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Fight or flight

February 15, 2008

I don’t if I’ve referred to this directly in this blog. I think I have, but if so, not to a great extent.

Fight or flight refers to reactions to reactions to changes, a stress reaction. Your heart rate increases, your muscles tense, you make ready to fight or to run. This may begin as soon as you see that your are dealt AA. Or, it may begin when you hold Q8 in the BB, bet at a QT4 board, and then get raised by a loose player. Is it time to fight, or to run?

And of course the same thing happens to everyone else as they play. I was thinking that this might explain some of the shoves over reraises that people do at the low levels. Not for poker reasons, like they have the best hand, a strong draw, or they think they have fold equity, but 1) because they are being challenged and opt to fight, and 2) in some cases they just feel like gambling. Poker is not about gambling. Poker, like the stock market, is about making investment decisions. You don’t play garbage hands, especially out of position because this situation has a low likelihood of a net positive return. If you’re clearly the best player at the table, maybe playing nearly every hand has a positive expectation. Most people who do this, however, are doing this because either they don’t know any better, or they like action and want to play/gamble.

The problem is that poker is keen on aggression. A lot of people who don’t know much about playing like to be aggressive. People who do know something about playing know that they need to be aggressive. At some point the conscious mind has to be able to take over and say, stop, this is not the situation to fight. I’m still trying to get Zen and the Art of Poker back again, ’cause there’s a quote about folding that I want to recover. Originally I interpreted it as referring just to preflop, but now I’m beginning to think it refers to post flop as well. “Think if folding as a big stick that you use to hit your opponents over the head with again and again”, or something to that effect. Sounds a little violent for Zen, but maybe it’s a foam stick 🙂

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