Freeway Poker

Making Poker Choices - Setting the Agenda

Poker Choices"Getting by on getting by is my stock and trade." -- Jerry Jeff Walker

I (used to) live twenty-seven miles from the Bicycle Casino -- or at least, twenty-seven miles when I drive one way. I actually had several ways I could go. I could take Interstate 5, or Highway 101, or Highway 110. I could even take Interstate 405, or surface streets. There is a standard route I try to take, but sometimes traffic or other considerations make me choose a different route.

The standard way happened to give me the most options. At several points in the journey, where traffic sometimes might bottle up, I can choose an alternate route or two. Since tournaments have a set starting time, getting to the casino in a timely fashion is what matters. I don't particularly care which route I take.

What is interesting is that all these routes have positives and negatives, and those aren't constant. Sometimes taking the 5 is similar to taking the 110, but not the 101. Other times the 101 may offer a similar choice to the 110 but be very different from the 5. Then, sometimes incidents on one affect the other. If the 5 is bottled up, the 101 will get more traffic from people trying to avoid the mess.

Navigating this puzzle takes skill, monitoring traffic reports and experience.

As a player, you want to have options. Not counting the times you have a no-brainer good way to proceed, you want to have multiple ways to "get by". It is seldom a good idea to box yourself into one action or road.

At the same time, if we can't manipulate our opponents into doing exactly as we want them to do, we want to present our opponents with choices. Let's face it, the human race is lucky to have survived as long as it has. We do dumb things all the time. Now compare the amount of dumb things you see people do to the amount of brilliant things people do. No contest. It's not like you see people writing Hamlet every day. Given the chance to screw up, people do it all the time.

Think about the example of driving on the freeway. It takes skill, and if we are good, we can do well at it. But now suppose the radio doesn't work, so you can't hear traffic reports. Now further suppose that instead of driving on freeways in your hometown you are now teleported into a car in a strange city and forced to make decisions then.

In a nutshell, we want no-brainer happiness in front of us but are prepared to make tough decisions, while we want to force our opponents to constantly make decisions, most of the time while having not enough resources, or unfamiliar resources, to draw on. If we accomplish this, poker becomes a wipeout. Imagine playing hide-and-go-seek in a thousand room mansion you live in against an opponent who has never been in the building before in their life. You will be able to hide better. You will be able to seek better. Your opponent's only hope is blind luck.

As a player, you need to be prepared to make decisions. Solid decision-making is absolutely crucial in poker. But it is also critical to force opponents to make decisions, more decisions than you. People are dumb. They make mistakes. Give opponents the chance to make mistakes, and they will. People drop coffee cups more often than they invent the wheel. So work to make games exist on your turf, at your pace, in your comfort zone. You may not be able to teleport an opponent into another city, but sometimes we can turn off their radio and confront them with difficult choices. They might choose wisely sometimes, but they will choose unwisely often. If we don't have to make choices, or if when we make choices we have the radio on, we'll take the right road a lot more often.

See also Poker Decision-making and Bad Poker Decisions