November 12, 2011

Poker and Decision Fatigue

Tags: Poker

Since last writing about poker I have fulfilled my requirement to read a poker theory book twice and started playing again. Not too much, but averaging about 2 Heads-up Sit-n-go games a week (about 20 minutes play per week). I’ll share my results when I’ve completed a few hundred games and the general direction I’m heading becomes clear as variance evens out.

At present my results are patchy. I tilt badly less often (but still do infrequently) and sometimes play quite well. I’m better at recognising the type of opponent I’m facing and (very) occasionally manage to read a hand. I’d say 90% of the time I play “ok” for the level of competition I’m facing (micro stakes). However, I will often play blindingly bad hands in a match I’m otherwise playing acceptably. Here is an example where I became enamoured of my top pair against a player who had been playing very tight for over 15 minutes. What was I thinking, so much had me beaten.

PokerStars No-Limit Hold’em, $1.50 Tournament, 30/60 Blinds (2 handed) (Converted with

Hero (BB) (t1525)
SB (t1475)

Preflop: Hero is BB with 3d, Ah
SB bets t120, Hero calls t60

Flop: (t240) Ad, 6h, 7s (2 players)
Hero checks, SB bets t240, Hero raises to t480, SB raises to t720, Hero raises to t960, SB raises to t1355 (All-In), Hero calls t395

Turn: (t2950) Jc (2 players, 1 all-in)

River: (t2950) 4h (2 players, 1 all-in)

Total pot: t2950

SB had 6c, 6d (three of a kind, sixes).
Hero had 3d, Ah (one pair, Aces).
Outcome: SB won t2950

The longer a match, the more likely a badly played hand will occur. I recently read about decision fatigue and I think this may be partially the cause. Decision fatigue is the idea that after making many decisions people’s ability to make good decisions deteriorates. A very interesting concept that applies to many scenarios. Some salespeople try to bombard people with choice hoping they start choosing badly. Be aware of how this affects you and how other people may be using it against you.

This idea fits my poker play. The worst play comes at times when fatigue is a possibility. As a beginning poker play, I make lots of decisions in a game. I’ve not yet reached a point where I see patterns and the choice is clear. Instead I think through nearly everything. In my last game, I honestly thought twice about folding 72o out of position against a pre-flop raise (but folded in the end). I can imagine I would quickly become fatigued. The antidote is to only start playing when I feel fresh, preferably after eating or resting. Of course the problem I will will still get fatigued during a long game and then I’ll start making decisions like playing another game! Hopefully the game will become more routine and thus I’ll make less decisions when playing. Well, it’s worth a try.