Senin, 13 Oktober 2014

Mental Stability

I thought about making an article reviewing a hand that had an interesting call I made, but people are already too good at poker for my taste, so, instead, I thought I would talk about something everyone can apply.
So here are a couple of fun facts for you guys:
- The majority of people who play poker are capable of being winning players
- Practically none of them are
- Playing bad is the reason losing players end up losing at poker
Mental Stability | Matt RangerI’ll repeat that last point, because it is the universal truth of poker: playing bad is the reason losing players end up losing at poker, and that’s regardless of them being actually good at playing poker or not. Most people lose over the course of their lifetime not because they make dumb decisions in relation to poker theory, but because they make dumb decisions in relation to playing poker in general. I’m talking about things like trying to “win money back,” or playing when tired and frustrated, or playing after having drinks.

Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to play well despite being drunk or depressed, but the human mind is at its sharpest when it’s sober, rested and focused, so it’s better to play poker at those moments. If we made better decisions drunk, we would have evolved to be drunk all day long. Even though a species of drunkards might sound really awesome in theory, in practice, the human race would be much less attractive by now had that been the case.
Now you might be wondering how a poker player can know something worthwhile about mental stability. Well, I’m not referring to mental stability like it’s some chapter in the DSM-4. You don’t need a burning desire to murder baby cats to be mentally unstable by my definition; you just have to make decisions differently depending on your state of mind. The mental stability we’re going to refer to here is a skill that you can develop, and, the sad news is, there are no prescription pills to fix that problem.
The ideal is to be the kind of guy who would be making good decisions in his life regardless if he just got married or divorced.
It can sometimes be hard to understand why people would make obviously bad decisions. Well, luckily for us, I’m an economics major. So, obviously, I try to reduce everything to neat little models. Here’s my model for people and their decision making:
A decision is made either to feel better, or to avoid feeling worse.
For example, someone who is stuck a lot of money doesn’t mind making a decision with a risk of additionally losing money, because he can hardly feel any worse, but winning money can possibly make him feel better. It also explains a crack addict pretty handily, but crack addicts don’t play poker, so I have little interest in studying them.
You can also improve your mental stability through practicing meditation (and I seriously encourage it), or taking a note of how well you played at the start and end of every session. What’s most important at the end of the day though is to understand yourself, and why you do things you do.