ArticleThe Four Agreements

I’m sure some of you have read, or at least heard about, “The Four Agreements” book by Don Miguel Ruiz. There are lots of mental gems in it, and of course the main ones are the four major takeaways that everyone could implement in their daily lives.

By Gio | 03 Jun 2023
Article featured image

Funny enough, they align perfectly in a poker context.

  • BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD
  • DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY
  • DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
  • ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST

Let me explore them one at a time.

  1. Be impeccable with your word.

    – speak with integrity
    If you say to yourself “I’m not going to play in this tournament” or “I’m not going to re-enter with less than 30 big blinds”, and then you end up doing the opposite, you have broken your word to yourself. Don’t do that; it will transfer from one thing to another! Be impeccable: do what you said and respect yourself!

    – say only what you mean
    Stop saying things like “This month I’m going to play 500 tournaments” and end up with 200, or “I’m going to study for 20 hours” and do only 2. These are the “small” things that are the most important. Decide what it is that you really want to improve, commit to it, say it and then simply do it. You will feel great afterward.

    – avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others
    Yes, this is exactly for the people who can’t escape from thinking “I always run bad” or “Of course he hit that 2 outer against ME!”; like poker cards care about you specifically. Stop using stupid hashtags like #neverlucky or things of this nature. Use your word to be better, you know, with thoughts like “I always run well!”

    – use the power of your own Word in the direction of truth and love
    Who owns your words? Simple questions, yes, but who is it? Is it someone else making you say things you do not want to say, or is it you? Take responsibility and stop the self-sabotage. Most likely, it will not happen overnight to learn to use this power, but when you catch yourself saying something that does not align with this new agreement, you can simply correct yourself. Use your own words to bring love and truth to you and those around you. When you do as you said, it is being impeccable; it is truth and love.

  2. Don’t take anything personally

    – nothing others do is because of you
    You know… even the “bad” players want to play well and they don’t do anything specifically to hurt you, but more likely are trying their best, even if that is the stupidest poker play you have ever seen.

    – what others say or do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream
    This is a really big issue in the context of poker. Many people bring their egos to the table and take things personally, even though that might not have been the case initially. However, if both players think this is now personal, then it probably has become personal due to this assumption.

    – when you are immune to the options and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering
    Thoughts like “This f*cker 4bets me again” or “Always jamming against my opens” leads to suffering, which is not necessary. It’s a strategic game, and the player you refer to, thinks this is the best counter strategy for your strategy. You want to win, and they want to win as well. If it is a good open, you should open, and if you get jammed and it’s a good fold, then you should fold! You both do what you think is right – that’s it.

  3. Don’t make assumptions

    – find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want
    When in a coaching session, stop assuming that what you are saying is understood by everyone; ask them what they heard, especially if you are the coach. If you are the coached player, find the courage to ask. Don’t pretend that you “got it,” especially when you’re paying for 1-1 coaching; don’t be shy to ask – there are no stupid questions in this situation. You are paying to get better, so make real use of it. By the way, this will also lead to a better relationship.

    – communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama
    This is actually great for poker staking relationships–for the backer and the staked player. Communication is crucial for any healthy relationship, in life; if you invest money in a player, you have to understand that it’s not only about money. It’s a very complex thing to stake someone and it requires a lot more work than you initially probably thought. It’s a tough business. The same goes for the player; communicate and express your needs, don’t assume that the staker has to know your needs. Say it out loud what you think could be improved, or express your struggles; for if you hide them, no one will look for them.

    – with just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life
    It is an absolute fact; apply this not only to poker but to your life and you will see big changes. If you are not sure, do not assume; instead, ask, “What exactly do you mean?”

  4. Always do your best

    – your best is going to change from moment to moment
    Of course, the ultimate goal is always (or as much as possible) to play your A-game, but there will be times when your best will be B-game or even C-game. And that is fine. These are opportunities to improve this part specifically; you just need to be aware that today your best is your C-game, which will lead to more good things happening. You will make the needed adjustments and, in the end, the most important thing is having a peace of mind about all that.

    – under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret
    Being present and aware that your best will change is vital for this agreement. It is very simple, really: how can your best be the same when circumstances change? Of course, your best will also change. And accept that you will remove any negative judgments about yourself or regret over for example having been up eight buy-ins but only leaving with a two-buy-in profit. The whole thing is connected, and at times we tend to view it as separate parts in a way that is most convenient for us. Well, what if you were up five buy-ins and the same stuff happened–then you would finish the session with -1. Which one is better now? So, going from +8 to +2 doesn’t look that bad, right? And if, in the moment when you went from +8 to +6, you felt regret, what would happen to the best that you are doing? If, at the moment, you forget to “always do your best,” regret could kick in with a partnership of self-sabotage which will lead to destruction. Meaning, you really have to always do your best and don’t let illusions get in your way.

If you have reached the end of this article, I really hope it was helpful and may have changed your perspective for the better. We have all been on the other side, feeling like this game is specifically against us and not seeing any chance for things to change.

The reality is that it is all in your head, and can control your mind, not the opposite. You could also prepare and not put yourself in bad situations. There are times it’s best to not play, and there are times it’s best to quit before planned. This will only happen if you are aware that it could happen. This is how you win before even sitting at the table.

“The Four Agreements” book by Don Miguel Ruiz

Poker is not a game in which you play against other people; it’s a game in which you play against yourself.

If you know, you know, and if you don’t, I hope you will!

Join Poker AcademyGet access to world-class tools used by best in business.