The thing is, patterns don’t exist. Things happen, entirely at random, and we instinctively attempt to rationalise, formulate, and categorise them under the totally arbitrary and misleading title ‘patterns’. Do any of the following sound familiar to you?
‘I was running like dogshit so I quit.’
‘I lost my first five coinflips and I thought ‘uh oh, it’s gonna be one of those sessions!’.’
‘These big combo-draws haven’t been hitting for me recently, so I decided to just fold instead of jamming.’
In poker, the equity of decision-making should exist entirely in a vacuum; or rather, the swings of fortune/misfortune have no bearing on the mathematical correctness of each decision. Just because you are, in fact, running like dogshit, doesn’t mean that you should eschew the mathematically best decision (ie. shoving) in favour of the ‘safer’ option of folding. When that happens, you are letting variance win. You are allowing the totally random will of the Poker Gods to influence you towards making a sub-optimal decision. So much for poker being a skill game!
Just think of how much mental energy and focus you could free if you stop allowing these arbitrary ‘patterns’ to permeate your decision-making. They don’t exist, and yet poker players expend so much focus trying to rationalise them. Let’s take a look at my results over the last ten days:
Day one: + $807
Day two: + $347
This is going so well! I’ve cracked poker! I’m a genius! The poker Gods love me!
Day three: – $1571
Day four: – $528
Day five: – $189
Jesus, I suck. The poker Gods are punishing me. I run so bad. I hate this f game!
Day six: + $1179
Day seven: + $667
Day eight: + $263
Day nine: day off
Day ten: + $138
Cracked it again! Poker is my BITCH!
These ten days yielded an overall win of + $1113. I like to earn money, so this is good news. However, notice how completely arbitrary my means of demarcation are! Had I elected to use a five-day sample rather than ten, I would have been stuck $1134 – rather less impressive. And had I gone for a twenty-day sample, guess what? Back to being a genius again: a win of $1962!
Now, it looks as if my winning and losing days come in streaks. I win for a few days, lose for a few days, win for a few days. There must be something behind that, right?
Well, for me the answer is no. I have a deep-enough understanding of variance by now to recognise that this is just chance, just the swongs of online poker. For the more recreational player who checks his results after every session, is more apt to tilt, and generally allows his confidence to be affected by the short-term swings inherent in the game, then yes, I would agree that he is marginally more likely to book a few winning days in a row while his confidence is high.
However, in my case (and hopefully yours too!), variance plays a miniscule part in my poker life. Some days I run good, some days I run bad. Overall, I run exactly even. If I allow a completely alien factor such as ‘how I’m running’ to inform my decision-making, then I’m losing the poker battle. And making correct decisions is the ONLY consideration at the poker table. It is all that matters.