Friday, May 04, 2007

Some more on luck v. skill

I just made a post over at www.mathandpoker.com on the age old question of skill v. luck in poker. As I've said many, many times (mostly on rgp), I think the question is a very silly one, but I keep answering it anyway.

In writing that mathandpoker post I looked up some old stuff I've said before on rgp but didn't use most of it in that post. So I thought I'd put some of together here.

Skill is about decision making. It's about the management of luck. It's about the process.

Luck is about outcomes.

I think the whole concept of contrasting skill and luck in an attempt to attribute outcomes to some skill/luck distribution is nonsense.

It's like saying life is 72% what kind of car you drive and 38% whether you remember your mother's birthday.

Poker skill isn't about winning specific hand match-ups. It's about the kinds of bets you make, the kind of match-ups you get involved in.

Part of what skill is involves making your own luck. BThere a lot of ways to do it. Brunson talked about it in his Super System I but I don't think he had the writing skills to really make it clear.

The way of making your own luck that Brunson harped on was using early aggression with a lot of bluffing with outs (semi-bluffing).

The idea was that he could pick up a small pot about 40% of the time and the other 60% of the time he'd play for a slightly bigger pot as a slight dog.

His overall EV at the time of his bet was positive, but the only hands people
saw were the ones he went to the river as a dog. So the only times he showed a winning hand were the times he got all the money in as a dog. When he won it looked like he was lucky.

The reality was that he wasn't lucky at all, he was just skillfull but it was hard for an observer to realize that.

After his book he had to adapt other ways to get lucky since his book was widely read. But the readers seem to have never understood that luck is not something different from skill at all.

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