April 29, 2011
Over a year ago the
first episode of "The Eightfold Path to Poker Enlightenment" appeared
on DeucesCracked and since then it has become one of the most popular and
beloved training series in online poker. If the word "classic" can be
used to describe a poker coaching video series, the EPTPE would have to be
If you haven't watched it yet, The Eightfold Path is not a traditional strategy series. It's a series aimed at fundamentally altering your mental and emotional approach to poker, and tilt, as a whole. It's narrated by Tommy Angelo and Wayne Lively and draws from Tommy's book, "Elements of Poker" as well as the the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. Each episode deals with a different aspect of how to mentally approach poker in a calm and balanced way, and is intercut with soothing piano music played by the man Tommy Angelo himself. .
But piano music alone does not a video series make. So how come The Eightfold Path remains so popular amongst DC members?
Firstly, The Eightfold Path can be useful to poker players of all games and stakes. A midstakes HU PLO video series could be the most comprehensive and brilliant HU PLO series on the internet, but if you're exclusively a 6max NL grinder, it's not going to do you much good. The Eightfold Path, on the other hand, can help anyone who has ever tilted, and that audience encompasses pretty much anyone who's ever so much as touched a playing card.
The Eightfold Path stands apart as a video series because it just feels different. There are a lot of video series on DC and you'll find a lot with the familiar poker table backdrops and discussions of ranges and equity and math, but only one that links poker and Buddhism. When you think about it, it's hard to think of two concepts more antithetical. Buddhism is a devotion to the severance from attachment and material things and poker is about tricking people into giving you money so you can buy an iPad. But that's exactly why the series works. For a lot of players, it provides a completely new way to think about the game. It's like exercising a brand new muscle.
Most studious poker players spend their time in a certain mindset that becomes familiar through repetition: grinding thousands of hands, highlighting hand histories in a tracker and posting them to a strat forum, IMing stats and reads to a poker buddy on Gchat. Videos, conversations, and days can start to bleed together in a soup of nomenclature and numbers, a left-brained lifestyle that starts to perpetuate itself. Unchecked, that approach can become a little unbalanced. The Eightfold Path is a chance to step back from all of that, from the EV calculations and the flush draws and the endless repetition, and see the entire experience from a completely new perspective. Where other videos champion immutable math, the Eightfold Path touts the ephemeral benefits of breathing. Where others talk about mericlessly applying will-crushing aggression, the Eightfold Path reminds you to be calm. Where other series show you how to focus, the Eightfold Path shows you how to see.
Then there are the artistic flourishes that set it apart. Tommy and Wayne, in a Doonesbury-esque touch, appear onscreen only as icons, the former a baseball cap with a curved brim, the latter a cowboy hat. Wayne the cowboy represents the brash, bold, tempestuous gambler and Tommy's well-worn ballcap perfectly symbolizes a peaceful familiarity with the game. Not to go all college sophomore on this, but everything, including their diametrically opposed personalities, the dynamic of student-teacher, even songs played forwards and then backwards, serves to impress ideas of balance, duality and completeness, which is of course what the entire series is about. And just when it seems like everything is as rigidly organized as an origami swan, Wayne will say something to cut through it all, something like, "There should be a poker movie called 'The Nutcracker'."
When I started out watching The Eightfold Path for the first time, I had it in a window on one half of my screen while I browsed forums and read e-mail on the other half. Yeah, yeah, I know I should always devote my full attention to videos, but as we all know attention sometimes wanders. But slowly, as time went on, I found myself focusing more and more on the video. Eventually, I had the video full-screened and I just listened to the words and music as I breathed slowly and deliberately. Just watching the videos became almost meditative. When the music stopped and the video ended, I felt like I had just come out of a relaxing steam or something. It was the first time anything related to poker had produced anything even resembling a state of calm.
As Tommy points out, "Since no one is tiltless, every one can tilt less". Very true. And to help us tilt less, we can all watch the Eightfold Path a little more.