This is my fourth and final post in my series about why I've reduced my
poker time to only two or three hours a week, and why I likely won't
be pursuing it even as a part-time pro in 2008.
Some people have a view that the point of life is simply to “have
fun” or the “pursuit of happiness”. I have a
number of friends — most notably W.D. — who
hold this theory of life quite strongly.
Despite many debates with them, I simply don't believe this. I believe
that human beings have an inherent obligation to make a life-long
contribution to society. Perhaps I read too much Kant in college,
but the fact remains that my fundamental philosophical life focus
goes back almost completely to a single line in the Groundwork
of the Metaphysics of Morals I read on the bed of my dorm
room my sophomore year:
take every action, as if, by acting, that
action were willed into universal law.
I realize that many modern philosophers reject Kant as overly
simplistic and meaninglessly formalized. I know that some of Kant's
work is sophistry to justify Catholic dogma that I've personally
rejected. However, I ultimately remain compelled by this
Frankly, I can only justify time spent doing something as frivolous as
poker to the extent to which it clears my head from my day job which
is focused on improving the world. When I talked about poker not being
about the money, I discussed how I got deep into poker as an
escape during a burn-out period in my life's mission. That burn-out
is over, so I must again focus on it.
I do second-guess this philosophy at times. Once, a player that I met
in Boston — a predatory businessman type — told me that
he needed to play poker because it fed his preternatural instincts
to be the alpha male and destroy his competition. I rejected his
concept at the time, because he was generally opposed to causes to
help others. Such motivations were deeply focused on his own
success in a disgustingly Randian
However, years later, a dear friend of mine, who lives and works every
day in the same world-saving movement where I do (and has been in it
for even longer), told me something similar, saying:
you and I
need to play poker to feed our baser instincts since we spend our
days focused on helping other people. I took this seriously,
because this fellow is one of the people I respect most in the
world, and, unlike that other fellow, this guy has the
credentials of being someone who spends his days trying to
make the world a better place.
So, maybe this “feed your demon” theory of poker is true.
Maybe it is the case that poker serves to compartmentalize this kind
of competitive focus for everyone. I've always been someone
obsessed with competing with himself — comparing my own new
results to my old ones and deciding whether or not I've done better.
I always try to avoid lining my own accomplishments up against
others'. Regardless, even if this theory is true, I still think I
want poker to be a passing occasional activity in my life rather
than a deep focus. If I have this competitive need, which I
somewhat doubt is that strong (even if it exists at all), I am sure
it can be served with an occasional game of poker rather than the
near constant one I was in from 2002 until early 2007.