Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Another Kind of Russian Roulette

YTD: +$40413.22

Whilst desperately trying to find something poker related and INTERESTING to read this morning I was delighted to discover that my old buddy Burnley John had won the Main Event at Dublin and pocketed himself the best part of $200k. Thereby confirming his status as a top Tourney pro and proving that his result in the EPT in London last year was no fluke.

Of course I am being sarcastic.

FWIW, it was a thread about John, previously known as Grumpy John, that finally finished me off on The Hendon Mob forum. I ended up arguing with a poster who said that "his results spoke for themselves" and was insisting that he was a great player, even though he had never played with him and I had for the best part of the year. The penny finally dropped :)

My own view on John is fairly irrelevant and certainly out of date. He may have transformed himself as a player. Certainly when I knew him, no one would pack up their cases and leave Dodge when he sat down. He wasn't a complete fish either. The point is, and I've made it before, is that short term results on tournaments tell you almost nothing.

One of my favourite old time RGPers says it best. Sgt. Rock's seminal post can be found in full here:

My favourite excerpt is:

Russian Roulette (Just Shoot Me, Please)

Is there some guy in your game who seems to win over time, even though you think he plays like shit? Do you lie awake nights trying to figureout how God could let this happen? It does happen. You probably already thought of some of these possible explanations for the phenomenon:
1. You just THINK he plays bad, but he's actually using winning
strategies more advanced than you ever imagined.
2. He's really a loser, but sneaks chips onto his stacks to appear a
3. He's really a loser, but you only saw his good days, and missed all
the times he got his ass kicked.
4. He cheats.

Each of those things do happen sometimes. Some are common, and some are rare. Any one of them might explain an instance of the "bad player whowins" phenomenon, which also does happen sometimes.There is another possible explanation that you may not have considered.Maybe he really does play badly (i.e., to a negative expectation, trial after trial) but maybe he really has been winning for six months, or two years, or however long you've known him. Huh? How can that be?

Imagine this: At dawn tomorrow, everyone on Earth plays Russian Roulette. Six chambers, one bullet, spin, one pull. Next dawn, everyone left standing does it again, and so on, day after day. Before long, world population gets pretty sparse. No more traffic jams,Blockbuster always has the movie you want, and whenever you actually encounter another still-living person, you know that, hey, this guy is a SURVIVOR! So far. He's gone up against some tough odds, but he's still here. So far. Just like that jerk in the poker room who plays likeshit but has been running over everyone. So far.

Genuinely bad players in the poker scene are in more ways than one just like the "players" in the Global Russian Roulette analogy; all are destined to eventually bite the big one. Those who bust out early or on schedule fade from memory quickly, while the few survivors stand out,and appear to be phenomena. At least until dawn tomorrow.

By the way, the daily Russian Roulette scenario reduces the 6.2 billion world population to just one million in about 48 days; to one thousand in about 85 days; to one hundred in about 97 days, and makes our species extinct somewhere around day 120. Give or take, depending on who gets lucky and who doesn't. Bad players, on the other hand, well, no,they're not headed for extinction. Truly bad players will eventually lose, and unless they have other income, will go broke. But many do have other income, and these days, for every one who doesn't, and who goes broke and leaves poker, *1.414 new guys step in to take his place.That's not attrition, it's growth.

[ * 3.141 in Los Angeles only ]

You may wonder where I'm getting all these numbers. Don't worry,they're just statistics, and a recent study revealed that 88% of all statistics are completely made up.


Andy_Ward said...

Have you been sneakily lurking on THM ? Because someone actually said, word for word, "That proves it was no fluke".


Big Dave D said...

My bad :( I was particularily desperate, in my defense. And I wanted to take the piss out of Ariston, who I think made the comment.



Andy_Ward said...

Well obviously I was lurking on there too or I wouldn't know ...

I find the Membership only restriction to be a very useful buffer towards avoiding getting involved. I feel like posting something and I think "can I be arsed signing up just to post this ?" and the answer is invariably no !


chaos said...

Nicely written article Dave.

It reminds me off the role of media in sport.

Unfortunately the media world is, understandably, always looking for an angle when it comes to sports. Post match interviews with managers, save Strachan and Morinhio, are so dull because the interivewers are looking for something new and often the managers could just say we were (un)lucky. Interview finshed.

Similarly, when things go wrong managers are encouraged to change things (or asked why they didn't)because you can't be seen to be doing nothing when that is sometimes exactly what is required. When things don't work out, the poor manager is criticised for changing things - how often is the manager criticised for making changes when the team is losing? Not often, it is almost considered requisite. Interestingly, this is likely to lead to sub-optimnal strategies employed by managers since there is less personal risk (& hence cost) involved by changing the team when in adversity. Mourinho, maybe the exception here.

Though he provided an interesting example in the FA cup. He made 3 subs at H/T and lost a player 5 minutes in and lost the game. It was suggested that he made a mistake and in the next game the media, I believe, commented that he wouldn't make that mistake again. So what were they saying, that he didn't know a player could ne taken off through injury? It may have been the right decision, but if he'd made the 'right' decision again in the CL and found himself down to 10 men, huge criticism would have been levelled at him, despite the fact that it may have been the right risk reward strategy. That personal risk has to factor into his decision-making

If it is bad enough in football, then what would it by like in poker?

In reminds me of an article that I had written mentally, and probably will some time. One of the challenges in poker is to change nothing when things aren't working. In almost every other aspect of our lives the opposite is true, generally we don't change enough. It flies against what we are have developed to do. Often I have heard players say 'playing the hand this way wasn't working so I played it that way'. It is how we've evolved to where we are today - working out better solutions. It's hard to believe (especially at an emotional level) that we are doing the right thing when greeted by endless failure.

We live in a very impatient and analytical world. The media will need to prove things and inform on poker in new ways, undoubtedly they will use 'success' to show that a player or play is great.

Still what are they to do?


this post ma

chaos said...

btw interesting move by the mob, since one would expect member's only to have a detrimental effect in the short term. It certainly isn't the move I would have made now - it would have been a good move 18 months ago or earlier at its peak.

Andy_Ward said...

"The media is ... always looking for an angle in sports"

This was very apparent this week. Faced with a nothing qualifier, the media spent all week ridiculing Azerbaijan and making them out to be the worst team in the world so that when, predictably enough, England miss their chances and "only" win 2-0 they can (no doubt) spend the rest of the week rubbishing England.

Interesting point about the psychological need to make changes when losing. I've just come off a very moderate two years poker-wise and I think one factor was that I was changing too much.


The Camel said...

Firstly, congrats to Burnley John. I haven't played with often but he seems like a nice bloke. And when a nice bloke wins a big tournament I am happy. There is more than enough wankers in the poker world winning for my liking.

Secondly, I wish I had written this article. It so neatly sums up a massively important concept I can honestly say I am jealous! Good stuff.

Big Dave D said...


I think the adavnatages of PT and their ilk is you can take a proper look at how you played the hand. I know that there are some situations where I play differently, having done the "homework". I find most of my changes tend to be meta-game ones, ie. I better stop playing hilo cos I play it shit.

As to THM, Im glad of the sign up thing for the same reason as Andy, and also because I agree with Chaos, it is a bad thing. I forsee a UKPoker implosion

Aksu said...

Very good stuff by Dave and Chaos. And SGT too of course, have anyone heard of him lately BTW?

Tracker tools are also valuable to convince yourself that "it's just bad luck" and try to avoid unnecessary changes.


Anonymous said...

I very rarely post on thm either anymore Dave but am genuinely pleased when any of "the local boys" does well. Having spent quite a bit of time with Burnley John in Deauville and Monte Carlo I can safely day his game is still "play big cards strongly". I would rather play him heads up than many a player but he is getting the results so you cant fault him really. He also won a tournament in Monte Carlo for just shy of 20k so he is certainly in good form at the minute. If you really want to take the piss out of me mate you should read some of the stuff I write for Betfairs thedeal (, you could write about 10 articles mocking me from those. remember I am writing basic stuff meant for new players when you look at them though.

chaos said...

Keith good to see you back. Hope everything is well.

Aksu - I've been using PT a couple of months now, and I've noticed it is the softer benefits that have shown through thus far. I agree that PT can have the effect of negating the need for change, but for a big DT - e.g. weeks, months. I'm not sure it helps with the in-session changes that our emotions requires. Actually, I think it helps, but isn't the solution - but we're all different :)

Big Dave D said...

Thanks for the kind words guys...good to see u here Keith :) It's a sad state of affairs that my most highly praised article is the one I didnt write :)

Of course I am a big fan of Sgt Rock, and used to devour his yearly trip reports. Aksu, Sgt has a webpage archive and his 2004 report can be found on Google groups.

Ariston, it seems we all have writing deals now :)

I guess now that my poker is exclusively played in my skivvies in the lounge, I dont have to get involved in all that real world bullshit. I mean John was ALWAYS Grumpy John. And it wasnt sarcastic. Although the 200k he's won may have cheered him up a bit.

The funniest made up name is Gareth's. He was either Carrot, or maybe c*nt. But who ever called him "The Nugget"?



Aksu said...

PT helps, and there won't be solution for poker, chess or life in near future. One of those may be even unsolvable :)

I have a hunch that we are battling on the same limitHE field, haven't identified you just yet.


chaos said...

'A hunch'... have you received some information? ;)

I'm not so sure we are, but maybe (is there a weapon in your name?).

As for identifying me, how many 'known maniacs' do you play with?

There is a little less of the maniac in my game, though a session never goes by without abuse or confrontations. If there wasn't my game would be in real trouble.

About the softer benefits - it is motivational - money isn't always enough when you're a gambler.