Thursday, January 20, 2011

Numbers have no memory

AS I've noted before, the down time provided by travel is the blogger's friend, and I'm tapping this entry in Dublin airport as I wait for my RyanAir flight to the Canaries for the EMOPS there. After a few good (ie profitable) weeks of online grinding to get 2011 off to a good start pokerwise, it's time to get the live campaign on the road, with a lot of stuff on in the next few weeks.

Hot on the heels of the EMOPS is EPT Deauville, but I'm still undecided on that. I haven't qualified and my normal rule is not to play anything outside the WSOP with a four figure buyin unless I satellite in, but my bankroll has now thankfully blossomed healthily to the point that it wouldn't be a major deal to just buy in. So I'll see how I feel on Tuesday when I get back from the Canaries, and if I feel up to it will head to France.

The following week sees my favourite tournament of the year, the European Deepstack, which is where it all started for me in a sense. My 100% cash record in this has to end at some point, but hopefully not this year. One of my unfulfilled ambitions as a runner was to successfully defend a title or win the same race twice, so it'd be nice to do this in poker.

Shortly after that is this year's IPR live final, which I guess also represents a chance to successfully defend. With 18 players this year it looks like the structure will be a good bit faster, but it's basically a 10k freeroll so essentially I've nothing to lose. If nothing else, it should be good craic.

The title of this entry is something I've been thinking about recently. It can be interpreted in different ways: as a description of variance for example. It points out the fallacy that just because you haven't run well for a while you're "due", or the contrary one that if you're running well you're more likely to win. The first one is definitely a fallacy in my view, but the second one has some sort of basis in reality. Players who are running well expect good things to happen, are more confident and therefore more likely to be playing well, in particular when it comes to the crucial marginal decisions. The thing is that numbers may have no memory, but we humans do.

You see another aspect to this during individual tournaments. From a theoretical point of view, your chances of success in any tournament are directly proportional to your current stack. If you have, say, 100K of the 10 million chips in play and you're an average player (no edge), then you're a 100 to 1 shot to win at that point in theory. It doesn't matter whether you just doubled up from 50K, or doubled down from 200K. Except it does. Most players have a much better chance if they've just doubled up rather than doubled down, because of human memory and emotion. When you've just lost half your stack, you're not going to be nearly as chipper as when you've doubled up. While it really shouldn't make a difference, there are very few players with the emotional control to make this so. How often do you see someone double down, then go on tilt, and do the rest? Or someone who is playing badly but gets a lucky double up suddenly knuckle down and start playing better?

When I play a tournament, I try to remember at all times that it doesn't matter how many chips I used to have, or would have had if my aces had held. All that matters is how many I have now. This is a slight simplification as your table image is affected by your fluctuations. You can't really control that, but what you can control is your emotional reaction to setbacks. So next time you find yourself steaming after a bad beat that claimed half your stack, try to do what I always do: imagine how you'd feel if instead of doubling down, you just doubled up to your current stack. And remind yourself it's essentially the same situation to find yourself in at that point in the game.

Numbers have no memory, but it's pretty inevitable I'm going to have a major online downswing at some point. Not because it's due, but simply because realistically you can't keep running as well as I've been running online for the last 12 months forever. I've been very fortunate that the biggest downswing in that time has been a very manageable 12K one, but at some point I'm almost certain to get a much bigger one, and have to be ready financially and emotionally for it. It's too easy to think easy game when things are going well, but I believe that in the long run it's how you perform in the bad spells that ultimately determines long term success. That's the good thing about human memory: in the bad times when it's too easy to think it will always be like this, you can remind yourself of the good times which followed previous bad times.


Your best blog yet dara...looing forward to clashing at a few tournaments in 2011.



Cheers Matt, look forward to it :)


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More