Monday, 16 February 2009

Texas Holdem Poker and Buddhism

No limit Texas holdem is considered by many to be the 'Cadillac' of poker. It certainly has become a very popular past time/sport in the last 5 years. The reason? The skill involved in being able to read another player's motives, not by words, but just watching and observing. In poker, we call this a tell; 'a usually unconscious bodily movement or gesture that gives away the players hand strength or motive'.

I have enjoyed playing in a few home games over the last couple of years and found my ability to meditate on other players movements and tics has been of great benefit when it comes to the game. In Texas Holdem, its said you play the player and not the cards, and this is true, not only for poker, but in a metaphorical sense for life as well.

In Zen, many times you'll hear teachers and masters talking about communications without words. When we can learn to listen to the motives and intentions of not only others, but our own mind, we can begin to lift the fog of Samsara. I know we have all experienced this in our lives many times, that one person you know very well, whose look can give you the message without a single word. I know my ex-wife had that look and my mother too. Wait....I'm sensing a connection here...but I digress.

Perhaps, if we can learn to be present and observational, we can learn to listen to the communication of the unspoken. It is said 80% of communication is done via body language or tone of voice rather than the words themselves. I think that number is much closer to 100% if we care to listen close enough to the universal language of the unspoken.

Or, I could be bluffing.


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  2. Thanks, Kyle (and Danny) for helping me justify my gambling habit! I've been playing since I was 14 and always enjoy it. :) I think mindfulness, for me it is more a matter of having a cool estimation of the odds with my cards than reading others' bluffs (though I think mindfulness helps a lot there too).

  3. bluffing is lying though, isn't it? lying is negative karma. also when one reads how to play poker it is often about how to take advantage of other's weaknesses and exploit them. when a bad player comes to a table most players look forward to taking their chips. all in all a negative pastime in many ways.

  4. It's a game. And everyone knows and consents to the rules, the bluffing, the competition. It could be good dharma practice in my opinion.

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