Friday, October 21, 2005

Be Like the Gnat, Not the Elephant

Advantage gambling of any sort is an odd thing. You put yourself in a situation that is, for whavever reason, demonstrably +EV. You (hopefully) bankroll yourself to the point that you're sufficiently insulated against 99% of what Lady Variance can throw at you. Yet you still occasionally encounter that horrible, perfect storm that washes over you, again and again, and blows you completely out of the water, pockets empty, gasping for air.

And the correct thing to do is to reload and get right back in the water, as long as it's a +EV situation. Unlike many painful life lessons, it doesn't pay to dwell on the past, to some extent. Yes, definitely, learning from mistakes and holding them close to your bosom will make you a much, much better poker player (or hell, a much better human being). But gambling is still gambling, and sometimes you can do every single thing right, in a +EV situation, and still encounter an unbelievable run of negative results, that completely flatten you.

And the lesson there is that unless the game has changed or you're not playing your best, it's -EV not to buy more chips.

(No, I didn't go broke taking a shot at 100/200. This is mostly abstract rambling, partly precipitated by me dumping a couple of thousand dollars chasing a silly ass $100 blackjack bonus a few days ago, when I hit a -3 sigma or so event [about 0.3% likelihood] that completely wiped me out.)

Selective memory in general gets a well-deserved bad rap, but the ability to completely block out events that are statistically highly unlikely to ever occur isn't the worst tool to have, if you're a poker player. It's possible to go broke with a $10,000 bankroll, playing perfect poker at $1/2, but it's so highly unlikely and statistically freaky that, if it happens to you, you're better off simply ignoring it, reloading, and winning money, like you're supposed to.

The more practical application is if you have AA preflop and raise it up with some lemur, eventually capping it, and the flop comes 4 4 4. You and the lemur cap it again. Turn is an A. Capped again. River is a J. Capped again. Lemur flips over 49o and wins a huge pot.

The odds of him flopping quads are roughly 1 in 10,000. You're correct in ignoring that possibility, no matter how many times he raises. You're also correct in playing that hand that way every single time it occurs. Due to the unlikelihood that he flopped quads, it's a mistake to play the hand any other way, even if the last five times you've encountered this hand the lemur has had quads every single time. since it's so unlikely he flopped quads, you're right to simply ignore that possibility.

And yeah, I'm the first degenerate monkey to admit that what I'm talking about is a pretty narrow exception to the broader moral that applies when you lose a ton of money gambling and someone replies "I hope you learned your lesson." Because, by and large, they're exactly right to say that, as usually there are many valuable lessons to be learned when you gamble and your wallet ends up being much, much lighter in the end.

It's just interesting to me, in a theoretical sense, that one's gambling journey can be so schizophrenic at times, as far as playing very close attention to past results, absorbing them, analyzing them, embracing them, but also occasionally involving one saying "You know, that was simply complete ass randomness," and just completely and utterly ignoring it and marching forward, doing your best to completely block it out of your mind.

I know, 'tis a dangerous tightrope, and you have to be really careful to be sure you aren't missing some hidden lessons here or there, but still an interesting phenomenon.


littleacornman said...

Good post.
Not easy to completely dismiss a bad beat as randomness and ignore it.I find it washes over me in a few minutes like a kick in the nuts.The agony lessens after a short while and then I can move on.

I used to try and shut out that sick feeling but just ended up tilting more subtly.I now accept I feel shitty and it seems to make it pass more quickly.

Also realising that even if I'll never be a maths genuis or natural poker superstar being able to remain on my A game after a bad beat adds something to my poker armoury.

Little Acornman

ps If I lose my roll tonight ignore the above ;-)

Grinder said...

Where di you try to get that bonus in BJ - just curious. Ive hit that wall 3 out of 26 times. Sucks!