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Why Julian Rotter can fix your game

So, as promised (and challenged – thank you Fiona!)

This post I’m going to discuss what I personally am sure is the number one reason that people do not learn from their mistakes.  Everyone knows and has access to tools that can improve their games; there’s a litany of books out there, training websites, discussion websites, and numerous software programs.  But, none of these will help you if you don’t realize one simply thing, the source of your poker problems is you.   Think about this, nobody else is forcing any of your decisions when you play, every bet, raise, call, and fold is all you baby!  Let’s debunk something shall we?

Luck:  There’s no such thing as luck.  There’s variance, which is a mathematical phenomenon whereby the actual occurrences in any given sample deviates from the mathematical expectations, is what many people call “luck”.  But, as anyone who is involved in poker should know, in the “long run”, these things even out.  You may miss 10 straight flush draws in a session, but if you were to track them all, you’d see you are getting close to your expectation of about 1/3 times.  It’s not bad / good luck, it’s an insufficiently large sample size.

So, what does this mean?  If it means that you “only lose when they catch”, you’re a liar.  If you “always lose when you put money in ahead”, you’re lying again.  The worst part is, you’re not lying to me (and if you are, WTF do I care?) but rather to yourself!  And let’s face it, that’s the worst person to lie to, because you tend to take your own advice – no matter how stupid it is (see previous post)

Here’s where my friend Julian Rotter comes in.  Julian Rotter was a psychologist that spent the bulk of his career studying learning – how people learn, and how to improve it.  Rotter hypothesized that people, being the insecure suckers we are, will blame others for our failures, but take full credit for our successes.  Allow me to provide an example from this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs (I just typed in “interview sports winner” in youtube) listen in at about 1:30:

Example of a winner!

And now the other side of the coin:

Not my fault!

As you can see, Palin blames the previous administration, and they mention that the previous administration blames “historical tendencies”, while Scott Walker mentions how well everyone was playing, and how nicely the set up that goal.  I’ll admit that I didn’t follow the elections enough to have a fully informed opinion, but this suits my purpose.

Anyways, back to poker.

So, just as in these examples, I’ve heard countless times other players provide excuses or rationalizations for their losses.  Common phrases “My aces always get cracked”, “There’s no sense in raising pre-flop in limit, nobody folds anyways”, “I always get sucked out on”.  These are convenient excuses for why you got stacked, and easier for you to believe than the idea that you played badly.  Let’s not forget that we use the same rationale to give us our “favourite hands”, I cracked aces years ago when I first started with 78cc, so it’s clearly the best hand ever, because I play it so well that I make tonnes with it when I hit, but lose very little when I miss.  And yet, a quick peek at my pokertracker shows that I lose 2BB every time I play that hand… surely it must be wrong somehow?

Now, as warned, take this nugget of information, and tie it in to the previous post’s topic of the Wizard’s First Rule, are you going to continue to tell yourself that you lost once again because of x-y-z, or are you going to be able to objectively ask yourself why you really lost.  I myself have read numerous books, and have pokertracker, but I don’t re-read them all that often, and I don’t evaluate my stats nearly enough, but I still wonder why some of my other friends (who oddly enough do these things) are playing at much higher limits, and making much more than I am.  Again, if you can apply this not only to poker, but to your life in general, you’ll be amazed at how often you do stupid things!

Mark

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