Leggo My Ego

Poker Ego

Poker Ego"When I played pool I was like a good psychiatrist.
I cured them of all their daydreams and delusions." -- Minnesota Fats

Besides lovemaking and singing in the shower, there aren't many human activities where there is a greater difference between a person's self-delusional ability and their actual ability than in poker. The world is full of Bret Maverick wannabes, but even more than that, the poker world is full of Maverick think-they-ares -- players who think they have a special ability, are gifted, when in fact... they aren't.

Poker is incredibly complex partly because it is so simple. You get some cards, you get some more cards, you bet, you win or lose, you do it all over again. The basics of poker require elementary school abilities. Fourth-graders play poker. But due to its basic simplicity, each small aspect of the game has a broad spectrum to it, where decisions can range from outstanding to horrible. Each aspect offers a variety of opportunities to choose different strategic paths to take.

One drop of water seldom has much effect on anything. But take millions of drops of water and you have raging rapids, deadly floods, and Grand Canyon erosion. This is poker -- the accumulated effects of hundreds of events that by themselves are not significant, but taken together make all the difference in the world. Poker is a complex, difficult game that no one has ever, or will ever, truly master.

Think of all the times in your poker life where someone bluffs you. The chances of you always knowing you are being bluffed are absolute zero. No one will ever get that good. The greatest players in the world make mistakes all the time, if only because there are literally so many choices to make, often with precious little information to decide with. But part of being a top player is understanding you aren't perfect, understanding you can always improve, understanding that there is a bottomless pit of things you don't know for sure about poker (if only because you haven't played with all your possible opponents in the world).

On the other hand, some of the truly weakest players are those who think they know it all. Know-it-all-ism is one of the most exploitable weaknesses a player can have. Beyond the obviously warped people though are those who simply think they play much better than they do, and who don't appreciate how truly much they need to learn.

Online poker is a dumping ground for the carcasses of lazy, ego-based, delusional think-they-are Mavericks. Some of the weaker players are just playing to have fun, but the explanation for a lot of the atrocious play being played online boils down to faux-Mavericks who think they play better than they do -- and who think they don't have to spend every second of every game they play focusing on their play.

In brick & mortar casinos you don't get so many of these ego-Mavericks. In person, overmatched players are more clearly, visually apparent. If you think you are a smart person, hang out in the NASA lunchroom for a while. If you think you are a dangerous dude, hang out in the green room at the Ultimate Fighting championship for a while. Mediocrity will get humbled pretty quickly. And also, no matter how smart or how tough you actually are, being around a whole passel of smart or tough folks ought to send the message home to you that being smart or being tough is not enough if you want to excel among other people of true ability.

You have to work hard... ironically, just like the Maverick brothers did.

You have to pick up droplets of ability, knowledge and manufacture your own skill from tiny opportunities. You have to create your own droplets, and not just wait for opportunities to fall in your lap. Perfect poker play is unattainable, and no one is even close. There is so much to do. Once you think you are somebody, some fellow like Minnesota Fats will come along to teach you a thing or two. And that holds true for the Fats-like players of the world too.

Once you start thinking you have nothing left to learn, you have everything to learn.

See also Self-Centered and Self-Absorbed Players, Poker Strategy and Reality TV plus Self-Control