Sunday, May 27, 2007

Poker, Psychology and Denial...

Down at the in-laws in Kiskunhalas (small town in Southern Hungary) for a holiday weekend of too much eating, too much drinking and not being able to understand anyone around me... did try learning Hungarian but motivation flagged a bit on that front lately - leaving me just about capable of telling people I do not speak Hungarian... hmmm.

Anyhow, quick blog update today inspired by Alan Schoonmakers 'Psychology of Poker'. Have read and enjoyed the book before but decided to have another look... it is full of little gems, just the odd paragraph here and there in addition to the main points that really stimulate the old grey matter.... one such example is about 'denial'.

Denial is basically what keeps the entire gambling industry alive. Casinos attract thousands of people daily into playing games which are not beatable over time, people bet on sports, put money into slot machines and video poker games, they basically take the worst of it over and over...

Of course to many people the money they spend is for entertainment only, but the psychological trick here that keeps the gaming industry in healthy profits is that people are convinced they can beat these games - the lure of the big win gets people to deny the reality that they are guaranteed to lose over time.

So how does this relate to poker. For me denial manifests itself in many ways here. We can start by assessing the 90% of people who are losers in the online game. These people of course provide the 'pool' of profit that is available for us winning players - the thing to mention here is the short-term 'luck' factor is on the disciplined player's side... if it were not for the long-term losers occasionally getting a big win then it would be difficult for them to justify depositing their next $500 when 'bad luck' depletes their bankroll.

From the perspective of a winner this phenominon is annoying, losing a big pot to someone who obviously had no clue that their call (or whatever) had a large negative expectation can be an exasperating event My personal feeling is that this is where the 'denial' of winning players comes from, as someone experienced in the game we feel like we 'should' be outplaying our less experienced opponents and winning big pots against them - in reality our profit is made of more and smaller edges taken again and again and again.

There is another aspect of denial that is characteristic of many winners - you beat the game for a certain time and feel that you are now experienced enough to beat a higher level (or maybe just expect to beat the same level without thinking about it). The reality here is that our opponents will become more skilled over time, that unless we work on our own leaks we will not improve our win rates and that moving up levels may even completely take our edge away

For example we may deny the fact that our only edge in the $3 SNGs was playing tighter in the early stages and pushing 'almost correctly' later, moving up a couple of levels we encounter others who use exactly the same basic strategy = we no longer have any edge. Instead of analysing and working on our game to find out where the profits will come from we blame a bad run of cards... see how easy it is to deny reality here? Both winners and losers are equally guilty.

Me? I'm guilty too!! I need to spend a little more time fine tuning bubble play, I need to look at my cash game hand histories more often to make sure those winning hands are maximising profits and the losing hands are in as small as pots as possible.

To end on a happy note - Plan3t Gong readers are generally those players who like to think!! Let us be honest enough with ourselves to accept that denial is an intregal part of any money gaming and locate then correct what we are denying.

Right, more meat + paprika + Palinka + Cognac + + + +

GL at the tables,

Mark

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