Philip Rivers: “I hate to lose even more than I enjoy winning”

by ~ January 4th, 2010. Filed under: Philosophy and approach, Poker psychology, Poker theory.

I was watching the pregame NFL show today and they had a bit with Philip Rivers, quarterback for the San Deigo Chargers. One of the things that he said is that he hates to lose, even more than he likes to win. He says that’s what keeps him going, studying tape, preparing himself so that he won’t lose his next game.

I have that same attitude toward winning and losing, and I think that I’m not alone. I’ve written about this before as I think that it’s a factor in why players often don’t get full value from their winning hands; they don’t want to risk more in the event that they will lose the hand.

This manifests itself by:

  1. not value betting the river often enough and large enough, and
  2. being tentative in bet sizing on earlier streets as well, and
  3. agonizing over (and remembering better) the losses more than trying to improve the wins.

If you don’t have much of a hand, then betting the least that might make your opponent fold will save you money the times that he calls. But if you do have a hand and you don’t bet as much as your opponent might call, in spite of the possibility that your opponent may actually have a better hand than you or may out draw you, you minimize your potential loss, but you also choke your potential winnings.

And improving our wins is also difficult because it requires an element of greed, especially on a hand-by-hand basis. We need an element of greed to want that extra 3 big blinds on that final river bet, to be willing to risk it even though we might feel that there’s a 1 in 5 chance that our opponent might fold to that extra bet size, or a overall 3 to 5 chance that he has a better hand than we do. If we’re not greedy we might not push that bet size up and make that little bit extra most of the time, and risk losing that little bit extra once in a while when we’re wrong.

The last item, agonizing over losses, helps us remember all the times that our AA was sucked out on, rather than the big pots that we’ve won with 88. But winning and losing is not a binary thing like football. At the end of a month we don’t look and say, oh, I won 15 sessions and lost 8. Even with tournaments it’s not just a matter of whether we made it into the money or not. The closest version of poker than might be comparable is the Double or Nothing tournaments that PokerStars has. In these ones we could look at our win/loss record and have it be a reasonable measurement of our success.

Otherwise, we need to throw in a little greed, and then reviewing our winning hands becomes a useful exercise.

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