Friday, January 25, 2008

Poker Psychology - 10 Delusions Of The Poker Mind!

The Human brain is a truly amazing thing. For me the most amazing characteristic of all is not how it processes information - it is the ability to filter out the overwhelming amount of data from all of our senses that is not 'relevant' to our day to day functions....

Poker minds are difficult creatures to tame, the enjoyment, challenge and 'buzz' of the game cause us all to rationalise - to 'explain' the external reality in ways that fit with our views of ourselves as a complete person. This leads to many areas where the explanation we give and the reality at the tables do not match - these are the 'delusions of the poker mind!'

As regular PG Poker readers will know my role here is not to be right or wrong - it is to make visitors think!! If you think that any of the points below are off-target (or good for that matter) then your opinion is most welcome - drop me a comment - nothing is better than a good debate!

Delusion #1: I'm an above average poker player

Let us be honest, if you asked 1000 online poker players to rate themselves on a 1 to 10 scale at the buy-in levels they currently play the 'average' score would be at least 7/10. Just like sex and driving skills everyone thinks they are 'above average'... hey, stop for a minute and think about what that means - did you score yourself as a 7?

Delusion #2: If my luck would even out I'd be a winner

See this one again and again, you'd crush the game if you just had 'average luck' right? If your hands would just hold up with the same frequency as other peoples did you'd rake the money in! Let us be honest... if you have played any reasonable number of hands your luck is close to evening out already.... you already win pretty damn close to half of your coin flips. So what was the problem again??

Delusion #3: Bankroll Management does not apply to me

It does not matter if you are playing $100 NL with 2 buy-ins or SNGs with 5... bankroll management is something that the professionals have to worry about right? Wrong! The chance element in the deal of cards (known as 'variance') will catch up with us all at one time or another. Bankroll Management is a method of ensuring that you can ride out the natural swings in the game without going broke - it applies to all limits and all players, no good blaming your 'bad luck', effective bankroll management would have meant you are still at the tables!

Delusion #4: Micro-Limits Are Impossible To Beat Due To The 'Donks'

Yeah, they will call you down with bottom pair (or worse), call pot sized turn bets with a gutshot straight on a 4-flush board and generally make the most horrible bet sizes imaginable. But wait, poker is all about adjusting... not how you play individual cards. The reality is that if you can not forumlate a strategy to beat the very worst players then you have no chance in the long-term to beat players who are working out a strategy to take your money...

Delusion #5: Poker Software Tools are a waste of money

There are some excellent tools available to poker players, from PA HUD (which displays stats online in real time) through to ICM Calculators such as SNG Wiz and SNG Power Tools. These will set you back around $80 to $100. Think about the price here. Thats 2 buy-ins at NL50, or 4 to 5 SNG buy-ins at the $20 level... if you could win one pot a day for a week that you would have lost (or folded) without these tools then you are already in profit... and the tool will be there next week... and the week after that....

Delusion #6: My Aces always end up getting cracked

At the lower limits in online poker there is no other hand played so horribly, so often, as those pocket aces. People limp at passive tables, make small raises over multiple limpers, mini-reraise before the flop (telling any observant opponent that they have a strong hand at the same time as giving perfect odds for a drawing hand / smaller pair)... Face facts here, if you choose to play aces in unraised multi-way pots you will lose with them much of the time. Raise and raise strongly, hopefully someone has a hand they want to go to war with in a situation where you are 80% favourite!

Delusion #7: Multi-tabling will make me a better player

Adding extra tables, 4-tabling, 8-tabling or even 12-tabling, may increase your hourly profits (by a smaller sum for each additional table) but the only poker skill you will improve here is, well, the ability to play X number of tables! If you want to improve, to move up to the higher levels, then you need to play less tables, to think through each action in relation to the opponents and table involved. You need to go through hand histories (yep, use a poker tool) and find your own leaks. You need to study the game and think about situations... multi-tabling will not make you a better player alone.

Delusion #8: I'll move up to where opponents respect my raises

Really an extension of number #4 above, but this delusion is shaped in a sightly different way... if you can not beat the 25c / 50c games then moving up to the $1 / $2 seems like a logical answer right? Here your opponents have the ability to 'lay down a hand' when they feel they are beaten. Wrong again, if you can not beat the micro games then you are not ready to make the adjustments (and read hands / situations) at the mid-limits... in short this is a recipie for losing your bankroll very quickly. Winning at poker is all about adjusting your strategy to beat your current opponents - if you can not beat the worst opponents of all then you are certainly not ready to move up levels!

Delusion #9: I get deep in online tournaments and then always get unlucky

There are a couple of explanations of this delusion... the first is mathematical. If, during a MTT you are all in 4 times.... twice as a 70/30 favourite and twice as an 80/20 favourite then the statistical chances are that you should be out! The other thought is that the players at the end are by definition stronger than at the start (sure, there will always be some bad players too!). Are you being re-stolen from light? outplayed in the small pots? Adjusting correctly to your opponents ranges at the final table bubble? Think about these things - if you had to risk all your chips in one hand this late when why was that??

Delusion #10: Online Poker is rigged!!

Saved my favourite delusion until last! There are a suprisingly large number of otherwise rational people who believe that online poker is rigged. Theories range from the straight up 'poker sites cheat' to something along the lines of 'let the new players win to get them hooked' through to the legendary 'doomswitch'. Reality check time for a couple of reasons... firstly from a business perspective: The online poker sites make millions each year, if they were caught 'fixing' the cards those millions would cease - yep, they would be out of business. Secondly from a checks and edits perspective... thousands of people have hand histories going into the 100,000+ or even millions of hands - yet nothing has ever been spotted to suggest anything but a random distribution of cards. Now, my guess is that the same people who believe that online poker is rigged also believe they would crush the game if only their 'luck' would be average - which takes us back to the top of this list again.

Gl at those delusional tables, Mark


Rob1606 said...

I liked this list! However, I would like to point out that I AM an above average poker player ;-)

The reason for this claim is simple: I am making money playing poker (not so much recently though, but I have a large positive result), and most people do not. I saw recently that 3/4 or so of all SNG players lose money in the long run, this number was quite surprising to me, but it shows that I am among the top 1/4 of SNG players (at least at the levels that I play at).

Csabii said...

I evaluate myself :)

#1: not apply (however i won more on titan than lost at FT)

#2: as a sw engineer, i strongly believe luck is distributed evenly across players on a long run

#3: i force myself to apply the brm rules

#4: I like to play with a donk who call my oversized value bets 'cause he always thinks it's a bluff. :)

#5: got them. bought the good ones, "found" and then deleted the bad ones

#6: my aces 80% held up :))

#7: Mtabbing makes me a looser on all tables :)))

#8: I gave a try to this idea. It turned out to be an expensive experiment.

#9: I get deep then screw it up... used to blame myself.

#10: I believe in the proofs, so _one_ site _was_ rigged. The others seems intact.

Mark said...

Great comments so far gents... an additional thought here:

Bloggers, and indeed those who read blogs are more likely to be the ones studying / taking poker more seriously than the 'average' player... a kind of self selecting group!

Me? at least a 7... 8.3 after half a bottle of JD!!

Cheers, Mark