What a Downswing in Poker Can Teach You About Life and How to Keep Moving Forward

Katy Perry was right, after all.

“Cause you’re hot then you’re cold,
You’re yes then you’re no.
You’re in then you’re out,
You’re up then you’re down.
You’re wrong when it’s right,
It’s black and it’s white.”

While she may have been talking about indecisiveness and/or relationships in her hit 2008 song “Hot N Cold,” I’m talking about life in general, and how my online poker graph pertains to it.

For the past five years, give or take a year or two, I have been playing online poker almost exclusively on America’s Cardroom. Back in my heyday of online poker I played on quite a few sites, but the options are few and far between for American players these days. I have posted my graph below, for all to see, and posterity’s sake. Ok cool Noah, but what the heck does it all mean!?

MCRused on America’s Cardroom (April 2021)

Now, the first thing that jumps out to you is the red line and how it just seems to zig and zag, move up and down as it keeps trucking on. Think of the beginning of the line as the beginning of your life, when you’re born. Your lifeline, basically. You start at zero. You’re nothing. You can’t talk, you can’t walk. You can’t even crawl. But slowly, and surely, as you age, your motor functions begin to grow, and you grow too. Your mind, your body, your experiences.

The bottom of the graph represents the number of tournaments I’ve played. The left side of the graph labels how much money I’ve made (in profit). the dollar signs are significant wins or “in the money” finishes I’ve had that boosted my total cash amount. When you see those sharp spikes, I placed high in the money and either won, or took second or third in a tournament (where the most money is made).

Think of those sharp spikes as momentous moments in your life. Think back to when you met your best friend. How about your first kiss? I know, when you started high school, or even got your driver’s license. Pretty big moments in a kid’s life, right? It may seem so at first, which is why I thought I had a couple early scores that were pretty nice for close to $1.5K in profit. But as we look closer, you can see I really started to make some money the more games I played.

I was suddenly an adult, with more life experience. I was off to college! I had my own apartment! Shoot, I had my first real relationship even. Now I hit $6K playing poker on America’s Cardroom! Life is good, isn’t it? All of these would trump the kid stuff, looking back of course. Surely most of you would agree that your adult moments would top your moments as a teenager. Heck, I’m even more sure that we’d all laugh at our old selves and how cool we thought we were when we first got our driver’s license. Just like I thought reaching $1,000 was nuts. Kid stuff, really.

As with all good things though, we mustn’t get too high when things are good, because as my graph, and surely life shows us, it always comes down. We have to prepare for that. We can get a brand new car with that fresh license we have and get rear-ended a week later. Even if it’s not our fault. As in poker, we won’t win every time we play. It’s mathematically and physically not possible. You will lose at some point. That’s life. That’s variance. That’s poker.

Now, the point to these negative moments happening is to minimize them, if possible. If I get rear-ended, I have car insurance (hopefully you all do) to cover the damages. If I lose my job, I have money saved up to withstand things for a bit. If I lose a poker tournament, I have a bankroll to support that. One loss does not define me. One bad day does not define your life, either.

Unfortunately, it takes some of us a lot of experiences in life to learn those lessons or to reach the point of each day not leading us to ruin. I’m pretty vocal and open about my past mistakes. My poker graph is just like my life. Slow and steady, I was humming along greatly, and then BOOM! I ran into a wall and went downhill. Whether it was physically, mentally, emotionally, you name it, I tried it and went through it. I lived it. I dug myself out from it. I had to rebuild.

In poker, I won a lot of money (topping out around $10.5K) and then lost a lot of it by playing higher stakes and above my skill level. I began to play when I was angry, tired, drinking, you name it, I was not playing when I should have been. Or played poorly and it affected my game greatly. Just like in life, if you treat yourself or others poorly, it will affect you. And those around you. Your life can suffer because of poor decisions. One minute you win $3,500, the next minute you receive a call about a loved one dying. Extreme example, I know, but life has no bars. It has no rhyme or reason.

Finishing fourth for $3,500

The good thing is, that as long as you have your health and are free, you have an opportunity. I was able to rebuild my life many times and continue to do so. That’s the beauty of life, and the curse, time keeps moving forward. There’s always time, until there isn’t. At some point, that red line will end. It will go flat. 

This graph shows only tournaments, it does not show cash games. I have played a little over 450 tournaments just on this one site (America’s Cardroom) and made around $3,500 to date. Not bad. Not my peak, but not bad. Do I wish I could go back? Certainly. But I can’t and you can’t. We can’t dwell, we can only learn and move forward.

What would you say about your current life situation? Honestly, would you say you are at your peak? The absolute best of your life thus far? The hopeful answer would be yes (I truly hope your answer is yes!), but we have to be honest with ourselves. There’s always room for improvement.

We all have regrets. We all wish we didn’t enter those $500 tournaments when the $50 ones would have sufficed. We all wish we didn’t date that one person, or move to that one state. Whatever it is. We’ve all been there. We can always improve moving forward. We can always go up. Knowing that we’ll stumble and fall; we’ll go down, but will not be knocked down for good. We won’t reach zero just yet.

Until then, keep peaking. Keep moving forward. Keep playing poker.

  • Noah Watry @ https://noahwatry.medium.com/
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  • To purchase my latest book, “The Game of Life and Poker,” click here, available only on Amazon.