Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Learning From Our Nonmistakes.

Allow me to set the scene. I'm playing on-line hold'em and make it to the last four players, the final three place in the money. Throughout the game I was dealt below average cards, picking up one legitimate pot and a couple bluffs. My chip stack is about half the tournament leader. I get aces. I raise, the chip leader moves all-in (vastly over betting the pot,) and I call all-in. He (she?) has kings. By the river lose to four-of-a-kind kings.

I have conditioned myself to be more upset with bad play on my part than good play falling victim to factors out of my control (the wrath of the poker gods.) However, this hand seemed to beat the odds, as on-line hands often seem to.

Many players who try their hand in the real and virtual world cry consipacy—that on-line poker odds are unfair or rigged. I believe there are a variety of reasons for this belief. The first is that some people think the odds need to be rigged in order for the site to make money. That is completely false. The site makes money that same as casinos do, the rake. Money on the table is passed between players that the site has no stake in. Although it is possible for a player working with the site can influence the odds in their favor, but the risk of having their already very profitable business shut down is a huge deterent against this.

Another reason for the belief in odds tom foolery is that players see more unlikely hands unfolding. Such as pockets aces going up against pocket kings and losing to four-of-a-kind. I used to believe this too, but after thinking about how many more hands I see on-line per hour, I can expect both more of the ordinary and the extrodinary. We just tend to forget in ordinary, which leads me to my final point.

We all forget the uneventful hours of play and dwell on the "crazy" moments. We forget the long-shots we catch and never let go of the bad beats. We blame bad players and bad luck when we lose, and commend our skills when we win. It's not Full Tilt's or Poker Stars' or any other site's fault that I lost, just dumb luck. I take comfort in knowing that eventually the better player profits and, if anything, computers are more random than the a bad shuffle.


  1. Great attitude Grundy... take your beats like a man!

    I used to think that the online sites pushed bad beats but have come to realize they happen everywhere. Just watch World Poker Tour on television and you'll see amazing bad beats taking people out right and left at the final table.

    Even a 4% equity is going to hit one in every 25 tries. And you're usually no worse than a 3-1 dog in most situations... so yes, bad beats are going to happen.

    Learn to enjoy when they fall on your side, and follow grundy's example of taking them in stride when they roll against you.

    Once you figure that luck is going to treat you and others about equally in the long run, you realize your skill is eventually going to make the difference. Not in the one game you're playing at the moment, but in your career - long term.


  2. I've never actually thought about an online site being more random because a live dealer may not always have shuffled the deck well enough.

    Thats given me an all new perspective on this live vs online debate.

  3. It's really no use complaining anymore, I think poker players need to be optimistic. Thanks for your comments, RTrout. By the way, am I following you on Twitter? I know there is some guy named Trout on there.

    I could go into the mathematical theories whether or not anything can truly be random, but I won't. :-) I have seen so bad shufflers though.