Sunday, November 28, 2004

Extreme Poker Pride Goeth Before a Fall

Watching a little football, catching up on assorted blog reading, playing a PL Omaha Hi/Lo MTT on Paradise with some leftover cash I left there after clearing the latest reload. Nearly to the second break and I'm holding my own, a wee bit below average stack. I think I've played all of half a dozen hands so far.

It's interesting, the role confidence plays in games of skill (and yeah, for the sake of the argument, I'm assuming that chess and bridge and backgammon and what-not are games of skill). In theory, it shouldn't matter a bit. In theory, you could be the least confident, quavering, snot-nosed, spineless sponge and still be the best chess/go/poker/bridge/Scrabble/backgammon player in the world. You could have absolutely no confidence whatsoever, be convinced that you were doomed to lose every game you played, and still make the absolute best play every single time.

Games aren't played in a bubble, though, so that's rarely the case. Poker is an extreme example of a game that hinges on incomplete information, but it's true of any game of skill. You can't always calculate the absolute outcome. There are times where you simply have to make a move and accept a certain risk of ruin, trusting in your evaluation that you very likely will get the best of it.

Enter confidence, stage left. It's pretty difficult to argue against the importance of confidence, however you muster it up. Most poker players learn in about 2.8 nanoseconds that it doesn't matter what cards you're holding when you shove all-in if everyone else at the table folds.

But I also think that like most things, too much of a good thing can be disastrous (or at the very least -EV). Even confidence. Especially confidence. Because we're always at the mercy of the cards, to some extent, and at the mercy of the unknown, and our opponents.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that I've always thought it best to sit down with the idea that you're the second-best player at the table, and relish that fact. You can still look forward to taking down lots of pots but you also need to stay alert and press every edge you get.

In the larger, grander sense, we've all got something to learn, every day. Poker, life, you name it. Logging on and laughing at the 49,999 other stupid fish on Party isn't productive, in any fashion. Even if you are beating the hell out of whatever level you're playing. Because unless your last name is Brunson, Negreanu, or Ivey, there's always a bigger game out there that you could be working up to, that you could be improving for.

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