Raise or Fold:  Learning (From) Poker

Writing and playing poker as if they were activities worth doing well.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


You'd think that prospect of making or losing money would be sufficient incentive to keep a person focused on the task at hand, wouldn't you? I mean taking other people's money is the object of the game, ultimately, right?

Well, yes.

But the human mind is easily clouded, and our emotions are unruly monkeys just waiting to leap out of the jungle trees and run riot. Furthermore, the fiendishly clever devices of "chips" and "pots" can distract us from remembering that the sole and royal road to success in poker is making good decisions at every juncture.

I will freely admit to being as weak-minded, or more, than the next person. I have found it useful to give myself concrete incentives to make good decisions. These motivators are not perfect, because they are correlated with results, not directly with the quantity or quality of good decisions per se. But, I have to admit, they do work, at least to some degree. They give me something external (not unlike, say, a WSOP bracelet) to strive for. They are a way for me to keep score that is separate from and more concrete than my bankroll.

So, I give you:

The Tournament Charm Bracelet
Each bead represents either a casino tournament win or any tourney cash for more than $1000. Silly as it is, the desire to add another bead to the bracelet is sometimes more motivating than the notion of winning.

The Cash Glass Bead Necklace
This is a new score-keeping program that I've just begun since The Tweak. I have had a tendency in cash games to play longer than I should, and to go on win-tilt. As an exercise in discipline, I have been striving to make sure that ~ having doubled my buy-in (or better) ~ I do not give back my profits. To that end, I am setting aside 1% of my profit from every session where I leave the table with at least double my buy-in toward a glass bead fund. Since the beads cost about $30, each one will represent $3000 or so in profit. If, however, I double up during a session and then end up cashing out for less, I must remove a bead from the necklace until I next double up (or better) and take the profit again. So far, I haven't had to remove the necklace's starter bead, and I am well on my way to my first new bead.

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