When I was 8 years old my All-Star baseball team played in the Dizzy Dean World Series (DDWS).
Our squad had had an amazing year, going undefeated through the District and State tournaments.
The DDWS was held in our hometown of Chattanooga, TN and teams traveled from 10+ hours away to compete.
For youth baseball it’s the final All-Star tournament of the year and it’s for all the marbles.
And we shot out of the gates like bats out of hell.
We smashed our way through the winner’s bracket all the way to the championship game vs. perennial baseball powerhouse Canton, GA.
Canton ended up in the loser’s bracket when they put up a dud in the semi’s vs. the South Haven Mississippi Rebels.
We crushed the Rebels after they beat Canton, Canton got redemption by knocking the Rebels out, and then it was down to us vs. Canton for all the little league glory.
I remember gameday like it was yesterday.
Since we hadn’t played Canton yet my mom asked my (then) stepdad Gene how he thought we’d do on the car ride to the ballpark.
Gene replied, “They have about a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Canton.”
What the fuuuuuuck?
But even at 8 I was not shaken.
You wanna tell me I can’t do something?
I will exert every ounce of my being if only to spite you.
So, naturally, we got smoked in the first game.
It was like we were playing against 10 year olds.
It wasn’t even close.
I watched my teammates sob and clearly remember thinking, “It’s not over. We still have one more game to play.”
And we played like demons.
I was playing 2nd base for the final out.
We were up by 3 and the batter hit a sharp groundball to our first baseman, Zack King.
Zack gobbled it up, tagged first base, and we were the champions.
Cue the music.
The snowball had told hell to fuck right off.
The home bleachers erupted and my teammates and coaches were beside themselves with joy.
But not me.
I was as stoic as ever.
I felt excitement, of course, but mostly I remember just feeling relieved.
And for many years afterwards I would wonder why I hadn’t celebrated like everyone else.
I’m halfway convinced I became a professional poker player just because everyone told me I couldn’t pull it off.
But I still carried that weight of high expectations with me while I played cards.
It did not serve me well.
Losing sessions were met with frustration, anger, and pain.
Winning sessions were met with, at best, relief…
At worst, I would ruthlessly berate myself for mistakes that would have meant a more profitable day.
I expected perfection.
Perfection meant relief…
Falling short meant pain.
That might be an ok way for you to become a winning player.
But it’s not an ok way for you to enjoy the journey or love yourself.
If nothing ever changes you’ll most likely end your poker career burning out spectacularly and forever cursing this card game through clenched teeth.
So the wisdom I want to share with you today is this:
Take the time to savor your victories … no matter how small.
Whether you final table an MTT and bust in 8th place, rip off 3 buy-ins when you feel like you should have won 5, or simply took the time to memorize your preflop opening ranges…
Allow yourself to sit with that feeling of accomplishment.
As Munia Khan said, “We should learn to savor some moments to let time feel worth existing.”
And please forgive yourself for making mistakes or falling short.
No matter what expectations you’ve set for yourself playing cards, you’re going to let yourself down on an almost daily basis.
Life’s too short to feel miserable while playing a game you love.