Seriously? Poker?

One of the main ways to develop your intuition is to listen to it and act accordingly. Lately I’ve been calling this “obedience” as a way to bully my ego into doing what intuition is telling me to do. The principle is simple: if intuition shows you a door, don’t ask what’s behind it, just walk through it.

(Side note: this is all after a few years of training this thing I’m calling “intuition” to be a manifestation of the highest and finest frequencies of love and intelligence that have my best interest at heart, and will refrain from making suggestions until I’m ready for them.)

So there I was, staring at YouTube with this funny itch at the back of my mind that I’m supposed to be looking for something. And then it hit me: poker. I should be looking up poker. Of all things…

Despite my love of playing cards, I’ve never liked the game. I don’t like gambling, I like games with reasonably quick endings, and as a spectator it just looked boring. In years previous I had spent time with my father in-law as he watched poker on ESPN and was completely baffled at how anyone could watch a bunch of guys playing cards and not be bored out of their minds.

Well, this was no time to be willfull. Soon I found myself watching the final table of the 2012 World Series of Poker. This one table of 9 players took 12 solid hours to play through. No, that’s not a typo: it took 12 hours for a winner to be declared. 12 hours of watching the same guys in the same clothes sit there, hour after hour, playing a game of cards with only a few minutes break here and there.

And you know what? I was riveted. I watched every single minute of that table. Suddenly it all made sense.

On the surface a lot of you know why already: you get to watch the energy move around the table. You can see strength build and recede, tension and exuberance, deceit and observation. In a sense it is a master class on how to watch other people’s energy.

But that’s just for the losing players. The fact is, that stuff only gets you through the intermediate stages, and quickly becomes a distraction if you want to win.

The winning players do something that most of us need years of meditation to master: they keep their energy levels completely even, and focus all of their attention on that simple effort. Whether they win or lose a hand, whether they get good cards or bad, they are always calm and their energy barely shifts. Literally millions of dollars are moving around the table at the turn of a card, and they remain impassive. They relax, they calculate, they make the correct decision given what they know.

They are, in a true sense, Zen masters.

The winners of the game do not get there by aiming their attention at observing the energy of others. Rather, they achieve victory by observing themselves, questioning whether emotion has clouded their reasoning, and putting all of their attention on an unshakeable frame of mind.

From there, the intuition about the people around them happens naturally, as a kind of side effect. Those who are spending all of their time trying to be observant quickly reveal themselves, and only those who focus on remaining calm and clear prevail.

Here, then, is a new path for spiritual growth. Volumes of poker tutorials are written entirely focused on managing your emotions, ensuring that you can ride life’s roller-coaster and enjoy the trip from beginning to end while still having a clear view of the whole journey. These are not religious texts or ancient tomes revered for their pedigree, but modern practical how-to documents whose popularity lives entirely in measurable results.

So it turns out intuition steered me right again. I have a new school for spiritual growth, and one I wouldn’t have ever considered before. It’s just another reminder when the source of all knowledge and love in the universe reaches down and gives a little direction, you shouldn’t wait to understand it before acting on it.

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