I'm sure this topic has been discussed many times, but I would like some players' opinions on variance.
I haven't been playing very long, but I am very good with numbers, odds calculations and statistics. Playing in some lower level Single-table SNG's, I've found some success. MTT's not so much.
I have heard the term "variance" used on several occasions and i've seen many suggestions to "take a break" if you're running cold then come back and start up again.
Variance in mathmatics would be termed as random sample results taken over a given period of time and a calculation of the spread between each respective result during that time. For Poker, the sample period is said to be infinite....the spread...winning a given amount of money or losing.
One would suggest taking a break from poker after you're running bad, however, by mathmatical law, despite the break you are taking, law of variance dicates that the same variance would still exist after you come back from a 3 month break. Statistical odds dicate that you must continue your negative slide until your variance is balanced before you start winning again to move to the positive side of variance (basically the break did not happen). Therefore taking breaks during losing streaks mathmatically does not make sense.
As poker in itself is a 52-card random trial of events, largely influenced by the random actions of your respective opponents, I do not see the validity of variance in poker unless the "poker variance" is the same as saying "unlucky".
May sound ignorant but I'm a numbers guy....Your thoughts?
The reason people (at least educated/smart people) tell someone to take a break when they're running bad is that after a series of unfortunate outcomes, especially an extended one, people often start playing worse as a result. Nobody who actually understands statistics and random probabilities believes that "running bad" is a predictable state, or that there's some predestined amount of time or number of hands in which they'll run bad. Past events, of course, have no bearing on future events when discussing probabilities of random, independent events, such as dealing cards.
However, it is a reality that as human beings and poker players, we don't play every hand, session, or tournament at the same level. We break down emotionally at times, even the best of us. The suggestion to take a break is simply saying, "Hey, you've had a tough run. Take some time to clear your head and get back in the game when you're fresh again."
"largely influenced by the random actions of your respective opponents"
what you say about taking time off is of course accurate from a merely-mathematical perspective: whether you take a day, a year, or a minute off and then return to the tables has no bearing on the type of fortune that the deck will hit you with when you return, yeah.
however, it may have a drastic effect on your own state of mind, which in turn is supposed to be a great influence on the results you get at the poker table.
the actions a player and his opponents take are not, theorectically speaking, random at all. people don't determine whether they will bet/check/raise/fold randomly; it might appear that way, but they are always engaged in an albeit imperfect but nevertheless rationalized attempt at maximizing their winnings.
the cards are random; the way the players act w/ them is not really random at all. anyone who takes a break excusing themselves *merely* b/c they are running bad might not be consciously acknowledging that the misfortune is affecting their decisionmaking process, but i think this is the motive at the root of the problem as you address it in their post: reckoning w/ "variance" becomes a psychological struggle which in taking a break from the tables one is supposed to regain their analytical perspective despite what the cards hold in store for them. it does indeed make abs no sense mathematically to take a break from the tables, but it may make sense psychologically which is why i think we hear the argument about variance so often.
Unfortunately, Adam jumped right in and gave a near perfect answer. It's really hard to even add to it. :)
Thanks Adam, you pretty much just killed the guys post here, probably won't even crack 20 now :)
When someone suggests that another player take a break, they are saying in a nice way...."You are playing worse than you think, but using variance as an excuse. Maybe a break will clear your head and allow you to play better."
I believe most "variance" is caused by one of three reasons:
1) A player was not very good, had success for a short period of time, and now is back to the results they previously had. They could have started the game with instant success as well.
2) A player was playing very well, but in an effort to play better, tried to "improve" and developed leaks that they are not seeing in their game.
3) A player is playing the same as they always have. Where they were once able to get results, the game has evolved around them, and their techniques are no longer successful.
Just my opinion.
Well put guys...I've seen several people (at least at the tables) suggest taking a break to possibly avoid variance but I didn't think that made any sense.
Another thing on my mind was if variance exists for purely random samples and events. I didn't think you could put purely random events into variance except as expectational values. Of course...I could be thinking of standard deviations but that's something entirely different....
AgonyMuffin. I just re-read my post. You're right...the actions of a person at the table are not random. I guess if you remove "random" out of that section of my post, it would make a little more sense.
I wanted to stress that each respective person's decision, albeit right or wrong has a large statistical bearing on any given hand.
ie: If a player has KK and raises 5x's the blind, you wouldn't think a person who is behind him 3-1 in chips and only holding J-8 would call (statistically speaking...even though they have 2 live). However, if a K comes on the flop and the other person needs runner-runner for a str8, you would think they would fold after a shove to put them all in. Result: J-8 calls, makes runner-runner and beats trip K's.
Granted there are pot odds, limit sizes, table position and tournament position to consider, but I'm taking a look at the hand merely from a statistical standpoint.
Although KK played this hand relatively perfectly, instead of picking up the blinds, he loses 33% of his stack. I've heard people attribute variance to these results when it happens often. This is just unlucky isn't it? or is there some variance involved?
I think the word and term variance is used the wrong way sometimes....
It's both unlucky and has everything to do with variance. Variance refers to statistical fluctuations and probability theory. In the example you used, the donk runner runnered a straight. Pretty stupid to go all in, but did he have a chance? Yes. Unless something is 100%, i.e., he is drawing dead no matter what cards come, there is always the chance that he can beat three kings, although it's way less than one percent. Obviously if he keeps doing this, he'll be taking out a second mortgage soon.
But the real issue, and the point of the whole thread, is how will the guy with KK, flopping a set, going to handle this loss? I know what I'd do--I'd take a break.