Bowling Blindfolded

Every poker strategy will see short-term variance. Your optimal strategy may give you a string of losses, while the local fish, who plays any two cards he’s dealt, is on a hot streak.

These downswings can last for weeks, shaking even strong players, pushing them to doubt their ability, change their strategy, and adopt bad habits.

Poker is a gambling game. These short-term variances are expected. They may be disheartening, but not a reason to abandon a sound strategy.

Consider a hypothetical bowling lane that is extra-wide; 10 feet wide, to be exact. Imagine the bumpers are up.

A player without strategy, a non-thinking fish, approaches the lane blindfolded. Without strategy, his game outcomes are effectively random. On a long enough timeline, he’s losing. But he’ll occasionally get a strike. Sometimes he’ll be on a hot streak, hitting strike after strike.

You, a thinking player, are employing sound strategies in your game. Your strategies bring those bumpers closer together, so that when you release the bowling ball into the lane, your odds of getting a strike are higher than those of the fish. The better your strategy, the narrower the bumpers. The narrower the bumpers, the higher the likelihood of a positive outcome.

If only you could bring the bumpers close enough… you could guarantee a strike every time.

But poker is a gambling game: the bumpers will never be so close to guarantee a strike every time. No gameplay is so optimal and no years of experience are enough. You’ll miss often; sometimes many times in a row.

That is not a reason to abandon a sound strategy. The blindfolded fish on a hot streak is not a reason to buy a blindfold.

Corollary: it’s equally important to recognize when you’re on a hot streak. Don’t let short-term luck tempt you into non-optimal game play. Don’t loosen up or start habitually cold-bluffing. And don’t mistake your own short-term luck for skill.

Photo by Benjamin Faust on Unsplash