The Will to Poker

Who is this mustachioed gentleman gracing a poker blog? He is not a famous gambler of old. The ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche – one of the most influential philosophers in the last two hundred years – can pretty much be interpreted as having application everywhere, including poker.

He gets a bad rap because his writings have been co opted for nefarious political purposes in the twentieth century. *cough*Nazis*cough*

But despite that he has a great deal to say about humanity and, since it involves humans, has import when it comes to poker. An important theme of his writing was the notion of human feelings and actions; do they come from weakness or strength? He took nothing for granted. Judging an action is greatly influenced by that question. The very same feelings can be judged favorably in one instance if it is derived from strength and harshly in another if weakness is the motivating force.

So when a hard decision comes up at the table, the question to ask is, “am I acting out of weakness or strength?” Is folding top pair laudable in this instance or is it cowardly? If, having taken all the available information into account, the conclusion is that the hand is most likely to lose, then folding a strong hand would be coming from a place of strength. If however, a player had been bullied around in the hand and just wants to fold because a tougher player has scared and intimidated them, then that would be acting from weakness. It is both cowardly and does not befit a poker player worth his salt.

The same could be said for the converse situation. Ignorant pride and cockiness are tantamount to foolishness. It’s easy, especially after having done well at a table, to be too self assured and feel like every good hand is a winner. That is a recipe for getting taken by a slow played monster. If, by paying more attention to the available information, it is possible to determine that what looks like a strong hand won’t hold up, continuing to raise is foolish and ignorant – weakness.

For more on Nietzsche on this subject check out Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil. Actually he discusses it in many of his books. They’re all worth reading.

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