Gambling lessons are easy to learn, hard to master. Yet we pursue them, whether to become pro or a ‘badass bro.’ For, not doing so costs way too much. What about poker teachings?
A car dashboard at night is like a magical planetarium. Illuminated figures and pointers are akin to the stars and comets. The shimmering gauges, multicolored indicators, sparkling navigation displays resemble the universe itself. Piercing the roads’ darkness, using powerful headlights and dimly lit foreground, can be mesmerizing, particularly to couples.
Regardless of light reflections and individual experiences, instrument panel function always remains the same: To provide information vital for arrival to destination.
The speedometer, one of the most prominent devices, is not only there for passengers’ safety but drivers’ budgets as well since speeding tickets don’t come cheap nowadays. To that extent, it’s also one of the essential instruments to those behind the wheel.
It’s not even close to being the paramount one in securing travel intentions or race goals, for that matter. The first three podium places belong to the tachometer, engine coolant temperature, and fuel gauge.
Why? Because we cannot afford to be in the red in any of those.
If we blow up our RPMs, or overheat the engine, or stay without fuel, there’s no speed; there’s not even a crawl. A grinding halt is inevitable, and the night-time dashboard magic, accompanied by our intention and objective, vanishes like Cinderella at midnight.
Consequently, among life lessons we extract from driving or even Formula One racing, three stands out.
Pay attention to the stress speed delivers on your shaft rotation, be it in business or relationships. Observe the overheating your efforts causes to you or your employees, family, or friends. Take good care of having suitable levels of fuel to proceed moving forward sustainably.
When you find organizations or people who understand and nourish these views — and their connotations — you stick to them.
If we go to LinkedIn or Twitter, we find myriad leaders and influencers preaching similar thoughts. A few of them became millionaires in doing so. The frequency of such contemporary content is close to oversaturation, and some people don’t even pay attention anymore. And, that’s quite all right.
Can we, the gamblers, afford the same?
Can we stop looking for ways to improve? Can we consider ourselves formed and shaped, with no need for other lessons learned?
If for no other reason than because we regularly face challenges in our RPMs, overheating, or fueling, regardless of our skills and bankrolls.
Then, we have this whole year, which left an indelible and infamous mark on our lives, both in terms of pandemic and the economy.
Finally, among many of its consequences, Coronavirus reshaped the iGaming industry as the only viable playing option for many patrons.
Those three angles — not to mention others in the realm of responsible gambling — are more than enough to relentlessly push forward in perpetual pursuit of lessons we can use in paradoxical age of growing uncertainty and hidden opportunities.
(Editor’s note: You’re talking about “false confidence bred from an ignorance of the probabilistic nature of the world [and] from the desire to see black and white where we should rightly see gray,” as well as about proper quantification, well-based thought process, and personal accountability, right?)
Indeed, you must appreciate the editor who pulls out Immanuel Kant in conjunction with fundamental table games’ principles just like that, whether to throw you softball or nudge to get to the point, setting the stage for a place or a vehicle you can use to gauge additional learnings:
Stories Which Never Get Old
One of the most popular pastimes in the world played virtually everywhere is a treasure trove of indefatigable discernment and consoling logic.
Before we even begin — are people, gamblers or not, interested in such advice?
The story of Liv Boeree, a former pro from the United Kingdom with a First Class Honors degree in astrophysics from the University of Manchester, offers a prologue.
She is a World Series of Poker and European Poker Tour champion — the only woman in history with those two achievements — who currently ranks #5 in the global all-time money list, having earned $3.57 million in her poker career.
In April 2018, Boeree spoke at the TED Talk conference, held in Vancouver, Canada.
TED is one of the most prestigious events in the world when it comes to thought leadership. Invitation-only presentations last for eighteen minutes or less. The mind-boggling plethora of scientists, inventors, visionaries, Nobel Prize laureates, and others elaborated on game-changing subjects at TED in the last thirty-six years.
Thus, for a poker player to receive an invitation to present the topic of her choice speaks volumes about the learning potentials of gambling, intellectual capacities it requires, and ensuing teachings people can apply anytime, anywhere.
Liv Boeree talked about three lessons on the decision-making methods poker taught her:
- On overestimating personal skill level when experiencing success;
- About the importance of quantifying our thinking, which helps a lot with the planning;
- On finding the balance between ignoring and over-privileging our intuition.
Other than her live audience, more than 3.43 million viewers on the TED website and over 833,000 people on YouTube watched Boeree’s presentation.
For a good reason: The game itself is, just like life, a marathon challenge demanding sustainable progress.
Look it online, in mainstream media, or on reputable websites: You’ll find former players and pros elaborating on poker lessons applicable to leadership, insurance, branding, business, economy, entrepreneurship, making the world a better place — to name a few.
And then, you run into Maria Konnikova.
Writers Gamble Too, And Then Some
Child of immigrants who took their chances in America pursuing a better life? Check. Bachelors of Arts with a double major in psychology and creative writing from Harvard? Check. A Ph.D. in psychology from Colombia University? Check. The acknowledged writer published in well-respected magazines? Check. Author of New York Times best-selling books? Check.
Additional occupation? Professional poker player.
(Editor’s note: I already like her.)
As we sift through Konnikova’s piece in WIRED — pondering lessons she learned in “the ultimate game for approximating the strategic challenges of life” — we soon realize Maria share views predominant with the majority of gamblers who play skill-based games.
Poker is much more than gambling. That is — if it is gambling in the first place.
For instance, there is no way you can convince me playing backgammon is a gamble. Not a chance. Yes, the game has two dices and doubling cube, but I could go on for days in proving why knowledge will beat luck in the long run — any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
Konnikova goes to great lengths in explaining how people underestimate the skills poker requires.
Since the game involves betting and money, we consider it gambling. But, as Maria cleverly points out, do we deem the stockbroker as a gambler? Not entirely.
(Editor’s note: Although we do know how Wall Street’s ultimate gamble played out back in 2008, which is yet another lesson in overplaying one’s hand.)
The intricacies of human interactions in poker — how well players know each other’s reasoning or read telltale signs — including playing knowledge and betting habits, which lead to a better understanding of cards at hand, considerably impact the outcome.
Economic analysis of hundreds of thousands of hands played at iGaming sites show punters’ skills are the decisive factor in persuading others to fold.
After six months of observations, the statistical breakdown of economist Ingo Fiedler shows only twelve percent of the actual best hands have won games, while less than thirty percent went to showdown.
In another study…
Chicago economists Steven Levitt and Thomas Miles — evaluating data from the 2010 World Series of Poker — concluded that “recreational players lost, on average, over 15 percent of their buy-ins (roughly $400), while professionals won over 30 percent (roughly $1,200).”
Notwithstanding the paramount importance of personal skills, those findings also showcase how stockbrokers have less information at their disposal, yet we like them in our corner.
So, who’s gambling here, really?
Negotiating Unforgiving Terrain
As she elaborates a knowledgeable approach to poker and life, Maria points out the importance of deterring false confidence rising from our ignorance of the nature of probability and the role of proper quantification in the process.
All of us are quite prone to quantify our findings, even dreams. Often, we won’t make much difference between seventy or seventy-five percent of anything. Sometimes, we don’t even know where the initial 70% came from.
But in poker, as Konnikova elaborates, two percent creates make-or-break development, played out in real-time money game. And, that’s the exact advantage you have over your opponent if you hold two suited cards vs. the same two of the unsuited variety.
(Editor’s note: I shudder to think what might happen when Maria meets Michael Shackleford!)
If you consider those percentages low, you should see backgammon: 0.06 percent disadvantage will cost you a game.
So, yeah. To be well-informed and precise counts, both in gambling and life.
Or, as Mark Twain once wrote it: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
This poker lesson goes all the way to knowing the casinos’ terms and conditions or national regulations or wagering requirements and the whole nine yards of due diligence we have to do before selecting the proper online hub.
That leads us to our discernment and personal accountability.
Are things like I feel they are or as they appear to be? Is my hunch more important than tedious attention to details? Is my thought process given, or perhaps I can improve it? Should I recalibrate or rethink my approach?
Those are demanding questions we don’t always enjoy asking ourselves. Some of us instantly get into please-give-me-a-break mode whenever we hear them. After all, living is about fun, right?
It is. But so is gambling.
Contrary to life — where we can brush off our mistakes pinning them to other people — online slots or table games are unforgiving in terms of the money they may cost us. They don’t care whether we’ll blame them for our blunders, just as casinos with predatory T&Cs don’t give a damn about your complaints.
No fun there.
Such a setup — which comes with the territory of online gambling, so if you can’t stomach it, perhaps you’re in the wrong place — leaves us only with ourselves as the elements we can work on.
Self-improvement is not accidental, costs nothing, and is not that hard either.
It’s About Your Odds
For example, you’ll notice my blindsides after a couple of meetings or interactions. Why? Because our brains are wired to perceive outside issues. And, if you mean me good or have any other interest, you’ll point them out, hoping, even expecting, I will implement your remarks.
We do this in business or relationships all the time.
For whatever reason, when we discover our own blindsides — or someone else points out our inner challenges, let alone bugs — we face a difficult time in accepting those facts.
Pride? Overconfidence? Vanity? Ego? Zero tolerance to criticism? Anger?
That, plus the number of other things. Which, again, is all good and well in life: We’re free to do as we deem right. No man or woman can tell the other what he or she should do, excluding boss-employee relations.
In gambling, such intransigence leads toward failures, mercilessly and remorselessly executed by games and casinos. Considering everything, one might argue they are ours to own.
Luckily, poker is the ultimate tool in eradicating false confidence and ignorance illusions.
We can’t deflect our losses in this game to anyone. There’s no ‘casino scam’ we can point our finger to. No, the other player was simply better.
Thus, defeats hurt, cost a lot, and we really feel those wounds.
We can always choose to embrace probabilistic thinking and personal accountability, not to mention other lessons, as key takeaways of poker, as well as gambling itself.
Soon enough, we might find them exceptionally useful in other walks of life as well.
"It’s all good and well, but, you see, I’m easy going online slot punter, and I don’t recognize my benefit in this; why would I do such a thing," you might ask.
Besides the apparent reason for making ourselves and others better persons and patrons, those poker lessons especially come in handy this year, for the landscape of gambling has changed rapidly, driven by Coronavirus.
Interactive hubs became more prominent industry pole bearers than land-based establishments for the first time. Simply put, online casinos make more money than their brick-and-mortar siblings.
Aside from being the only available option to many, they are also escalating the variety of their offerings, as new ones pop up like mushrooms after the rain.
To prudent players, this equals better odds in selecting the right casinos and well-chosen games while relying solely on knowledge and skills.
Therefore, by discarding erroneous habits and implementing prudent discernment in any game we play, in any decision we make…
…we level up our chances of making better choices.
Enter Possible Glittering Prize
Make no mistake: Legislators are fully aware of this.
That’s why we witness so many new regulatory efforts around the world. Countries feel the need to safely and meaningfully harness online gambling’s economic impact and use it to compensate for pandemic-induced holes in state budgets.
Therein lays the paradox of 2020 in gambling: Growing uncertainties shed light on hidden opportunities.
(Editor’s note: You’d be amazed by the sheer volume of online webinars run by reputable iGaming providers pointing out business circumstances ripe for innovative approaches oriented toward a rising cohort of interactive customers.)
Poker lessons we elaborated here will do their magic, not only in negotiating traps and pitfalls of slippery slopes but in newfound explorations of potential benefits.
No guarantees, though.
As my ex told me twenty years ago during one of my existential tantrums: “No one promised you good life when you were born.”
Thus, let’s be humble: Two percent of the improvement will do, to begin with. Then, another two.
And who knows, two by two…
You may find yourself in the middle of one night, driving your new car, holding her hand, as both of you observe the illuminated dashboard resembling a miraculous planetarium. You feel the tip of your fingers caressing, listen to the music you perceive as composed only for such a moment.
(Editor’s note: Wait for a second! I can’t go through prince-saving-the-princess discussion again. I’m doing the driving since my hubby loves watching me behind the wheel; besides, I’m an excellent driver. You may proceed now.)
You observe your shimmering RPMs, multicolored engine temperature information, sparkling fuel gauge. You pierce through the night mesmerized by each other and the whole vibe.
The moon, the stars, all the comets in the universe is yours. And, neither of you two is pulling Cinderella that night.
Does such an outcome boil down to Liv Boeree? Maria Konnikova? LCB? Someone else?
That one is yours to have and to hold, earned by your personal and gambling self-improvement. Enjoy it: You've hitched your poker skills wagon to a star.