Lee Jones: Experiencing life/poker balance

Lee Jones poker writer
Lee Jones
Posted on: October 14, 2023 24:00 PDT

Setting the scene

This morning, I woke up in an AirBnB a few minutes northwest of Lansing, North Carolina, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I drove into town, laced up my trainers, and did two laps around the extended town park for a 5k run, admiring the fall colors and envying the fishermen who were already tossing flies onto Big Horse Creek.

Then I went back to the house, and made an exquisite omelet (hint: avocado and salsa are killer ingredients).

This afternoon, I went further up Big Horse Creek (unlike poker, the fishing is better away from the tourists). I caught 5-6 beautiful trout, all returned to the water with a minimum of fuss.

Then I came home, fixed dinner, and settled in to write this piece. I didn't consume a byte of poker content all day.

What's your point?

I thought you'd never ask.

I've had the best poker results of any one-year period of my life in the past one year. I've had the best poker results of any two-year period of my life in the past two years. These are both significant, because I've been playing and studying poker seriously for almost 40 years.

I'll be writing more about that in the coming months, but it may not appear here. You see, quite a while ago, El Jefito, Brad Willis, and I came to an agreement. Instead of cluttering the pages of this website with poker strategy writing, I would send strategy pieces to PokerCoaching, Jonathan Little's training site.

What follows here is certainly poker strategy, but if I sent it to my minders at PokerCoaching, well... they might feel it's a hair too "meta" for a proper strategy site. But Bradley S., he'll get it. And I hope that he and Dave W. will give me a pass on strategy content. So here goes...

A balanced life is more important than a balanced range

I have an engineering background, so when my poker results tracker confirmed my sense that I was winning more consistently than I ever had before, I wanted to know why. If for no other reason than it would be good to have a checklist to review when the inevitable downswings come.

The first thing that struck me:

The meta-game improvements I've made are every bit as valuable as the actual at-table strategy changes.

One of the big ticket items has been nestling poker into its rightful place in my life.

Look, I love this game. And I am a constant, avid consumer of poker content. Sitting here 3,000 miles from home, and all the attendant joys and responsibilities, it would be easy to disappear down a black hole. The Thinking Poker podcast, Only Friends, vlogs by Andrew Neeme and Jaman Burton, the PokerCoaching Discord, and constantly refreshing PokerOrg for new stories. An effectively infinite supply of content and nothing to stop me.

Except that back during the darkest days of the pandemic, I had an epiphany: life has absolutely zero guarantees. No doubt many others had that lightbulb moment, but it hit me square between the eyes. Ever since, I've led my life knowing that the next pandemic, whatever and whenever it is, could take me with it. And that's if something else doesn't get me first.

So I constantly, and consciously, review how I'm spending my time. For instance, when I wake up 50 feet from a Blue Ridge trout stream on a crisp fall day, I don't mindlessly go where The YouTube Algorithm wants to take me.

This all makes me a better poker player

The benefits of this mindful living are enormous, but since this is a poker website, I'll let you in on something: it makes me way better at poker. With poker occupying the right proportion of my life, when I'm studying GTOWizard, I'm glad I'm doing it. If I'm sitting in a $5/$10 NLHE game getting clobbered, I'm blissful. I'd rather win, but I set aside time to go play poker, not go win money – I'm doing exactly what I wanted to do.

This perspective means that I don't tilt near as much. I run big bluffs when the time seems right, because I'm not emotionally attached to the results – I'm intellectually attached to playing as well as I can. I don't trade in bad beat stories, and I am equanimous about everything that happens. It's hard to overstate how much that improves my poker results. It's one tiny drop in the bucket full of improvements this mindfulness accrues, but when I'm sitting in a poker game, I'll definitely take it.

This seems like a logical place to end this little meditation. That, and I'm up early tomorrow to be on the creek for the morning hatch.