David Young made some interesting points in response to my gripe about tournament play. So much so that I think I will break them into two separate posts. Here’s what he said in response to my complaining about the luck factor:
“It will even out if you play more tournaments. Make that a LOT more tournaments. Accept that or don't play.”
I think that this is a common fallacy. The difference between luck, or variance if you want to be more high-falutin, in tournaments and cash is that if you keep your stack at consistent levels, online buy-in maximums to one side, in a cash game, then when and how you have good and bad luck makes little difference. However, in a tournament, exactly when and how your bad luck strikes could be the difference between being a major success or going broke. Perhaps a slightly hypothetical example will make this clearer.
Imagine, in an alternate universe we have the power to see the destiny of a tournament player over the next two years. We know that despite excellent play, discipline and some recent success that Mr X will lose $1million in entry fees and expenses over the next two years. I don’t think that this is particularly an extreme example – see Sklansky for his look at tournament variance and the potential for “bad runs”. Certainly, Mr X, playing the circuit across the globe could easily rack up such expenses. Unfortunately for Mr X, his tank is exactly $0.9 million and this bad run will render him broke.
But Twilight Zone style we can stand with him at the cross roads of a major drama that may give him a chance to avoid his fate.
Mr X is down to the last few tables of the World Series, just before the albatross of long term doom is about to descend on him. Mr X is at the peak of his game. He has all his chips in the middle on the right side of a 6:4 shot. If he loses, he pockets $100,000, and like a Flying Dutchman, sails off to his doom and poker ignominy. If he wins, he will go on to get into the major money and pocket $2.5 million. The bad run will still come, but he will survive and go on to potential greater success. Unfortunately our glimpse into the Book of Destiny only extends for two years so we don’t know what the long term, whatever that means for a tournament player, actually holds. But at least now he has a shot. (I know that this is very much a similar situation to Harry D found himself and I am only using it because it struck me how it highlighted the importance of “particular” luck. All other resemblances to people and events living and dead, past or future, is purely coincidental.)
The whole of Mr X’s poker existence rests on a crooked coin flip.
Now I know I have grossly simplified rather complex issues around money management to make my point, but I think the point is still well made. In tournaments, the luck may never break even because some events are hugely distorted in value and these almost-never –to-be-repeated events just do not exist in cash games, assuming you are playing within a sensible bankroll.
Success or failure is just a coin flip away.