Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Aggression + Luck Beats Skill

I was watching the best damn sports show the other day, and they had poker pro Erick Lindgren (Edogg) as a guest. The host asked him what he thought it was like playing with amateurs. He stated that an amateur has no chance against a seasoned pro. He compared it to an amateur trying to hit a homerun off a major league fastball, or competing effectively on a pro football team. Well I am sorry Erick, you are way wrong in this assessment. Amateurs can and do regularly beat the bigtime pros at there game. Lets look at the WSOP 10k buy-in. The structure for this event with the 2 hour levels and deep starting stacks heavily favors the skill aspect of the game. There is absolutely no rush to get anything going before getting short stacked. The patient pro should have a field day in this event, and an amateur should not stand a chance. Well amateurs have won the last four events in a row. I know the latest winner, Joe Hatchem is advertised as a pro, but he also has a mortgage brokerage business on the side. My definition of a pro, is someone who makes there living playing poker exclusively. If you have a "real" job on the side, you are not a pro yet. How do the amateurs do it? They do it with aggression and luck. A good amateurs game is a lot closer to a pro's game than many people think. They can probably play 90-95% as effective as a pro. The last few percent are the hardest to get, but with a little luck, it is not required. The luck factor in tournaments will generally determine the winner. The key is for the amateur to be aggressive. You have seen these guys before in tournaments. They are constantly pushing and are clearly not the best players, but when they get called down by the skill player they suck out the winner, or happen to have a monster hand. You simply can't beat this no matter how well you play. Of course, luck will even out over time, and you will not see the same amateurs at the top from tourney to tourney, while you will see some of the name pros having success over and over. In last year's WSOP, there was a lot of talk about Tiffany Williamson, and how bad of a player she was. I agree, she had been only playing for 1 year but it looked more like 1 week. She was aggressive though, and very lucky. When she thought she had the best hand, she would not hesitate to push right or wrong. This would force better players to lay down the better hand, and when they would call there was always a lucky flop, turn or river to bail her out. You can't beat this Erick (and you didn't by the way). The other example was Steve Danneman. This guy had only been playing a short time, but seemed to grasp the game much better then Tiffany. He knew the all-in move is the ultimate equalizer in NL holdem, and he used it to great effect. Yes, he also caught lucky over and over, but the key was the aggression. I think he pushed all-in 20+ times at the final table on his way to second. No one else at the final table came close to that level of aggression and look what it did for him. The three real pro's at the final table Matsow, Black, and Barch did not stand a chance. So the next time, you see someone taking down a tourney with nothing more than aggression and luck, don't let it bother you. You can't beat that combination. The luck will even out in the long term, and someday your combination of skill plus luck will get it done.


At 12:03 PM, Blogger smokkee said...

someday, blinders.....someday.

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At 6:12 PM, Blogger ChrisXena said...

The problem with analysising past poker tourneys or hand events is the same as the victor in war...the victor gets to right the history books! And poker tourney winners look good, and great in strategic play...for their single 15 seconds of fame.

In practice, as noted in this blog, there are different winners each year even if unknown players, instead of professionals. If we could see the "body count" of those that played a SIMILIAR over-aggressive strategy in the same tourney then it would be obvious that higher aggression was important, but also caused many early flunk-outs. Of those whose high aggression allowed them to continue the critical factor then became "luck" of which aggressor was more critical to which one ended on on the final table.

Professional players tend to play for the longer term...which in fact is often determimental for the shorter time, or one tourney!...given the rapid blind raise formats that is typically used.

That is why what works best in slow blind increase cash games, often is not the "optimal" strategy for tourney play. It's the "law of averages" at work and "relative importance" of staying in the game, relative to passive bets,that force more action, and shorter times for player elimination.

The compensating factor for tourney players is to leverage their odds by entering MORE tourney and accepting many short term losses in order to gain an advantage in just a few...or one tourney.

Afterall, high aggressive involves higher variance, and a higher eviction rate from tourneys. But in this "higher payout" tourney system the success of a single major tourney outweighs the loss of many competitions overall.

This is why it takes some time and mental gymnastics for good cash game player to play good tourneys and for young tourney, or on-line players, to adopt to the style and payoffs of the other type of poker where skill and patience is most key.

Simply, what is invested, the number of opportunities, and payoffs variances dictate a different style and strategy of play between cash games and fast tournaments. Adopt one's personal style, or suffer an early death, either way.

Luck + skill is variable, and relevent only to the type of game at hand.

Poker Princess Warrior


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