At Least I’m Not Insane

Monday, April 4th, 2005, 12:43 pm

How often do you describe someone as “insane”? No doubt the answer depends in large part on your personal circumstances. If you work retail, or have teenage children, or watch a lot cable news, you’re far more likely to encounter behavior that might be described as “insane”. Of course that’s just a colloquialism for any bizarre or aberrent or just wacko behavior, as few of us are practicing psychiatrists who carry official rubber stamps with INSANE written in backwards type.

Diagnosing someone as insane is thankfully not in the hands of the average citizen. If it were, how many people would be walking around free and clear in America? A few thou? No matter how benign and banal you may be, there’s someone out there who probably thinks you’re a kook. You voted for Bush?! For Kerry?! You VOTED AT ALL? You eat meat? You DON’T eat meat? You think she’s hot? You think you can eat that all by yourself? You think the Pirates will win the division this year?

You must be insane.

As anyone who watches cop dramas on TV knows, defining insanity is tricky. Any decent trial where the defendent pleads insanity will feature $325-an-hour experts who will testify, alternately, that the accused is a barking moonbat or an icily rational death robot. It’s up to the jury to decide which expert is correct, I’m sure the one with the more exquisitely tailored suit getting the benefit of the doubt more often than not.

There is a working definition of insanity that you might not find in a medical textbook but which has a nice ring of truth about it. It goes like this: “Insanity is performing the same actions repeatedly while expecting different results.”

Not bad. We learn from our mistakes, allegedly, and if we do something and get a negative result and then keep doing the same thing while honestly expecting a positive result, that’s not rational. If you stick a wet finger in a light socket because you think your nose will light up like Rudolph’s, and instead you wake up a day later in the hospital, that’s just stupid. But if the first thing you do when you get home is stick a wet finger in a light socket because you think your nose will light up like Rudolph’s, well…

For the last few weeks I’ve been that guy. Not electrocuting myself, but I’ve been performing the same actions while expecting different results. I play poker, badly, and expect to win. And then I play poker, badly, and expect to win. Not only do I play poker badly, but I’m playing badly while watching TV, reading blogs, writing, and shouting at my cats. And yet I keep expecting to win. Am I insane?

Perhaps. But no longer can we use my poker-playing as part of a diagnosis. Because after some careful and rational thought I’ve decided to stop playing. Not permanently, but it’s going to be awhile before I pick up chips again. I love poker. But lately it hasn’t been any fun. I believe it was Doyle Brunson who said that a game doesn’t interest him unless the stakes are so high that it hurts to lose. Well, playing at the $.50/$1 tables just hasn’t provided the oomph necessary to hold my attention. Playing higher limits makes no sense because I’m playing lousy and I’d just be losing at a faster rate. And even though I’ve only been losing like three or four bucks a session (and at work I make more than that in an HOUR, easy) those little losses cut me to the quick. I’m one of those hyper-self-critical people who can take a minor mistake and turn it into a hair shirt to be worn for all occasions. Getting nibbled to death by fish I used to bake in a 375-degree oven with a little lemon and onion is fucking with my self-esteem.

Plus I feel guilty when I play, because there are other things I should be doing. Like writing, which I bitched about not doing enough of in a previous post and was told by a commenter to shut up and go write. Good advice. There are ways of spending my time that have a higher EV than playing penny-ante poker. Hell, just getting more sleep would have a higher EV.

So, to sum up: Poker is no fun at the moment, I’m playing lousy, the games I play in bore me, and I have more worthwhile activities I need to focus on. The obvious question seems to be, what the hell took you so long? Well, maybe I’m just a little bit insane. Just enough to keep things interesting.

If anything I’ll be writing more, here and in other places and spaces, so the only difference you may notice, dear readers, is that there will be no bad-beat tales here. Someday, when I’m in the right frame of mind, and can adequately bankroll myself, I shall once again return to the fray. But they say that a poker player, if he hopes to be a long-term winner, has to be honest with himself. To be honest, right now I’m not even a fish. I’m bait. I think I just wriggled off the hook.

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4 Responses to “At Least I’m Not Insane”

  1. Chach Says:

    Best wishes in your other endeavors. I look forward to your future articles.

  2. Donkeypuncher Says:

    Just keep writing man. Help keep your readers sane!

  3. G-Rob Says:


  4. Drizztdj Says:

    I don’t think you can be a true poker player until you’ve had a bad run of luck with the cards.

    I’ll leave you one of my favorite quotes:

    “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome”

    — Charlotte Bronte

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