After what was a grueling year for so many of you, you now find yourself with time on your hands. Oddly, just when you feel so great that you can finally relax with no exams to study for or papers to write, you might discover that you feel a bit down. You might even be getting over a cold or some over ailment that comes with the end-of-semester let-down. This kind of temporary let-down is common. It likely will pass as you come to structure your summer and get busy with your new commitments and routine.
I myself am on a new summer schedule, working on a book and a paper. I won’t be posting regularly again until school is back in session at the end of August. However, I welcome your emails and will respond to them over the summer months.
School’s just about out now, and many of you will soon have time on your hands. If you decide to use your summer to beef up your poker game, pleease get yourself financially and emotionally ready for the inevitable swings of the game. This means making sure that you are not in a game that is too big for you. And when you do find yourself in a big downswing, perhaps you can be comforted by the following (I wrote this after my own gut-wrenching downswing 2 years ago):
It’s another night on-line playing Texas Hold’em, and you can’t believe you’ve dropped even more cash after you’ve been losing so much lately. Your slide has been so unbelievable that you bury your face in your hands and let out a muffled groan. Perhaps you feel some tears of frustration make their way past the corners of your eyes. “Why me?” you ask, wondering how such rotten players at your table seem to keep robbing you of pot after pot. It’s gotten to the point where you would gladly take a bit of luck over skill. To make matters worse, a close family member or friend expects to hear how you did. As a desperate young Hold’em player at the local casino once told another player at my table, “I would take a $30 win right now – anything.”
If you are in this spot, I know that it hurts. Research has shown that the brains of gamblers who are in the throes of chasing their losses look just like the brains of drug users coming down off a cocaine-induced high.
Chasing losses is so compelling because people would rather risk losing a lot more money than accept a certain loss. Years back, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky set up a series of probability scenarios involving money and asked people which scenario they would prefer. Now using pure logic and probabilities, as opposed to emotion, you should just multiply the probability of an event and the amount of money gained or lost to see which option you should pick. For example, if asked whether you would rather have a 50% chance of losing 2500 dollars or a 100% chance of losing 1000 dollars, you should always pick the latter. This is because the expected loss of $1000 (1.00 X $1000) is less than the expected loss of $1250 (.50 X $2500).
But Kahneman and Tversky discovered that people routinely would pick the high probability of losing a lot of money over the certainty of losing less money. They concluded that it’s human nature to try run away from a certain loss. So, if you have recently lost a lot of money gambling, you are probably more anxious than ever to return to the tables and win it back.
If you are playing more and more because you simply can’t forgive yourself for wasting $500, $1,000, or even $20,000 or more at the tables, please consider the following. Instead of chasing your losses, you can put that energy into your career now so that later you will have such a huge bankroll that these early losses won’t seem so bad. You can be comforted later (and along the way) by the fact that your losses pushed you to maximize your earning potential with your career. Remember, even really good poker pros eek out only a meager living anyhow.