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Keep Your Powder Dry: 10 Things Babies Teach You About Poker

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15 years ago I witnessed the birth of my son.

5 weeks ago I did the same (or similar), only this time I had a daughter.

She is so beautiful and angelic. But she has also turned me into a nervous wreck with a facial tick and a willingness to play chicken with trains.

Every cloud has a silver lining, though. My poker game has improved. Here are 10 things my newborn baby has taught (or reminded) me about poker.

1. Babies Teach You How to Fold

We've all been there. The first time we ever played poker we wanted to see every hand.

Be still.

“But I might flop something,” is the generic response to a 100% VPIP stat.

Over time we learn that the art of poker is learning how to fold. Although it's annoying to pass up the chance of playing 72o in the big blind, it's an essential fundamental.

Newborn babies are boring as shit. They don't do anything except get on your nerves.

They even throw out a few bluffs by pretending to smile when they have trapped wind.

You have to learn the art of stillness when you have a child.

You need to be able to sit with them in your arms and just do nothing - very much like folding when playing poker.

2. Babies Teach You How to Stay Alive in Tournaments

The sole focus when you begin a tournament is to stay alive. Phil Hellmuth is one of the masters of this and it's why he's won 14 World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets.

Your sole focus as a parent of a newborn is also to make sure they stay alive.

You have to sterilize their bottles so they don't catch Ebola, feed them very two hours so they don't starve and try to breastfeed them in bed without rolling over and crushing them with a tit.

Be like Phil and stay alive.

By learning to keep babies alive you also learn how to stay alive in poker tournaments -- especially ensuring you don't get crushed by a tit.

3. Babies Teach You About the Long Term 

We all know that the greatest poker players on the planet earn that title by successfully making money over the long term.

Any idiot can win money (or even a major world title) in the short term. But it’s the painstaking approach a pro gives to the long term that’s important in poker.

The same happens with a newborn baby. There are times, in the short term, where it might be +EV to throw them out of a window. But it's not an effective long-term strategy.

The key to getting through the newborn phase is knowing that one day they will talk and listen so you can tell them to sit down and play on their PlayStation while you finish your online poker tournament.

4. Babies Teach You How Precious Chips Are

Every poker player knows that the poker chip is the most valuable of things. They are fuel, and without them you cannot function.

The most valuable of things.

But when my newborn came along I found something even more precious. Guarding it has helped me understand the importance of keeping hold of every single chip.

I am, of course, talking about breast milk. Forget gold, diamonds and bitcoins - the most important ‘thing’ in the world when you have a newborn is breast milk.

“Why won’t you give your daughter formula milk?” the highly educated doctor asked me after her birth.

“Because she is not a cow.”

There is also the added complication of becoming terrified of each feed because of the amount of gas that formula milk creates.

So, breast milk becomes more important in life than Hellmuth's white magic. Don't spill a drop.

5. Babies Teach You The Art of Control

In poker you need to learn the art of ‘control,' and having a newborn helps. 

You cannot control your baby's cries, their feeding times or any of their actions. So it makes no sense to develop anxiety over a set of circumstances that are beyond your control.

When they cry, you need to learn to find empathy instead of frustration and understand that any reaction on your part is -EV.

Find empathy, not frustration.

You can’t control the deck, the dealer or the other players. Reacting in an anxious, tilt-stricken way is just -EV.

6. Babies Teach You to How to Hide Your Tells

One of the best body postures in poker belongs to Martin Jacobson. I love the way that he creates this intense, almost granite-like presence at the poker table.

I have stolen it when dealing with my newborn. I can walk around the room with her for hours.

She will be fast asleep. But as soon as one hair touches that crib she is as alert as Will Kassouf on crack.

She is always bluffing me and I always fall for it. The only way I can put her down is to fight fire with fire. I have to be like granite.

Be like granite.

I cannot look her in the eyes or she picks up on my tells. I have to lower her gently and try to bluff her into thinking that I am still by her side.

7. Babies Teach You to Make Moves

You need a few moves up your sleeve if you're going to become an exceptional poker player. The same applies to a parent of a newborn.

There is only one goal and that's to get them to sleep as fast and as often as possible. If they could sleep until the walking-talking phase, like Sleeping Beauty, I would take that. 

So you develop moves. You sing the Dirty Dancing theme in a deep voice ONLY when you need them to sleep.

You sing the Rocky tune when changing their nappy to stop them from kicking that shit everywhere.

You rock them, bounce them and hum to them all in the name of 2-3 hours of absolute bliss.

8. Babies Teach You to Put in Long Hours at the Tables

If you're a cash-game player you know that very often your times at the table are dictated by the presence of the fish. Sometimes a whale comes along and you have to put in a 24-hour shift. And that's tough.

Fortunately, having a newborn prepares you for the long shifts. Not only are you sleepless for the 42 hours of labor that precede the birth but you don’t get to sleep more than 2-3 hours per day for the next three years.

Perfect prep for poker.

It’s perfect practice. And if you're a mother it's even better because chances are you won't be able to sit or lie down for six weeks after squeezing a grapefruit out of a hole usually used for the access of much smaller fruits.

9. Babies Teach You The Art of Patience

Impatient people don't make it far in poker. You need to learn to keep your powder dry.

You cannot play hands that are ineffective just because you are bored. You cannot get fed up of folding.

You cannot allow your outspoken opponent to goad you into playing out of position with marginal holdings.

If you don't have patience with your newborn then you will go batshit crazy and your child will grow up with some serious Daddy or Mummy issues.

Newborns can smell fear a mile away. If you are impatient they pick up on that shit and create havoc in your life.

Learn to meditate while walking up and down the stairs for hours on end to get them to sleep; it will do your poker game a world of good. 

10. Babies Teach You The Importance of Mentors

If you want to get to the top of the poker world, find someone who has the t-shirt and ask them to show you the ropes.

Learn from the best.

It's a sure fire way to get to the top but you have to pick the right person.

Hiring a Doula for your birth is worth its weight in gold. If you pick the right person then life becomes so much easier.

There is a wealth of experience when it comes to parenting newborns. Don't try and do it all yourself.

Learn from those who have successfully reared newborns in the past.

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