Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Quora: "What is it like to earn a living through poker?"

In response to this Quora thread about professional poker, a correspondent writes,

"I was in the locker room at the gym I go to last week and I heard this guy complaining to a friend, literally, about a bad poker beat. He was complaining about how he had pocket Aces and couldn't get a guy to fold and the guy caught the card he needed on the river and beat him. He kept lamenting, 'He should've folded! He should've folded!' and was clearly outraged that this horrible opponent had the temerity to keep playing so badly against the expertness he represented, and that he managed to suck out and win a hand that belonged to him just because he started with the best hand.

It was tragic to listen to because I thought, 'here is a person who is still quite an amateur, but he has learned enough about the game to think he's a pro. And yet, not enough to realize he is not.' I thought about all the things that were wrong with what he was saying:

1.) Just because you START with the best hand, doesn't mean you end with it
2.) Just because you HAVE the best hand, doesn't mean you win everytime (the game is more nuanced than waiting for AA and then going all in and winning...)
3.) Rather than being UPSET at the mistakes of other players, you want to encourage them to play as idiotically and recklessly as possible; by controlling your own risk you ensure you don't get wiped out and are around to take advantage of theirs, that's the essence of good poker, and similarly, good investing

Overhearing this guy made it obvious to me how much pain we can cause ourselves by not getting the psychology right. I think where frustration comes from is expectation. And expectation is fully under our control. We can set our expectations however we want and we will always reap what we sow. I think if we're finding ourselves confused, frustrated, angry, etc., about what happened versus our expectations, we have two options: get mad at the world for the way it is, or get in touch with the way the world is. That is, learn to accept, or choose to fight.

And I think economics and physics and everything we know about truth in the world is that accepting it is the path of least resistance and that fighting reality is costly and exhausting.

The point is, and the lesson from poker here-- you can play your hand right, you can get the right hand, etc., and you can still lose the pot. It's part of the game and it should be expected. The last thing you need when you're playing poker, investing or just trying to be a human being, is to be your own worst enemy by sabotaging your own experience and emotions."


Taylor Conant said...

Your correspondent uses terrible English grammar... should be "Last week, ..."

Anonymous said...

Phil Helmuth (a poker pro) does this all the time. He does get very emotional about bad beats.

Anonymous said...

Imagine if this guy shorted Suntech.