Hey I'm GF roommate and he's been telling me about this thread while I've been bitching about our government and how it's harmed millions of people who enjoy playing poker in the privacy of their homes and I can only assume he's been watching Glee.
First of all, let me say I 100% believe poker is gambling but I do believe it is less of a "gamble" than many activities people don't consider gambling. The stock market is just as much of a gamble as poker, and something as simple as paying $4 to open a pack of Magic: The Gathering Cards where the contents will be worth between $0.10 and $50 is much more of a gamble (which despite being a serious magic player when I was 12-15 I never did because it was -EV). Yet poker is considered gambling, the stock market is not, and any kid can go into a store a buy a pack of cards despite it requiring no skill and having a higher variance than the other two.
I agree with GF that it seems you have a pretty big misunderstanding of poker and how variance works. The general trend I seem to notice is people who have no idea about poker think it's all luck, and people who have a pretty good idea about the game realize luck is the results determining factor in the short run whereas skill will be the determining factor in the long run. The problem is other than actual professional online players, just about everyone doesn't realize how long the long run is and how it requires you to play much more hands than most people ever will, as well as how incredibly powerful variance is relative to the small edges you'll gain from being a better player.
Trying to reduce variance after you're already sitting at the table is an absolutely terrible idea and I know no serious player who is willing to sacrifice EV to reduce variance. While it makes sense to reduce variance by trading action in tournaments and the like, the edges in cash games are so incredibly small relative to how powerful luck is that you simply don't have the option of sacrificing EV to reduce your variance. If you reduce your EV, the loss to your winrate is most likely going to make up for the fact that your variance is lower and then some, thus increasing your chances that you have a big downswing and reducing the chances that you win a ton of money if you do run well. Even at $1/2 6-max on the American sites, you have to be willing to 5-bet bluff jam preflop, check-raise bluff flops and follow through on the turn and river, and call down lightly against overly aggressive players. All of these plays are very very high variance for only a little EV. I'm not even talking about "Well, I don't want to put in another raise with AK before I flopped a ace or a king" or "I think I'll just call with my flush draw so I don't get stacked when I miss" sillyness, I'm saying you absolutely have to be willing to throw down even at relatively low stakes (where good players still win $100+/hr) because if you don't your winrate gets so low that it doesn't matter if you've decreased your variance by 20%, you're now more likely to have a big downswing because you're little more than a rakeback grinder.
This huge, incredibly strong luck factor to poker is what makes everyone think they've "run bad" and makes the games way softer than you would think they should be for how much money is at stake (though games are not as good as they should be since the government thinks it knows better than two consenting adults for what they should and shouldn't be allowed to do). Players who run very, very good keep playing, and players who run poorly quit, especially when they first start playing. Check out the graph GF posted, and think about how insane that is for a minute. Two breakeven players, and one loses 45 buy ins and the other wins 65 buy ins. Who do you think is going to have an easier time keeping his head straight and playing "well," the guy who keeps running AK into AA, misses every single draw whether the money has gone in already or not, and can't win a race to save his life, or the guy who runs insanely well? Who is going to have the confidence to keep playing and act like he knows what he's doing when responding to hand questions on forums? Most of the players who then keep playing (the lucksacks) massively overestimate their winrates and think they were running average when they first started playing and are running poorly now when their hotstreak has ended, and often think if they start just playing a little bit better and stop doing dumb stuff they're going to be spoon fed buy ins like they were when they first started playing and that isn't the case. Nope, not going to happen, it's unlikely said lucksack will get another heater of that magnitude for another 10 million hands (using GF's graph with a sample of 100k hands for 100 players) and unfortunately for him he now won a bunch of money that he never had the skill set to win and might have even made financial life decisions which relied on him not to suck at poker and he's out of luck.
In closing, I'll leave you with this. Think luck isn't a determining factor in your lifetime results as a poker player?
P.S. Anyone who wants to fight for your right to play poker should head on over to the poker player's alliance or 2+2 for more information, or just start emailing their congressmen.
Hi, nice to meet you.
While I agree that poker can be considered/called gambling, since the predominant factor in the game is skill, poker should not be *officially* classified as gambling. Gambling is illegal, games of skill are not. I don't really care what people call it among themselves, what I care about is the government making the distinction, because once they do, we can all go back to enjoying poker online again.
As I told GF earlier, maybe I do underestimate variance. I don't believe that is the case of course, but maybe I do. I just believe players have a lot more control over situations where variance can come into play. No one can control what the next card is, but we can control everything as far as how much that card is worth, how much is in the pot, and if that card even comes out at all. How much control we have over that is dependent on many factors of course, but ultimately it is manipulation of other players and the situation. The more you can shift things to your advantage, the better. So while players can't control what the next card is, they do have some control how much that card makes or loses them. So in essence, the player does have some control over variance. How much control is up for debate. GF believes it to be very small, I believe it to be higher.
We're definitely at different levels. If I were making $100 per hour at poker... well... I don't know what I'd be doing.
I agree with everything in the final paragraph. In the days of Neteller, when anyone and everyone could easily sign up and play, games were amazingly juicy. As depositing/cashing out has become harder and harder and there are more and more hoops to jump through, the overall skill level on poker tables keeps rising and the games get tougher.
Not sure if you mean Hellmuth was lucky in the past or if you mean he's getting unlucky now, but in my opinion Phil's biggest problem is that he's a jerk and not just someone who rubs people the wrong way to try to tilt them, he frankly ticks people off to the point where they are willing to sacrifice their stacks simply to stick it to him. When a large number of players are willing to do that, someone is bound to hit that 2 outer and sink him. Just one man's opinion (remember we're definitely at different levels of poker
Already a member of the PPA!
Yes doctor, I am sick.
Sick of those who are spineless.
Sick of those who feel self-entitled.
Sick of those who are hypocrites.
Yes doctor, an army is forming.
Yes doctor, there will be a war.
Yes doctor, there will be blood.....