I went out to a poker club the other night. I saw the usual cast of poker players that I know from the place. Everyone was either seated or standing around the table. One of the guys who normally plays was standing back having a beer or two. Before I sat down I approached him – as I often do – just to ask how he was doing. Or, in the parlance of poker, how he was running.
"I'm on a bad losing streak," he said. "I'm trying to wait it out." I asked him why he came to the club –not that I was unhappy to see him. Isn't it like a guy trying to quit smoking taking his break in the smoking area outside his building?
He told me that he figured that he wasn't really waiting out his streak if he was at home. He needed to be at least near poker action for the clock to be ticking on him. In other words, if he sat it out at home it wouldn't be sitting it out at all – just interrupting the bad streak temporarily. It need "gambling time" to run its course. And for him, being in a poker room, kept the "gambling time clock" running – helping him run out the clock on the bad luck.
Well of course, but…
Here's what I'm getting at.
The gambler believes in streaks. The serious poker player recognizes that streaks only exist in the imagination of the player. The streak doesn't know when it is about to end or start again. So it's an all an illusion.
Except, of course, it isn't.
There are surely streaks. You win five sessions in a row, that's a streak, no? Some lucky stiff catches his flush on the river three times in a row when you have trips – that's a streak of bad luck. You can't deny it. If something happens many times in a row then, by definition, it's a streak.
Well sure, you may agree. It's a streak. But you can't predict it. So you're better off just playing your best game all the time – and don't worry about the ups and downs of good or bad fortune. Those things average out in the end don't they? We can't predict them so we can't let them affect how we play.
Except we have to think about them.
We have to think about them for two reasons. First of all, like it or not, our opponents – our more observant opponents at least – will notice if we've been running bad or running good. They'll be affected by the streak we're on.
Don't you find that to be so? When you're on a winning streak, don't you find that your raises get more respect? Some of your opponents are sure to remember the last few hands you bet aggressively when you took down a large pot – much of it their money. That's not saying that you won because you were on a streak. But you did win. And they will remember it.
Similarly, if you've been losing – for whatever reason – for a long time – how can your better opponents not notice it? Those that believe in streaks (and there are many) will figure either that you're going to continue to lose – so they'll be more aggressive against you – or that you're bound to turn things around – so they may be more cautious. But one way or another, your streak is going to affect the play of some of your opponents.
As a good and observant poker player it would be pure folly to discard the impact that your streak is going to have on the play of others. While you may know that past results have no bearing on future results (at least not as far as predicting how good or bad your cards are likely to be), since they don't know that, you have to take their reaction into account in your play.
As far as my poker buddy who was waiting out his streak in the club – instead of at home. That may have been nuts. But who am I to say. Maybe it put his mind at ease – helping him play better in the future. One thing is for sure. With him convinced that he had to wait out his losing streak in the poker club – I was glad to have his potential action close at hand – for when he decided to return to live action.
Ed note: Get ready for the streak of your life when you sign up at Mansion Poker