Sloe Times

A journal of my adventures in learning and growing personally and professionally

Saturday, July 30, 2005


As the blogfather "suggests"

Ok, I'll admit that my attempts to separate and 'focus' my writing here make for a lot of growing pains. This is especially true when something meaningful comes to mind and I want to write about it even though it doesn't fit with my theme. I've resigned myself to the fact that this is probably going to be the exception that will become more the rule over time. Being a thinker of things and human being with more than one interest in life it occurs to me that I will never be able to escape thinking and talking about poker. The latest assault on my attempts to isolate was a post on Iggy's site about how bluffing == lying && lying == failure, forced me to respond. Now wouldn’t you know it, the particular post that I wanted to respond to doesn't allow comments? So I dropped him an email to which he responded, "Man, you should just post that to your blog - its real good stuff." Well, with that kind of a response I guess I can't refuse. And since I'm posting it, I'll take the opportunity to clean up many of the grammatical, spelling, and other errors that were in the original.

Iggy said the following about how lying is necessary to win in poker, "In poker you have to lie to win; in life telling lies will only make you lose." Since the comment in context was regarding the parallels of poker to life outside of the poker room it seems necessary to point out that he wasn't suggesting that poker players are all liars and in fact was suggesting that this fact was where the similarities broke down. Later on, he reposted the following from someone else regarding elements within the game, "Poker is a game of strategy and deception." and "Poker is a game of manipulation and pressure." I disagree with the deception aspect of the first statement (since it clearly is related to bluffing defined as lying) and very much agree with the second statement. My thinking in this is that if you perform an activity long enough, you will revert to type. So unless you're a pathological liar you can not effectively bluff if bluffing is lying. This reasoning may be why most professional players suggest that the pros make little use of the tool. What follows is my argument for why the pros probably bluff more than the standard definition would indicate and why it is a useful tool and how it should be used.

A macro examination of the (my) decision tree when evaluating what to play has nothing to do with lying or deception and everything to do with exploiting a perceived weakness in other players. Upon further review perhaps this thinking would not be categorized as bluffing, but the unanalyzed activity is the same so I’m taking the longer view of the topic and perhaps what follows will provide other students of the game fodder for coming to their own conclusion.

Most definitions of bluffing are simplified as playing a very weak hand as a very strong hand. I’ll concede that this could very well be the case for the uneducated players. The problem I have with the definition is that this would seem to indicate what Iggy says is true and that by bluffing you are indeed lying. The problem with this and perhaps the problem people have with bluffing in general is that people have a hard time lying to other people. Their bodies tend to give them away in subtle ways that makes it difficult to utilize an important tool in poker play.

Since I object to the basic foundation that bluffing is lying, allow me to present bluffing in a more effective construct of two phases and their usage. The first phase of bluffing is used when you’re playing with people you have no experience with at the table. Recognizing that you’re playing with little or no information about your opponents you will default to a mode of discovery and standard play tactics. What this means is that you want to use your advantages of position, odds, and opponents lack of information about you as best you can. You would use bluffing in this case to push people sitting on marginal hands out of a pot or discover the players who have strong hands. I’ll stress again, that bluffing in this case has nothing to do with lying and is generally a tool for information discovery. Who plays aggressively or passively? Who are the calling stations? Who’s playing weak and can be pushed around? Using this first phase of bluffing generally has little to do with your cards because you’re attempting to exploit relatively cheap opportunities to learn more about the players around you. The key here is to remember to fold against credible resistance. The goal is to gather information, not to measure the size or tensile strength of your balls.

The second phase of bluffing has nothing to do with your cards and everything to do with utilizing the information you have about your opponents. You’ve now gone beyond trying to gather information about a given player and are now using that information to exploit their style of play and what they think they know about you. I’m not suggesting that you play blind (that would be silly), however you’re now in a psychological battle rather than a battle of best hand. By bluffing your garbage/weak/inferior hand against an opponent you’re not trying to convince them that you have better of it. Instead you are trying to convince them that whatever they do have is not good enough. A very subtle point I admit, but an important one. You’re now drawing on your experience with the player, the patterns they’ve exhibited; any tells they may have or your own gut instinct to identify when your opponent has likely played a marginal hand, and you want to apply the leverage of your knowledge to give them the mental nudge that they’ve played their marginal hand at the wrong time. They’re already worried about it if they’re reasonably savvy, so why not help them out and ‘confirm’ their fear with a push in the right direction?

I hope I’ve demonstrated that in either case of using bluffing you are not lying. Instead your motivation for the play is distinctly different and not influenced by the desire to deceive your opponent. However, there’s a bit of classic wisdom that comes from the world of limit hold’em that goes something like – You can’t bluff a calling station. Applying what I’ve described above, you’ve applied the thinking of phase one and determined that someone is a calling station and that analysis should tell you that the person has effectively removed a tool from your bag. Trying to apply any of the thinking from the second phase of bluffing against this person is a complete waste of time. The reason for this is that they simply lack the fear that they might be beat. They don’t care because they’re playing the losing strategy of thinking that if they’re in enough hands, they’re going to make them often enough to be a winner. The philosophy is pretty simple. You have to play to win and you can’t win if you’re not playing. So the technique is to minimize the investment on hands that are not obvious locks (check, call, repeat) and try to hammer their opponents when they do hit the jackpot. The reason I say this is a losing strategy is because smart, observant, players will usually not be involved in the hand or divine based on their experience with the player when to get out of the way of the two or one outer that just made their premium hand second best.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Getting on track

A long time ago, at my first consulting job, as part of what I can only guess now was a self improvement effort sponsored by the company two books were handed to each consultant. One was "A discipline for software engineering" a very typical and dry text book on the subject. The second book was "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", also a relatively dry and tough read on the subject. Oddly enough, I still own both books and over the last 10 years have carted them around and made them a permanent part of my library. I can't recall at any point having actually cracked the cover of either book. Ever.

Anyway, I figured that if I was going to start seriously making an effort to make a career shift I should make sure my fundamentals are good. To that end, I consider the concepts of the seven habits to be part of that foundation. I still can't really bring myself to read it but I have gotten the audio book version and in going with the practice of reinforcing things you learn through teaching, I'll share my notes and thoughts on the course with you here virtually and later this week with my wife.

My understanding of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Paradigm - A perspective or role
Habit - An internalized principle; an overlapping of knowledge, skill and attitude or knowing what to do, how to do it, and why to do something and wanting to.

Changing habits involves dealing with the chronic issues as opposed to the acute instance of a problem. The only way to effectively change your habits is to treat the chronic problems. Attempts to only treat the acute issues can result in other chronic issues.

Effectiveness - The P PC balance. P stands for is the production of desired results, PC stands for production capability. Effectiveness is leveraging PC to achieve P.

In any organization there are three basic resources - Physical, Financial, and Human.

If you don't maintain the production capability, short term results of production can not be sustained over time.

Production problems are production capability opportunities.

To improving relationships utilize the following six ways to build the emotional bank account with people:
1. Simple kindnesses
2. Honesty
3. Making and Keeping Promises
4. Managing Expectations - Problems come from conflicting role and goal expectations
5. Loyalty - Greater to be trusted and respected than liked.
6. Apologize when you fail in any of the first 5

However, if you focus too much on the PC, this can be a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. There still needs to be a touch point with reality and the goals that you're trying to achieve.

The maturity continuum is visualized with dependency at the low end, independence in the middle, and at the upper end interdependency.

Dependency – This is the attitude of you. Dependant people need others to get what they want.

Independency – This is the attitude of I. Independent people only need themselves to get what they want.

Interdependency – This is the attitude of We. Interdependent people need themselves and others to get what they want.

You can not be effectively interdependent on a team without first being successful at being independent. A dependant person can not effectively communicate if they feel at risk of obtaining their needs or goals due to the dependency on others.

Being independent provides the confidence and foundation to effectively work interdependently with others.

The habits are grouped as character habits (1-3), personality habits (4-6), and reinforcement (7). The habits taken together when applied will take you from dependency to independence, and on to interdependency. This is done through building the foundation of character.

Habit 1 - Be proactive

Take responsibility for yourself. Being proactive allows you to adapt and achieve your desired results regardless of external forces. Being reactive can obscure your goal through the external events that derail your progress.

By keeping the goal or desired end result in focus, you can choose how to respond to external events that would normally stop you in your tracks and keep you from your desires and needs and take control of events rather than let events control you.

Being proactive means having the freedom to exercise the options of liberty. The difference being that liberty means you have many options where freedom is an internal condition that gives you the power to choose.

The first habit, be proactive, is the habit of being aware of your control of how you react and respond. Using the goal or end result as your focal point, you exercise your values and principles to achieve those results.

Habit 2 - Begin with the end in mind (Leadership)

How do you foster being proactive? Develop the mission statement and set up the reward and information system to reinforce your desires identified in the mission statement. Applying principles of leadership focuses you on the goals you want to achieve and provides the feedback loop from the day to day activities so that you can validate that your actions are contributing to your goals.

The mission statement is used as the criteria by which all decisions are made. The mission statement should pertain to your organization and your situation. It centers you around a set of principles, values, and purposes that transcend the day to day.

Two basic ways to get in control of your life:
1. Set a goal and work to achieve it
2. Make a promise and work to keep it

Control of your life builds self confidence which is the first step to independence.

If you were to write your own eulogy, what would you want said about you on in the following aspects of your life:

1. Family
2. Friend
3. Working Associate
4. Public Servant

Habit 3 - Put first things first (Management)

Taking the results of habit two and making it happen. This habit is your scheduling around your roles and goals to make them happen.

Time Management Matrix:
Quad 1: Important & Urgent (Problems or Crisis)
Quad 2: Important & Not Urgent
Quad 3: Not Important & Urgent
Quad 4: Not Important & Not Urgent

Important means it attaches to habit 2, your mission statement, your roles, and goals.
Urgent is things that are pressing upon you, gives a sense of urgency. For example a ringing phone that demands your attention, may not be important.

I can't think of one activity in my life that if I did superbly well and consistently that would produce 'marvelous' results. This goes for my personal life, work life, or public life.

80% of the results flow from 20% of the activities -- Plato

The fundamental capacity to be able to work in quadrant two is being proactive.

You don't think efficiency with people. You manage things, but lead people.

Habit one (vision) requires self awareness
Habit two (leadership) requires imagination and conscience
Habit three (management) requires willpower

These endowments make up the concepts of character that generate a sense of independence and self reliance. You will build your security off of your integrity to your value system.

Habit 4 - Think Win, Win

The attitude of seeking mutual benefit through communication

This is a philosophy of life that you apply to conflicts, especially when it involves the things that are very important to yourself and/or the people you are interacting with. When you can't achieve a win, win solution, there is another option besides win, lose or lose, win. This other option is the "no deal" solution where both parties agree to disagree.

The basic elements of the win, win agreement:
1. Desired results
2. Guidelines
3. Resources
4. Accountability
5. Consequences (positive and negative results from achievement or failure)

Habit 5 - Seek first to understand, and then to be understood

This is the habit of communication.

Only the unmet need motivates. The key to effective communication is meeting the unmet need of understanding and being understood.

To be able to create the win, win outcome, you must first be able to listen. Really, really listen and understand the perspective of the person you're interacting with. Using what you heard and clearly understood you can then express your feelings and perspective to your target. Once both parties have achieved understanding, you can then develop synergies.

Most people see the world as they are, rather than as the world is. Individuals are not wrong in this view because it is a matter of perspective.

By meeting the need to be understood you are also meeting the need to be appreciated, and people feel validated in their position which opens them up to change win, lose or lose, win situations into win, win opportunities.

Habit 6 - Synergize

Produce new solutions to the differences between us, better than the individual proposed solutions.

Compromise means 1+1 = 1 1/2, when you compromise something is lost from the sum of the parts.
Synergy means 1+1 = 3, 4, or more. When you synergize the result is greater than the sum of the parts.

The significant problems we create can not be solved by the thinking that created them - Albert Einstein

Habit 7 - Sharpen the Saw

This is the habit that is implemented by exercising the four dimensions of human personality to maintain the first six habits.

Four dimensions of human personality:
1. Physical
2. Spiritual (value system)
3. Mental
4. Social/Emotional

The key to maintaining these four dimensions is finding a balance to building on each of them consistently.

Some things to remember

The whole history of institutions can be summed up in the following formula:
Challenge is external, Response is internal. If the response is equal to the challenge then you will have success. If the response is obsolete it will lead to failure.

Principles remain, practices change to address different situations. Practices can become obsolete. However, principles are the foundation used to develop practices and can not become obsolete.

Imagine two circles on a page, one circle within the other. The inner circle is representative of your circle of influence, or the things in which you can have a direct affect. The outer circle (which is generally much larger) is your circle of concern. These are things that affect you, but that you do not have any direct control over. The seven habits when applied correctly will focus your activities within your circle of influence.

Friday, July 22, 2005


Funk be gone

As things stand now, I am having to take a harder look at how to move forward mostly solo in this endeavor. As a kind reader suggested, perhaps it's just changing up how I choose to invest or what I choose to invest in. Fortunately, I have at least set my goal even if I haven't quite figured out how to reach it.

That goal dear reader is simply to invest in things that will supplant the income I currently work for. There are times where I actually like what it is I do for a living and now is just not one of those times. Of course having that feeling makes the desire to replace it with something else even stronger than usual. At least I think I understand my motivations in wanting to be rid of the dependence on a job where I could lose my income at the whim of management. Granted that's not an eminent threat or fear, but it is the reality of working and the root of the problem. You either have a job or you do not. I would be happy to not have a job if I had an alternate stream of income to replace it so that I could at least maintain my current lifestyle and housing situation. Until I achieve that though the axiom holds, "I like food, therefore I work."

So back to figuring out how to achieve my goal, now without the support and partner that I thought I had in the trek. Looking at my personal strengths, I'm fairly confident that I can solve the problem. The risks along the way are staying motivated, not getting distracted by things that are not core to achieving the goal, and recognizing progress, however small, so as not to get discouraged along the way. Back in the before time when I started this blog, I said then that one day at a time was the way I was going to measure my progress. Of course I also think that was a pretty binary approach... Did I post today? Yes, great I achieved progress. No, try and make up for it tomorrow.

Well, as time wore on and I allowed other things not core to what I was trying to achieve invade I slipped in my posting, slipped in my poker playing, and generally faded away. I'm not sure if there's a lesson to be learned or if I have yet since I knew then just like I do now that it does require dedication and that by applying some focus to it I will make progress. It still all boils down to keeping the demons that like to eat away at the little time that exists in a day at bay.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


This song's just six words long

I'm kind of at a loss for the moment. One of the most relevent pieces of advice in just about every book on REI and many of the websites and forums that discuss the topic is that if you have a spouse they have to be on board with doing it. A few weeks back when I sat down with my spouse she was as committed as I was. Now that some time has passed it just seems that there's every number of other things that keep her away from any level of study that we could then use to bounce ideas off of each other and work towards formulating a plan. Frankly it kind of pisses me off. I haven't really figured out what to do about it but try yet again to sit her down and see if she's really committed to doing this. The worst case situation is that she's not, and then what? *sigh* It goes without saying this would be so much easier in just about every respect if I were single and say five years younger. I'm at a loss at the moment.

Monday, July 11, 2005


A Vacation is a terrible thing to waste

So I took last week off from pretty much everything that I could and it was good. On the other hand perhaps it wasn't so good. Too much time to think and re-think things really causes the OCD to kick into overdrive. I'd say I'm a detail buy but the reality is I can get really wrapped around the smallest details and never look up if I don't catch myself. Of course being aware of this character trait is only half the battle. As I continue the learning and information absorption process I have to continuely try to not fixate on every little detail otherwise I'll fall into the analysis paralysis that could really sabotage my efforts. I'm about half way through my current book and it's been a little slower going than expected. It's quite the balancing act having a job(career?) and trying to develop the knowledge and skills to make a shift into an unrelated area.


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