My first thought was, "When does anyone really ever act out of character?"
I was debating how to respond, when my favorite Chris Noth Look-alike (CNLa) sends me a line on his girly messaging tool, to inform me that he is the king of the fishes. I, of course, don't believe this tripe, and we end up talking about his playing style and his game. I really enjoy these conversations because CNLa and I are almost opposite on the playing-style scale, so talking about his game always makes me think about mine. We started talking about the weakness in his game, which he summed up as: I'm having some trouble adjusting to my opponents style at times, and that knowing isn't the same as DOING.
And you know why this is? It's because when you adjust your game, you have to act out of character, and that's never easy, fun, or comfortable. It's a step out of what some call "the comfort zone", which is called that for a reason - it's nice and safe. I told CNLa that one of the hardest things for me, especially in no-limit poker, is to bet the pocket kings I've raised preflop when an Ace-high flop comes out. I hate it, my heart races, my stomach churns. But I do it, and it gets marginally easier each time.
And as I told my little CNLa, that's one of the reasons I hate him sitting at my table - his aggression forces me out of character, where I don't like to be. But that's also good, too. The more I play where I'm uncomfortable, the less uncomfortable that spot becomes. And even though his ego is now as big as the stay-puft marshmallow man, it got me to even more thinking (and yes, that's scary in itself):
The question that really needs to be asked is not "What's keeping me from acting out of character?" but rather, "Why would anyone want to act out of character?" Because, really, who goes and looks for scary and uncomfortable places to be just for kicks?
There are two reasons that I step out of my usual role: a) I am around a bunch of people I will never see again, so it doesn't matter what they think of me and I'm feeling like having a wild time and being someone else for the night, or more often b) I am dissatisfied with my current "character" and am taking steps to become someone I'm more satisfied with. I'm told that (b) is very similar to this "growing up" thing.
But it's very hard to figure out just what steps you need to take in order to move from character C to character D, and if you don't know what steps to take, it's hard to get the motivation to move out of that comfort zone. So we tend to rely on someone telling us what we need to do to move forward; this is the driving force behind the whole "self-help" craze, I'm sure. In the poker world, we go and talk to those folks that have a game we respect, in other cases it's a friend, or a therapist, or a priest, or an accountant, or someone who is respected in the area you're trying to improve on.
It's out of character for me to bet pocket kings on an Ace high flop, but I do it because LawyerMark told me I needed to bet it. I asked LawyerMark because I wanted to be a better poker player.
It's out of character for me to flirt with single guys face-to-face, or to wear cleavage-revealing shirts, but I'm doing it because donna told me I needed to do it. And I asked donna because I get tired of being 'one of the guys', and wanted to move out of that character.
It's out of character for me to go to the movies by myself, or to go line dancing by myself, but I've done both of those, again because donna challenged me to do that. She knows I have a hard time not responding to a challenge, and we both knew I needed to get rid of the idea that people who do these things by themselves are somehow flawed, because really, that's just a stupid idea, and I hate being stupid.
And now, I've been challenged to take that whole flirting-in-person stuff to level 2, and go further out of character - and thus putting more at risk - by asking a guy I've just met that day out to dinner and see what happens. And I have to do this 3 to 5 times by the time I come back from Vegas in December. The theory is I'll have realized by going through this that neither the going to dinner nor having the offer rejected is really that big of a deal .
So, based on my desire to improve, and the advice of some trusted people in my life, I'm taking my white chips from the $3/$6 table and I'm going to take a shot at the $6/$12 life table. Thank goodness I'm not playing No-Limit.