Friday, August 21, 2009

The Perils of Emulating Your Own Success

It would seem a very rational thing to do. You pick the game of your choice, learn the fundamentals and mechanics of solid play and then slowly become a winner in that game. Though you don't quite know fully what you are doing yet, you try some creative plays and some of them turn out to be brilliant. Perhaps you got a little lucky here and there with these plays, but mostly they were fundamentally sound and based on good observation of your opponents and the flow of the game. You congratulate yourself and vow that you will do these good deeds again. Well done!

On the other hand, during your experimental phase you also make some plays that don't turn out quite so well. Actually, that is an understatement- they are monumental fucking failures. In fact, had you eliminated two of the plays from your session, you would have actually come out a small winner for the day. You take these harsh lessons to bed with you, only this time you vow to never make these plays again.

Now that you are bumping around less frequently in the dark and have pruned all of the major atrocities from your game, you start winning fast now...and BIG. You could keep on trying new things, but you are a professional and you have bills to pay, so better to just stick with the formula- at least for now.

Right now I play x tables with y win rate for z hours per week. If I play x + 3 tables for z + 15 hours a week, even if I can maintain a win rate of just y - b, I can pay off my car and my credit cards in 5 1/2 months!! ...And all I have to do is keep doing what I've been doing!


Except for one tiny little problem...it just doesn't work anymore. Is it the variance? The bad beats? The fact that your opponents are catching on to you? Perhaps a combination of all these things, but they are merely symptoms of the real problem. The real problem is that by failing to react appropriately to the situation at hand yet still playing fundamentally decent in a formulaic fashion, you moved from an exploitative/optimal strategy to one that is only approaching optimal, at best. This what occurs when you begin applying your commonly most effective lines to every single hand.

Once this finally dawns on you, it truly becomes easy to understand. Your best lines were developed in response to game flow that existed THEN but is not likely to be present NOW. In the past, you were to trying to play GREAT, not just ADEQUATE. However, in all likelihood, the lines that you are using formulaicly at this point are probably rarely awful, but they also going to rarely be great as well. And great play is what creates good win rates and solid monthly incomes. Making the occasional horrific play that you would not normally make is not necessarily something to be avoided at all costs, but rather shows that you still have blood pumping through your veins. The only types of plays that should be cut completely from your game are those odds defying blundering all-in calls on the turn.

By emulating your past success, you are settling for mediocrity and being just plain lazy. The bottom line is very simple- you must strive to get a little bit better every day. That is how you got to where you are right now. This is the very minimal requirement, even if you plan on only keeping your current win rate. As they say "if you aren't slowly getting better, you are slowly getting worse."

9 comments:

Larken said...

Great post as always, keep 'em coming!

koderman said...

Amen...

Seriously, I been following your blog for a while now, just lurking. But this is a great piece of advice, and very well put.

Anonymous said...

At 2+2's NVG forum Leatherass posted a big tirade against what he calls "talentless shortstackers" and how the poker rooms ought to outlaw shortstacking because shortstakers are "ruining the action".
Sounds like you folks must be taking quite a bite out of his win rate. :)
You guys should pop over there and take a look at it if you haven't already...

Yorkshire Pud said...

Great post brother.

I got lazy and kept playing the same way and was basically breaking even. Since last week I booked my ideas up and have altered my style, not drastically just enough to keep ahead of the fishes and I'm doing pretty damn well, even if I do say so myself!

Lorin Yelle said...

@ Anon

You see, I expect this kind of baloney from people who are struggling to win and clinging to weak excuses as to why they can't, but I expect much better from people like Dusty, who are hard working and intelligent.

Poker is like everything else in capitalism, and short stackers are just another tax on people who are essentially just bootlegging the system themselves. He makes over 1 million a year contributing nothing to society and can't spread the wealth. For a gung ho liberal who is 100% for a new health care system for those who contribute little or nothing to society, is this being highly hypocritical?

Roenan said...

Criticism like that will always come down from people with something to lose. The British felt that way when they fought the Americans in the revolution and they used guerilla warfare. It is apparently similarly 'ungentlemanly' to shortstack as it is to conduct guerilla warfare. Unfortunately, people in the poker profession forget the reality of what they are doing (taking money from someone else, and too often from someone who probably has a gambling problem and is using money he cannot afford to lose) and pretend like they are tending to lepers or something equally as holy. I personally have seen from starting down Lorin's way that shortstacking creates more action within people, causing them to call bets/take risks that they wouldn't if I played fullstacked. I turn this seems to at least leak into the table somewhat in a domino effect.

Lorin Yelle said...

@ Pud


Good to hear and know that you are still reading!

Poolcue Poker said...

As the great Cartman said "Short stackers piss me off".Hence I now play 50 bb minimum tables,it's not rocket science and enables me to play my more speculative hands in the hopes of getting a decent payoff

Kevin Stevens said...

Excellent post, very well put. So agree that mistakes are like the building blocks of brilliance. (less well put I know)