Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On Being Results Oriented

U.S. Airways Flight 1549Had a poker-related thought flash through my mind while running yesterday. It happens.

By the way, I am still doing two miles just about every day. Have gone three on a few occasions, and there have been a couple of rainy or cold days this month when I’ve opted to go to the gym and ride the bike instead of fighting the weather. Getting near month’s end, and I’ve managed to exercise every single day in January.

I suppose I feel somewhat healthier, although to be honest I’m not really seeing any particular “results” from my regimen. I’m already a skinny dude, so we’re not watching weight or anything. I guess I do have a bit more mental energy, oft-cited as a happy consequence of keeping physically active.

Anyhow, as I was running yesterday I was pondering this whole “results oriented” idea we often hear about in poker -- usually as something to be avoided. The idea, we’re told (again and again), is to make correct decisions and not get too caught up in the fact that sometimes we lose anyway. Get yr money in as a 4-to-1 favorite and even if you lose when yr opponent makes his flush you can take solace in the fact that over the long term, if you repeatedly take that gamble, you’ll come out ahead.

What occurred to me as I ran was how the whole “don’t be results oriented” idea is, of course, based on the ultimate goal of achieving better results. So it is good to be results oriented, just not in the short term. Thus does the point of the advice occasionally get misconstrued by not-so-sharp players, as sometimes happens with other poker concepts like “implied odds” or “expected value.”

Tommy Angelo has a nifty little chapter in his Elements of Poker in which he bluntly admits to being results oriented, both with regard to individual hands and to sessions, too. “When I win, I think I played better than I did,” says Angelo. “When I lose, I think I played worse that I did.” We all do.

I won’t repeat Angelo’s examples, but instead just offer a quick one of my own from a hand of six-handed limit hold’em I played yesterday. Hand began with me limping under-the-gun with a pair of deuces. Was one of those passive LHE tables one likes to find (and frequently can find at the $0.50/$1.00 limits), so I wasn’t too worried about raises and reraises behind. The cutoff also limped, then the small blind raised, the BB called, and me and the cutoff called as well. The flop was nice: 9hTc2s. The blinds checked and I went ahead and bet out. All three of my opponents called.

The turn was the Qd. The blinds checked again, I bet a dollar (into the six-dollar pot) and the cutoff raised. The blinds folded and I took a moment to decide whether I’d run into the straight. I decided it unlikely he had K-J or J-8, a judgment I somewhat rashly based on the 30 or so hands I’d played with him. So I three-bet. He paused (something I took as a good sign) and just called. I figured him for two pair here, say Q-T or Q-9.

The Ad on the river changed nothing (according to my read), so I bet out. The cutoff called, showing QsJc, and I picked up a nice $13.50 pot with my set of ducks.

Was patting myself on the back, too, for having grabbed that extra turn bet. Of course, had a king or eight fallen on the river to cause me to lose to the straight, I’d have certainly felt much less heroic. Or even worse, had the guy actually had K-J (which, really, would have been perfectly reasonable given the preflop and flop action) and thus turned his straight, I’d have felt like a moron for having pumped up the pot there with the three-bet.

Thanks in large part to that one hand, I walked away from my brief session (just under 100 hands) with a tidy 16 big-bet profit, recording such in my notebook while experiencing yet another “results oriented”-inspired flush of satisfaction. Sue me.

We’re human. When the day begins and we wake up yet again and are glad for doing so, we immediately start being results oriented. If I were pulling muscles and feeling fatigued all the time, I’d stop running for sure. But I’m not. The results, if not dramatically obvious, have been acceptable. So I keep going.

While we are on the subject, last week I read an interesting article over on Salon by Patrick Smith, an airline pilot who contributes a weekly column over there called “Ask the Pilot.” The article (dated 1/23/09) asks the question “What saved the passengers of Flight 1549?” and in it Smith makes the case that neither Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger nor the first officer, Jeffrey Skiles, the two co-pilots who safely brought down that U.S. Airways plane onto the Hudson River earlier this month, should be exalted to greater-than-human status on the basis of what happened. Writes Smith, “we are owed a sober discussion of what actually befell them, instead of the vapid and infantile yammering about miracles and the ‘heroics’ of ‘the pilot.’”

Smith’s argument throughout the article is essentially to say the media and public have been way too “results oriented” with this one. Smith maintains that while the pilots should both be commended for having performed well under pressure, “skill was not the issue” that ultimately determined the fate of the 155 aboard that flight. Rather, it was luck. A lot of it. And according to Smith, “nowhere in the public discussion has the role of luck been adequately acknowledged.”

Read the article for the full discussion. Smith has a point, sure. Of course, I don’t think I’d agree with the claim that no one has said anything about “luck” here. And frankly, I’m not so eager to join the side of the dude wanting to diminish claims of the pilots’ skill and/or heroism, either. But I get where he is coming from.

But damn, isn’t this one instance where we can allow ourselves to be a bit more “results oriented”?

That is to say, a bit more human?

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Blogger Klopzi said...

I'm extremely results-oriented as well. I can't help it due to my upbringing. I was always taught that money is of the utmost importance.

For me, poker is simply a means of acquiring money in my free time. I win, I'm happy. And when I lose, I start to lose faith in poker and go on long stretches where "I don't want to play any stupid poker" (a line oft-recited to my wife during my periods of poker hiatus).

1/28/2009 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is my biggest downfall as a poker player, I am incredibly results orientated even though I know I shouldn't be as poker is a long term game blah blah blah

My other problem is that I am a perfectionist so love to see my Poker Tracker being all nice and green in the money figures!

1/30/2009 11:35 AM  

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