07-19-06 [poker] - 1

07-19-06 [poker]

There are a lot of advantages to playing a low variance style. In theory, EV and variance are two separate aspects of a style - you might play a very +EV style that's very high variance. In practice, it's very hard to maximize EV with a high variance style.

There are two big problems with playing high variance :

1. It makes it harder to self-adjust. Poker is all about constantly adjusting, finding your leaks and fixing them. With a high variance style it's much much harder to really know when you're making mistakes or not because you will be going up & down all the time. This makes it harder to fix your game or make the right adjustments, which can lead you into bad play patterns.

2. It's much harder psychologically to stay in top form at all times. Because you'll be winning big and losing big all the time, when you lose big it will be hard to stay mentally fresh (avoid tilt). Even if you have the self control to just stop playing after some brutal beats, that means you're not playing when you could be, which is -EV.

The result is that even if embracing a bit more variance could be more +EV, often in practice you're better off giving up some value to keep your variance lower and have better control of your game.

note : this is a totally different issue than Risk/Reward in investing. That principle applies to poker as well, but is a totally different thing. In that case you're trying to balance risk just because you want to avoid ruin ("busto"), and because you might need to get that money for other things.

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old rants