you approach poker whether you are more mathematical or employ a variety of other more human skills as well is Presence.

Presence in some ways can be regarded as the foundation and touchstone of reading situations and people at poker beyond any mathematical models.

The book I am writing at the moment highlights the numerous ways that players can use different skills to improve their games and lives at the same time. Presence in all its different forms flows through the spine of many of the chapters.

For many years I have studied different sports superstars to find inspiration and direction for my poker game.

A pattern began to appear over the years that they were all “present” more so than their opponents who they defeated.  They were in the moment more fully and completely than others.
So what does that mean in practice?

Let’s just freeze life to one moment in time, one split second of a split second …just a moment!

At that moment, indeed any moment, what can we say is definitely happening?

Sensations …sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.

Anything else? Ah, thoughts of course.

Anything else? Mmm, maybe you could add a sense of being alive.

So in each sport (and poker), there is a goal …to defeat your opponents by performing better than them.

It does not matter which sport or indeed activity you choose, you will do it better if you are more present in each moment to the above list and not lost in the past or the future .

One way of describing being present is “you aren’t adding to what is happening in a given moment”.

Let’s look at an example that shows the difference between the greatest and those that are great but nonetheless not the greatest.

Michael Jordan by any standards was the greatest basketball player of all time.

So what made him better than the rest?

He was more present than anyone else.

Not just when he played but all the time.

He was more present to each sensation and he particularly understood that his thoughts were just thoughts and did not define what was happening right now. A basketball player misses millions of shots during their career and when he takes another shot part of the player is somehow in those missed shots either in the past or those shots yet to be taken.

Michael Jordan never considered he would miss a shot while he was taking it because he had not taken it yet!

Sounds simple doesn’t it but to not add anything at all onto a given moment is almost mystical in its rareness.

But it can be learned and it is measurable. Jordan’s opponents knew he was more present than they were.

So how do you as a poker player start the journey to being more present consciously?

We are all present it is just a matter of degree so firstly notice when you are more present and enjoy it.

When your actions or thoughts take you away from what is happening at a given moment at the table pause and come back to what is happening.

Your play will most likely be better and you will enjoy the experience more.

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Born in Belfast and resident in Dublin, Andy Black is probably Ireland's most famous poker player on the world scene.

Currently sitting 2nd on the Hendon Mob for Irish players with €4.9 million in live earnings, his largest scoring coming from a 5th place in the 2005 WSOP Main Event.

A regular supporter of all IPT live events for many years, Andy will be attending all future Irish Poker Tour festivals providing support and in-person training to players.

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