How playing music is like playing poker

poker chipsRecently, I was talking to an old college friend who is a professional poker player now and has been for over 10 years. I find this profession to be very intriguing (if only I could play poker).

I imagine the life of a poker player is similar to the life of a professional musician in that, some weeks you make a lot money and other weeks — not so much.

When asked what life was like in a non-traditional career, my friend told me that during the times where he seemed to be on a losing streak, he would play more to work through it.

I thought this was an interesting strategy which must take some serious discipline. Much like playing music.

I am pretty sure every musician can attest to the fact that they have ‘losing streaks’ in their musical career. It’s those times you actually feel like you’re playing is getting worse and you should probably give up playing an instrument and learn to speak Gaelic instead because that seems so much easier.

In my musical journey, during some of those times, I’ve put my fiddle down for a few weeks and took a break. Other times I worked through it no matter how bad I thought I sounded. Always though, when I returned, my playing got better, or I felt better about it.

I think there is a good lesson here. Because the losing streak always ends and when it does, the sound is always sweeter.

I’m not sure why we have these moments in time. You’d think if you practiced and played all the time, you can really only get better. It could be because as we get better we notice the details of other players and hear and see new things that we don’t yet know how to do. Maybe after the losing streak subsides we actually become a better player because of it.

No matter what the reason, I’m going to take my friend’s words to heart and practice through my losing streak. And I’ll bet you my playing will be the better for it.

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