#193: “The Lighthouse”

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There is a famous story, often co-opted by speech-writers, which describes an encounter between a large naval ship and what appears to be another vessel on a collision course. It usually goes something like this:

Released by the Chief of Naval Operations, the following is a transcript of the radio conversation between the British and the Irish off the coast of Kerry in October, 1995.
Irish: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
English: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Irish: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
English: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Irish: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
English: This is the aircraft carrier HMS Brittania, the second largest ship in the British fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that YOU change your course 15 degrees north, that’s one five degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.
Irish: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

Though it almost certainly never happened, this nautical parable is a lesson in humility, a warning to those who might think themselves too important to yield or too stubborn to budge that there are immovable objects and irrepressible forces in the world. It is a reminder that we are human and vulnerable and ultimately fragile, no matter how much we try to believe otherwise. Most of the comments to my last blog and most of the conversations I have had with other players seem to indicate that the current crop of poker pros feel like they are, in the words of Jamie Flynn, ‘survivors’.

And well they might. Today’s average poker pro is a lot smarter than the average pro from days gone by. Collectively, they have a greater comprehension of the logical and mathematical fundamentals of the game. They understand variance better and they have a wider array of tools at their disposal to shore up leaks in their game, should they develop. I also agree with Liam O’Donoghue’s point that modern pros have a better ‘work ethic and attitude’. So, there are many reasons to be cautiously optimistic. But I would add one caveat:

Every poker generation thinks that it has mastered the game. For a while, a group of (usually) young people do seem to have it all figured out, dominating the game so comprehensively for a time that it appears they have the cheat codes, the keys to the kingdom of eternal prosperity. Their egos bloat commensurably to their wallets. Until then they encounter a lighthouse. And then something has to give.