Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Art of Poker - Chapter 2

Sun Tzu's second chapter is entitled "Waging War", but is, in reality, about the economic costs of war, not the actual battles being fought.

Unlike the first chapter, this one can be summed up more succinctly - The longer the war, the greater the cost.

The initial cost is great for men, chariots, supplies, and sundries. Then the cost continues as they travel, and as time wears on, their weapons become dull, as does their ardor. Eventually, a long campaign can bankrupt the state that funds it. While a war waged too quickly can be full of stupidity, nobody gets rewarded in a long one.

As the war drags on, the economic costs to those at home increase. The budget of the army changes increasingly towards upkeep and maintenance of weapons and armour.

Only a seasoned General can truly understand the importance of rapidity. Experience leads to minimal resupplies, and not turning back for help once committed. Sun Tzu advocates foraging from your enemy, as "One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own...", and the cost equivalently so, for it costs more to send the supplies from afar than use what is at hand.

These spoils of war should be used to reward your soliders to spur them to continue fighting. Your flags should be substituted over the enemy's to raise morale and stir anger. But captured enemy soldiers should be treated with dignity and kindness.

In the end, your goal is victory, not a prolonged campaign. In the General's hands lies his nation's fate, both military and economic.


It would be SO easy to tie this to the current economic-political situation in the US, but this series is about poker.

At first glance, there may be a problem fitting the message of this chapter to poker. After all, isn't poker all one long game? Perhaps, but there are breaks between the battles, and each hand is a skirmish unto itself.

No, there is much to be found in here. This is a chapter about bankroll management and keeping the game interesting over the long haul. A well-prepared, and experienced player will go to war with the proper bankroll for the levels they're playing. They will augment this bankroll with money won from their opponents instead of depleting their own savings. You shouldn't use rent money to finance your bankroll, and vice-versa.

But the longer you play, the more your weapons and ardor are dulled. Fatigue sets in, boredom, and even disenfranchisement about the game as a whole over the long haul. This is why the pros have a dozen prop bets going during games and a dozen horses playing with their money. This is why Pauly and Otis go lime-tossing during the WSOP, because you can only watch so many blinds get passed around. Be sure to end your sessions. The pros often see playing as their job. Eight hours a day, then full stop until tomorrow. Two days off every week. Make sure you can walk away.

You must reward yourself to keep the interest going. Have a great night at the tables? Go buy yourself something frilly. Win ten buy-ins? Use the first one on a really great dinner. Win twenty? Go on vacation. Make sure you know there's a reason you do this other than your love of getting kicked in the junk. Be king shit for one night. When you next sit down, you'll be refreshed, and looking forward to the next time you can reward yourself.

And always, ALWAYS be nice to those whose money you take. Be they fish or sharp, you want them to stick around. If you mock their play, belittle their call, or just jump around like a bufoon after taking down the biggest pot of your life, you'll turn them off playing with you. You want them, and their money, to stay. You want them to walk away from the table broke, but not hating you for it. Plus, if you are gracious in victory, you not only keep them happy, but keep the rest of the table from wanting to bust your arrogant ass. Angering the opposing army and creating allies for them will cause your treasury to deplete its funds very quickly.

Underlying all of this, is that your goal isn't to deplete your bankroll by playing losing or break-even poker forever, but to achieve victory and profit. Don't play games you can't afford. Don't pull money from your savings to keep your bankroll steady. Instead, lower your limits to accomodate your roll, and maintain that roll with your winnings. Eventually, you will have won enough battles to afford waging larger ones, with even greater spoils to be found.

And of course, winning that money quickly is preferable to slogging it out for the same gain. $1000 today is worth more than $100 a week for ten weeks. Much like in war though, a rapid victory can often be peppered with mistakes and stupidity. It's easy to win a big pot when you suck out. If Moneymaker played for 6 years and won $2.5 million, he'd be worse off than he is now, after that one big win and not much else. If you played for 6 years and had only a small gain, then your other expenses and missed opportunities will have easily wiped that out, not to mention the mental and physical drain you've experienced.

No, the goal is victory. It's up to you to define what victory is.

1 comment:

BamBam said...

Chapter #3 done yet?
How 'bout now?