Thursday, August 27, 2009

Luck, lucky and luckier: Part 3

Over the last few weeks, my previous posts (here & here) have been generating traffic from interesting searches.
  • short tem luck in poker
  • full tilt lucky people
  • things to do to get luckier at a poker game
  • poker's just luck
  • is fulltilt poker luckier when you first join
  • luck factor by richard weisman
  • can't find the fold button
  • deebakes blog poker
What makes me so interested in this is just how much people want to be believe it's true. It's really fascinating to me the people always have to find an external force that's gonna change the way that random events happen.

There's a story I've heard that claims Mike "The Mouth" Matusow tracked his hands to show that online poker's results are skewed out of the statistical norms.

I've kept a every hand history I've ever played on every sight where money was involved. Running the numbers on those histories, it would appear I'm behind the curve when it comes to getting monster hands. It took me 49, 837 hands to hit my first royal flush. If found that in the 2 + 2 Forums, it was calculated that you should be apart of a royal flush every 30,939 hands. Every 32,486 hands using one of your hole cards. This would mean that I'm way behind on my royals, but interestingly, I've seen a modest growth rate in my bankroll, or in other words, I've been play other people's money for years. My record for not being dealt AA, KK or QQ is 763 hands. Heck, in live poker, I lost to quads 4 times in 2 months playing only one night a week in a bar.

How is this possible? I've already proven that statistically, I'm on the unlucky side of variance. If anything, I should have been broke several times already. Unlucky people shouldn't be's just unAmerican.

Luck is an illusion. It helps us to cope with things we can't control or things we don't realize we can control. In TripJax's posts, he mentions making your own luck. I think that's the part the people don't quite understand about poker. They miss the nuances that make this game different.

In poker, we are asked to make some decisions: Raise, call, fold. Those are the usual suspects, but we have a little wiggle room in the raise option. Depending on the game, we can raise a little or a lot or just the right amount. It's been said by the pros for years, poker winning are the sum difference between your mistakes and your opponents mistakes.

Poker is also a game of imperfect information. The better player you are, the more details you get from the ether. Knowing more information can help you lay down a hand that's got inferior probabilities then you might normally think or keep you in a pot because you know your opponent is weak. There is no luck when you see all the cards.

One of my favorite days as a part time rounder was a trip down to an Iowa casino to play some $1/$2 NLHE. In 4.5 hours of play, I eeked out a small profit. I was really card dead that day, but you'll notice, I eeked out a profit.

How? I was card dead (read unlucky)? You see there were a couple of farmers there with money and time to burn. They had tells when it came to how they played their hands. One in particular had a bad habit of holding his cards when he was on a draw and capping them when he had a big hand. I played every hand with him know this and when I saw him holding his cards, I never missed an opportunity to bet and raise. You see, math tells us that a person on a draw will only hit their draw every so often. I pumped up the pot because I knew that he would just call and when we got to the river, he'd lay it down when he missed. Every time.

Mathematically, I'm profitable over the long term because when he does hit, I don't bet the river, I save those bets, but I made up the ones I lost the other 7 times he was going for a flush draw.

I too get bitten by the bug that I'm just running bad, but I really try not to let it get in my head. We do from time to time spend more time on the losing side of variance, sometimes longer then we want to, but it's in the nature of the game. It's not bad luck, it just the natural flow of the cards. Keep playing profitable poker and learn how to make better decisions, pick better games and look for the soft spot to exploit and your bankroll will see the difference.

My not really poker play friend I've talked about before that thinks that poker is mostly about luck said something that had my mind turning. He hypothesized that if you took the 2 great players in the world and put them heads up, the game would be decided by the cards and the cards alone. I just don't believe this. I've watched the pros play, sure it was mostly on TV, but still, when you watch them even online, you notice that they are masters at mixing up their games. It's this ability to alter your game to your opponent that makes them better pros then me.

How lucky are you? Do you make your own luck? Have you found a way to close the lid when you start losing your mind, your edge?


Memphis MOJO said...

Great advice, nice post!

diverjoules said...

Good post Capt. And although we really all go thru the down variance, it is hard to remember whilst in the midst of it, that things will turn around if you keep playing a better game. Thanks for the reminder.

The Monster Stack said...

My kind of post as you probably already know. I think that understanding variance is the game. What people don't realize is that if the variance never changes to the profitable side, it probably means it that person isn't unlucky but rather, just not good. I am one of the "lucky" ones in the sense that I personally play for the sport of the game and appreciate the various aspect, variance being one of them. The game is in the details so winning, although the ultimate long-term goal ("keeping score," if you will) is the important aspect of poker, it should not, and does not for me, factor into the short-term. I know it sounds cliché but the game is one long session.

Drizztdj said...

I'm just that good.

Dawn Summers said...

Dude, if I'm not super unlucky, then I just suck...I do not suck! - unluckiest woman in poker.

TripJax said...

Thanks again for linking me throughout your Luck posts! This is some good stuff OC.