29/12/2008

The Evolution of a Poker Player

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

I have many interests in this world but some take up far more of my time than others and poker is obviously one of them. But there are many other areas of gambling and financial risk that have long held a fascination with me. I have done an awful lot of study on the financial markets but as of yet have yet to become seriously involved in this area.

But sports betting is starting to increase in importance in my life and there may come a day when this takes over from poker. When or if that time arises then “The Dean” may be no more (in a poker sense anyway). But it hasn’t reached that stage yet but nothing ever stays the same in this world. But there are uncanny similarities between various forms of gambling or other areas that involve financial risk that reveal just how closely linked they really all are.

I remember reading a book on trading a few years ago that discussed the evolutionary process of a trader. This process was so akin to poker that it actually made me more aware of what I had to do in poker than many of the so called top poker books out there and this book wasn’t even a poker book!

It discussed the three stages that all traders go through until they finally make it. The first step is that they come into it being “greed orientated”. This process is identical to novice poker players. Millions of players see poker as a potential revenue stream and that is hardly surprising when considering the level of hype and marketing that is going on every single day.

The premise is that “anyone can do it” and that “anyone can make it big”. There are strong elements of truth to this but yet there are far too many character traits and other criteria that are involved to make being successful more than just a process of acquiring knowledge. Every year I hear similar comments with regards the Grand National horse race.

“Anything can win this” is a statement that if I had a hundred pound for every time that I have heard this……well I wouldn’t have to put up with variance anymore put it that way. Once again it has strong elements of truth but is also misleading. That statement infers that any horse in that forty strong field can win that race when in reality only a small number tick all of the boxes that are required of a winner.

The reality is that “anything can win that race out of the list of horses that are good enough to win it” and there is a world of difference. So not all poker players are going to make it and not all poker players can make it and as we all know…..only a very small percentage are consistent winners. The ones who come into the game with rose coloured spectacles looking for easy money and are motivated by greed will soon transcend into the second stage of the evolutionary process.

They then become fear orientated and this is caused by taking financial hits and losses. You see, the majority of people in this world are not risk orientated people. While we all accept some sort of risk every single day of our lives, peoples attitude towards risk can differ depending on the environment that they are in. The players who come into poker as novices looking for easy money then begin to realise that there is far more to this game than meets the eye. They also become so fearful of what the game can do to them that they start to become very tight players and are fearful of playing for higher stakes or risking too much on one hand.

The final stage is arrived at not by tremendous effort or hard work but is arrived at almost subconsciously and that stage is when a player finally becomes “risk orientated”. At this stage of the evolutionary process, losses are mentally absorbed and become nothing out of the ordinary when experienced with the confines of a successful money management system.

I once read that high wire trapeze artists do not learn to balance, instead they learn to live with imbalance. This is how it is with professional gambling. Playing successful poker is not about copying a set list of rules and then applying them. There are so many different ways to make money that there is tremendous scope for individual creativity to come through.

I have also read that being a successful trader is more a case of “being” than “doing”. It took me a while to understand that statement but yet it is one of the most profound statements that I have ever read within the world of gambling. It is my view that you cannot transcend from being greed orientated to fear orientated to risk orientated in a short time frame.

You can learn all of the technical stuff on CardRunners till the cows come home but if the thought of losing $500 in a day terrifies you then you are not going to earn large amounts of money playing poker until you break free of this mindset. Some players are luckier than others and are not shackled by being in the fear orientated stage and their views of money and risking and losing money are not shared by the vast majority of people.

But if you do finally come out of the other side then you have my utmost respect because travelling from being fear orientated to being risk orientated is one of the most difficult roads to travel in gambling.

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