Why do you play poker? It is the simplest question, and has the simplest answer. Yet, in years of coaching, I have found it one of the most fundamentally misunderstood concepts.
Not many people actively ask themselves why they play the game to which they have devoted considerable time and effort. And if they do, they invariably come up with the sort of answer that is symptomatic of a flawed approach to the game.
Answers like these:
‘I play poker to win money.’
‘I play poker because it means I can take a day off whenever I choose, not whenever my boss chooses.’
‘I play poker because I am competitive.’
‘I play poker because I don’t want to work a 9-to-5 in an office.’
Do any of these sound familiar? Are you the sort of player that plays poker because the alternative sucks? Are you the sort of player that plays poker because it enables you to beat opponents and feel good about yourself?
MOST GOOD POKER PLAYERS THINK THIS WAY TOO
If you are, that’s fine. Most good poker players are the same as you. They want to prove something to others, to point to their Sharkscope rankings and say ‘hey, see, I have achieved X, Y, and Z.’ Or to take their parents on holiday with their poker earnings, as if to say ‘look, mum and dad, I’m not a screw-up! This game can make me rich!’
I know I did, when I played full-time. I played poker for all of the reasons mentioned above, and several more besides.
I played poker for every reason, except the only truly valid one. The one valid reason that is at the heart of the great players’ approach to the game.
The great players play poker to become better at playing poker.
It’s so simple, yet so often misunderstood. The game is the goal. Money; fame; admiration: these are consequences, not goals.
WHAT IS INSIDE-OUT POKER?
I use the term ‘inside-out’ poker, for where the player is motivated to enjoy and improve their game, and the pleasant upside of money and respect may follow naturally. They ensue organically from playing to become better at playing.
However, if these consequences become primary pursuits then it will lead to disillusionment, to self-judgment, and to a fundamental discontent with the nature of the game. Every losing day will feel like a failure. The temptation to check results after every session will persist. Studying will seem like a chore, because you could be grinding some extra volume to boost your ranking. This is ‘outside-in’ poker, where external considerations drive your approach – and it’s the quickest shortcut to disillusionment and burn-out.
WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM DOYLE’S APPROACH TO POKER