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...