Poker as Life Lessons? Mike Caro Thinks So! NETG Agrees.

Mike Caro

Mike Caro

Mike Caro recently posted on his website an article he wrote some time ago for Card Player magazine. In it, a parallel between playing poker and living life is made.
“Every conscious act requires risk,” states Caro. “Every conscious act requires decision. You put those two facts together and you realize that the secret to success in life is not to avoid gambling, but to gamble well.”

Simple House Edge

Simple House Edge

I’ve always said that a real gambler is a person who takes risks, but does so in most careful and best way to succeed in that risk.  Those who gamble without thinking, without preparing and with a compulsion beyond their control are not good gamblers – their risks and play override the practice and skill it takes to close the “house edge.”  Such compulsive gamblers need help.  They are not what this article is about.

It’s about any gambler that takes the time to practice, learn the best strategies, stay away from high house edge “sucker bets” and control their bankroll to able to enjoy the work and skill accrued to be more of an Advantage Gambler.

I will give an abridge version of Mike’s analysis in this post and interject the possibility to other situations and games.  But, I highly recommend this and other posts that Mr. Caro has written for Card Player Magazine & other media. Click on the Title below for the complete article.

Three Ways Poker Can Help You With Life Decisions
Card Player Magazine with Mike Caro

Card Player Magazine with Mike Caro

Caro: “Today I’d like to discuss not poker strategy per se, but a few of the things I have learned from poker about how to live life better — namely, how to “gamble well” with decisions outside of poker.

1. You can’t know what you can’t know – My point is not to beat yourself up over decisions that didn’t turn out well because of information that you didn’t have, and couldn’t have had, at the time you made them.
[The term “rabbit hunt.”] …is when a player asks after the hand is over to see what cards would have come. Players see what cards would have come had the hand continued, then drive themselves crazy with regret, with “woulda-coulda-shoulda” thinking.”

If I had only known!!!

If I had only known!!!

(NETG – In the casino, this practice comes into play all the time, especially with players who believe in the legend of luck rather than the mathematics involved with skillful strategy, random-number generators, or dealt cards. As Mike says in his article, “Learning what cards would have come is not just useless, it’s worse than useless…..The almost inevitable result is that you’ll be more likely to call incorrectly the next time a similar situation arises.”  Understand that science and math play more into your success at gambling and life, than luck.)  Back to Mike Caro:

“Life presents us with countless opportunities to torture ourselves for a past decision in light of information that only became available later. The answer depends not on what actually happens but what one’s best analysis of its prospects were at the time…..I suppose it’s natural to wish one had chosen differently in such situations. But give yourself a break. You’re not clairvoyant and never will be, so don’t blame yourself for not making a decision based on information that was unavailable.  (NETG – But a larger point is to take the time to make those decisions based on your best information – odds – that you can find.)

2. Don’t take things personally (Something that this author at NETG should take to heart!)

Caro: “Phrased another way: It’s not about you. The dealer didn’t declare a misdeal after giving you two aces because he’s out to screw you. Things just go wrong sometimes. Even when something in poker seems like it’s directed at you personally, often it really isn’t. It’s not really about you — [the other players don’t] know you well enough to actually dislike you. He’s really upset about his bad luck, or his own inability to sniff out the trap you set, ……or how his teenage son is using drugs and he can do nothing about it. You’re just the most convenient target of his rage at the moment.

It's Not Personal.

It’s Not Personal.

So it is in the broader world. Somebody darts into your lane on the highway, forcing you to brake suddenly. It feels personal, doesn’t it? It’s as if he has selected you out of the thousands of other drivers he could inconvenience and endanger,…. but his actions are not about you personally. In fact, you can choose to take this driver’s action personally and react with anger — but know that it is a choice, and that you could choose differently. You could instead choose to react with indifference, or even compassion. That part of the situation really is all about you.

(NETG – In the casino, that bartender, that waitress, (basically ANY casino staff) may not treat you as nicely as is expected, but it’s not about you – unless you’ve already been a complete jerk, or another selfish, inconsiderate patron to deal with. And other patrons may be there to escape, relax, or switch paths for awhile.  If they don’t jump into chatting with you at the table or at the slots, remember, it’s not about you.  Let it be.)

3. Probabilities are real things, not abstractions

imageCaro: “Suppose you’re contemplating getting laser eye surgery with a risk of a serious adverse outcome on your vision is 1%. (I’m making up this number. Don’t take it as an actual medical fact.) That’s small enough to dismiss — a negligible risk, right?…..The probability of a bad outcome in poker is not the only factor to consider. You also have to take into account just how bad that outcome is. If it’s the loss of one buy-in, a 1% risk of loss versus a 99% probability of doubling up is obviously about as good gamble as will ever come your way in a poker game. But if 1% of commercial jets crashed, killing everybody aboard, nobody would ever fly, because we would all deem that risk way too high.
Years of playing poker has taught me to think more concretely about seemingly abstract probabilities, and how to weigh better real-world risks and rewards.”

(NETG – When it comes to life decisions, we deal with the “probability factor” all he time.  From leisure (roller coasters, mountain climbing, etc.) to necessity ( surgery, travel, etc).  Once again, it is the math + science equation that helps us decide and define the probability.  Whether it be in a casino or in life, success is not set in stone due to a lower house edge – but it gives you, the player, a better chance to feel better about your decision.)

Caro: “Conclusion – Life’s a gamble. Make it a good one.”   (NETG – enough said.)



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