The totality of Invariance.Poker's philosophy fundamentally revolves around the concept of Self-Remembrance based on three authors: P.D Oupenksy, G.I. Gurdjieff, and J. Krishnamurti. Their philosophy is the study of the workings of mankind and our Inner World - that of the human mind, our thoughts and emotions, the observation of it all, and what can we actually do about anything.
The synopsis is that we are in a state of waking-sleep, lacking any true free will. We do not actually do anything, but everything is done to us and we only react through triggers. Our goal then is to continually observe ourselves, see our peculiarities, and work on slowly waking up by increasing our Perception.
The context to understand these ideas can easily be seen at the poker tables. While we all think that we are unique and free individuals, just like we all think we're good poker players that run bad. Poker will show otherwise. Very few individuals at the poker table do not react the same to the same triggers. Most of us will lose ourselves once certain triggers occur, such as losing a hand.
While our individual peculiarities and degrees of reaction are different, we all tilt when we take a bad beat, fear a check-raise, and have our emotions tied to the chips. We let events at the poker table dictate our moods and emotions, and have no control over what emotions arise under certain triggers. Can you find joy in a bad beat?
‘The Observer is the Observed’ is one of J. Krishnamurti’s underlining thinking. As poker players, we can see this idea in context if we can imagine ourselves standing over a player who is also us, watching ourselves playing. We are the Observer, but we are also the Observed. This state of mind is the state we want to be in. It is an active and objective way of see’ing the world not through the perspective of a Player, but through the perspective of a Railbird.
P.D. Oupensky speaks of varying levels of Consciousness and Man; that some of us are more asleep than others. We can see this at the poker table. Some of us are more perceptive of what is going on with the game and within ourselves than others. Our level of perception is different.
However, each one of us at any given moment can increase our level of consciousness and perception, though holding onto that level is a different matter. This concept can be tested anytime by anyone, by simply turning our attention to our breathing. The moment we do this, we remember ourselves, and that we are alive and breathing. This is the State of Observation where the mind is still and thoughts cease to arise. It is, however, very short-lived. This elevated state of consciousness cannot be proven by anyone but the actual experiencer, the Observer.
Unfortunately, we cannot hold onto this state of mind very long, and soon enough, we lose ourselves in thoughts and forget ourselves. We no longer remember that we are breathing and that we are alive, and enter back into the state of waking-sleep where our actions and emotions are dictated by thoughts based on triggers outside of us. We are no longer Mindful.
G.I. Gurdjief speaks about ‘Work’; work in this context is anything that will put us back into the State of Observation and help us build up the endurance to remember ourselves for as long as we can. Again, we can see and apply this concept at the poker table. Sometimes, when we are in big hand, we will watch ourselves carefully to not give away any tales. In this heightened state of mind, we perceive more. We start to see the thoughts and emotions that arise, and notice all types of movements in our body, including our breathing.
That is ‘Work’, and our goal is to keep iterating that process of Self-Remembrance. Each time we do it, we increase our mental endurance to hold that state of mind for just a little bit longer. Most of us can only observe ourselves for a few seconds before we lose ourselves. We are very mentally weak, and our goal is build up our mental endurance. If we can hold our mind still and observe forever, that is Enlightenment or Nirvana.
In applying these concepts through the Lens of Poker, we have discovered that Poker not only gives us context to these ideas, but also provide a practical and systematic way to exercise on these ideas. We grow in the outer world through movement; endurance in the Inner World is built through stillness. By continually applying these concepts at the poker table, we slowly increase our ability to still our mind, thus elevating our level of Perception. As our mind grows stronger through the exercise of observing, we eventually gain control of our thoughts and emotions, and become Mentally Fit. Add in Yoga and Meditation, and we can be Totally Fit.