Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Variance

Posted: April 11, 2010 in General
Balance. It’s something we take for granted in our everyday lives. Some people have more of it than others, but in order to perform even the most mundane activities in life we are required to maintain balance. As a teenager into your college years most posses a ridiculous ability to balance family, friends, sports, school, fun, sleep, etc. all with a giant smile on their face. It’s no coincidence that the majority of us look back on our youth as the best time of our life. I promise a lot of that has to do w/balance. Buddhism is practically centered around this philosophy of living a balanced life. Unfortunately into adulthood responsibilities become concentrated and hold so much more weight that they take precedence over leading a balanced life. Quickly we all become part of the rat race focused on the big cheese rather than what once made us happy, balance. It’s like attempting to walk a tight rope w/only one leg…unhealthy.
That philosophy has many times been lost on me throughout my poker career and adult life. This week after a long period of life getting in the way and complacency setting the tone, I decided to make some changes. I’m a firm believer that if you get life right all the details will fall into place so I went back to the basics. I’ve been up at 8-9 am everyday, working out by noon. My diet is simple and functional w/no room for garbage. I’ve talked to some combination of my family and friends everyday. I’m also committing myself to playing ball, even if it means sacrificing a few Sunday sessions. I’ve rediscovered my love for baseball on and off the field.

After watching about 10 hrs of ball this week I was reminded both how far we’ve come technologically(easily the best sport to watch in HD) and how much I enjoy studying and picking apart the intricacies that make up my two biggest passions, baseball and poker. That being said I’ve always followed the mantra of “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.” There’s no room to take steps back and find success. I spent a lot of hours playing, no different than usual, but I was certain to ensure they were quality hours of play rather than just grinding for the sake of grinding. I also have been doing a lot of reading when I get a spare minute. I’m currently getting through a book called, “Treat poker like a business” that is really cementing home a lot of things I began to tweak and touch upon since the new year. My results have been mixed as far as a success standpoint is concerned. However, my mindset couldn’t be any more on track.

On to a little poker analysis. I was proposed what from the surface seems to be a pretty trivial question. I guess there really are no bad questions, though, as this ended in what I feel is a pretty important/overlooked understanding of variance and how it applies in our career.

“newhanddealt wrote:
If you believe in variance over luck…
is it possible some people’s positive/negative variance is greater than others?”

 

Now when you say, “If I believe in variance over luck” you are implying it’s a topic up for debate. It’s a mathematical fact, simple statistics. Technically luck is what is the made up term, and is very rarely observed in everyday life. Luck is the equivalent of a statistical anomaly or outlier that is associated w/good fortune. So drilling a 1 outter isn’t lucky. 5% of the time w/2 to come you’ll find that case card you’re looking for, that means it will in fact happen, period. However,drilling a one outter in the most important pot of your life, say to win the WSOP main event, that would be lucky as now you would have to factor in the odds of making to HU’s w/the odd’s of needing a one outter along w/the odds of getting there and it’s an isolated incident so the “long-term” has no effect in this scenario.

All that being said I do believe variance can affect people differently. See we’re human thus do nothing to perfection. So no matter what people say, variance plays a specific role in affecting our play. Positive variance makes people play better, strategically press every edge worth pressing, make less mistakes. Negative variance can do the opposite, force people into small hidden mistakes that seem fine but actually increase their variance significantly(which when positive goes unnoticed but when negative sticks out as what seems like a statistical anomaly.) The best players will ride the high of positive variance as far as it will take them, maximizing profits along the way. And when experiencing the down side minimize their losses through passing on small edges w/high risk which is 100% indicative of their play and how they adjust to variance. No one has an endless bankroll nor even keel emotions, so as pros we tried to stay w/in our means and close to neutral emotionally. You approach each situation uniquely and take the appropriate lines that will yield you the highest return w/accurately calculated risk. A lot of guys raised in this game via online would argue that point, saying to never pass on a plus ev spot and to always take the most optimal line yielding the highest return regardless of the risk. However, those guys aren’t as good at accurately calculating risk thus what seems like a slightly plus ev situation, given all the factors rather than just strictly applicable math, becomes much more neutral. It’s profitable, but in my experience impossible to maintain a career barring an endless bankroll(hence why the majority of MTT grinders are backed; high variance game w/high variance styles = small edge if any.). Being that the “long term” has never mathematically been quantified it’s easy to believe that in one’s lifetime they may not run to their truest equity. But to think that someone can be “so lucky/unlucky” that they experience the vast majority of positive or negative variance is mathematically unlikely.

I do, however, believe that someone can be lucky or unlucky in the moments that can define a career. Some people are just blessed. Since there is no mathematical equation to determine when you will experience you up and down swings, it’s more than reasonable for player A to run bad in spots he needs it most and player B to run well in the same situations. But generally that’s because career defining pots are usually few and far between. You don’t hear about the guys who come up short, it’s the ones who win a big flip for life changing money and then go on to use that money to further their careers that get the magazine covers. To coincide w/that I’m a firm believe in creating your own luck. If you play better than your opponents, time and time and time again you will constantly be in a position to take the best of it, ultimately succumbing to some good fortune. Those guys are on the covers for a reason, they are good. And even if they weren’t good when they caught their break, in order to become a staple in this community they have to become good…Most do, the rest fade to black; ala Moneymaker, Moon, Gold etc.

So in short, yes I believe some people are lucky or as I like to say blessed, but I don’t believe variance should ever play a big role in one’s poker career. If you can’t beat the game it has nothing to do w/luck…

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