Poker & Belief Systems Part 3: Perspective

Ogmore Vale is a former Welsh mining community situated in the lush green valleys of South Wales, UK. It’s the home of 8,000 people, and for 35-years, me. 

There’s not a lot to do in Ogmore Vale.

Rugby.

Drinking.

Poker.

For the longest time, I helped run a local home game called ‘The Ogmore Poker Tour,.’ It wasn’t a great tour as we never left the pub, but we had a menagerie of great people. 

One of the most appealing characters went by the name Terry’ The Run’ Welsh, nicknamed so because he always had a straight at showdown.

Amongst Terry’s features were the face of a river vole, grey hair that had never seen a brush, and he wore a different concert t-shirt each week. He always played with five-pound notes and was the only guy I knew who would eat weed in between pieces of corned beef.

In any game in the world, Terry was the fish. He was the type of player who would pull in the occasional monster pot without even knowing how he won the hand, and for some reason that infuriated me. 

He was a station, and I couldn’t stop bluffing against him.

“I know you’ve got me, but there’s too much money in the middle, I call,” Terry would say, followed by a laugh, and my perfect perspective of how he should have played the hand.

Perspective has a direct impact on the creation of experience. In the last episode, we focused on the importance of raising awareness of where we focus our attention. In this episode, we’re going to learn that perspective is the angle from which we view the things we focus on, and we’ll use my run-ins with Terry to explain.

Perspective Changes; Events Do Not

I frequently lost my shit with Terry. The belief that I was the better player led to the thought that I couldn’t fail, and when I did, it produced feelings of anger, frustration and embarrassment. 

Writing this doesn’t evoke the same emotions showing that while an event never changes, your perspective of that event can. If Terry was to walk into Starbucks, right now, and I told him what I am writing, we would share a laugh – a complete reversal of the emotions displayed at the time. 

My interpretation of the event has changed.

Instead of looking at the event from the perspective that I am a better player than Terry, and that I have a divine right to win each pot against him, I am choosing the view that in poker you win and lose hands against every type of player. The fact that Terry kept making mistakes was a good thing for the game. My perspective shift also changes to an understanding that when he made a mistake, and I lost money, I was still making money over the long run. I was losing money when I played a hand sub-optimally. In switching perspective, my thoughts change, and most importantly, so do the emotions, and this makes an incredible difference to my beliefs.

And it’s not merely the experience that affords me this new perspective. We all have an inner child no matter how old we get. People who experience the same event differently, don’t suddenly agree on things 30-years later. Think of the varied emotions of a pair of figure skating champions who don’t win the one they were supposed to win. One could feel disappointed, while the other could feel gratitude for the right to perform. Time doesn’t necessarily change these views. 

The Avengers: Endgame Effect

While past events don’t change, stories do. How you tell a story changes the emotional intensity of it. All stories are based on perspective. I have one view on my battles with Terry, and he as another. 

The key is awareness of perspective.

Without awareness, there’s no way of using the power of perspective to change your beliefs.

Awareness hands you a lens, without which you would have no way of finding this fantastic part of your psyche because you wouldn’t be looking.

The Lens

When I first met Terry and witnessed his mistakes, I felt excitement and hope. When he won a big pot against me through playing a hand sub-optimally, I would become angry, frustrated and embarrassed. 

Love is another example.

When you first begin falling in love, the object of your desire may behave in some ways that you think are cute and endearing. Then after you decide to spend the rest of your life together, those traits become annoying and make you angry. 

You’ve altered your opinion.

You’re looking at the experience through the lens of annoyance, and not respect. 

Using Perspective to Change Beliefs

Switch lenses.

If you can grow awareness of the perspective, you can consciously choose to override your autonomous behaviour and decide which lens to view the experience through. 

Here is an example.

Earlier today, I asked my wife if I could speak to her, and she abruptly cut me off, closed the door, and walked away. Immediately, I looked at the experience through the lens of annoyance, and thought, “How rude was that? I must have done something to upset her.” Those thoughts then led to feelings of sadness, fear and anger. As the day wore on, I began to feel tired, irritated, and moody. 

Then I changed my perspective.

I decided to look at the experience through the lens of understanding. I know my wife isn’t naturally rude. I know she was preparing for an important meeting. I imagined her being nervous, and laser-like focused on her task, to the detriment of everything around her. I thought, “I bet she was feeling stressed and anxious and didn’t even realise that her reaction was curt, and led to me feeling this way.” I then began feeling gratitude, empathy and love. Over time, my mood changed, and I felt lighter, happier, and eventually spoke to her about the incident. 

I have an unhealthy belief that activated when my wife reacted the way she did. It’s also evident that I can change that belief by choosing to view my life experiences through different perspectives.

Perspective precedes thoughts, decisions and actions. 

The Switch

Choosing to look at the problems with Terry and my wife through the same faulty lens, means I activate the same emotions, and if I repeat those same incidents in my mind time and time again, then those emotions keep arising.

We have emotions that lead to joy, happiness, and thoughts of peace and tranquillity – all states that are healthy for the body and mind. Equally, we have emotions that lead to stress, anxiety and depression states that are unhealthy for the body and the mind.

Had I kept the same lens in both situations, and repeated the same scenario in my mind, then I am worsening my health, physically and psychologically. 

To delay entropy, we have to change something.

We have to adopt the stance of the observer. 

If you can review a hand of poker or an argument with a loved one, and write it out, or record it via audio or video, and do it in the third person, and do this often enough, it will become your modus operandi in everyday discussion.

Given that the mind doesn’t know the difference between an event happening in reality, and an event replayed in mind, we can cheat the system if we can utilise perspective.

Switching perspective by adopting an observer perspective is challenging at the moment. Still, you can choose to review the incident from the observer perspective, and in doing so, you remove the associated emotion, and this is the key to changing your beliefs.

Your beliefs are so powerful because of the heady mix of emotion. If you can turn the volume down on that emotion, you can find a way into the belief and change it. That’s what happens when you take an observer perspective. It’s also critical that the observer is flexible, sceptical and has an open mind. As you’re creating the observer, then make sure you add these three essential traits into the recipe.

Beware The Positivity Trap

It’s important to realise that changing perspective is not merely about changing your mindset from negative to positive thoughts.

Consider six people preparing for a cash game session. Automated thoughts generated by belief systems will consider a losing and winning session. The more positive person still has negative thoughts, and the negative person has positive thoughts. But because of perspective, the more confident person will view these thoughts through a more optimistic and helpful lens. The person suffering from low confidence does the opposite.

For most of us, there is more to learn from negative experiences than positive ones if we view them through the right lens of perspective. 

In the next episode, we look at how archetypes affect our belief systems.