June 26, 2006
New players who want to be good students of the game often ask me for advice. In response, I often tell them about emotional stability, which I touched on in my last tip. The next point I'd like to make is that they need to be careful when assessing their own play. That's because there are a couple of common mistakes new players make that lead them to draw faulty conclusions about the strength of their play.
After playing for a short period of time, say 100 hours, a player starts to develop an opinion about his or her play. They might think they're playing very well or very poorly, but this conclusion might be far from the truth. The problem is that, in the short term, anything can happen. A player may get very lucky or unlucky and show results that are either far higher or lower than they could ever expect in the long-term. However, over a longer period - say 300 hours or more - a player is going to get a much more accurate view of their ability to beat the game.
So what does this mean for you? In short, I recommend that you keep an eye on your long-term results no matter if you're in the midst of a hot streak or a cold one. While taking the long view will help you more accurately assess your play, it can't help you avoid every pitfall along the way.
For example, assume that I've played the following games of No-Limit Hold 'em and have managed the following debts and profits:
At first glance, it looks like I'm dong pretty well, right? I've make a handsome profit of $30,000. Look deeper though and you'll see that I wouldn't want to quit my day job because, in fact, I'm doing quite poorly.
To better understand what I mean, don't think about the actual dollar figures involved but, instead, think of each small blind as a unit. So, in a $1/$2 game, each unit is 1 and in a $25/$50 game each unit is 25.
How have I done in terms of units won and lost? I've lost 2,000 units in the $1/$2 game, 2,000 units in the $2/$4 game and won 1,440 units in the $25/$50 game. Total everything up and you'll see that after 430 hours of play, I've lost 2,560 units. This is bad news.
As you keep records of your sessions, be sure to record the size of the game you're playing and number of units you've won or lost. At the start of your poker career, put more emphasis on units won or lost than on your total profit. It's a more accurate gauge as to whether you're playing winning poker.