Monday, July 28, 2008

Do Not Fear

As I said earlier, I've given those New York Times chocolate chip cookies a try, and was underwhelmed. They weren't terrible cookies, and the texture was fantastic. Perhaps it was the mix of 70% cocao wafers, and bittersweet and semi-sweet baker's chocolate. I think it was more likely the salt content... since they're too salty.

Of course, I still have a bunch of the stuff in my freezer. But once that's gone, I'll play around with the recipe. Screw dropping that kind of cash on chocolate, or using coarse salt, or even making that much dough.

Nope, next time will have semi-sweet chocolate, maybe some white chocolate, and maybe even some skor pieces or butterscotch chips, and there will be less of it. It will also have less salt, and it won't be coarse. I'll also be halving the amounts. Why half? Because the recipe calls for 2 eggs, and it's tough to change that to less than 1 egg.

And I have no problem with this. Why? Because I know that the salt content and chocolate choice will only affect taste, not the texture and other good aspects. And if it's somehow terrible (which it won't be)? I can toss it out, knowing I've only got about $5 worth of ingredients in there (vs the over $25 in the current batch).

People are terrified of changing recipes. This makes some sense when baking, because baking involves a lot more chemistry. You can't adjust the baking soda or yeast too much without affecting rising ability. Too much corn starch or flour and you'll be wondering why it's so dense. There's a reason buttermilk and regular milk aren't really interchangeable, or why lemon juice instead of vinegar creates browner crusts. But once you understand what each ingredient contributes, you can face changes with less trepidation. This is why mom's meatloaf is different than grandma's - she changed something because she liked it more that way.

The same idea applies to lots of things in life, but this is primarily a poker blog, so I'll relate to that.

The best player to play against is the one who plays by a book. They are obsessed with the "right" way to play hands, or perhaps are more advanced and focus on how to play types of players. Regardless of how they play, they never change their recipe. A check-raise preflop means aces... every time. A bet means they have something. Or a big bet means they have nothing. Any variety of styles could come into play, depending on the player. The aggro bluffer will keep aggro bluffing. The rock will do his best impression of Gibraltar. Sometimes this is by choice, but usually it's out of fear.

They don't understand the ingredients in how they play. They just know that aggressive poker is winning poker. Or that it's hard to lose with the nuts, and you don't want your opponents draws to catch, because Phil Gordon or Dan Harrington told them so. They might know that the weak-tight person across from them will fold anything but premium hands and keep playing against them. However, they'll never grow as a player. At best, they'll just adopt a new style and stick to that. This makes them incredibly exploitable.

Don't be that player. Understand what works and what doesn't, and WHY it does or doesn't, and adapt accordingly. Are people folding whenever you have aces? Maybe it's because you ONLY play premium hands and they know it. Use this to your advantage by bluffing once in awhile. How the hell could that donkey call your push with only 2nd pair? Maybe because you push every orbit with position and he's got a read on you now, your game needs less pushing.

What you'll find is that eventually you'll find the right balance for you, and it will be unlike anyone else's game. There will be complexity and layers that make sense to you, but others will wonder about. Of course, your game will one day be less workable as people adjust to it. Or you'll just get bored of it. No different than getting tired of the same cookies. This is the time you get to mix it up a bit to find a new way that works - often, even the most subtle changes can have vastly different results.

After all, a chocolate chip cookie is just flour, egg, sugar, salt, fat, baking soda, vanilla, and chocolate chips, but no two people make the same batch. If 8 ingredients can be combined in such a variety of ways, just think how variable your poker game can be.


DubsPoke said...

Love the analogy. I've had a recent breakthrough in my game by adding in more aggression. However, that has also added a ton of variance. Part of that I believe is because I am too slow to adjust to my opponent's tendecies. Your post has helped me hone in on that (like the part about getting called down lightly with 2nd or even 3rd pair type hands).

Sometimes our "lightbulb" moments as poker players are just a result of thinking about an oft-repeated topic in a different manner. I'm thinking this post has just helped me. Thanks!

OhCaptain said...

I agree. What a great analogy.

Not sure if you have ever seen it or even watch shows like this, but there is a show on Food TV I like to watch called "Good Eats."

The main reason I like this show, other then I find it funny, is that the host explains the "Why" in cooking. The best example of this is the show where he makes chocolate chip cookies and explains the why this change or that change makes the cookie different.

MorningThunder said...

Great Post