Musings on Poker – “A Losers Game”

Musings on Poker – “A Losers Game”

In his 1975 essay, The Loser’s Game, Charles Ellis calls professional tennis a “Winner’s Game.”

In a winner’s game, the outcome is determined by the correct actions of the winner. In a loser’s game, the outcome is determined by the mistakes made by the loser.
In expert tennis, the ultimate outcome is determined by the actions of the winner. Professional tennis players hit the ball hard with laser like precision through long and often exciting rallies until one player is able to drive the ball just out of reach or force the other player to make an error. These splendid players seldom make mistakes.
Amateur tennis is almost entirely different. Amateurs seldom beat their opponents. Instead, they beat themselves. The actual outcome is determined by the loser. The winner in Amateur game is the one who makes least mistake. Focus in only on consistently getting the ball back so the other player has every opportunity to make mistakes.  

Poker in India is at a nascent stage. Most of the players are amateurs and have spent no time in learning the theory or getting coached. Most of the players are like gully cricketers. So, if you are playing with “Gully” players all you need to is reduce unenforced errors and you don’t need any professional help.   To win with Amateurs in Poker – all one needs to is play ABC poker and wait for other poker players to make mistake.  Wait for the AHA!! feeling when you have Aces and player with 88s/ AQ  shoves. 

One of the key decisions to play a poker game should be based on the quorum.  In sports or poker, playing with people who are better than you will likely help you in improving your game.  But unlike sports, in case of poker it can come at a huge cost. To win in poker always play in quorums that you can beat or have an edge at. Not many players, I know are able to walk away from a game when they see a more professional quorum.  Most players are very over confident of their own game and I am pretty sure most poker players in India will like to play with Patrick Antonius or Dwan or even Galfond. While you see them playing against each other, but that’s for Eyeballs , they are all waiting to play the next Andy beal.

Do you want to be Famous or Rich ?

If you want to be famous in Poker you need to be playing the WSOP or Pitch yourself against the best like Phil Ivey or Hellmuth or Daniel Negreanu.  You are most likely to lose money even if you are very talented. However, if you are focussed on making money – you need to play “gully”quorums.

The Question you need to ask is will you play a chess tournament at 1:100 odds against Vishwanath Anand or 1:1 odd against a random player.  That will answer if you are a gambler or poker player.

Stick to your core competency :  Not everybody can be a Virat Kohli

Tournaments, Holdem , Pot Limit Ohama, Open face Chinese Poker are different poker variants and require completely different skill sets. Just like one-day , T20 and Test match are 3 different formats and require completely different styles, so does various formats of poker. Well, their can be a Virat Kohli, who can excel in all formats – but not every player can. It is important to identify what suits you the best and stick to it.  I have seen only a few poker players being committed to a format and acknowledging their limitations in other formats.


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