Monday, June 05, 2006

Learning from experience

I made the comment the other day on that you can learn more about whether or not you're a winning player by just examing a few hands than you can from collecting results from a few hundred hands.

I say that because I think poker is a constant learning experience and that the best way to learn is a logical analysis of decisions, not an examination of descriptive statistics.

I have an example from a razz game many years ago. One hand was a tremedous learning experience for me, and tought me just tons of important stuff that has stayed with me for a long time.

It taught me the importance of paying attention, the importantance of not being predictable, and the importance of calling when the pot is big.

I knew about those things before this hand, but I didn't really understand their importance.

Anyway, it was a Razz game many years ago at some unremembered card room. I had just read something by Sklansky that talked about thin value bets on the river. He observed that a lot of people avoid thin value bets becuase of a fear that they'll get raised. Then he pointed out that you don't have to call if you get raised.

I don't remember where I read that, maybe it was Sklansky on Razz, maybe some other book, maybe an article in Poker Player. But it made an impression on me. I was mostly a no limit draw player at the time and did tend to avoid thin value bets on the last betting round because of a fear of getting raised. So I vowed to fix that at least in my limit games. (LIke I said, this was a long time ago).

I started betting made 9's more often on the river if I had a scary board. I pretty much started betting them everytime unless I was sure I was beat. Then I got raised. Dutifully recalling what Sklansky had said about not having to call, I folded. I saw the look of surprise on the guy's face but the significance of the look didn't really register. I took it as a sign that he'd expected me to call which meant I'd made a good fold. It meant that. But, it meant something else also, and it was that something else that I didn't get until later.

Maybe an hour later I again had a scary board and a made 9 and was heads up against that same player. I bet. Again, he raised. Again I folded. This time he wasn't surprised. He smirked and showed me a Jack.

He'd raised on a bluff because I'd shown him I was capable of folding a rough hand to a raise.

What did I learn from this? I learned that other players are paying attention and that if you ever show a player that you're capable of folding then you probably shouldn't fold next time.

Did that experience tell me whether I'd been a winning player or not? No, of course not. But, being a winning player really doesn't matter. Constant improvment is what matters. And, that experience was just one step in a lifetime of constant improvement in poker, it told me I was getting better. And that's what's important.


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2:03 AM  

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