Sunday, June 22, 2008

Confirnation Bias and the 'It's Rigged' Generation

This post is actually the combination of some unconnected events, firstly my current read of 'The Black Swan', second a freeroll I played yesterday for a WSOP seat (out in around 800th place - squarely beating 75% of the field and winning absolutely nothing) and finally some separate thinking concerning 're-tooling' my own game...

Just in case some of the points below sound a little too philosophical we can start with the conclusion of the post.

Human nature largely causes us to for confirmations of beliefs and behaviours, we look for evidence that we are right before we search for evidence we are wrong. This leads to potentially 'bad plays' in your poker game being re-enforced as being 'correct', when in fact they are horrible (!). What is more there is a tendency to blame external events (that bad river!) for those times our 'obviously good' play loses money. The conclusion of this can range from going broke through to leaving some money on the table or preventing yourself moving to the next level.

My conclusion is that we need to stop looking at any 'move', 'style', 'system' or 'method' in the play of each hand from the perspective of what works - to stop searching for evidence that 'we were right but got unlucky', and start focusing instead on the weak points in our game... sure it is easier to say than do - but if you do not acknowledge that you have a lot to learn (whatever level you play) they you will not even begin to take the steps to improve your game.

So, we started with the conclusion.

Ok, best come up with some examples to illustrate what got me there.

I'll break these down, it will take more than one post to do it. Let us look start with a $10 SNG - the bread-and-butter of the online poker world! It is the bubble and our player who is reasonably smart but not experienced in this form of the game faces an all-in from the button from the big blind. He looks down to find A-8 and calls finding that his 'fish' opponent had pushed Q-8 off...

haha, thinks our player - I knew that big stacked monkey was pushing a huge range, and my call with my second biggest stack really showed him! The call is correctness of the call confirmed, he wins the SNG - our players ROI looks great after 100 and then 250 games.... after 500 games things are looking like they are on a downward slope and after 1000 he gives up SNGs as the 'push monkeys' make this a game of no skill.

So what happened?

Experienced SNG players will realise that a call like this may well cost you $5 every time you make it (sure you might gain $2 in equity from being a 'big stack bully'). Over time it was destined to become a losing play.

Yet the confirmation, the reward was there to see... he was 'right'.

Losing money over time was just a case of being 'good but unlucky' (like the 80% of poker players who lose money claim to be!!). The 'Its Rigged defense'.

This post is not about the correct play at the bubble of SNGs - it is one of many that will try and explore the thought processes required to be a winning poker player. I believe that finding your own 'confirmation traps' is a big step, and will look at other examples for different forms of the game over the coming week.

GL at those tables, Mark

1 comment:

Pud's Poker said...

A good post as always Mark. A hand came up the other day in an MTT that I was berated for by the entire table.

I have Qs9s in the BB and 4 people limp for 120 with blinds 60/120 and shorty in the SB shoves for 500. I have a tight image and push all-in knowing the limping fish will fold. They do and he flips AQ which holds up.

They couldn't understand that I was getting over 4/1 in a situation where I am probably a 60/40 dog and berated the hell for doubling the short-stack.

Maybe not the best example but it shows people simply don'tunderstand odds and equity etc and only recognise "good" plays.