Monday, June 20, 2011


as many poker players who have had the experience of talking with "normals" (i guess the poker player equivalent of muggles), i have run into several typical questions about my line of work.  some common questions that any professional would roll their eyes at are:

a) what % of poker is luck and what % is skill?

my answer would be that this is just as easily quantifiable as anything in life, how do you quantify % numbers of skill and luck in any endeavor?  does the fact that part of poker is determined by statistics help define that cause?  would you say that your particular occupation is 100% skill, that the amount of work you put in it is precisely what determines how much success you achieve?  i would almost unequivocally say that this is not the case.  this illusion of self determinism is an incorrect assumption is what most people have about their own lives, which is the fallacy that causes them to ask useless questions like this.

what annoys me when i go on to explain this, is that people still ask, no but if you had to say how much % is skill what would you say.  ignorant people irk me.

b) do you get free rooms or recognition because you're a poker player?

this is a simple question of incentives.  since a hotel/casino doesn't really make that much money from poker players, they don't have that much incentive to keep them around.  in fact, poker rooms mostly exist to entice players to come, and then gamble/spend their money at that particular casino (since sometimes even successful poker players will make bad decisions playing in the pit).

so the short simple answer is no, i get no recognition.  unless you're a pretty well known player, or you are a regular at a particular casino, you don't really get any preferential treatment.

another corollary question is if i get a free entry to the WSOP every year.  again, simple mathematics would probably answer this question.  considering that there is probably close to 300 people who have made the final table at the world series from inception, (and around 9 more every year), does it make sense for a casino to dump 3 million+ in a prize pool they are making maybe 6 million from?  probably not.

c) isn't it all math?  isn't it like that movie 21?  do you get taken to a back room if you win too much?

21 was about a team of MIT students who counted cards playing blackjack.  the game of blackjack is played against the casino, and in theory, played over the long run with a counting strategy, a gambler should be able to win, because they will be statistically favored over an infinite number of trials.

poker however, is a game that is played against other opponents that have no affiliation with the casino.  therefore, no, you won't be taken to a back room if you win (though sometimes you want to make sure you're not being followed to the parking lot in seedier casinos/cardrooms).  and because human decisions are involved, it becomes a math problem, yes, but it becomes more complex as strategy becomes described moreso by a game theoretical structure than a purely mathematical formula.

my next entry will go into how that develops, and why i relate good poker playing to story telling.


chunlee17 said...

u should write a poker book. or better yet a korean drama series! you can star in it. then u utilize all those skills of yours. i am a genius. i want a cut.

Doug said...

korean dramas suck. you fail.