Don't Beat the Odds, Join Them

October 28, 2018

This month's featured video features a professional poker player's take on decision-making:

Among the points Liv makes is that the popular image of poker as a game of hunches and bluff is no longer the full picture. Elite players develop a very refined understanding of the mathematical probabilities that follow from the limited information they hold - while a certain amount of "people-reading" still applies, it is just one final factor that fine-tunes their decision whether to call, raise or fold.


Not long ago Kasia and I were fortunate to attend a pop-up games evening hosted by Purling London, where we enjoyed a long backgammon session. In this, a game which like poker blends elements of skill and chance, it struck us how different our approaches to the game were. One of us played cautiously, striving to avoid presenting any chance to the opponent; the other much more riskily, placing themselves in danger to possibly gain a big advantage. As it turned out honours ended even that night, but we were on opposite sides of the optimum strategy - which is to understand the odds and play appropriately. Sometimes the cautious approach is correct, and sometimes the more adventurous; the skill in games and in decision making overall is to know which to use when.


To make these decisions with accuracy, it is crucial to have not just a grounding in probability but also an understanding of the errors we all make when assessing chance and interpreting observations. Games (like backgammon) which reward those who master chance, rather than complaining about bad luck, are an excellent and enjoyable way to learn these skills. That is why we offer our "Stick or Twist" workshop, both as a standalone module and as part of our full gameAhead course - check them out!


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