School of The Bleeding Obvious

A Boffin

There is a august forum called ‘Journal of Gambling Studies’ which publish stuff on gambling and the its psychological effects on people and society. It maybe a worth while thing to read and is probably a great thing to partake in. However, you do have to wonder why would anyone spend so much time to understand that playing a lot of hands leads to losses or that it is harder to win money the more expensive the buy in is?

Check out this abstract from the organisation:

Social and Psychological Challenges of Poker by Kyle Siler

‘Abstract Poker is a competitive, social game of skill and luck, which presents players with numerous challenging strategic and interpersonal decisions. The adaptation of poker into a game played over the internet provides the unprecedented opportunity to quantitatively analyze extremely large numbers of hands and players. This paper analyzes roughly twenty-seven million hands played online in small-stakes, medium-stakes and high-stakes games. Using PokerTracker software, statistics are generated to (a) gauge the types of strategies utilized by players (i.e. the ‘strategic demography’) at each level and (b) examine the various payoffs associated with different strategies at varying levels of play. The results show that competitive edges attenuate as one moves up levels, and tight-aggressive strategies––which tend to be the most remunerative––become more prevalent. Further, payoffs for different combinations of cards, varies between levels, showing how strategic payoffs are derived from competitive interactions. Smaller-stakes players also have more difficulty appropriately weighting incentive structures with frequent small gains and occasional large losses. Consequently, the relationship between winning a large proportion of hands and profitability is negative, and is strongest in small-stakes games. These variations reveal a meta-game of rationality and psychology which underlies the card game. Adopting risk-neutrality to maximize expected value, aggression and appropriate mental accounting, are cognitive burdens on players, and underpin the rationality work––reconfiguring of personal preferences and goals––players engage into be competitive, and maximize their winning and profit chances.’

So basically as far as I can understand a tight aggressive player will win money but small stake players will lose money if they play like they play at small stakes poker when they try to go up a level. Surprise, surprise if you have a lot of money you are more likely to not want to let it go too easily.

Don’t get me wrong I have not read the full publication so I cannot make a definitive comment on this study, and, the guy looks to have spent hours on this analysing 27,000,000 hands – apparently! My question is why? What will be the upshot of this hard work and what does it tell us about the nature of online poker that could have taken no more than an afternoon playing at all three levels?

In truth I am a bit jealous that this guy got paid to mess about online doing nothing more than come up with the bleeding obvious that it is harder to win money if the risk a greater.