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Objectivity and Its Importance in Poker
Written by: SHIPIT2KG · Date Added: 5 Dec, 2011 · Number of views: 4608
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I recently endured the roughest 200k hand stretch of my career, which in turn, caused me to reflect on that sample and try to gain as much objective knowledge as possible for future events, similar in nature.

Objectivity is our most powerful tool to combat variance and downswings. Humans naturally have a tendency to be results oriented-- it’s the primal method for learning. If we are rewarded for certain behavior, we replicate it. If we are punished, we stay away. But in the game of poker, variance is a great factor. These “false” punishments and rewards, depending on which end of variance you are on, skew our decision making during long stretches of hands where we are consistently running into the top of our opponents range, getting caught by bluff catchers in spots we should be showing a profit, and all sorts of similar scenarios.

This is obviously easier said than done. Remaining objective while interpreting results that would suggest you are making sub-optimal decisions is counter-intuitive on the surface and you could go as far as to say that being results oriented is even engrained in us genetically. If you put your hand in flames, your hand will signal pain to your nerves that will naturally make you never do it again. But that event is absolute in nature, while poker on the other hand is not. We are often “punished” for behavior we typically are “awarded” for in the game of poker and vice-versa.

To begin understanding that, you must try and understand the different forms of variance, and how they can distort your perception of what's optimal. The most widely recognized form of variance is AIEV; running above or below. This is one of the most tangible forms of variance we can measure right now. Another form of variance would be standard deviation plots that rely on mathematical variance. These graphs are given a base set of information to operate off of reflecting the sheer vastness of the differentiating results (see graphs below). Ultimately, you want to remove yourself from short-term, results-oriented thinking and apply yourself more effectively.

One method I use in my attempt to approach poker objectively is during hand history reviews, relatively soon after a session, I will go to my "hands" tab in HEM and sort by pot size and review the top 30 or so hh's. As I run the re-player, I will predict my action and assess what IS the most +EV action. If my action differs from that line of thinking and I don't instantly remember the reasoning in my head, i.e., some sort of game flow/dynamic, then I know for at least a moment, I was just clicking buttons. This could be quantified as some form of tilt.

Another useful method is marking hands where I feel like the EV of all my available options in a specific situation is relatively close, thus requiring more analysis away from the table. I will show those hands to players/coaches I respect and give them the appropriate background/information and discuss our choices from there. Those are just a couple of ways to apply an objective thought process. The more, the merrier. Our forums are at your disposal. : )

The charts’ above is representative of a 6bb/100 with a std. deviation of 100 over a 250k hand sample. It is suppose to help show you how often the same player can encounter opposing results due to mathematical variance. This is truly an awesome representation of some of the variance in poker, yet many people will glance at this and think "yea that’s crazy" and not think much about it again. But that’s only because they run somewhere near the mean and aren't able to fully grasp the gravity of what this graph represents.

Sometimes humans need to experience something to understand it, but other times, things can be understood if they are explained or examined in technical depth, usually a depth that makes a profound impact on that person's understanding, even without experiencing it themselves. Emotional events are somewhat excluded for obvious reasons, but events in which we have an empirical body of data at our disposal are prime examples of ones we can understand.

So why would this matter to you? Because unless you are Nanonoko, you've probably played a fraction of the hands needed to make anywhere near an accurate assumption about your win rate. Your biggest downswing could be right around the corner, so could your biggest upswing, but in either case we want to remain as objective and unbiased as possible. Learn to think in terms of ranges, EV, image, etc., instead of "right" and "wrong". Try to remove yourself from your results completely leaving nothing but a constructive and objective thought process. The results will follow but if they don't, so be it...someone has to be that black line that is the furthest deviant from the mean. It's a harsh, yet simple and almost "freeing" truth. Once you think in these terms, you won’t be checking HEM every hour while playing, you won't stress your results as much away from the table, you will enjoy poker more, and more than likely, make more +EV decisions with a higher frequency, which in the end is all we can do.

Comments (2)
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chris mitchell 11 Dec, 2011
Free Member Verified Member
never knew of evplusplus, enlightenment and another new lesson learnt today = +ev in my book!!
Really great article Kyle. I had a big downswing recently and wish I had read this beforehand, would have helped a bunch.
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