Saturday, September 15, 2007

Poker Psychology... Thoughts

Quick thoughts on poker psychology today, not the he thinks you think he thinks variety - more aimed at the meta-game...

Reading a finance newletter this morning 'John Maudlin's Outside The Box', while I do not always agree with his theses he is one of the great thinkers and always writes thought provoking material (will not bore you all with finance so don't worry!).

Anyway, todays letter was talking about a book called 'The Black Swan - The Impact Of The Highly Improbale' by Nassim Taleb. Sounds like a great read and I'm tempted to buy, here is a quote from it that I would like to relate to poker.

"We humans are the victims of an asymmetry in the perception of random events. We attribute our success to our skills, and our failures to external events outside our control, namely to randomness. We feel responsible for the good stuff, but not for the bad. This causes us to think that we are better than others at whatever we do for a living. Ninety-four percent of Swedes believe that their driving skills put them in the top 50 percent of Swedish drivers; 84 percent of Frenchmen feel that their lovemaking abilities put them in the top half of French lovers." (p. 152)


Now if you were to do a poll of online poker players and ask a question like this:

In terms of skill in online poker are you....

- Far Below Average?
- A Little Below Average?
- Average?
- Above Average?
- Far Above Average?

What would you predict the answers to be.... well I'll stick my neck on the line here and suggest that 90% of people would rate themselves as average or better... with probably 75% of those choosing the 'above average' or better categories.

This, of course, can not be true.

The reality is that in order for a proportion of people to be above average we need to have the balance of the below average folks - if we did not then the above average would not exist at all, it would revert back to being 'average'.

So what does this mean in terms of our play at the tables?

- Well, for a start it highlights the phemoninon of the huge number of people you see on forums who imply that they are skillfull yet 'unlucky' - ever read the 'bad beat' pages in most forums (i don't!)

- It explains nicely why people do not bother continually trying to learn and improve their games (plan3t gong readers are usually an exception to this, else they would not be readers right?!?!)

- It explains to some extent why people play tricky / trappy poker (at low limits) and win small pots when they could have won a big one by playing in a more straightforward manner (did some posts on 'ego players' many months ago)

Probably explains many more things too, but I'll leave you to think about them! The point of this post is to get readers asking themselves an important question

'Are you really above average?'

Cheers, Mark


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