Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2009) in Poker Player newspaper.
Poker players are sometimes superstitious. Not me. I believe in random shuffles.
I believe that luck flitters and flips, making fortunes for some people and fools of others. That’s cool. Whatever. The deck was already shuffled on the day you were born. But it gets reshuffled often. You get the hands you’re dealt. It’s how you play them that matters.
In today’s self-interview, we deal with the word “Shuffle.” First question, please…
Question 1: Can superstitious placements of cards in the muck change the results of the next deal?
Of course. If you position your cards in some weird way that makes them enter the other discards differently, that can result in good luck. It is impossible to intelligently argue to the contrary.
In fact, people practicing superstition at poker completely change events. Often they bring themselves good fortune that they would have otherwise gone without. Superstition has a dramatic effect on outcomes.
Question 2: But I thought you weren’t superstitious and you taught players not to be. Am I wrong?
No, you’re right. I’m not the least bit superstitious and I don’t allow my students to practice superstition.
Question 3: Well, I’m confused. If superstition can bring good luck, why are you against it?
Let me teach you something fundamentally important about life. It has to do with the shuffle – life’s shuffle, poker’s shuffle, any shuffle.
Everything you do changes the shuffle. If you place cards in the discards differently, they will be shuffled differently. You and your opponents will see different cards, players will react differently, outcomes will be different, and different players will be lucky in different ways.
Anything you do in life completely changes outcomes. Everything you do changes not only your future, but everyone’s future. You have the power to change history, and you exercise this power all the time.
You do change history, repeatedly. That’s because anytime you take an action, others react differently. Things are soon in different places, timing of actions changes – and the events themselves are unpredictable.
If you suddenly stand up from your chair, you’ve shuffled life’s deck, and nothing will be the same.People surrounding you will be influenced, have different thoughts, delay or hasten their own actions, change their minds about things they might have done by whim. Anything, everything, you name it — it’s no longer the same.
Billions of people
And everyone you’ve just influenced will go forth in a new rhythm, affecting others, until soon the whole world will change. Different people will fall in love, have sex at different moments, and bear different children than would have been born. You have not only changed history, but all the characters that will play a part in it. By standing up, you’ve denied billions of people their opportunity to be born and have facilitated the birth of billions of others who would never have existed.
Good job! The point is, we all use our powers to change the shuffle. But it doesn’t much matter beforehand, because the result is random and unpredictable. Through superstition, we each have complete power over everything and, at the same time, no power over anything whatsoever. So, it’s silly to be superstitious.
Yes, you will change the next shuffle — and, also, change all hands that follow — by just folding your hand in accordance with a superstitious ritual. But you will also change everything by not acting superstitiously. That’s poker; that’s life.
Question 4: Which are more random, shuffles in a real-world casino or shuffles online?
Neither is random. Even the most competent human dealer is imperfect, and standard dealing procedures don’t afford a shuffle in which each card is completely random with no influence left from the previously played hand. It just doesn’t happen.
Online shuffles, though, can be almost totally unpredictable. They mimic true randomness, usually by using a mathematical formula to scramble the cards. You’re probably getting a more random experience online, but real-world shuffles are perfectly adequate.
Question 5: Then why do so many odd things happen online, like the same hands occurring back-to-back?
You need to understand that random doesn’t imply a lack of peculiarity. We’re always looking for patterns in things. That’s how our minds work. This means anything that seems unusual will probably be spotted and noted. But if those unusual things didn’t happen sometimes, the deal wouldn’t be random and the shuffle would be flawed. Random means a lot of ordinary things spiced with the extraordinary.
It’s just that there are so many hands dealt so quickly in online poker that players have more chances to imagine the patterns. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be flaws in online shuffles. It just means that the strange things you observe are probably perfectly natural.
Question 6: Anything else?
Remember that you will totally change the next poker shuffle and the history of the world by doing anything or by doing nothing. You personally will influence the randomness of everything, but you will control the randomness of nothing. The next shuffle will either be your friend or your enemy. Play your cards. — MC
When this column was published in Poker Player, it included an editorial announcement. It’s repeated here, purely for historical purposes:
WSOP SEMINAR UPDATE… Mike Caro and Doyle Brunson will present their final two special seminars at the 2009 World Series of Poker. Complementary $95 tickets for the Power Poker Seminars are available at the Rio.
Four seminars have already been held. Here is the remaining schedule:
Saturday, June 27, 10 a.m. (one hour)
“Mike Caro’s Psychology, Tells, and Manipulation + Exclusive Q&A with Doyle Brunson”
Sunday, June 28, 10 a.m. (one hour, 30 minutes)
“Mike Caro’s Grand Seminar – 50 Best-Tip Countdown + Exclusive Q&A with Doyle Brunson”
Each of the seminars will begin by showcasing a presentation from Mike Caro and conclude with a featured, audience-participation, 20-minute question-and-answer session with Doyle Brunson.
Next self-interview: Mike Caro poker word is Series