A gambler’s brain lies. The Laws of Probability don’t.
You’re never as hot as you think you are. Your luck is never as bad as you think it is.
“You’re not due. You are not hot,” said Dr. Alan Schoonmaker, a veteran psychologist, who, after a long career as a scholar and financial specialist, now focuses on the mind games of poker. “Gamblers make this mistake all the time. When they get hot, they begin to think they are invulnerable. They think ‘the Laws of Probability do not apply to me.’ Bullshit.
“Each decision has to be evaluated just as it is,” Schoomaker emphasized. “It’s a random variable. It’s a coin flip. Every once in a while heads is going to come up nine times in a row, just by chance. What are the odds of it coming up heads again on the next flip? 50-50. There‘s no such thing as overdue. There’s no such thing as being hot.”
Schoonmaker has authored four books on poker psychology and recently teamed with professional sports bettor and poker player David Sklansky to publish DUCY? (Do You See Why?)
, which examines “how creatively combining math, logic, psychology and probability theory can solve problems you might have previously regarded as unsolvable.”
It’s deep, smart stuff. And it can make you a better decision maker, which, when you boil it all down, is the key to gambling success.
Schoonmaker is spending his prime in Las Vegas, playing poker and enjoying himself. He doesn’t bet sports, but has spent his career analyzing the decision-making process every gambler goes through. His No. 1 tip: Keep thorough records.
“Keep accurate records of your bets, the logic behind your bets and the results or your bets,” he said, “because, otherwise, you’ll bullshit yourself. You’ll remember the times that you went with this gut feeling and you were right, but forget all the times you were wrong. If you do not keep accurate records of all your wagers, you will lie to yourself. That’s just human nature. Memories are extraordinarily selective.”
How many of you keep accurate records of your wagers, including the logic behind your plays and details of the results? It’s extremely easy to track your bets at most online sports books, but logging the reasoning behind your bet and notes about whether you suffered a bad beat is taking it another step.
That brings me to Schoonmaker’s No. 2 tip to gamblers: Bad beats aren’t going away.
Twenty years from now, pocket aces will still be getting cracked and Brett Favre will still be throwing interceptions that get returned for touchdowns to cover the spread with a minute left on Monday Night Football. Stop whining about it and start figuring it into the risk involved in the decision, says Schoonmaker.
“Winners accept responsibility for your results,” he explained. “Losers deny their results, or refuse to accept responsibility for their results.”
The risk of a bad beat is much more definable in poker than in sports betting. Pocket aces get cracked almost 1 of 5 times in Texas Hold‘em. Would being up two touchdowns with five minutes to play be a fair football comparison to pocket aces? If so, which of the two situations would you rather be in?
The infinite number of random variables in football makes it difficult to accurately gauge the risk of a Hail Mary, bad call or blown extra point. This is where money management comes into play, says Schoonmaker.
“Sports betting is a much more complicated decision-making process than poker,” he said, “because there is much more uncertai