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Posted by Bigbet on Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Poker fish

One day I won a lot of money when I was a  beginner. Bad players can sometimes win because of the variance-driven nature of short term results, bad players also generally exhibit higher variance than good players do in almost any kind of poker. Even though all of my opponents were probably shaking their heads wondering how that guy won all that money, in retrospect it makes a lot of sense. Due to higher variance, it’s reasonable that bad players would tend to have larger single winning sessions when they do actually win than good players would typically have.

However, don’t take this the wrong way. Higher variance is not somehow saving the bad players. It’s exactly the opposite. Bad players will also have many, many more and more gigantic losing sessions than big winning sessions, in the long run. So, besides getting a handle on why such a bad player/big win session might have happened, is there anything else we can learn about poker from that experience? Here are some things I have learned from thinking about it.

We were all bad players once. At that time, I sure was a bad player. Realizing that we were all beginners at one time can provide us with a calming sense of humility. More importantly, it may give us a sense of genuine empathy to those around us who may be new at what they’re doing. Don’t berate the fish

Whether or not you are awestruck by the humility or empathy mentioned above, it’s simply not good poker strategy to berate your weaker opponents. I came out of that session feeling great and thinking I was a great poker player. Can you imagine how much money I would have avoided losing to my opponents in future sessions if they had clued me in to my poor play by digging into me with their anger, frustration, and bad beat whining? Kudos to my opponents, at the time, for playing the meta-game of poker well and keeping me uninformed of my weak play.

Of course, the more important point is that you should offer your fellow human beings the same amount of respect and courtesy that you would appreciate in return, poker game or no poker game. You may not be as good as you think. While my arrogance that too much, I’ll admit that on that particular night, I felt that I had played well. I would say that I even took this idea to the next level and considered myself to be a good poker player.

In reality, at that time, I was probably better at making sushi than playing cards. Just in case you are unaware of my culinary resumé, I would guess that I probably didn’t really know exactly what sushi was at that time. But improvement can be achieved. So, you may not be as good as you think you are, but there is room for improvement. I am a firm believer that anyone, with desire and effort, can improve his or her poker game. I know my own poker game has improved dramatically since that big session and it is still improving today. Don’t forget: even if you’re already good, you can get better.

Don’t place too much emphasis on short term results. Poker is a game where the skill element is nearly hidden in the short term. Anyone can win in a particular session, any two cards can win a particular hand, and any outrageous long shot draw can get there. These are all short term concepts. These are the kinds of things that can make poker great or frustrating, depending on your overall poker attitude.

Many players, including the early version of me, tend to get hooked on a few short term results when trying to assess their poker skill levels. Poker skill only reveals itself in the long run.