Playing poker with music (response to Schnitzelfisch)

    • Krach-Bumm-Ente
      Joined: 01.05.2006 Posts: 10,392

      I don't know where to put this, but since it's about learning to win and Schnitzelfisch is an official coach I think this forum should be fine.

      Last night someone asked in Schnitzelfisch's and ErikStenqvist's coaching about music while playing poker (specifically club music) and Schnitzelfisch said he should do whatever works for him. I wasn't happy with that response, but obviously couldn't defend my opinion without mic and didn't want to because of the limited coaching time. So I want to discuss it here.

      First of all, Schnitzelfisch, I hope you don't take this as a personal attack, I read your productivity guide and found it to be really great.
      In response to what I said (music in general and specifically club music is -EV) you said four things:
      - Psychology generalizes way to much
      - Everyone knows best what's good for themselves
      - Different kinds of music work different for different people
      - Thoughts like this create limiting beliefs

      Let me start with the first one.I think you undererstimate Psychology here. Yes, there are a lot of studies with questionable results, doctored data, way to small sample sizes and methodological flaws. However, music/nois distraction as a part of attention processes is a very well researched topic (since it's easy to do so in experiments) and very often replicated with the same results. The usual margin for error is 5% in single studies, if you aggregate this over the hundreds of studies done on this topic, it drops to basically 0. You are still right though when you say that these findings still don't apply to everyone - but the chance that they apply to you is >99% (note that this kind of research paradigm is carried out by research groups in the so called field of 'general psychology'. It's called this way because it generalizes onto almost everyone. Psychologists are very aware of these 'problems'). The question whether music distracts you from playing poker is less about personality and more about how your brain is designed to function. And it does in a strinkingly similar fashion in all of us.

      Everyone knows best what's good for themselves - while I would say that you are sort of right with all the other statements, I think with this one you are way off. It's definitely not the case. Our brain has amazing mechanisms to fool us into flawed thinking. If you ask returning soldiers from war zones about an event that never happened, five months later, 26% of soldiers say the remember the event (initially, only 3% said they'd remember it). Your conscious experience is highly filtered. You can crave things you literally hate (drug addicts). Subjective ratings of sleepiness and attention can differ a lot from (very reliable) objective measures (heart rate, EEG, ERP, skin conductance etc.). Cognitive dissonance and selective attention can do fascinating things. But it hasn't to be our brain tricking us, common sense is sometimes not so common at all. If you ask people 'during what time of the year do you think most suicides are committed?', the majority will answer fall or winter. Because it makes sense. And yet it's false (it's spring and early summer).
      If we agree that a finding is not true for 5 out of 100 people (which is very likely to be too many people), and 20 people subjectively report that the finding is not true for them, at least 75% of them are wrong.

      Different kinds of music work for different kinds of people - Yes and no. Yes because I would get tilted if I had to listen to certain music way faster than with other music, but no because this isn't really about the genre. The reason why music distracts are rapid changes in pitch, loudness etc. A consistent background noise ('white noise') interferes way less than a song with vocals and rapid and frequent changes in pitch. When I coach people I tell them all of this and then they have to make up their own mind - they should expect to play better without music, but I understand that when they put in long hours they might only be able to do so with music. Then it becomes a simple math problem - 1 hour with $50/hr is worse than 3 hours with $20/hr. However, when you decide that you can't go without music, you should minimize the error and listen to consistent music without vocals - instrumental lounge music, consistent, chill electro etc. Audio books are the worst option, besides videos.
      Another thing to say here, and this is closely related to 'Everyone knows best whats good for themselves', is that most people who are used to listening to music disregard the idea of playing without music right away. This is obviously flawed. You might argue that you did this 2 years ago and it didn't work - again, your memory is highly subjective. It might be the case that it in fact did work, you just don't remember it correctly, or you were a much worse player back then and the fact that you have better results now has nothing to do with music. All the people I have coached gave it another try after I explained to them what I wrote above, and all of them stayed with not listening to music.

      Thoughts like this create limiting beliefs - again, yes and no. Blindly following advice restricts you to what you hear and (want to) believe. Logically thinking about a problem and being open to new insights gives you the chance of maximizing your productivity. Avoiding 'limiting beliefs' by basing your judgement on a very tricky 1.5kgs of tissue inside your head doesn't seem like a good deal in most cases.
  • 28 replies
    • thazar
      Joined: 14.09.2009 Posts: 6,560
      brilliant post

      I could not agree more with all your points. I very rarely listen to music when playing as it does affect my concentration especially when tired. The only thing I would say is that I believe one can probably condition oneself to play with music and not be affected by it
    • metza
      Joined: 28.01.2012 Posts: 2,220
      You're assuming that everyone plays better with 100% attention though. Not everyone does. It is very possible to overthink things, especially at microstakes where you just gotta valuebet noobs.
    • Arwed
      Joined: 19.09.2007 Posts: 598
      What's your opinion on binaural beats?
      Do you think it can enhance concentration and learning ability, or is it just placebo?
    • wealthybrainer
      Joined: 01.05.2013 Posts: 277
      binaural beats to me is like drugs... better don't use it because you will have at first better mindfulness but you would need to increase binaural beat frequency to sustain that effect that you had at first and without it your mindfulness will decrease, that is just my experience
    • Krach-Bumm-Ente
      Joined: 01.05.2006 Posts: 10,392
      @metza - This is a different problem though - it's a gametheoretical leak. I don't think it makes sense to decrease your attention superficially in order not to overthink situations. Just work on the problem itself, you become a better player by doing so.

      On binaural beats: Here we enter a field which Schnitzelfisch adressed - few studies, missing control groups, weak control for confounding variables. There are hints towards an effect of binaural beats on anxiety, quality of life etc., but more research is needed. Furthermore it depends on what kind of beats you use (frequency, offset etc.). I know there are some on youtube, but I'd be suspicious about the correct frequency ranges etc. To this point I think a large portion of their effects are due to placebo, which is not a bad thing, though. Here I am with Schnitzelfisch - if it works for you, go with it. But don't expect too much from it.
      I'd keep in mind though what wealthybrainer said - you get used to them, they lose effectiveness (given there is one) and your baseline decreases. You'll perform worse without them (same like coffee, cigarettes, drugs...).

      Edit: If you are more interested in this kind of stuff you can search for yourself on google scholar. Lots of articles are not publicly available, but the abstract usually contains the bottomline, which is sufficient for most people I guess.
    • Saravan
      Joined: 24.07.2013 Posts: 3
      There is music - not profit. During a game of poker to be the most relaxed. No unnecessary thoughts and worries on your mind. The maximum that can be listened to, it's classical music, but not loud. Thoughts must be clean and most relaxed nerves.
    • Wriggers
      Joined: 21.07.2009 Posts: 3,250
      Very good post. I've always thought maybe I would play better without music, but have never tried it due to me just loving music :D Maybe i'll give it a go.
    • gadget51
      Joined: 23.06.2008 Posts: 5,622
      I can hardly be considered an amateur in this field, but I do know I used to play classical music in the classroom with disruptive students aged 11 to 15 and it helped calm them very nicely; except they did ask why they couldn't have eminem instead. :)
      Productivity was indeed increased, but whether that was the music or they were terrified of me is debatable. :)
      Not sure how this would relate to poker though, just my 2c worth.
    • martinemem
      Joined: 05.07.2011 Posts: 596
      Extremely interesting topic, and i have thought of this for years actually. I've found out that if i made it a rule to play without music, then i would sometimes make excuses for not play, just because the times goes a bit slower without it.

      I've been playing piano since i was 5-6, and loved to find the most difficult and almost impossible songs to learn, and mostly that is classical music.
      Then i got the idea to try out opening a playlist full of classical, and it went over expectations until 1 day where i first ran pretty slim, then later very hot, and then suddenly this song popped out, made me tilt, and made my 8 hour grind be break even, because it tilted me so hard, and i realised a bit too late. Like waking up swetting all over because of it:

      If ur ears bleed after the first 2 mins, try skip forward to 19 min, and hear the last part. I remember it was like i was watching myself from behind swetting, and my brain hurt and i couldnt think and it actually made me start to go on a downswing. Funny how theese things come up just because of the talk of music :s_biggrin:

      Mr Alfred Schnittke owe me 300$ + the downswing it created afterwards. But hey, i could have discovered myself doing bad much quicker.
      Just do urself a favor, if u are going to hear classical, search for beethoven, mozart, chopin (fantasie impromptu, play this on piano, or is a project im working on, only around 15% done, still need 7.5 pages of piano notes :D ). Modern classic music is useless, idiotic, hopeless, and created my lesser people.
      Chopin, just like beethoven and mozart was the einsteins of music. They not only understanded it 100%, the LIVED it. Chopin could not be teached more by his teacher when he was 9. He made big composes for orchestres. He started playing instruments when he was 2 or 3. He could lock himself in the room for 4 days, because a play he was working on for a year, needed to be tweaked to perfection, because something just didnt sounded "right".
      1810-1849 rip
      Beethoven had a almost similiar growth, he however understanded music so much, that when he was 30 and his hearing started to get worse, until he was total deaf before he died as 57, he could still compose and write plays without even hearing them.
      1770-1827 rip
      Not to mention mozart that is maybe one of the popular classical componists of all time.

      The thing theese have i common is they somehow die way way waay to young. chopin 39, beethoven 57 and mozart 35. Dont listen to classical music if it is from 1900+
      These caliber just dont come around much anymore. Now its mostly destroying music that is just a big laugh, or even worse, destroys ur mind.

      Training this once in a while to play it perfect ;D

      Played this once to perfection, but once i learned it, it got boring because it was too easy to play.

      Playing this once in a while, dont have to warm up to play this, can play it with closed eyes, and play it to perfection every time without errors. Maybe because i learned this when i was 11-14 (first short version, than the full)

      This is supposed to be 6 hour study music, to enhance concentration:

      My fav is still chopin though, youtube his name, and u'll find some very nice relaxing songs.

      binaural beats to me is like drugs... better don't use it because you will have at first better mindfulness but you would need to increase binaural beat frequency to sustain that effect that you had at first and without it your mindfulness will decrease, that is just my experience

      Never heard about beats that is supposed to increase mindfulness. And, that it is even doing something to you subconciously if its around 500hz, because you cant really hear it, but you can if the sound is delayed in one of the ears.

      Do you have any experience in this, beyond what u have wrote? Like how long it seems to work, before the feeling seems to fade away, and u need to increase hz.
      And what was the max hz u stopped at?

      Tried to made the post smaller by putting it in a spoiler, but then it got hard to read because of the spaces in bw and the videos that fucked up the layout of the post, sorry :D

      btw, did u know music is like poker. Its math, and that is i guess why beethoven could compose while he was deaf.
      Also did u, that if all musician got together, and made 1 song every 9 second, it would only take around 92 years to create all the possible melodies there is? And that todays popmusic, countrymusic and so on, is based on previous succesfull melodies that has been tweaked/changed the tempo. Not hole parts, just popular choruses, and ex some of elvis presleys popular melodies is to be found in many diff music numbers in bits and pieces?

      Sorry, this post is getting too long ;D
    • martinemem
      Joined: 05.07.2011 Posts: 596
      Theese 2 songs also makes it very easy to understand that music is math.
      This song cant be played by 1 human. It can ofc be simplified, and played by 1. And maybe 3 pianist got together they could perform the song in its full potential:

    • Schnitzelfisch
      Joined: 08.11.2008 Posts: 4,952
      Hey Krach-Bumm-Ente,

      I understand your view as a psychologist and I agree with you that psychology is super important, I am actually really interested in behavioural psychology myself.

      However, I believe that some parts of your post miss the point as they're based on an assumption that "everyone knows what's best for them". I mentioned in the webinar that everybody should TEST different options and find the one that works best for them. That's a huge difference.

      In this case, I think that it makes sense for people to test for themselves how different types of music affect their performance AND also test how they perform without the music.

      So it's not that much about knowing what works for you intuitively but actually going and testing different options, writing down results and finding something that works for you.

      Psychological studies are very helpful here because they usually give you an idea of what is most likely to work for you, which is awesome because you know where to start. Nevertheless, you generally still don't want to blindly believe in the studies alone as (as you've already mentioned) they can be biased and also you still can be in the 1% of people that perform better differently.

      In fact, it might very well be true that people should be able to perform better without music than with music. BUT this probably also depends on their goals a lot. Like you've mentioned, if your primary goal is to grind a lot of hours and you realize through testing that you are able to concentrate better for longer amounts of time with music, you should use it.

      However, if you don't grind long hours and you find out through testing that over short term playing without music allows you to concentrate better, you should go with that.

      The message that I was trying to get across during the coaching was that you should be OPEN to testing out different options, which allows you to improve your performance.

      I really appreciate your post, but I think it was more of a misunderstanding than anything else ;) .

      And I do have to say that I did get one huge takeaway from it. As you've said, people likely get used to something (listening to music) and take it for granted that "it works well for them", where there might be a better option. So it might make sense for them to read you post and try playing without music, and see if that works better - again testing :) .

      To conceptualize this and apply it to other areas of our lives, if we are doing the same thing over and over again, we might want to test a different approach from time to time to allow us to improve.


    • Krach-Bumm-Ente
      Joined: 01.05.2006 Posts: 10,392

      I appreciate your response. I guess there was a misunderstanding and we seem to agree on most points, such as being careful about results and considering goals (long hours vs winrate).

      However, there are a few problems with people testing for themselves what works best. I know from my experience as a psychologist how biased people are and how subjective assumptions can be VERY far from empirical evidence.
      I think especially in poker it is very hard to tell what works best for you. How do you measure? Money won is obviously no way to measure what works (unless you test over huge samples which is not possible in practice). So should we rate by how we feel? In experiments where a person's physiological measures (heart rate, P3-component and alpha activity in electroencephalogram, skin conductance response etc.) and subjective ratings are recorded you can find significant differences. You can still argue over whether it is more important to feel good or to function good. Even if you are happy with the fact that you might not objectively be at your best, but feel like you are, there is still the problem of confounding factors. How much sleep did you get, what did you do before the session, what did you eat, are you hydrated enough, room temperature, air quality etc. Experiments control all these factors, people at home most likely don't.

      But yes I think it's safe to say that people should question their habits and have an open mind to change them if they feel like they can benefit from it.
    • legand73
      Joined: 01.06.2010 Posts: 4,135
      am loving this discussion guys
    • BarryCarter
      Joined: 13.01.2011 Posts: 4,901
      I think music entirely depends on the person, test it out and you will get an idea if it gets you in a good state or distracts you.

      Listening to the radio or worse, a podcast, is a terrible idea though. Anything where someone is talking really diverts your attention away.

      My productivity skyrocketed when I stopped listening to the radio and started both working and playing in silence. I won't lie, it did suck a little at first and I found myself seeking out distraction, but I got used to it.
    • Schnitzelfisch
      Joined: 08.11.2008 Posts: 4,952
      I think Barry here is a perfect example why I believe testing works so well. Yes it might be biased, but to be honest it doesn't matter that much because at least you're taking action and not just reading studies and books.

      I also believe that even though you might not be able to find an optimal solution on your own, you will be able to identify what doesn't work for you. For example, like Barry mentioned, listening to podcasts and radio really affected him negatively and by getting rid of that, his productivity skyrocketed.

      Can he find an optimal solution on his own? Probably not. But he largely improved his performance by identifying and avoiding the things that don't work for him through testing.

      There are so many people that just get stuck with reading hundreds of books and studies and finding the optimal solutions and are never satisfied with anything.

      What I have found throughout the last couple of years is that you don't need an optimal solution. You need to focus on the big wins and even 80% solutions work just fine in most cases.

      I think it's more valuable for a person to test just ONE thing on their own and find something that works for them (even if it's biased and not optimal, it usually still is a big improvement than to read 10 studies and never apply the advice from any of them.

      I think that for the majority of people reading this it makes no sense to go and read studies and tons of books. The majority of the information that they need is in my productivity guide, and even if it's not perfect and optimal, the people who have actually applied stuff from it have had great results.

      So I don't think that not having accurate information is the issue, I think that by far the biggest issues are:

      1) Not taking action and applying things
      2) Focusing on small details instead of big wins

      Let me elaborate on that. You can give a person a thousand studies and reasons why eating healthy food is good and helpful. But until they actually go and try it out and see how much better they feel when they eat a chicken salad compared to a burger and fries, they won't be fully convinced.

      And as for the music, to be honest I don't think that researching or thoroughly testing it is one of the big wins for the people reading this. Why? Because they probably have other issues that they should focus on first.

      I've had great results with my students when they applied the 80% solutions to fields like nutrition, exercise and sleep. Once they have that down, they can of course choose to go research and optimize things fully if they wish to, but actually taking action and applying the 80% solutions in the first place was super important and helped them make great progress.

      Now someone reading this might just say "ohh, so music is very important, I must read all the studies and research on it..." and then it won't really make much of a difference.

      If you eat junk food, don't get enough sleep, have a lot of distractions around you etc., you'll most likely perform very badly at poker regardless of whether you listen to music or not.

      To sum up, it might make sense to research this subject for about 1% of the people reading this, who already have the basics down. For a beginner, it makes completely no sense to waste time on such small details where they could be taking action and finding the 80% solutions on their own.



      P.S. As I am a coach myself, I do actually read quite a lot of psychological books and studies, as well as discuss subjects with other psychologistsy so my advice is based on the studies most of the time. But I also make sure to test things out extensively alone and with my other students, and it has worked great for us. I just don't think it makes sense for an average forum user to go into these things as they can find the most of the information they need on these forums.
    • fusionpk
      Joined: 21.01.2010 Posts: 1,683
      Personally if im one tabling hu I NEED music to stop me from getting bored and losing focus on my table, I know its counter intuitive but it helps me keep the focus. However when I'm 4 yabling hu it's the exact opposite now I need no music to allow my full brain power and focus.
    • fruitcake1
      Joined: 30.10.2010 Posts: 61
      I play alone in the quiet but honestly not sure that helps or not. In any live situation your going to be faced with allot of noise and distractions but that can work in your favour against others if your used to it. imo
    • Boomer2k10
      Joined: 22.09.2010 Posts: 2,551
      I agree 100% with Barry about the "talking" area.

      Youtube video, Poker Video, Podcast, Game Walkthrough, Radio. All these thngs utterly crashed my ability to play when I experimented with "background" items when playing. Even if you just want to have it as a background item you can't help but try and pay attention to it and it will ultimately distract you from being as productive as can be.

      Music's been an odd one for me:

      I find that complete relax style stuff can actually detract from my play.

      Although what I will say is if you're going to have music on, play something that's familiar to you. There are a load of great playlists on Spotify but so many of them are huge and there's nothing worse than somethign you've never heard coming on, you like it and then check what it is and suddenly you're out of the zone

      For me really it's all about getting in the zone and staying there and if certain music allows you to do that that's great

      Also turn off your phone and Skype but that's a totally different sidetrack :)
    • BobbyPossum
      Joined: 31.07.2013 Posts: 54
      Music, for me, helps me lock in. I do tend to do a few other things while I have 12 tables up though so I'm sure I'm the odd on out. I totally agree that letting things distracting you is -EV. But trying too hard and not allowing yourself to have fun with what you're doing is just as bad.

      I have a browser with, OPR, SS, Pokerhand, Nash and Youtube open and now this forum too. I have Pandora and Rhapsody on, with Skype and AIM going too. Along with the old calculator app and then obv there's my phone too. I don't pay attention to all of those together but they are all running. It's just what I'm used to, and I think that's the key. Just finding what you're comfortable with and staying in that groove.
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