Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Errors in thinking = Errors at the ATM

Human beings (us) are the smartest creatures on the planet, I don’t care what you dolphin lover’s have to say. We have logic. (good for poker) We have reasoning. (good for poker) We have emotion. (ummm…)

Unfortunately our rational minds are often trumped by our emotions/wishful thinking/drunken state. Which leads us to the topic of today’s post: logical fallacies and how they can be applied to poker and gambling.

The Gambler’s Fallacy: This was an obvious choice to start off my list. It comes into play when you believe that your chances of winning increase with each consecutive loss. We want this to be true, but it isn’t. A coin that has landed on heads twenty times is a rarity, but it doesn’t make the chances of tails coming up next anymore than 50/50. Past occurrences can never change something with a fixed probability. In other words, throw out your roulette strategy.

Illusion of Control: This is a BIG one! It is overestimating the role of skill and underestimating the role of chance in a given game. I have known many players that attribute their wins to skill and their losses to bad luck. This is a very egotistical move of which even the TV players are guilty…I suppose that the fact they are on TV is what inflated their ego. Poker is, in part, a game of chance. You can only blame yourself and your opponent for a loss, and you can only adjust for yourself.

Going along with the illusion of control is hindsight bias. This is evaluating a decision as good or bad depending on whether it led to a win or a loss. Example: I made the right move in chasing the straight, it came! You may have been way behind for the bet that was asked of you, and if you were, it was a bad decision regardless of outcome.

Availability Error: This is the tendency to focus on the good, unusual, or easily remembered experiences, while forgetting the bad, common, or less available ones. Players often feel they are ahead in a hand because they want to be. Most the bad beats you hear people complain about probably weren’t as bad as they make it out. Hearing that someone has won the lottery sticks in our mind more than hearing that someone has lost…and lost…and lost. The draw to the long shot comes to mind. The overvaluing of high gain, low probability wagers and the undervaluing low gain, high probability wagers is a bad idea just on the fact that your profit will be less due to the high percentage rake on the one-time gain. Think of the taxes on lotto winnings for a macro example.

Mis-atribution of cause: If you have played poker as long as I have, you may have seen some unusual occurrences. The same guy dealt rockets two or three times in a row. Monster hands going up against each other. Someone going on a ten hand winning streak complete with showdowns. These are unlikely events that may make you cry foul, but then again, eventually these things just happen.

I get by with a little help from my facts...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Linkfarms are for Lovers

There are a lot of poker blogs out there that detail the author's progress in establishing and growing a bankroll. I see these as more for the benefit of the author then the public, and while there may be some insight to gleam from the jouney blogs of the net, I just don't have the time to find it. I like the real meat! The juice! The content! I have found a network of blogs that spew card articles (cardicles?) like so much ash from a degenerate volcano. It's about time I spread the word and the love for a couple recent inspirations of mine.

The Grandslam Poker Source

Author KC, also known as Gobbs of Twitter and CardsChat, has been churning out awesome poker articles for some time now. Recently his site has featured book reviews and an emphasis on home games. KC has even been featured as a guest writer on this very site!

Dad's Poker Blog

Steve Brogan is a relatively new entry to my subscription list, which makes his body of work that much more impressive. The "Dad" in question is father to social media guy Chris Brogan. If you need some proof of his poker prowess, how about this: he is a two time Twitter Poker Tour winner!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Declaration of Infowar

Poker is infowar. What you know of your opponent is your weapon against what he knows about you.

This information should be processed as raw data. For example: I watch an opponent play a low pocket pair aggressive preflop, follow with a continuation bet, then fold to a raise. I process this information as part of a pattern to be attributed to this particular player. The first time I watch this play out, I can't assume that next time he will follow a similar hand with a continuation bet, but I at least know that he is capable of it. If I do see this hand play out the same way, it reinforces the pattern.

The specifics of the hand can get in the way. In this scenario, there is little need to remember whether the pocket pair was 3 3 or 5 5; it was simply a pocket pair. When the information gained is tied to a hand in which you took part, specifics can get you in trouble.

If, for instance, you bet into a player while holding top pair and said player raises all-in on a draw and you call, the information gained from this exchange ends here. You learned that this particular opponent plays aggressive with draws and likes to semi-bluff. Whether the hand ends with your pair holding or his draw catching should not be part of the equation. If indeed this does turn into a bad beat, you may unintentionally taint the information. It is no longer data. It is personal information. It is emotional information.

To be better in poker you need to actively train your mind to remember odds, actions and tells. To be the best in poker you need to also train your mind to forget your feelings. There is no crying in poker, no sweet revenge. In the words of Michael Corleone, "this isn't personal, strictly business."

Sunday, March 1, 2009