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Poker Blog established in 2003 as the first stop for poker news, poker stories, and bad poker advice.

September 11, 2005

Think Fast and Win!

by G-Rob

It's a nice, and fairly soft, SNG tournrey. You're about average stack, and you're in a raised pot after the flop. You're only in with one other donkey, and he's shown a tendancy to raise big slick to the river. He's almost never willing to fold a hand that he loved pre-flop. You have top pair and a flush draw so you toss out a bet, and now the maniac comes over the top.

For two seconds, the words "OVERPAIR" flash across your brian.

Now, I ask you, is that a good read? Or would making any well-thought read be exactly the worst thing you can do?

BLINK

I read a good book, which I'm actually prone to do at times, by Malcolm Gladwell. He's one of these New Yorker guys, with an idea that may confound our poker play.

Here's a bit from the introduction :

"We live in a society dedicated to the idea that we're always better off gathering as much information and spending as much time as possible in deliberation. As children, this lesson is drummed into us again and again: haste makes waste, look before you leap, stop and think. But I don't think this is true. There are lots of situations--particularly at times of high pressure and stress--when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions offer a much better means of making sense of the world."

He makes a compelling case.

In study after study, a part of our unconscious mind made connections and assumptions that our awareness hadn't made. We started avoiding "wrong" decisions without knowing why. Again, those same studies showed, the more time actual experts spend combing over data, the more likely they are to reach the WRONG conclusion. Instead, the snap judgement was correct.

MANIACS COUNT

So what about our SNG? Does the manic have an overpair?

I spent a bit of my "time bank" on this one. I'd watched a dozen orbits with this guy, and the range of hands he MIGHT have held certainly included an overpair. It was also bigger than Greg Raymer himself. I did the reverse read, thinking it WAS me who raised pre-flop, and he, who simply called. I thought he might have unpaired overcards, that seemed the most likely really. It was also quite possible he'd just called with a medium underpair, but that would mean he'd made two SMART moves in a row.

I had a good chance to add chips to my stack and be able to run all over this tournament if I called and won. But I didn't call. He showed his overpair. My "blink" was dead on.

The most impressive part of this phenomenon, is that the EXPERT players would have known the right play in seconds. The newcomer would have done all the right THINKING and may have made the wrong play.

THE CATCH

There is a catch in Gladwell's book. It's the same catch you'll run into at the table. Here's another example from Gladwell:

"One of the stories I tell in "Blink" is about the Emergency Room doctors at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. That's the big public hospital in Chicago, and a few years ago they changed the way they diagnosed heart attacks. They instructed their doctors to gather less information on their patients: they encouraged them to zero in on just a few critical pieces of information about patients suffering from chest pain--like blood pressure and the ECG--while ignoring everything else, like the patient's age and weight and medical history. And what happened? Cook County is now one of the best places in the United States at diagnosing chest pain."

There are more:

Like the art EXPERTS who knew a statue was a fake without supporting knowledge. They were proven correct.

The tennis EXPERT who could tell when a player was about to double fault, even though he couldn't find out what was tipping him off after reviewing hours of tape.

A behavioral EXPERT who could watch very small snippets of conversation between a married couple, and predict divorce with 90% accuracy.

Now what do all our BLINKERS have in common?

That's the catch folks.

STUDY AND STOP

The 4 billion hands we've all palyed on the internet provide one hell of an education. Some of it we learned without much thought. Is it possible that our unconscious mind is making connections that we aren't aware of?

I think a novice player is well served by going through all the levels of thinking, especially on a difficult hand. But for people who have been there, grinding away for years, wouldn't it be better if we made our decisions FASTER and with LESS thought?

It's particularly true in the example I'm using here because, God knows, we've all had that mental flash. Do you trust yours?

I've been trying that idea, of trusting myself online, for a few weeks now. More than anything I've used it in cheaP SNGs. My success rate is significantly up!

Worth a thought.

Or lack thereof.

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