Friday, August 31, 2012

Fellowship of the Chip

Women have this foreign ability to chat with their girlfriends (usually over the phone) and stay updated on weekly happenings. I can’t relate. Guys need to have a reason to be brought together. This is why I think playing a weekly poker game with friends is the best social outlet in the world. For men, it becomes the needed reason. For women, it provides a chance to interact with their brutish counterparts in a very real and open way. It is a fine balance of camaraderie and competition. Unfortunately, it isn’t great for improving your game.

The problem is that playing with the same friends becomes a rut. You know how to best play them, but forget how to best play in general. You stop improvising...you stop thinking. Bets and folds become reflex.

Breaking up the amigos is not a favorable option, but you can breath new life into the game by inviting an outsider. Have some players invite a friend outside the collective fellowship to play. Fresh blood is exciting and adds to your network of potential new friends. Oh, and fresh blood means fresh money. You were probably getting tired of passing around the same c-note anyhow.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Extended Tilt Breaks Your Game. Fix It.

On question/answer site Quora, the question "What is the best way to overcome extended tilt?" was posed. Good question. Here are the answers: (mine's at the bottom)

Kevin Ko says:

The short answer is you just need to develop the discipline to move on from the emotional residue of a previous hand. You can't change past events, the best you can do is learn from them and move on. Most people still suffer from feeling tilty during the same session but it's rare for this to carry on throughout a wider period of time. This may be the sign of weak emotional control.

A more thorough, long answer involves a deep understanding of what tilt really is, the dangers of tilt, and having the sensibility to understand how it affects your career if you're a long-term playing professional.

Subtle Tilt - Being even mildly distracted from playing your absolute A game. These factors can be external or internal. E.g. You're bored and want to start playing looser than your typical range, a player at your table starts talking trash and makes you want to "target" him in particular, or recent losses have made your upset and you don't think clearly throughout your subsequent hands.

Monkey Tilt - Full-blown monkey tilt is that sort of tilt where you simply blow up and start open-shoving hands, playing without any modicum of thought or logic, and are just intent on burning money in a hopeless attempt at making some money back. In traditional media, this is depicted as the guy who keeps chasing losses and ends up losing his house.

In most cases, subtle tilt is the precursor to monkey tilt, although for the most emotionally undisciplined, entering monkey tilt phase can happen instantly. The key then is to limit subtle tilt, which in itself is still dangerous. What's nice though is that if you limit your subtle tilting, you won't tilt that much overall and throughout your sessions. Performing at your A-game at all times is a subject for a different time, but it involves extreme focus, emotional stability (and maintaining it), and the clear headed-ness to reason that tilting from a hand is both irrational because your tilt won't change the result of the hand, and detrimental because all it means is that for the next x amount of hands, you will be in a phase of subtle tilt or monkey tilt.

The reason why subtle tilt is dangerous is because while the effects and detrimental results are negligible at first, they add up over the course of "the long run". Due to subtle tilt, you played hands awkwardly, your bet sizing was less than optimal, you played "fun" hands, you tried to chase a quick win before the end of your session, you didn't quit in time, etc. you end up losing quite a bit in these marginal losses, but consider that most online professionals play hundreds of thousands to even millions of hands per year.

Without going into specific dollar amounts, in one of my nascent years as a professional player, I estimated my losses from subtle tilt, mostly due to not quitting early enough (as part of a stop-loss I used to mitigate tilt effects), to be about 20% of the amount I actually won that year. With poker being so hard already at higher levels, a 20% edge by simply making positive emotional and mental adjustments internally is an absolute gold mine.

Nelson Denoon weights in:

The root cause of any sort of tilting at the poker table is an inability to embrace the moment as it is, that is, regretting what may have happened a minute or more ago or worrying about what is going to happen an minute or more from now.

To overcome tilt, one must cultivate the ability to fully accept what is. To not do so is counterproductive since, no matter how much emotional discharge you apply to this moment, this moment still is.

So if you lose a huge pot that you really wanted to win and you lose it because some guy you dislike caught a one outer on the river, it will hurt. If you embrace the pain and the fact that he is raking in what you wish were your chips and that you are at that moment irreversibly (since the suchness of the moment is indisputable), then your tendency to latch on to regret or ride the wave of worry will subside. Moreover, even if it is understandable and logical, your self-hatred will not get the best of you.

Moreover, although this may be sinister, an effective way to induce tilt behavior in an opponent is to underscore, through words or gestures, that opponent's past hands, thereby often triggering regret and worry about the future in him, that is, inducing tilt in your opponent.

I think:

Timon and Pumbaa said it best: hakuna matata.

I don't think this is something you can ever fix completely, some people are just more prone to tilt than others. However, here are two quick tips.

1. Live and play in the present. Take the raw information of the past with you, but only if you can let the emotions of the past go. If a guy made a statistically bad move chasing to the river, count on him doing it again and you'll profit off him more often then he will profit off you. Don't dwell on each invidiual loss, think about the big picture.

2. Don't take things personal. A bad beat isn't a personal attack.

3. Keep in mind that sometimes you are the one who gets lucky too. We tend to remember the times we are screwed over and forget the times we were touched by the poker gods.

4. After a long run of bad beats, EVERYONE goes on tilt to some degree. Just quit playing for a while in this case. Start fresh a day, week, or month later--whatever works for you.

Anyone else use Quora? This is how I roll. Comment below and I'll check out your answers.

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's All Odds

I came across this article about how we should think about all things in terms of odds, not just gambling. The premise is that very few things in life are certain, so we should consider our probability in being correct rather than assuming absolute knowledge or ignorance. The writer make a great case why we should think of these probabiliies as odds rather than the traditional percentages.

Here is a great refresher on odds from the article:

Let’s have a quick refresher on what “odds” are. We all know what a probability is (or at least, we’re familiar with the term!). Odds can be seen as ratios of probabilities. Just as we use P(A) for the “probability of A,” we may talk about O(A), the “odds of A” (where A is some apparently sensible proposition).

In terms of probabilities, O(A) = P(A)/P(~A). So for example, if there is a 66% probability of rain tomorrow, then O(rain) = 0.66/(1-0.66), or more easily 66:33, which finally reduces to 2:1 (usually read “two to one in favour”). The “:” is basically just a division sign, so O(rain) can be stated as “2 to 1” or as simply “2.” Although odds can be expressed as ratios of probabilities, they are best understood on their own terms altogether. In this case, “odds of 2 to 1 in favour of rain tomorrow” means something like “days like this are followed by twice as many rainy days as non-rainy days, to the best of my knowledge.”

Odds are even more familiar from the racetrack, where a bookie might give “10 to 1 on Longshot, to win.” What this means is that if the bookie is selling stakes for $5 each, then a single $5 stake will get you (10+1)*$5 = $55 if you win (i.e., a gain of $50 plus your $5 stake back), while a loss will simply lose you your $5 stake. (Of course, in order to make money, the bookie must think that the realodds on Longshot are even longer than 10 to 1.)

Obviously, this all applies to cards, but also life in general. Check out Rationally Speaking for more.