Personal experience with variance

by ~ July 27th, 2008. Filed under: General poker strategy, Philosophy and approach.

I already did two blog entries on variance without getting to cover what I wanted to get to. I did want to lay out some conceptual background and dig up some characteristics and elements, but somehow instead spent my time working with that without really getting to what I wanted to explore.

Which is, variance and me personally. What difficulties I have with it, why it sometimes keeps me from playing. What part it plays in my frustrations, how it ties in with bankroll, emotional bankroll, tilt. Somehow I’m trying to pin it down as the key to why I don’t play more, play higher stakes, and why my bankroll isn’t much bigger than it is.

Lack of confidence on my part? There’s certainly some truth to that, especially when it’s in an area that I have less experience, which might include anything other than full ring/full buyin NLHE on PokerStars. On the other hand I get bored with grinding. I have more confidence, more comfort and can deal with variance better in that situation because of the experience that I have, but I get bored with it.

So I take my game and try other things; various types of SnGs, tournies, PLO, and now short stacking ring games, but then I have less confidence, less experience, and there are usually less resources for me to crosscheck my play and results. I have to find my own way a little more, and so have less confidence.

Variance ties in pretty closely with emotional bankroll as well, as does the gambler/investor comparison. Variance makes it a tougher rollercoaster to ride, unless you have the gambler attitude. But the issue becomes exacerbated because I have difficulty separating the Me from The Poker Player, meaning that I’m too emotionally attached to not only the bankroll and its fluctuations, but to my games as well. This is something that I continue to work on.

Then there’s winning percentages. I like to win. I like to be wining most of the time, even though I realize that that means that someone else has to lose most of the time. I don’t need to win every hand, but I do want to ITM most of the time, or have my overall results from a multi table session be up every time. Last night my session was up overall, but only 3bb/100 so even that was disappointing.

Again, probably the clearest example of this is from my Islewars blog post where I talk about how I liked to set up Islewars so I won some 60% of the time. Just the right balance of winning and challenge (losing) for me.

Variance, combined with selective memory and laziness certainly contributes to making the learning/improvement process difficult and convoluted. One thing that I think can help me is to record videos. I remember one of the first PLO tournies that I played I recorded it, only to realize afterwards that my mic wasn’t working. In spite of that, I think that I thought through each hand to a degree that I ordinarily wouldn’t do and consequently learned a lot from that session.

Post-mortem hand analysis is good for this as well, but if it’s not NLHE I don’t have an easy resource of other people to give me outside review.


Ultimately it would be good to find some means of embracing variance, of making friends with it. Really understanding and accepting, on a deep level, that variance is what makes poker interesting, and helps keep worse players in the game so that people like me can continue to profit in the longer run.

For now, variance remains part of my poker practice; practice in the zen sense.

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