Monday, December 22, 2008

Back to school

I was struggling to sleep the other night, so I was running through the days hands in my head, you know to try and work out optimal lines and identify mistakes. Then I started thinking about the nature of the game, because my girlfriends mum was telling me her husband should take the game up to earn some extra cash now that he is retired. At the time I simply told her that I had already offered to help him learn if he so desired, but if he doesn't want to play the game then it would never happen. Obviously there is a bit more to it than this, as even if a person does want to play poker that doesn't necessarily mean they should.

I think learning poker is a lot like being at school. To me, the people who attended school could be broadly grouped into the following categories...

1. The people who are naturally academic and clever, and as such breeze through school getting excellent results without seeming to exert any effort.

2. The people who find school a challenge (but are clever/industrious): studying hard and wrestling with the more difficult concepts as they learn with different people experience different degrees of success. Some learn better from their mistakes and successes than others and go on to become academically successful, but all manage to pass comfortably and generally do well post-school.

3. The people who find school a challenge (but are dim/lazy): wrestling ineffectually with or ignoring the more difficult concepts as they attempt to learn the basic lessons being taught with little success. Some manage to pass, but most get frustrated and leave school as soon as they are able.

4. The problem people. These are the people who struggle to turn up for lessons, or cannot focus for more than 5 minutes before disrupting the class or completely zoning out of what is being taught. They are unable, or are completely unwilling, to learn. These people can sometimes even turn destructive: damaging school property, getting into fights etc.

In the poker learning world, these distinct groups can be re-classified as follows:

1. The natural born pros, who fly through the limits and quickly rise to the top with the minimal amount of study.

2. The winning amateurs: some who play for fun; some for money, but all whom win more often than not. These people tend to study and practice often and diligently, and some of these eventually try going pro after putting in enough effort.

3. The losing amateurs: some who play for fun; some for money, but all whom lose more often than not. Some of these people try to study and improve, but very rarely can they change to become regular winners at the game.

4. You know who these people are in the poker community. They are the ones with severe problems: gambling, discipline, delusional, financial, even emotional. These are the people who play poker when they shouldn't. Maybe they think they are better than they are. Maybe they think poker is rigged. Maybe they think they are owed a big win after losing for so long. Or maybe they don't think at all. They lose big, and they lose fast. More often than not, they also lose time and again, with no ability to stop. Very occasionally such a person is aware they are a huge loser but can either afford it or play only at stakes that have negligible financial impact for them.

I've heard that about 85% of poker players are long term losers, so correspondingly the majority of people would fall into categories 3 and 4. As such, I'd think long and hard before recommending someone attempt to learn poker with the hope of becoming a financially successful player. I'd recommend learning it for fun in a heartbeat, because I still regard it as a challenging, absorbing and enjoyable game, but unless you know that a person belongs in the top 2 categories just tell them where the kiddy game is if they ask.

As for me, I believe I'm in category 2, and even there it's by no means a bed of roses. Just like when I was back at school, I have to work pretty damn hard to do well. I wish it came easier, but I'm glad I can put in the extra effort and (usually) get rewarded for doing so.

Anyway, just thought I'd share my thoughts, hope they get you thinking. Here's a hand from the other day that I'm still laughing about...

Table MAYFAIR DR ($1/2 Real Money)
Seat 1 is the button
Seat 1: RatholinShrtStk ( $42.80 USD )
Seat 2: P1 ( $453.23 USD )
Seat 3: P2 ( $400.00 USD )
Seat 4: Hero ( $408.65 USD )
Seat 5: P3 ( $111.96 USD )
Seat 6: P4 ( $259.16 USD )
P1 posts small blind [$1.00 USD].
P2 posts big blind [$2.00 USD].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to Hero [ 6c 6d ]
Hero raises [$7.00 USD]
P3 folds
P4 folds
RatholinShrtStk calls [$7.00 USD]
P1 folds
P2 folds
** Dealing Flop ** [ Th, 6h, Qs ]
Hero checks
RatholinShrtStk bets [$8.00 USD]
Hero raises [$20.00 USD]
RatholinShrtStk raises [$27.80 USD]
Hero calls [$15.80 USD]
** Dealing Turn ** [ Ad ]
** Dealing River ** [ Kc ]
RatholinShrtStk shows [Jd, Qh ]
Hero shows [6c, 6d ]
RatholinShrtStk wins $85.10 with straight, Ace to Ten


JoppaRoad said...

Glad I stumbled across this blog. Have enjoyed reading through it.

United113 said...

i'm definately a 3... or a 4...

That is exactly right what you've said there

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