Tuesday, February 09, 2010
I've spend the last few weeks working in Belfast. Cosily ensconced in a nice hotel that was at the upper end of acceptable walking distance to the office.
This meant than on Mondays I took a taxi back to the hotel, as hefting a fairly sizeable suitcase was both impractical, and an open invitation to be mugged.
Belfast rush-hour traffic is much like any other city, with one rather complex junction in particular causing a backlog, as the lights rapidly cycled. Meaning that to my eyes only a few cars got through on each iteration.
Next morning I crossed the same junction on foot. As I waited patiently for the green man to appear, a lengthy stream of cars passed by along the same route I had taken the previous evening. 'ffs', I thought, 'Those lights let LOADS of cars through!'
This simple lesson in perspective took me back to a few hands I've recently played, in both of which, I got lucky. But in very different ways.
Hand A is a classic cooler. KK v AA Effective stacks 80BB deep. Having raised my KK then 4-bet when re-raised, I did get a sinking feeling when my opponent shoved, but his range was wider than just AA, so I had to call.
I needn't have worried, as a K on the board saw me right. Whereupon my opponent went off on an enormous 'how could you call that' type rant. Rather than explain how exploitable it would be to fold KK whenever someone 5-bet shoved pre-flop, I played dumb while gleefully enjoying the suck-out.
Hand B is the stuff of dreams. AA v KK Effective stacks 170BB. All-in pre. I deliberately played this one very fast, to give the impression of AK rather then AA, and it worked perfectly, as my opponent couldn't wait to get his chips in the middle.
No suck-out and a healthy pot to rake.
To me, both these hands are extremely lucky.
I doubt anyone would deny the outcome of Hand A merits that description. But I do think many people lack any sophistication in their appraisal of the entire situation, as opposed to the outcome alone.
To lose with AA v KK is clearly unlucky, but it's also pretty damn unlucky to run KK into AA in the first place. Especially against a fairly aggro opponent.
Having lost the hand, I could have pointed out to my opponent that since he hadn't topped up recently, he'd actually saved 20BB through tardiness.
Taking it to another level, I could have considered that he was still lucky to be playing against people such as myself, who are not good enough to put a stone-cold read on him and (correctly) fold KK pre-flop.
Hand B, conversely, isn't just lucky for being AA v KK that holds, it's doubly lucky because we were both fairly deep-stacked, so the successful outcome was highly rewarding.
How many times have we been dealt AA and got it all-in versus a shortie with 77? In that case one could argue we are actually unlucky when we win (because the profit is < 20BB) and lucky when we lose (because it's only 20BB).
There's a lot more to luck than the RNG running true. Something it pays to bear in mind when grinding a large number of hands, and working hard to manage tilt.
While it's good to understand the odds, a little rationality and perspective can go a long way towards an improved and profitable game.