• Bronze
Joined: 22.03.2011
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 PKR 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? Are Jabba and Danski angry with me?

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!

- I been studying lately alot on variance and mind set to try and fight tilt, cam across this on PKR forum and I thought it was an excellent read
• 43 replies
• Bronze
Joined: 27.08.2011
Ah! C'est Manifique!

Especially your first sentence. Very well put and worth a read
• Bronze
Joined: 22.03.2011
Originally posted by Thebridgedoc
Ah! C'est Manifique!

Especially your first sentence. Very well put and worth a read
Sorry can`t take credit just so your aware it was posted in another forum, glad you liked it either way.

It has definitely changed the way I approach tourney poker
• Bronze
Joined: 22.07.2010
My 2cents:
while lot of stuff written here is right and makes sense there is one big BUT. U can win MTT playing ppl not the cards, but only at certain level and above where ppl have understanding about poker, have scare money etc etc. But if u play micro stakes, u will have to deal with the variance at its best. So no matter how good u are, if u end up in a game with very bad ppl, u get your rants downswings etc etc.
• Bronze
Joined: 29.01.2012
Nice manifesto.

I disagree with your statement however that to win you must abandon showdown winnings.

I think the most consistent winners (in low stake cash games at least) are those that take advantage of their monsters and premium hands. Against most players you cannot rely on them folding on a particular board.
• Bronze
Joined: 08.05.2011
I agree and disagree at the same time.

Playing an opponent is always the way to win, but a lot of the time (take 2NL as an example) some people just cant ever fold, so you have to bear showdowns in mind, since you will be there a lot. Variance also still has an effect no matter what. You can play an opponent all you like but if you run into the top of their range every hand, thats bad luck/variance/whatever.
• Bronze
Joined: 05.03.2010
Perhaps for MTTs this is correct. However I think relentlessly hammering away at your 60:40 edge in cash games IS exactly how a lot of people win money. I agree that the game has a lot to do with reading your opponents and understanding their intentions but I think this point has been misinterpreted by whoever originally posted this and ends up being a bit of a rant against people who are showing down hands where they could lose. Part of truly understanding your opponent and being a better player than they are is putting the money in 60:40 ahead; accepting that there is variance and being prepared to reload and go again when you lose.

I am almost exclusively a cash game player so perhaps I've missed the point here, especially with the whol coin thing, but I think poker is about exploiting any edge you have. Whether that is shoving 72o to take down some dead money or getting it in with a hand thats a 51% favourite. If someone asked you to guess how many times a coin would land heads out of 10000 and offered to give you for free \$1000 if you guessed correctly you would of course guess 5000. The fact that it is unlikely to be 5000 is not the point, the point that it is MOST likely (even if it is only by a tiny margin) makes it the +EV decision to make. If they asked you the same question again after the coin had landed heads 4999 times out of 10000 you would again answer 50000. That is because you know that if the process is repeated infinitely you will win more often guessing 5000 any other individual number, again maybe not much more but you WILL win more. Tiny edges such as this can be found in poker and although the long run is a VERY VERY long way away a good player will exploit them.

Finally I disagree with this:

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.

good play does mean getting your money in as a 60:40 or 70:30 favourite. Yes you don't expect to always win the 60% favourite but play 100000 hands and you'd see some sort of patern of success and that would be down to good play.

A very good post though and an enjoyable read. Also please feel free to shoot me down, if I'm wrong I need to be told that.
• Black
Joined: 08.04.2009
I just wasted my time.....
Not worth a read.
• Bronze
Joined: 22.03.2011
Originally posted by nubbe2
I just wasted my time.....
Not worth a read.
That is so amazing, great input.

BTW when does your WPT event start? good luck with that
• Bronze
Joined: 22.03.2011
Originally posted by Hopey
Perhaps for MTTs this is correct. However I think relentlessly hammering away at your 60:40 edge in cash games IS exactly how a lot of people win money. I agree that the game has a lot to do with reading your opponents and understanding their intentions but I think this point has been misinterpreted by whoever originally posted this and ends up being a bit of a rant against people who are showing down hands where they could lose. Part of truly understanding your opponent and being a better player than they are is putting the money in 60:40 ahead; accepting that there is variance and being prepared to reload and go again when you lose.

I am almost exclusively a cash game player so perhaps I've missed the point here, especially with the whol coin thing, but I think poker is about exploiting any edge you have. Whether that is shoving 72o to take down some dead money or getting it in with a hand thats a 51% favourite. If someone asked you to guess how many times a coin would land heads out of 10000 and offered to give you for free \$1000 if you guessed correctly you would of course guess 5000. The fact that it is unlikely to be 5000 is not the point, the point that it is MOST likely (even if it is only by a tiny margin) makes it the +EV decision to make. If they asked you the same question again after the coin had landed heads 4999 times out of 10000 you would again answer 50000. That is because you know that if the process is repeated infinitely you will win more often guessing 5000 any other individual number, again maybe not much more but you WILL win more. Tiny edges such as this can be found in poker and although the long run is a VERY VERY long way away a good player will exploit them.

Finally I disagree with this:

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.

good play does mean getting your money in as a 60:40 or 70:30 favourite. Yes you don't expect to always win the 60% favourite but play 100000 hands and you'd see some sort of patern of success and that would be down to good play.

A very good post though and an enjoyable read. Also please feel free to shoot me down, if I'm wrong I need to be told that.
it is strictly for MTT's as I am pretty sure your getting ur money in more often in cash games then in MTT's as if u do get drawn out then you just reload

I wasnt posting this to say this is the definitive guide on how to play poker we all know there is many ways on can approach the game

If we have monsters of course we can go to showdown then and expolit weaknesses, but I guess my thinking is we shouldnt be getting our money in on flop or turns in a tourney agaist an opponent who has us covered when we think were in 60.40 situations ( of course if were short, or other factors, then this may not apply)

The variance can be so extreme shoouldnt we be trying to avoid it as much as possible in MTT's? In cash games we know the variance is always there but so is the match, you dont have to get up and leave the game.

Also in MTT's we will find ourselves deep in antes and blinds wich it is forcing us to play so being able to have good flop play and not go to showdown as much would be a great skill to a MTT player, no?

Anyway I am trying to develop my tourney game so I was hoping for some good discussion and feedback which I have gotten, keep it coming

I hope this post made sense I am half drunk and extremly tired

also if i am flawed in my thinking please help lol
• Bronze
Joined: 14.02.2012
If someone asked you to guess how many times a coin would land heads out of 10000 and offered to give you for free \$1000 if you guessed correctly you would of course guess 5000. The fact that it is unlikely to be 5000 is not the point, the point that it is MOST likely (even if it is only by a tiny margin) makes it the +EV decision to make. If they asked you the same question again after the coin had landed heads 4999 times out of 10000 you would again answer 50000 (sic). That is because you know that if the process is repeated infinitely you will win more often guessing 5000 any other individual number, again maybe not much more but you WILL win more. Tiny edges such as this can be found in poker and although the long run is a VERY VERY long way away a good player will exploit them.

Actually, your new answer would be 7500 or 7499.

Statistics has no memory, even after 4999 heads in a row, chances for flipping heads/tails are still 0.5 on each next toss. Therefore, in the next 5001 tosses you expect results to distribute equally.

wiki on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambler's_fallacy
[YT clip on this]

edit: @newpost oh, i see. sorry then. i'll still leave this here in case someone else founds it useful.
• Bronze
Joined: 05.03.2010
Originally posted by MMPokerNab
If someone asked you to guess how many times a coin would land heads out of 10000 and offered to give you for free \$1000 if you guessed correctly you would of course guess 5000. The fact that it is unlikely to be 5000 is not the point, the point that it is MOST likely (even if it is only by a tiny margin) makes it the +EV decision to make. If they asked you the same question again after the coin had landed heads 4999 times out of 10000 you would again answer 50000 (sic). That is because you know that if the process is repeated infinitely you will win more often guessing 5000 any other individual number, again maybe not much more but you WILL win more. Tiny edges such as this can be found in poker and although the long run is a VERY VERY long way away a good player will exploit them.

Actually, your new answer would be 7500 or 7499.

Statistics has no memory, even after 4999 heads in a row, chances for flipping heads/tails are still 0.5 on each next toss. Therefore, in the next 5001 tosses you expect results to distribute equally.

wiki on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambler's_fallacy
[YT clip on this]

You miseunderstand me; I mean after tossing the coin 10000 times if 4999 of those 10000 were heads then you guessed again you would still guess 5000. Not if you are asked halfway through the 10000 coin tosses.
• Bronze
Joined: 08.08.2009
While I do not believe that sites are rigged in favor of certain players I believe one hundred percent that players that made their from small stakes to high stakes in short time windows were very very lucky.

Yes, they´re very skillful. But believing that their performance was just skill and their luck was the same as everybody else is just naive. I do not believe for a second that you can simply "genius" your way through stakes very quickly without having a long hot run to catapult you during your path.

By the way, if you think your cards don´t matter and only skill matters, feel free to try some Hyper turbos HUSNGs.

Then after a decent sample show me your huge non showdown winnings.
• Super Moderator
Super Moderator
Joined: 02.09.2010
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.
There is a collection of poker stories by Doyle Brunson called "According to Doyle" in which he makes that exact point.

Look at the hand named after him: T2o
No one would claim that T2o is the odds-on favourite very often.

The ability of Daniel Negreanu to read hands is legendary.
His hand, apparently is T7o http://www.pokerjolt.com/videos/view/18/Daniel-Negreanu-s-magic-10-7-offsuit
But in the video, he clearly has read that his opponent has nada.

Another thing to try for fun to prove to yourself that it is playing the player that counts.
Sit down at a table, and the first time you are in the button, facing a single raiser of 3 - 4 BB, and no other callers before or after, just flat call w/ any two.
Now 3Bet the CBet by 3x whether you hit the flop or not.

You are going to lose some of these, but you will win an astounding number of times -- well over half.

This "always works"* for me when I'm demonstrating it, but I always lose when playing "for real". Also works better at NL>10

Real life is rigged

"Always works" means the fold > half the time, not that they always fold.
When playing for real, they always 4Bet. <sigh>
• Bronze
Joined: 22.03.2011
everyone who took the time to reply i appreciate it, alot of info here should be really helpful for a new players out there

thanks again I just have to digest all of this sober ! lol
• Bronze
Joined: 16.04.2008
Nice post, interesting and for mtt players a useful insight I think
• Bronze
Joined: 31.12.2010
posted before jb gets a chance

Originally posted by jbpatzer
After all these posts on variance, I thought you'd probably appreciate a bit of maths. I wrote a chapter on this for me and TT's book, so I've given it some thought.

At NLHE, a decent win rate is 5bb/100 hands and a typical standard deviation is 100bb/100 hands. In 100 hundred hands you can easily stack someone or get stacked once or twice, so, although your expected winnings are 5bb, the random nature of the game means that this is plus or minus about a stack, hence 100 hands is absolutely bugger all. We all know this, but how many hands do you need before it isn't bugger all. Winnings grow in proportion to the number of hands, but standard deviation grows in proportion to the square root of the number of hands. Look at this high tech, professionally produced table.

Hands | Expected Stacks Won | Standard Deviation
------------------------------------------------------------------
0.1K | 0.05 | 1
1K | 0.5 | 3.16
10K | 5 | 10
100K | 50 | 31.6
1M | 500 | 100
10M | 5k | 316

100K hands is bugger all, and 1M isn't much more than bugger all. Tbh, you probably need about 10M hands, so unless you're leatherass, you're basically fucked. I hope that's cheered everyone up.
• Bronze
Joined: 02.10.2010
very nice article

I do agree with most of the points made, I'm a player who would rather not go to showdown if it can be avoided for the very reasons mentioned, you lose control when it goes to showdown and I always like to be in control.

The problem is I play \$5 MTTs and in those games most players are looking to shove it, so unless you are going to fold in every marginal situation there isn't much you can do except go to showdown.

It sucks but that's just the way it is.
• Bronze
Joined: 19.11.2010
really good read, thanks for posting
• Bronze
Joined: 19.07.2012
Should be a sticky in BBV thread.