The Other Side
by Gavin Griffin | Published: Mar 01, 2017
On Nov. 8, 2016, I was playing poker.
Everyone at the table where I was playing was surprised as the results rolled in. There were others in the room who were excited, but for the most part, my tablemates were upset. One of the players in the game said it was his biggest losing day ever because of the election. I’ve spent lots of time since that night thinking about those others in the room who were excited.
Most poker players, especially the ones I know and came up with in the poker world tend to be more liberal. At the very least, they’re of a more hands off stance politically. You do what you want, I’ll do what I want, and if nobody is hurting anybody else, no big deal. Some, however, take a different approach and think more conservatively both fiscally and socially. I don’t have a problem with anybody having their own beliefs. I have been okay with many Republicans in my life and came close to voting Republican a time or two. I disagree with the tactics and approach of our President, but I still want to try to understand the people who voted for him and those that continue to support him while he does some things that I very much don’t agree with.
At this point, I’m sure many of you are thinking that I should stick to poker, and I appreciate you giving me a little leeway, as I’m actually going to bring this around right now. I think one of the greatest skills a poker player can have is buried in my previous paragraph. In order to be good at poker, you have to be constantly questioning your skills and your approach to the game. Much like I try to understand why someone might support candidate Trump and especially President Trump, I also try to figure out why someone made a play that I think is questionable.
For instance, if I see someone call me lighter than I ever expect they would in a spot where I think my distribution is very value heavy, I try to figure out if I have more bluffs in that spot than I should or if my particular line or sizing indicates a range that I hadn’t considered.
A more concrete example is this. In 2-7 triple draw, I saw someone who I think plays pretty well most of the time draw two on the end against a pat hand in a pretty small pot. Sometimes I’ll do this if I’m breaking down a hand that I think is beat that I was planning on standing pat with, say a 10-9-7-3-2, especially in a three-way pot where the first player stood pat. But, in this instance, it was pretty clear to me that he was never planning on standing pat at any point, that his intention when he called the bet on the previous street was to draw two cards. I was fairly certain that this was a poor play, but because it was someone who I think plays relatively well most of the time, I’m interested in finding out some more about how the math breaks down in this spot as it’s something I hadn’t really looked into too much in the past.
There was a time when empathy was thought to be a solely human trait. While that is really no longer the case, (scientists are pretty sure that dogs, orangutans, mice, and even chickens feel empathy) it’s still a major trait of humans that we can at least attempt to feel what others feel and imagine how their experiences have shaped them. I’m trying to apply empathetic thinking to my life more and more. It’s easy to empathize with my daughter, as her main emotions are hungry and tired, ones that I’m very familiar with. Much harder to empathize with at some times are my sons, especially my oldest, who feels emotions so much more deeply and fully than I do at this point in my life.
Many of us have trouble empathizing with those we consider different from ourselves politically, socially, racially, economically, those that are born in a different country. It’s hard to understand where someone is coming from, especially when it’s very different from our own experiences. Attempting to do so, to understand a person’s or people’s point of view instead of blindly shooting it down and attempting to understand why a person made a play at a poker table that didn’t make sense at first can be an enlightening experience. Doing so every day can make you a better poker player and a better person and I hope everyone reading this is striving for both of those things. ♠
Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by HeroPoker.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG