That book I mentioned a couple of blog entries ago, the one written by Mlodinow, discusses a curious human tendency. The brain is designed to detect patterns. Present a person with a random string of fifty numerals, and that person will automatically attempt to decipher a pattern in the string.
The book also mentions that in any long string of random trials, seemingly anomalous results are actually quite natural. For instance, flipping a coin ten million times will almost certainly result in discreet strings of forty consecutive “heads” within the long string of results.
The combination of those two topics is giving me a small measure of solace during what has now become the worst financial downswing of my professional poker career. (For the record, last year’s hair growth slump was longer in duration, but this recent stretch is my largest monetary downswing thus far).
This trip to Vegas was designed to be a step up for me. Never before had I planned such a long attack on the tournament circuit, and never before had I brought along so much ammunition (in the form of tournament entry fees). I’m almost three weeks into the mission, and it’s been a dismal failure.
As the book states, it’s human nature to try to detect and explain patterns. And so, looking at my hideous tournament results for the 2008 WSOP, I have been grappling with the notion that I am either playing poker poorly or that my poker playing style is somehow easily exploitable. I’ve thought about these topics a great deal. In the end, I don’t think either of those notions are accurate. I am just running worse than I ever thought was possible. The sheer number and improbability of the beats I’ve taken in these tournaments is amazing. Amazing, and if (like most of us) you enjoy laughing at other people’s misfortune, comical. I’m not going to even get into all varieties of beatdown I’ve suffered, but suffice to say that the list is long.
I’m in Vegas all by myself losing my freakin’ shirt. But I’m hanging in there. I’ve given a lot of credit for this to Mr. Mlodinow, but probably the bigger shot in the arm came from reading the 2+2 forums a couple of days ago. I’m a frequent lurker on that message board, and it’s an amazing place. The best poker players in the world discuss strategy there daily, and anyone who participates or even just reads along like I do is virtually guaranteed to improve their game. The kids on 2+2 are destroying this year’s WSOP; every final table has one or more 2+2’ers at it. But not all of them are tearing it up out here. I recently learned that many of the most respected members of that community–some of whom are indisputably great poker players–are having terrible a terrible WSOP just like I am. These things happen.
I’m not alone. That’s good to know.
Oh, and this profession is not for people who appreciate sanity.