Acting Last

Acting last is like taking a drink of water. We don’t have to understand why it’s good for us to know that it is. And the benefits are unaffected by our understanding of them.

− from Elements of Poker

5 Comments

  • jude Posted July 29, 2008 7:54 am

    um. i think this can be debated cause, well, i end up debating this frequently, sometimes even with other people. what is the difference between doing something consciously and unconsciously? is there a difference? in yoga we think so.

    but even before yoga i tended to think there is because we have language to describe the two different experiences of drinking water.

    i have a brother who once enthusiastically explained to me the nutritional components of a fast food hamburger. Seriously. Do i think he got more out of that burger than i would have because of his belief in its merits? Yes i do. In fact it is possible that he got more out of it than someone else carelessly eating something “better.” All debatable, yes.

    So. sometimes i think what’s at issue is the material weight of immaterial things (like the effects of consciousness on drinking water). other times it’s the specificity of things/experience as describable by language.

    OH! i just realized that what i am addressing is something you did not actually say, that is:

    We don’t have to understand THAT it’s good for us to know that it is.

    So. Mebbe all this is moot.

    Back to the notion of relationship between this and the specificity of naming. That is to say, if there is a difference that can be named, then to equate things that include such a difference erases information and distorts our ability to observe and understand. Betrays history/reality. This comes up for me most frequently in discussions of transgendered people: there is a difference between a bio-born female and a transgendered female. i know the transgendered woman is absolutely a woman. at the same time i want our language to keep on recognizing the difference. I get called a bigot for that in some circles.
    THAT difference – is it related to the difference between what water does for us if we are aware of it and what it does for us if we are not? in my mind, it is. can you help?

  • Tommy Angelo Posted July 29, 2008 1:52 pm

    Jude wrote: “THAT difference – is it related to the difference between what water does for us if we are aware of it and what it does for us if we are not? in my mind, it is. can you help?”

    Maybe the word to look at here is “benefit.” Because I know water is good for me, I not only benefit from the physiological effect of the water in my body, but I also benefit emotionally from knowing that I have done something good for myself. So in that sense, what I said in the intitial post — “And the benefits are unaffected by our understanding of them.” — is not true.

    But if you look at the drinking of water from the viewpoint of a non-opinion-forming non-emotional unit of my body, such as a cell, the benefit to the cell is unaffected by my mind’s opinion about what is going on inside the cell.

    This does tie nicely to position at poker. It could be argued that because I know how much better it is to act last than first (in say, a headsup pot), I “get more” out of acting last than someone who doesn’t appreciate position, by employing betting strategy that utilizes and anticipates the benefits of acting last. The idea I am forwarding is that this is not so, that position sits atop all that, that the nature of acting last is such that knowing about the benefits doesn’t change them.

    I could argue the other side, which works out great because then I can agree with what anyone says and never be wrong. 🙂

    Tommy

  • pathwalker Posted August 1, 2008 8:05 am

    When I first read this particular piece of poetry, I accepted it as it is. It was applicable to my game and as such, it improved my score. And now that I have pondered this gem many times, I can begin to see many facets.

    I can understand and agree to some extent that “the benefits are unaffected by our understanding of them.” The benefits are there, independent from us, sitting atop our understanding.

    I used to drink six to eight cans of coca-cola per day. I gave that up about the time I gave up cigarettes. I now drink water. The benefits of drinking water instead of cola are there, both before and after my understanding of them. When I occasionally have a can of coke, maybe one or two in a month, I find myself thinking “This is tasty, but how could I have ever consumed over a six-pack per day of this stuff?” Now, my understanding is different. To borrow from Robert Heinlein, I now grok the benefits. The question I can now ask myself is “Would I have exchanged water for coke if I never understood the benefits? Now that I grok the benefits, could I ever go back?”

    Back to my opening statement… How could reading those words have improved my score if the benefits were entirely independent from my understanding of them?

  • Tommy Angelo Posted August 1, 2008 7:02 pm

    pathwalker writes:

    “Back to my opening statement… How could reading those words have improved my score if the benefits were entirely independent from my understanding of them?”

    You say that reading the words about the nature of the benefits of acting last had the benefit of improving your score. That has nothing to do with the benefits of acting last, or to do with our understanding of the benefits of acting last, but I do think it somehow supports the conjecture that water is better than coca-cola. 🙂

    Tommy

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