Thursday, October 14, 2004

Poker and Me

Poker Tip O' the Day
If you're playing in a tournament and find yourself short-stack with less than 10BB, your life just got much easier. You've got two choices when it's your turn to play: shove all-in or fold. You simply can't afford to limp in at that point. Pick your spot and go.

This is the more amorphous day in my new poker blogging weekly schedule. I always think it's interesting to read poker blogs (and blogs of any sort) that manage to straddle the line between public and personal information in a fun, amusing way. Sure, we're mainly here to talk about poker, but sweet Jebus, that can get boring really quickly, for both author and reader.

But the flip side is a catch 22 as well. Does anyone want to hear someone babbling about the boring minutiae of their life? Not this monkey. And some of us are just really damn boring. It's okay. It's true. No need to feel sorry for me.

So I dunno. I really enjoyed Grubby's latest post, both for the honesty and for the way it straddles the intersection of "life" and gambling. That's always fascinated me, as far as how different people define gambling. It's not just the stakes involved (although that's a major part of it) but it also encompasses the approach itself.

For me, poker isn't gambling, not when you get down to brass tacks. Assuming the current status quo of online poker remains as it is, with my current poker bankroll I am guaranteed to make money playing poker over the next year. I consistently play well enough that I can bonus whore at low limits and guarantee a profit over the long run. Now, obviously, we're talking a potentially miniscule profit, one that doesn't justify the hours expended producing it. Or it could be a huge profit, if lady luck smiled upon me. Or even a loss, in any given month. So yes, variance and luck plays a major role. But for me, in my own head, it ain't gambling if there's no element of potential loss involved.

But I also occasionally go to the horsetrack and gamble. I'm going to Bossier City this weekend to play craps and blackjack and gamble. I gamble on football. The difference? The obvious one is the lack of control and confidence (aside from that whole house advantage thing at casino games such as craps and blackjack.) But does control and confidence suffice? Can you remove all potential risk just by being confident?

Part of me scoffs at that, as no amount of confidence can overcome an inherently -EV situation. I don't care how confident you are that that quarter will come up heads more often than tails. I'm going to take all of your money if you pay me a buck every time it turns up tails but I pay you only fifty cents when it's heads.

But let's say you tell me you want to start a new business. Let's assume that 75% of all new businesses fail within a year. Starting a new business is mathematically -EV. But people do it each and every day and at least 25% of them last longer than a year. Were they gambling?

Yes, I know. I'm mixing arguments and comparing tests of skill and games of chance. But it is interesting to ponder. While the line gets blurry, it always exists. No amount of confidence and skill can ever make a mathematically -EV situation a +EV situation in the long run. If it's not guaranteed, though, any generally (but not universally) -EV situation can be turned into a +EV situation, by dint of skills, work, and/or confidence. And vice versa, I suppose.

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