Friday, June 02, 2006


Chipping away at something that's becoming a larger something, so stay tuned for that, as it'll likely be Monday, when bored out of my skull at work, before I get manage to post it.

Ended yesterday with many fewer American dollars in my possession than when I began the day. Boo, that.

One interesting offshot of all the luck/skill talk is the seemingly widespread belief that when we're running well and winning money, it's because the universe is being nice and non-chaotic and our expected edge is expressed, just as should be, in nice, regular fashion. And the natural extension of that belief is that when we run poorly and lose money, it's because things get messy, chaotic, and wacked out, poodles raining from the sky, with all normal expectations turned on their head.

Umm, no. Sorry, try again. And I'm not just being cantankerous, because I see the point, and it's a very natural point, but it's also dangerous thinking.

Even the absolute best poker players in the world are entitled to absolutely nothing in the short run. It's only after hundreds of thousands of hands that any edge they have is expressed. In the short run, they can play perfectly and get kicked in the junk, hand after hand after hand. And then get kicked in the junk some more.

That's exactly what the odds predict. That's not a statistical anomaly, it's a statistical certainty. Just as it's certain that terrible players will go on a 10,000 hand heater with a 8BB/100 win rate. Unlikely events are supposed to happen. They can't help but happen.

In the long run, all these things smooth out, and trend towards the expected result. If you can beat the game, you beat the game. If you can't, you can't.

The danger is in subscribing to the idea that when things are going well, it's just the odds finally straightening out, the chaos subsiding, cue the chorus of angels, hallelujah. That's lazy thinking, because it insinuates that if you're winning money, you're playing absolutely correctly, which is almost never the case. More often than not, you're actually playing pretty damn sloppily, letting the mountain of chips growing in front blind you to all the small mistakes you're making.

There's very little correlation in the short run between playing well and winning money, just as there's very little correlation between playing horribly and losing money. Really. It's not nonexistent (because obviously you can force yourself into a disastrous short-term session at NL by shoving all-in every single hand, where there's an obvious, direct correlation between playing poorly and losing money), but I'd wager that the actual control over results that we exert in the short run is actually pretty small.

That's not as fatalistic as it seems. Really. It's just that the long run is really damn long, more than anything.

The solution, at least, is actually pretty easy and happy and smiley. Just play each hand as well as you can. Make the best decision you can, when faced with a decision. Learn from your mistakes. Study hard. Be honest. Forget all that other nonsense, as far as what's expected, what you're entitled to, what should be happening or not happening.

1 comment:

Oxymoron said...

Long time reader first time poster.

The majority of people that read books and especially that read and/or attempt to write blogs play goot overall but continue to make the same minor mistakes. i.e. loosely calling on the flop or not paying attention to other people who have yet to act, etc. However, I suppose that is what your saying anyways. Rather than just continuing to tell yourself your good because you are a 2BB/100 hand winner (or a loser due to your BB/100) you need to study your game to verify that your not just a luckbox or a whipping post.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am guilty and do not analyze my own HH enough, especially if I’m running well.