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Great Gambler Series (3/4) – Experience

Great Gambler Series (3/4) – Experience


There is an awesome old quote from the Canadian scientist William Osler that says, “The value of experience is not in seeing much, but in seeing wisely.”

Those are sage words, because when you think about it, experience is akin to learning. The older we get, so the theory goes, the more we learn.

There is a certain power to the naivety of youth, particularly at the poker table. An ability to block out the fun and games from wily old campaigners who look to bluff and bully their way to a win is one thing. However, having the nous to really play this game well comes from learning and practice.

We learn by doing as human beings, and so there really is no substitute for playing as many poker hands as possible so that we are comfortable no matter what situations present themselves at the table.

This means accumulating plenty of experience as you go.

It’s important not to confuse experience with age, however. Just because an opponent is young does not mean that they don’t have an extensive poker history under their belt – experience that belies their fledgling years.

Conversely, a player who is older should not necessarily be judged as some kind of wise old sage of the poker world – judge each individual on their merits!

This concept is relevant to all games played in the casino, not just poker. Even at the blackjack table, experience gives us the clues that we need to know how to play certain hands – when to hit on 16, when to stand on 17, and so on.

We can all learn the basics of perfect strategy, but implementing them requires the experience to remain cool and calm under pressure.

Unravelling the fallacy of beginner’s luck

We’ve all been there. You’ll be in the casino, focused solely on whatever it is you’re doing, when a huge cheer and whoop goes up: that’ll be the absolute beginner celebrating a win.

You usually hear it next to the slot machines or roulette wheel, and it sometimes creeps over to the blackjack tables too when the magic A-10 is dealt.

No doubt, many of us have been embroiled in poker games where one player, often a newbie, simply cannot seem to lose – they become the master of bad beats! This can be hugely frustrating.

But whoever coined the term ‘beginner’s luck’ clearly doesn’t know anything about regression theory and variance. There is no such thing as a newcomer enjoying a golden period at the start of their casino career, and anything suggesting as such is simply confirmation bias.

In the end, the house edge is the house edge – you can’t change the percentages no matter how ‘green’ you are.

Don’t forget, people who enjoy a lucky streak as a new player then suffer from an ‘availability heuristic’, which gives them a feeling of invincibility despite the likelihood that an amateurish ineptitude will soon follow.

Experience trumps lucky streaks

The gambler’s fallacy is one of the hottest topics for theorists in the industry, and while we can say with some certainty that beginner’s luck does not exist in any shape or form, there is some logic to the notion of the ‘hot hand’.

Yes, we know, you’ve always been told that this is a myth too. However, scientists have conducted a range of studies that actually confirm that when somebody is on a hot streak, they actually wager in a way that protects their winnings.

The research, by Juemin Xu and Nigel Harvey, found that an individual who wins two bets in a row has a 57% chance of winning their next one. On the flipside, somebody who loses two wagers on the spin then only has a 40% chance of winning on their next.

That sounds crazy, so what is the theory behind the claim?

It basically boils down to the notion of regression to the mean, and that we all fear that our streak will soon come to an end.

If we have won a few bets, we batten down the hatches and make safer wagers next time, and by minimising our risk, we also increase our chances of winning.

Conversely, someone who has endured a run of losing wagers will more than likely think something along the lines of, “My luck has got to change soon.” What tends to happen in that scenario is that they bet higher amounts and on lower-probability selections of higher odds – primarily because they haven’t quite understood the nature of regression and variance.

Guess what? Invariably, their next wager is a loser too. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results, as stock traders tend to say.

Another study questioned the notion of luck and people’s attachment to it. This time, a bunch of golfers acted as the test case. Half of the players were told that they could use a ‘lucky’ ball, while the other half were told that their ball was the same one used by everybody else so far.

The owners of the lucky ball enjoyed a boost of confidence and positivity, despite there being absolutely no objective reason for one ball being luckier than another.

Such muddled thinking can be a real problem for players, who lose sight of the common sensibilities that govern success in their chosen casino games.

The only thing that can overcome such psychological biases? Experience in the tank.

Learning the hard way

Experience is earned, and sometimes this means learning the hard way.

However, all of your gaming is knowledge stored and accumulated, and in theory, if you take the time to reflect on your experiences, then you should improve as a result.

Every hand you play is experience in the bank, and as long as you are learning from your mistakes – and saving in the memory hands you have played particularly well – then clearly you have an edge on somebody who is completely new to the game.

Of course, experience at the blackjack table is hugely instructive. That’s because you are playing what we might call a ‘static’ game with no moving parts. The dealer will not be unpredictable because they will play their hands to house rules, and so the experience you gain is based on how you should play each combination of cards to minimise risk and maximise your edge.

Poker, on the other hand, is a game rooted in experiential gains. Not only are you learning how to play your hand, but you’re also learning about how to control your emotions in good times and bad.

Experience teaches us how to read the body language of our opponents in ‘real world’ games, and also how to study and evaluate the behaviours of our fellow players when battling it out online.

Poker is a game of situations and how you approach them. You can lose money when you have the best hand and make money with a bluff, which explains why experience is so vital to long-term success.

Remember the simple equation:

Experience = learning + doing

The more you play, the more you will learn. And the more you learn, the more experienced and battle-hardened you will be.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that guys such as Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth were born phenomenal poker players, or suddenly woke up one day with a supernatural ability to be able to read tells.

Instead, they learned the hard way: working hard at their game, studying techniques and strategies from all over the world, cherry-picking those that they found to be positive expectation plays and integrating them into their own play.

They took the time to learn how all situations, no matter how unlikely or low percentage, should be played. The educational aspect is also part of your experience bank, and if you know how to handle each scenario in poker, then you have an obvious advantage.

Add to your own skillset by doing your homework. That includes:

·       Playing different types of poker/blackjack, etc.

·       Exploring different options – cash games, tournaments, free rolls, etc.

·       Playing online and in the casino

·       Studying the techniques of the best in the business

·       Watching tournaments live

·       Accessing tutorials via Twitch and YouTube

·       Reading poker theory and blackjack strategy

Do all of the above and your game can only improve. As Jack Nicklaus once said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Bad beats and a bankroll boom

Experience is something we use to leverage our advantage at the table, and thus turn our knowledge into cold, hard cash.

However, experience is also useful to us in managing our emotions, and recognising that a bad beat is, well, just bad luck.

That’s the key learning experience: is your bad beat just down to harsh luck, or is it partly the result of a mistake you have made?

Experience teaches us not to feel down, not to dwell or feel like a victim. A bad beat is just one hand that we will play among thousands of others in our lifetime.

The learning experience should also be used from an admin perspective. Managing your bankroll is a boring topic of conversation, but it is essential if you are to make long-term profits from the game.

That’s why most online casino gamers are recommended to treat their play like a business, with some basic strategic objectives.

Be cautious when ‘investing funds’

Businesses don’t go out and spend their turnover willy-nilly. They make sensible decisions based on the perceived return on investment, and that’s how casino gamers should be organising their play.

If you have a small bankroll, why be rash and spend it all on a single session or by entering a big buy-in tournament?

You should dedicate yourself to spending a certain percentage of your bankroll on a specific game or tournament entry – let’s say 5%. That way, you are maximising your potential for long-term gaming without having to make continuous deposits.

Keep track of profit and loss

It’s the number-one rule of the business handbook. Only by monitoring your performance will you learn more about your strengths and weaknesses.

Some casino gamers play a multitude of titles, perhaps spreading their bankroll across online roulette, blackjack, baccarat, poker and so on. By keeping tabs on your record, you will find which games make you money and which could drive you into the hole.

Even if you focus specifically on one game type, remember that there are variants that exist within each. For instance, you might be a Texas hold ’em specialist but really struggle to turn over positive figures with Omaha poker or Caribbean stud.

Analyse where you thrive, and invest accordingly.

Manage your time effectively

So much time is spent on planning workloads in any business that you wonder how anyone has the ability to get anything done!

However, it is relevant, and it is important, because you only have a certain amount of time to achieve exactly what it is you want to achieve.

Let’s face it: very few of us have as much free time as we’d like, and even fewer of us get to spend that time playing our favourite casino games.

When you do get that window, make sure that you spend it wisely by targeting the games you want to play in advance. That way, there’s no procrastination when you fire up Bitcasino – just calm precision that enables you to make the most of your experiences and knowledge.

Experience can only come from playing lots of hands, watching opponents, and learning lessons as you go. You’ll win some, you’ll lose some, but the key is that every situation you find yourself in will add to your bank of experience.

There’s no time like the present to get started. Remember, at Bitcasino, you can play blackjack and poker armed with your welcome bonus funds, and there’s also a demo mode to enjoy. Why not sign up for a new player account today and add to your experience level?

Words: Sean McNulty

Images: Shutterstock


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