This thought occurred to me the other day so I thought I would write about it. Those of you guys who have seen my videos on DeucesCracked know that, at the beginning of every hand, I identify the players involved. Invariably, it boils down to three player types based on three psychological profiles. Those three are, in poker terms: bad-passive, bad-aggressive, and good-aggressive.
Bad-Passive: This player is afraid of risk and therefore only bets or raises when he is sure he is going to win. As a result, he misses a lot of opportunities. He also lets others dictate the terms of combat during a hand. Basically, this player bleeds away money until he runs into an unfortunate situation that costs him everything.
Bad-Aggressive: This player lives for risk. They seriously can’t get their rocks off until they’ve taken the gamble. Consciously or unconsciously, they’ll pay the extra theoretical money to take a bad gamble because the rush is worth it for them. I’ve seen these guys bet tens of thousands without even considering their cards, just because the endorphin-rush kicks in and they get high. These players are capable of compiling massive wins when luck is on their side; but, they are usually first to bust, first to tilt, first to get angry and disappointed, and the first to blame others for their misfortune. It’s great to be a bad-aggressive player on a good day– on a bad day, it’s the worst.
Good-Aggressive: Whenever I coach poker, I always avoid making blanket descriptions of the “good-aggressive” player type. In trying to give my students quick insight into the way bad players think, I made it really simple. However, really good players are complicated. They are aggressive (but not overly). They can be passive (to trick or trap their opponents). In short, you can’t give a one-liner silver bullet solution to defeating good aggressive players. (You can silver-bullet bad-passives and bad-aggressives, though; respectively: “Fold if he raises” and “Call if he raises”).
Most of you guys already know this stuff. So why write about it?
Well, it occurred to me that those personality types transcend poker. In fact, they exist in every day life.
Passive people let others dictate the terms of their lives. They don’t position themselves to take advantage of opportunity. In fact, they often purposely avoid opportunity in an irrational (sometimes openly irrational) attempt to limit their risk. This can mean money, work, relationships– anything. Do you find yourself afraid to go up to a girl at a bar? It seems risky? Consciously you probably know that you have literally nothing to lose. Your best case scenario is that you pick up a sexy/smart/cool girlfriend. Yet, you avoid the risk and stay firmly planted to the bar. Or maybe you’re annoyed by a co-worker, a friend, or a girlfriend, but you decide not to deal with it and just let the whole thing play out naturally. If this sounds like you, you probably fit the passive stereotype. Don’t worry, though– we’ll talk about it in a minute.
Aggressive people seize control of situations, but they often do it recklessly. A friend of mine, eager to dive into the entrepreneurial culture, blew through tens of thousands of dollars riding the wave of a cool idea (with little chance of success). In fact, the money was spent so quickly that it was gone virtually before his co-workers realized that they’d received no value. Imagine what the people who funded homegrocer.com were like. “OMG everyone’s making so much money… let’s throw more in! More! Let’s see how big it can get!” Pretty much describes the dot-com bubble. And the financial crisis. And the financial crisis before that one. If you’re constantly bored by your work, you dream of sick yacht parties or playing bass in a sold-out Madison Square Garden Arena, and then you actually spend your time and money on it, you’re probably an aggressive person. And you probably like jumping out of airplanes for fun too.
Here’s the beautiful thing about life, though: we all can change.
When I first started playing poker, I was undoubtedly in bad-passive-land. Even while I was cruising through the 2+2 forums getting premium advice at zero cost (the good ‘ole days), it took me 18 months before I finally became a winning player. A year and a half! About 540 days of actively trying not to be passive and actively failing. Turns out, we can change, but it’s not easy.
Eventually, though, I gained control of my fears of risk and started seizing the opportunities in front of me. My mind took over and my heart took a backseat. And, as a result, I started winning. Now, I’m considered one of the loosest and craziest players in my games, yet at the end of the day I still go to sleep with my passive foundation tugging at me. I hate debt (even GOOD debt), I often leave my plans up to other people, I am almost always the first one to cave in a disagreement. So, despite my training, there is still work to be done!
And, for all of you bad-aggressives out there, there’s room in the middle for you too. To this day, I believe the best players in the world started as bad-aggressive and slowly worked their way towards good-aggressive. Simply put, controlling the terms of engagement is the surest way to secure a conclusion in your favor. It doesn’t have to be reckless, arrogant, or dictatorial– some of the best leaders are extremely aggressive in their pursuit of positive aims. So, I’m going to make an active choice to grab hold of life and make it better, both for me and for everyone else.
This blog is going to outline how I do that, whether it’s building things (I have a new website on its way, which I’ll blog about when we launch it), learning things (blogging in Chinese at some point I hope), and of course, beating poker games.
‘Till next time