Thursday, January 31, 2008

Confessions of a Rock

Here at the office, whenever it becomes known that I am an avid poker player, people look at me askew and remark, “I never would have imagined you to be a gambler” – with a certain stigma being attached to the term “gambler”. Due to their lack of understanding of the game, they immediately assume I am a wild “gamb00ler” because that image – wild bluffs and big stacks of chips being exchanged foolishly is what their mental image of poker is. I see it very differently.

Good poker players are not really gamblers, but bad ones definitely are. I think good players usually get their money in with the best hand. I am not a big chaser of draws. I usually bet my OESD’s and Nut or 2nd nut flush draws and I frequently win without making my hand. If my opponent is showing a lot of strength like raising my bets or denying me the pot odds to pursue my draw, I fold it. I do not usually suck out. I am usually sucked out on because I try to get my chips in with the best of it. While there is a chance you may lose, you have waited for an opportunity to have your opponent at a disadvantage and statistically you ought to win more often than you lose. This is not possible in roulette, dice, slots, or most other forms of gambling. There is a reason there is no World Series of Roulette or Dice, etc. Poker is a game of skill that has an element of luck. Over a long period of time, a skilled poker player is more likely to win than lose. This is not true of roulette, dice, slots, etc. If winning was all due to luck, I would not enjoy poker. For me to enjoy a game, there has to be a significant element of strategic thinking and competition against other would be thinkers. Dice, slots, roulette, and so forth have no appeal to me. When it comes to gambling on games of pure chance, the pain I feel when I lose outweighs the pleasure I feel when I win. This is a psychological effect known as loss aversion. Research shows that before we risk an investment, we need to feel assured that the potential gain is twice what the possible loss might be because a loss feels twice as bad as a gain feels good. That's weird and somewhat irrational, but it's the way it is.

I suppose a lot depends on why you are playing in the first place. If you are playing poker for the “buzz” you get from the gambling itself, you will have a different perspective than mine. There is nothing inherently wrong with this type of approach but a player like this may not be able to expect to win as often as a player that seeks to minimize the gambling aspect of the game and optimize his chances of winning regularly. I deeply enjoy the strategic elements and competition but I also play because it is the only hobby I enjoy that can pay for itself and even generate additional funds. Consider this quote:

Mike Sexton, in a tribute to the late Chip Reese, in Poker Player newspaper, December 24, 2007, issue, p. 27.Years ago, I was talking to Chip about another Hall of Fame poker player that we lost too early, Stu Ungar. I asked Chip if he thought Stuey was the most talented player he had ever seen. Chip said, "Natural ability-wise, yes. Certainly he was the quickest minded guy I've ever known. Stuey's problem is that he doesn't understand the 'object of the game.' The object of the game is to accumulate wealth, improve your lifestyle, and provide for your family, and Stuey will never get it." Chip did.

I agree with Chip. Although I am no professional that actually supports my family with poker, I take the game seriously and want to build my bankroll and improve my lifestyle via poker. I am disciplined with my poker bankroll because I feel like I had to “earn” it. I consider the money I win at poker to be “earned” rather than won since I read, study, practice, and think about poker frequently in order to build my skills. I conserve my poker “earnings” even more eagerly than my regular earnings. Why - because they were more difficult to obtain, that’s why. What do I mean by that? Well, to earn at poker consistently, you have to regularly outplay your opponents. The cards themselves will even out over time so every player will end up being dealt about the same number of quality hands. You cannot depend on consistently getting better cards than your opponents, therefore, you will have to learn to win without the best hand, too. At one’s regular job, you can “phone it in” occasionally without penalty. You can show up for work, be about 25% functional and at most jobs, you will earn the same rate of pay per hour. You cannot “phone it in” at poker. If you attempt to “phone it in” you will suffer and pay for it quickly. If you expect to win with any regularity, you must be capable of summoning forth your “A” game most of the time. When you cannot muster your “A” game, you should elect not to play. If you reduce or eliminate the times you play your “B” or “C” (or worse) game, it will reduce the element of chance and its subsequent consequences to your bankroll.


TenMile said...

Clicked through Tripjax. Howdy. Welcome. Hate the white on black, but will RSS through Bloglines.

Fuel55 said...

Ditto on the black on white.

Looking forward to reading what you have to say.

Joaquin "The Rooster" Ochoa said...

I liked this post very much. I can't tell you how many people play 8 hours of good poker and then say, I'm going to hit the blackjack table? I don't get that.

Klopzi said...

For what it's worth, there is a World Series of Blackjack.

I'd also tend to agree with those who say poker is gambling. Even if you're putting your money in with an edge, it all comes down to the fall of the cards.

But hey, it's the gambling aspect of poker that makes it exciting; otherwise, we're just playing chess.

Lucypher said...

Klopzi, I was talking about games of chance where there is no element of skill like dice, roulette, etc. They are 100% gambling. When one's skill can influence the outcome, it is not 100% gambling - I think it's maybe 55-60%.