Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Spock's Brain

It's a conundrum of sorts. If you're out to make the best decisions, you need access to the correct data and a process to filter it, manipulate it, and correctly choose from a well-defined set of options. You don't want to guess. Guessing involves hope. Guessing is a conscious effort to ignore some of the data. Why would you ignore valid data? Because it leads you to a conclusion you simply don't want to be true.

Spock would be a great limit poker player. Decision after decision based purely on his logic-driven conclusions. No-limit? He might be pretty good at that as well. He wouldn't tilt, that's certain. His success would be based on his ability to read other players and their emotions while hiding his own. We know he can do the latter, but only the true Trekkie would know about the former. After all, he's no Troi.

I battle with myself each poker session. I make an attempt to train myself to ignore emotionally-driven feelings at the poker table. The lament of a crushing bad beat. The disappointment of a 5th straight losing session. The martyrdom of inevitably getting it in bad and not sucking out like your luckbox opponents seem to always do. All of those things, if they occupy any of your mental energy, detract from your ability to make the best decision.

Lately, I sure as hell know what the worst decision is.


It's horrible. In theory, I want a smooth call by yours truly to frighten my opponents. But lately I've been calling too much and you can't scare everyone with a call when your frequency is so high.

Back to the conundrum. When can you take emotion completely out of your game? For one, by lowering the stakes. If you play at stakes far below your norm, your interest in the results go down. You've eliminated the negative emotions associated with losing when the magnitude is irrelevent.

But unfortunately, you've also eliminated the positive emotions of winning. And there's the catch. Why do you play? Do you play to win, or simply be right? Because you can be right and lose. A lot. So if you get no satisfaction from being right, then you're going to run into situations where the reason you're playing gets lost and the negativity of the results has no positive counterbalance.

Each action at the poker table is like a question on a test. What's the right answer? Can you figure it out? Why are you taking the test? To get a good score, or because it's an opportunity to learn?

Poker for me is a dichotomy of searching for that satisfaction of being right which requires me playing at stakes that mean something and the quelling of emotions that cloud my ability to make the best decision.

I need risk to feel the reward, but I don't want the feel of the risk to effect my ability to earn that reward.

Crazy game.


SirFWALGMan said...

I think he would be easy to bluff as that move would be "Highly Illogical".

BamBam said...

Despite our pre-discussed differences in levels of play, this is quite posibly the best description of "social" poker ever written.

Dichotomy indeed.

Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Very well said, Blood.

I think the key is to find stakes that you care enough about to play well, but then not so much higher than that that it hampers your ability to make the right decisions every time.

It's like the guy I played with for a while last weekend at the blackjack table at the MGM. He knew his basic strategy pretty well and stuck to it almost exclusively every time he bet normally. But on those random times when he decided to put most of his chips at risk, suddenly hitting that 15 against the dealer's 10 showing was a much harder trigger to pull. He lost it all playing blackjack "wrong" because he was playing too high to make the right decisions.

If the amount at risk has any effect at all on one's decision making, then it is time to step down the stakes to where you're more comfortable playing right.

Good post as always.

joxum said...

Good post there,

I thought you wanted to know that Volbeat will be warming up for Metallica from Oct. 26 to somewhere in December.


The NL Wife said...

I think my husband deals with this constantly. I, on the other hand, am totally risk averse, but highly competitive. So play money, low stakes, or the highest stakes I can stand . . . its still all about winning and outlasting everyone else. So I always have interest. :)

Too Sexy said...

It may be a crazy game, but that was a very sane observation.