Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2010) in Poker Player newspaper.
Okay, so we’re entering a new year of poker. We talk about what happens in our poker world using terms like “short term” and “long term,” but a year falls somewhere between.
It may seem surprising that I’ve chosen “year” for today’s word and that I’m going to devote this edition of my series of self-interviews to it. That seems odd to me, too. But it’s been decided, so let’s move on to the first question.
Question 1: How does short-term poker differ from long-term poker?
You could claim that what happens in the short-term is insignificant relative to what happens in the long term. That means whether you make a profit today isn’t as important as whether you make a profit for your lifetime.
That’s reasonable thinking, but it needs clarification. Luck rules the poker short term, because a quick run of good cards will make winners of even the weakest players. But in the long term, luck levels out and skill prevails. Yet luck never levels out completely, except theoretically through infinity.
Infinity is an undefined, unimaginably long time after which all happenings fall in line with their probability and luck vanishes from the rearview mirror. Luck continues moving forward from there, of course, because you’re entering a new short term.
Your success in poker and life should come long term, while you should expect luck to deal short-term surprises – good and bad. Fine. But you can let short-term events decide your long-term existence.
In life, there’s nothing you can do about the short-term tragedy of dropping dead unexpectedly in the shower. However, in poker, you can avoid the short-term tragedy of placing your whole future on the turn of a card, failing to make an inside straight.
Don’t let short-term frustration make you feel that your life exists in just this volatile moment. You’ve got to keep steering the best you can and know that the most winding roads eventually lead from somewhere to the place you want to go. You’ll arrive at the same destination as you would if you could have traveled a straight line, as long as you don’t crash.
Question 2: What things happen in one full year of poker?
Each year you should try to improve as a poker player. You should realize that this year will take you on a different ride than last year or next year.
At poker, if you expect things to stay the same, you won’t be prepared for the changes in game conditions, and you won’t easily recognize new opportunities.
Question 3: Is it possible to run bad for a whole year?
Of course. A year isn’t the “long term.” It depends largely on how many hours of poker you play under what conditions.
If your year centers on three short sessions of poker against equal opponents, then luck will dictate your fortune. If players participate in poker almost every day for an average of six hours, then here’s what will happen in a year:
- Weak players against stronger competition will almost always lose, but they might lose less or more than expected.
- Break-even players will usually win slightly or lose slightly.
- Strong players against weaker competition will almost always win, but they might win less or more than expected.
Expect to win
The point is that if you become expert at the game of poker, if you choose your games carefully, and if you don’t let your emotions destroy you, then you can expect to win every year. That isn’t a guarantee — just an expectation.
There will still be variations in your results. Probably, you’ll have meager years and great ones.
If you’re a tournament player, then your year-to-year results will vary more greatly. You can go long stretches between big paydays, and even the best tournament pros can have losing years.
Question 4: What is the biggest mistake players make in thinking about a year?
The biggest mistake players make in terms of a poker year is that they become conscious of it. A year is just an artificial period of time. Don’t wait for next year to play good poker.
At seminars, I tell the story of a tiny $1/$2 no-limit game I was playing on New Year’s Eve, because all the bigger games had folded. As midnight approached, it was the loosest game I’d ever encountered. But after everyone got up from the table for a short celebration, it was the tightest game I’d ever seen.
Why? New Year’s resolutions. Everyone had decided to make a fresh start this year. Their resolve didn’t last long, but it was fun to witness.
Don’t make the mistake of waiting for a new year to play poker right. A year is just someone else’s notion of a time period. I don’t care if it’s April 24 at three in the morning. You can declare that it’s a new year, correct your mistakes, and start over. In poker, your year always begins on the next deal. — MC
Next self-interview: Mike Caro poker word is Drinking