In Defense Of Grinding – The ‘Peter Principle’ And Poker

Poker Economy, Psychology, Strategy
January 29, 2009

“In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence” – Dr. Lawrence Peter, The Peter Principle

“In a cardroom, every player tends to move up until he can no longer beat the game” – me, right now.

Dr. Peter’s observation was originally intended as somewhat of a joke, as is my corollary.  But like many jokes, there is some underlying truth involved.  Peter’s observation was this: if you have an hierarchical organization of people, and each person has a fixed set of skills, and you promote people based on competence you will inevitably promote any given individual to the point where they are not competent, and there they will remain.

It’s not hard to see how the same situation can develop in poker. Read the rest of this entry »

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Throwing A Spanner In The Preflop Works

No Limit Texas Holdem, Psychology
December 18, 2008

If you can’t evade a tax, pay a little too much to confuse their computers.

-Friday, Robert Heinlein

Here’s a funny little story.  A few years ago I was playing a 1/2 NL home game.  It was my first time there, and we were playing somewhat deep for a small game – I think I had 150BB and several people had me covered.  Anyways, because of the stack depths and general table atmosphere I was using a slightly oversized preflop raise – I was thinking something like 4.5BB+1BB/limper would be about right (3 to 3.5BB +1BB/limper is more standard).  Anyways, just for shits and giggles, I decided to do 4+1/limp half the time and 5+1/limp half the time. Read the rest of this entry »

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Waiting For The Big Blind, Posting, Buying The Button and ???

Dealing & House Procedures, Psychology
November 23, 2008

I don’t play in Vegas all that often, so when I do make it out to the desert there’s always something new going on.  This time it was a new way of taking your first hand when sitting down at the table. Read the rest of this entry »

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Beginner Mistakes: Giving Up Won Money For No Good Reason

Beginner Mistakes, No Limit Texas Holdem, Psychology
November 13, 2008

I’ve seen this happen a million times:

Beginner Bob has just absorbed the sage wisdom of Play Holdem Pretty Darn Good, NL Edition and sits down at a small stakes NL game to try out his newfound knowledge.  He knows his opponents will be playing far too loose at these stakes, and as such resolves to wait for big hands he wants to show down and then bet them for value.  Sure enough, 30 minutes into his session he flops a set, bets it, gets called down, and stacks someone.  Now Bob is sitting in front of a nice big doubled stack.  Then something funny happens an orbit later: Bob enters the pot by calling an under the gun raise with an AQ, hits an ace, gets check-raised on the flop, pays off the whole way to the river, and loses to AK.  Suddenly Bob is worse off in terms of money than he was before he hit the set.  Bummer.

I swear this happens FAR too often to be coincidence. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Power Of Suggestion: The Luckiest Tourist In Vegas

September 9, 2008

One of the advantages I have when playing in Vegas is that almost nobody knows who I am.  I don’t play there enough to be a “regular” and I don’t volunteer my name at the table so it’s unlikely anyone would connect me with CardSharp.

At first look, this might actually seem to be a disadvantage.  While my opponents generally know little to nothing about me, the reverse is also true.  I know little to nothing about them.  If we assume I’m a better player than the majority of my opponents, then it stands to reason that I would make more effective use of information about how they play than they would of information about how I play.  So the mutual lack of information would in theory puts me at a disadvantage.  I believe that effect is real, and does hurt me slightly.

However, there’s a more dramatic effect at work that I believe gives me a huge edge.  There is a basic principle of psychology that it’s easier to deceive people on a subject they’re trying to gather information than it is to deceive them on a subject they’ve already made up their minds about. Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m Back, And A Thought On Poker Pedagogy

No Limit Texas Holdem, Poker Concepts, Psychology
March 6, 2008

Sorry I’ve been dormant so long. Life interfered. I should be able to write regularly again, and I’ve got a lot of material I’m planning to post. Read the rest of this entry »

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When should you stop playing?

Poker Economy, Psychology, Strategy
September 21, 2007

Ever since I wrote the last bankroll management article, I’ve been getting search hits for “craps bankroll management”. I feel sorry for these folks, because I doubt anything I said dissuaded them from their belief that somehow they could beat craps if only they played their money right. It’s important to understand why there are useful bankroll management principles that apply to poker, but there’s nothing to be done about craps. The difference is that poker, if played correctly, offers you a series of positive expectation wagers. Craps, in contrast, offers you only negative expectation wagers. So if you keep playing craps, in the long run, you will always lose. In contrast if you play poker skillfully you will always win in the long run. The problem, in poker, is to get to that long run without going broke in the process. That’s what the previous bankroll management article was all about – making sure you have enough money in you bankroll to weather the swings and get to that perpetually profitable long run.

There’s another aspect of poker management that’s worth discussing, and it’s probably a lot closer to what those craps players are thinking of when they think bankroll management: figuring out when to stop playing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fish Psychology Part 2: Self Deception in Poker

Psychology, Strategy
September 13, 2007

In the Fish Psychology series, I explore the reasons that losing players continue to play, and look at ways to keep them coming back for more.

Our first explanation for long run losing play is that the player does not in fact believe they are losing. Notice that I’m talking specifically about the long run. It’s very easy in the short run to believe your expectation is positive when in fact it’s not, and we’ll talk about that in another article, but I’m more interested in cases where people continue to believe they’re winning when any rational examination of the evidence would indicate they’re not. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fish Psychology Part 1

Psychology, Strategy
September 12, 2007

I want to pose a simple question: why do losing players continue to play?

This question should be of supreme interest to anyone considering a career in poker or considering playing at high stakes. It should be obvious that poker games cannot exist without losing players – if the players with a negative expectation made a policy of quitting a game, that game would quickly cease to exist since in any given lineup there’s always someone who has a negative expectation[1] and who would thus be quitting. Read the rest of this entry »

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Way To Screw It Up Guys

Poker Economy, Psychology, Strategy
July 28, 2007

So, Wil Wheaton’s hanging up his poker spurs. Not just getting canned from pokerstars (which was inevitable), but giving up poker. And he explains pretty clearly why: Read the rest of this entry »

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