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Make Room For Your Poker Face

Make Room For Your Poker Face
"An intense poker game with someone trying to keep their poker face. But make it in the style of Pixar." Midjourney AI 2/27/24

I sat down at the table with fewer chips than everyone else. I had never played poker with this group before. They all appeared to know each other's style and had me convinced two hands in the "Randy" was a poker god that no one would ever bet against.

So I slowly picked which hands I was playing and which ones I would fold. I paid to stay in some hands longer than I should have, but only if I knew what lesson I was trying to learn.

And then it happened.

I found myself heads up against the host of the event. And all I had was a pair of 7s. But the way he was betting felt different than the hands that he'd won earlier. I had position, so I checked and let him set the pace of the beating for the flop and the turn. But on the river, I was convinced I had my read of him right and I took it up a notch. He could have raised me and made me rethink it, but he called.

Ace-King high.

My pair of 7s held up.

And my stack was all of a sudden a little more respectable.

That same scenario happened with almost every person at the table, including "Randy," and I just kept holding to my reads and winning with hands that weren't the best, but they were good enough.

I left that night having tripled my money and made some new friends in the process.

The very next night, I would put all-in again. But this time not at a poker table.

A project that I've been working on for a few years found itself in a very tough situation and everything that I'd done to play at that proverbial table with proverbial taller stacks of chips was being called all-in and all eyes were on me.

I excused myself from the dinner I was at when I received the news and played the hand the best I knew how. And then I had to sit and wait. The rest of that night. The next morning. Feeling like years of work was about to disappear in front of my eyes.

But then as the final card was dealt, I saw that a winning hand was still possible and that all wasn't lost.

The 18 hours of waiting is the most impressive poker face I've held in a long time. But it was in holding that stare and keeping my emotions to myself that a win emerged, my all-in bet paid off and the chips on the table were eventually pushed my direction.

Being able to identify your emotions and state of mind in real-time is one of the reasons I love journaling so much. The act of just writing down the range of feelings that are racing through my head - and not sharing them with the world, or others at the "table" - feels like a superpower. One I am grateful to not have to use all the time, but one that I am grateful to know is there when a dark night of the soul shows up to play a hand. One that allowed me to let a little pressure out of the situation without anyone else seeing my bluff.

How do you release tension in real time without giving away your hand? What kind of tactics have you tried that worked out in your favor when you need to feel your feels couldn't step away from the situation at hand?

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