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Life & poker

  • Life

This weekend started out with a book – Maria Konnikova’s The Biggest Bluff – before it escalated to me downloading a poker game app, and spending quite some time playing it.

“Casual playing”, that’s what they all say, right?

Kidding aside, I’m not putting “real” money on it, so the only thing I’m really losing is time. I’ve played poker on and off, learned the very basics when I was 15. I’m still a very basic player and I lose more hands than I win them, but I’m pretending that it’s helping my decision making skills somewhat.

I’m glad this is also online because as my friends and colleagues will attest to, I have absolutely no poker face. I also now understand why there are so many poker analogies out there.

Sunk cost fallacy & fear of missing out

There are two scenarios here:

  1. When I’m the small blind (i.e. a mandatory position where you put in half the minimum bet)
  2. When I don’t have a bet in the game

In the small blind position, I’m always thinking to myself — I’ve already ‘invested’ a small amount now, and if my hand is okay (to me this means a combination of at least one royal card and >8 cards), shouldn’t I maximize my chances of getting a good

When I don’t have a bet yet, but if I’m holding good cards (again, to me, something like high pairs), I’d also more likely than not put in a call. Sometimes it works out, other times, people either have higher pairs or the round goes into other combinations that they win with.

Opportunity costs, regrets and what ifs

Now, in some cases I would fold immediately, especially if I don’t have any stakes in the round. Usually this means I have bad cards, like a combination of any cards between 2 – 6, or if I’m at a table with someone I can tell just keeps raising and going all-in (their strategy, I suppose).

Then comes the flop. Then the turn. Then the river.

I realize my cards would have given me a win, usually via a straight, a three of a kind, or a flush.

This realization is followed by me heaving a sigh, especially if I’m down on my chips too. This is made worse if the winning player had bluffed. What if I had forged forward anyway? What if I had put in the minimum bid to “see what happens”?

Privilege

More than that, I have been drawing parallels to everybody’s starting points and how, even if you have a great hand, you might not be able to capitalize on it.

Take for example a game where you have a buy in of 500 chips, but another player has 10,000 chips. You can bet and go all in, and the most you’ll get — assuming the other player matches your all in of 500 chips — is 1,000. It’s barely a drop of the ocean for the other player.

I think about equity, and how hard some people have to work to even achieve parity. About how some opportunities have to be passed up sometimes because you aren’t sure of it working out. It’s also not a complete equivalency — equity in real life doesn’t mean that you are “giving up” your privilege(s), not like in a game of poker.

Now I should really go back to reading the book, instead of making empty air bets.

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