Zig-zag: Ruminating upon tournament results

August 12, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 12, 2018

In thinking over Thursday’s end game, which I detailed yesterday, I couldn’t help but compare that situation, where I folded promising hands, to those in which I’d made all-in calls during the final week of the regular season. In those cases, I didn’t necessarily need to win the event to accomplish my goal, which was winning the venue’s season points championship.

(To be specific, what I needed in those earlier instances was to improve my season points average by recording a high score in one of the last games, which I could have done without a win.)

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems I would have come closer to succeeding in the final week by playing the turtle — that is, by folding and putting off the moment at which I might be eliminated.

But my success criterion for the postseason is different. The goal in each championship tournament is to win the championship by winning that particular tournament.

So when I might have benefited from turtling, I went for the gusto, and when I needed to go for the gusto, I shrank from the moment, instead folding and waiting for the next set of blinds.

There’s no guarantee that switching my decisions might have worked out — certainly not in the case of the regular-season games, when it’s impossible to tell how things would have played out over the course of multiple hands that were never actually dealt to me. But there’s a little more certainty when it comes to Thursday night’s event, since I got to see both folded hands play out; as I wrote Saturday afternoon, I would have won both, essentially tripling up by participating in either hand.

Now, again, there’s no guarantee that playing one or both of those hands would have led to a championship. But in retrospect, certainly, they would have left me better positioned to win Thursday night’s tournament, which was my goal that evening.

Poker is a game of uncertainty: Unless you complete a straight flush on the flop, there’s virtually no way to be assured that (a) you currently hold the winning hand, and (b) you will hold the winning hand when the board is complete. There are ways to reduce uncertainty, of course, especially if you know a player’s tendencies and know any secret tells that their expression and gestures might reveal. Still, until your opponent’s hole cards are revealed, you don’t know for certain what she or he holds.

But… but… in thinking things through, I now believe that I zigged when I should have zagged on two occasions the other week — and that, this week, I zagged when I should have zigged.

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