# What do you think?

• Bronze
Joined: 18.10.2011
I don't think I am exagerating when I say that fewer than 1 in 10 regular poker players truly understand the nature of variance and the maths that underpins the game they are playing. Statements like 'Luck or variance doesn't explain any of this'.... are very common amongst tourney players (comparatively rare amongst cash gamers) and they reveal a serious flaw in understanding the maths of marginal edges and how to beat NLH.

I could toss a coin 1000 times and I would NOT expect to hit 500 heads and 500 tails. In fact, with such a small sample I would expect to hit somewhere between 100:900 on either side of the possibility curve. If was to perform this same experiment 1000 times and toss a total of one million coins, I would expect APPROXIMATELY half of those experiments to come out in favour of one side and half of the other. Within these 1000 toss samples I would expect to see some massive swings of 950:50 down to some of almost exactly 500:500.

If I was asked to predict how many times a coin that was tossed 1000 times would come up heads I would say 500, but that is not because i expect it to happen 500 times in that sample. I would say it because I have no other information with which to base a guess on other than the overall odds. Variance is a bitch. That sample could easily come out at 50:950 and if I was spread betting on it I would lose a lot of money.

4 months of poker is like one or two of those tiny 1000 toss samples. 4 months of MTT poker is like half a sample because the variance is magnified by the graduated payout structure and the importanace of being lucky several times in succession - with the financial return coming from having more long sequences of fortunate results rather than more good or bad results (win/lose/win/lose will rarely result in a big pay day in MTTs, but lose/lose/lose/win/win/win is far more likely to result in a decent paying result).

Even 6 months of poker is a an tiny sample and gives meaningless data.

1000 hands of poker is meaningless for the purposes of analysis.

Data sets need to be massive to see a true reflection of statistical liklihoods.

With all that understood one could be forgiven for asking how it is that some players make a lot of money playing poker and with relative consistency? Are they just lucky?

Well no, In all probability there is another factor in poker that opens the door to circumventing statistical variance and that is 'good' play. Good play does not always mean getting your money in as a 60:40 or 70:30 favourite. As we have already seen the odds are cruel and vicious and you would not expect to win 60% of your 60:40 shots this month.

The way that the best players beat the game, the odds and the xxxx is by beating their opponents, not by taking marginal edges and hammering them (ok, some players do do this and with varying degrees of success depending on the volume of hands they play and their bankroll management/discipline). If you asked any six figure winner on PokerStargy what the secret of their success is then I guarantee you that not one of them will say racing with 60% edges.

The consistent players win their money by understanding situations where they can make money and they play 'optimally' to take advantage of these situations. For example, if I am in an MTT and the blinds are 1k/2k with a 30k stack then there is at least 10% of my stack out there - plus antes. When the first 6 positions fold and a 40k stack then calls from the cut off I can see a way to make money that has nothing to do with my cards. I know early positions are prone to limp with big hands, but it is rare to see a hand that can call all in limp from that position. If I shove from the big blind here then I will win 5k (plus antes) a very large percentage of the time. On the rare occasion that he calls me I will also win the pot a fair amount of the time (even if I am crushed as a 9:2 dog with 22 vs his AA then I will still win it twice in every 11 showdowns and I will almost never be that big of a dog). If I fold, fold, fold and wait for AA then my stack drips down to the point where I am usaully covered and then I can't survive a beat and I don't have much fold equity to make a play with.

Playing well means finding a way to beat the odds, not just playing the odds well. If you just play the 'card' odds then the rak.e will usually cancel out your marginal mathematical edge and you will either break even, or make a small loss over the long term.

Poker is a betting game not a card game.

When I read all the variance and RNG moans all I think to myself is that the person complaining still doesn't understand the statistics properly and probably also isn't playing optimal poker a lot of the time. Maybe pride and fear of embarassing themselves stops them shoving all-in with 72o when it is a profitable. Maybe they have been on a downswing and that is causing them to play weak poker where they are not three betting solid opponents or reshoving on thin value river bets with air. Whatever the cause the cards can't be to blame because you shouldn't need to be showing them most of the time.

I've been on lots of final tables without ever showing down my hand.

Michael Binger made is to the 2006 WSOP main event final table without having a showdown in 2 weeks of poker, playing 12 hours a day and through a field of over 8000!!!!

When he got to the FT he got it all in for the first time in the whole two week event with QQ and was crushed by KK or AA (I forget which). He outdrew the overpair and went on to win almost 3 times as much money as the guy that got it in good. One card made all the difference to their 'lifetime' profit. That's MTTs for you. The best players play very well and some even manage to avoid gambling most of the time (by not getting into showdowns), but whatever happens you are at the mercy of the luck factor and you will be frustrated hundreds of times for every single time that you are dancing with joy. There is only ever one person who is really happy at the end of an MTT and usually hundreds or even thousands suffering varying levels of disappointment.

I am totally sick of trying to explain what variance actually means and how silly it sounds to complain about the cards in the context of a game where the cards are not nearly as important as your style and technique.

Don't forget the future Mrs Bach (Annette_15) was winning 200 runner tourneys with her cards covered up at 19 years old. How can the cards/RNG be to blame when other players are winning events without even looking at them???

The next time you are tempted to post something about variance please think about your own pride and self-respect and don't make yourselves look silly, naive or inexperienced.

We have no reason or desire to rig anything and you can't rig a game where human being are making totally different decisions with the same cards. The reason you are losing is because of how you are playing and that CAN mean you are getting it in as a favourite every time and just getting 'unlucky', but the winning player is taking all the pots in between the showdowns and he isn't complaining about the cards.

If anyone doesn't believe that I am making any sense then just toss a coin 500 times at home and record the results.

There is little doubt that you will see more than 10 of a single result in a row. Now imagine how this feels when it is 10 tournaments that you got out of in quick succession where you were 50:50-60:40 when the money went in. Suddenly that is 2 days of losing every all-in race. You are jinxed. The site hates you. Maybe it is the cash out curse? Maybe it is the doomswitch?

Human beings are crazy creatures but with a little bit of reflection and perspective you can pull yourself out of this mindset and get back to finding ways to beat the game.

I hear other players say they are winning on one site and losing on another so they will stick with the other. Lmao... variance counts across all the sites. That's like saying this coin came up 950:50 heads this time, so I'm only going to use this coin from now on. It doesn't make any difference where you get your results, or if you have had a bad few months. Variance is the LIFETIME result, across every poker room and every game you ever sat in, not the month at one site where you had a downswing!
• 11 replies
• Bronze
Joined: 21.07.2009
Great post imo. Wp.

Any time I hear a moan about running bad that makes it look like they don't understand variance, I point them in the direction of Fooled By Randomness.

Although I don't even bother giving them that useful tip if they even mention the poker site being rigged
• Basic
Joined: 01.02.2012
As a poker player i can say that,poker is not a game of card it is a game of betting,if you play with a strategy with professional pokers or with pokers you will win.
• Bronze
Joined: 26.02.2010
I'm having a losing streak this week, after reading your post I feel better, at least a little. Thanks!
• Coach
Coach
Joined: 19.11.2010
Nice post, I actually think its alot less than 1 in 10 players. I'd say 95% of people who play MTT's don't understand variance.

Keep posting
• Bronze
Joined: 13.06.2011
Nice post, found it very entertaining. Being someone who suffers from some tilt issues (getting that under control) I am sure I've posted more than a few threads that would infuriate you. In retrospect I find the need to express frustration so primitively isn't a constructive thing but never thought I misunderstood variance. Still have much to learn about it but your coin-flipping analogy is something I like to use also and would do when someone asks me what I think variance is.
Totally agree with what you say about finding edges outside of showdown and to be a good MTT player, you certainly need to do that. Finding spots to put pressure on when you sense weakness. When I play my best I'm not just playing solid TAG in CGs, it's when I'm taking down big pots and the cards don't even matter. There's a sense of real achievement when I win on pure reads as opposed to winning when I "get it in good" at showdown. What that has to do with variance, I'm not understanding. They are two very different issues when it comes to being profitable; outplaying opponents and winning showdowns when you were 65-80% favourite pre-flop.
I still get frustrated at players who are willing to put it in when they are totally dependent on luck and they get there. Has to be -EV to mis-read a situation where you could shove light and then depend on the gods when your shoving your 72 or 22 vs AA. How can you be profitable? I understand that you are shoving light when you think you can pick up blinds and antes when there is aggression infront of you, but is it really profitable in the long run making moves like this. I'm still in the mindset that when I shove light (due to thinking I can steal the pot) that when I am looked up with a big hand that I fucked up. I know the odds of me winning are slight and I think it is right that I lose. Actually there's often a sense of embarressment when I do win this way - I feel I played badly.
No doubt poker is a game of small margins and if I have AK vs A5, I expect to win the most of the time but know that there are times when variance will kick my butt and will lose this more than what the odds imply. Obviously this is much more prevailent in tourneys than cash. For me to win more than I lose in tourneys I will often be dependent on the best hand holding up and the odds to hold in the long run for me to make profit. Frustration comes when this just will not happen. When you're up against people more than willing to bet that the coin will land heads 950 out of 1000 - it's irritating to see them make profit, especially when it's my money. No way I could run a casino . But I am learning to be happy there are players like that as that's where I make much of my money. I should be thrilled that players will shove 30BB UTG with A6.
Great post, many thanks.
• Bronze
Joined: 07.05.2011
Really enjoyed that thanks!
• Bronze
Joined: 18.10.2011
Sorry for not being here to reply for your post's. Now i will change that

Originally posted by PaTaPaTaPoNn
I'm having a losing streak this week, after reading your post I feel better, at least a little. Thanks!
Thats why i posted it, to everyone see what variance really means. I really enjoy to know that you feel better after reading. Thanks

Originally posted by pleno1
Nice post, I actually think its alot less than 1 in 10 players. I'd say 95% of people who play MTT's don't understand variance.
Keep posting smile fish cool!
Thank you. I will

Originally posted by EuanM
Really enjoyed that thanks!

I would like to ask to the moderators who makes the articles in the part of the strategy if i can make one to be visible to everyone on the psycology train?
• Bronze
Joined: 23.06.2008
Hi PokerStrategista,

Great posting!

You have this at the bottom os you post though;

'...everyone on the psycology train?'

Do you mean the psychology and Self Study Forums perhaps?

Let me know so I can see if I can help ok?

Best regards,

Mal.
• Bronze
Joined: 18.03.2010
come on, this post is too unmathematical. 1000 coin tosses is not a small sample at all. If you toss the coin 1000 times, although you are not guaranteed to get 500 heads, you have about 95 percent chance to get al least than 475 heads. Moreover, the probability drops rapidly, Once in 1000 times, you will get below 450 heads, once in 10000 times you get it below 443 and getting 50:950 is practically impossible.
• Bronze
Joined: 18.03.2010
So there is variance, but I think if you get below 450 heads in 1000, which has probability 0.1%, I would say you are very very very unlucky.
• Bronze
Joined: 18.10.2011
Hi PokerStrategista,

Great posting!

You have this at the bottom os you post though;

'...everyone on the psycology train?'

Do you mean the psychology and Self Study Forums perhaps?

Let me know so I can see if I can help ok?

Best regards,

Mal.
Sry for the misunderstood, i wanted to say in the Strategy Articles in the Psychology & Didactics section.