Skipping Through Schiphol

No blog posts these past few days for a variety of reasons. Scant free time, for one thing, for between work sessions and social gatherings after, well, Amsterdam, like gas, expands to fill the available space. Besides, much of those doings were cloaked in, if not exactly secrecy, discretion; I could tell you, but then I’d have to hit you with a large pillow. And that would be weird.

The biggest problem was that I shifted hotels, and while the new place was much more centrally located (and much closer, crucially,  to the Holland Casino in Max Eueweplein), it had — henceforth and forever the benchmark, by definition — the world’s sketchiest internet. I’m not saying that the wireless signal was weak; I’m saying that sometimes it would spontaneously deconstruct, taking my whole computer with it, necessitating an entire system reboot. I could barely upload a tweet, much less a picture. I decided to wait and post later, rather than look in the hotel mirror and watch my own head explode.

So now I’m in the British Airways lounge at Schiphol Airport, which is pronounced “ski-pole,” not “she-pole,” which makes no sense to me, since every other word in Dutch seems to come fraught with a mind-numbing and phlegm-inducing collection of guttural “ch” sounds. Don’t get me wrong: I love Holland and the Dutch and everything about them, but their language reminds me of a question I was asked once after a trip to Wales. “Now that you’ve been there,” someone said, “do you find the Welsh language pleasing to the ear?”

“Well, yeah,” I replied, “compared to Klingon.”

With work (and attendant socializing) completed, I was determined to make my way to the Holland Casino and see if I couldn’t iron out a few slackjaws over a friendly game of no-limit Texas hold’em. I’d been there before, and I’d kind of gotten crushed, for the Dutch play their poker fast and hard, and they’d gone through me like the proverbial freight train through the wind. “The thing you must understand about the Dutch,” I’d been told at the time, “is that we are all either farmers or pirates.” Well, okay, then.

Still, I’m a different player now. Thanks to my ongoing transformation under the tutelage of Decide to Play Great Poker, I enter every game I play feeling like finally, at last, I really know what I’m doing. Both globally — my goal for a given game — and locally — my play of every betting street on every hand — my default state of mind now is “dialed in.” That’s a consummation devoutly to be wished. (And always the standard disclaimer: though I’m co-author of the book, all the great conceptual stuff — the transformational stuff — is Annie Duke’s, not mine.)

Anyway, the details of the session don’t matter much, except for this: I had my choice of games, a small one against weak players, or a larger one against some weak players but also several very good ones. In past I’d have chosen the smaller game, seeking the softer target with the attendant lower risk of “getting hurt too bad.” This time I went for the big game, and even though I knew it was a tough lineup, I also knew I could beat it. All I had to do was play as tough as they played. And now I can.

You know, I don’t want to beat the dead horse of this, but the more I think about the impact of Decide on my game, I’m aware that it’s less about the lines of play I’ve learned than about the underlying confidence I’ve acquired. And the larger point is this: You can do something for a long, long time, think you’re really pretty good at it, and then suddenly, if the circumstances are right, experience a whole order of magnitude’s growth. It’s worth keeping in mind. Life is long. When we think we’re stuck, or plateaued, probably we’re not as stuck or plateaued as we think.

But don’t think I spent all my free time at the poker table. I walked Amsterdam, and walked and walked and walked it. Something about the city — so flat, so small, so full of the Dutch  — I could (and did) stroll around for hours. Yes, yes, yes, I saw the Red Light District and the coffeeshops (holding each at appropriately anthropological arm’s length) but that’s not really the point. It’s not even the point that the Dutch are so mellow (except for the pirates). It’s that I feel so mellow when I’m among them. Is tranquility infectious? It in Amsterdam, at least for me.

Okay, pictures, then out. I’ve got a plane home to catch.

More later, -jv

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