Words of advice for young people

Words of advice for young people

Monday, 4 May 2009

I recently noticed a very comparable position between my 15-year-old son’s experience with simultaneous equations and the way a lot of new poker players learn poker from the net and TV.

My son was being “taught” mathematics by one of those people who get a degree in some daft subject and then do a simple one-year conversion course to become a “teacher” before they’re let loose on our children. They are great at telling children to do stuff, but they aren’t so good at getting them to understand what it is they are actually doing.

My son was able to answer this particular simultaneous equation question but had no real comprehension of the mathematical reasoning involved. He insisted on missing out the “easy lines” of the calculation to get to the answer as quickly as possible and the narrow knowledge he had gained from that specific example left him ill-equipped in the face of any future problems he might encounter. In short, faced with such problems, he would effectively be moving all-in blind under the gun.

A similar thing occurs with players making moves and taking actions without actually understanding the thought process behind what they think they saw someone else do. Worse still is that many of these players are very capable of gaining that understanding but cannot be bothered. Having five children, I have a lot experience of trying to impart my wisdom to younger people, and they tend to want to get from A to B in the quickest and most convenient way possible and are disinclined to listen to anything that will require more effort, more thought or more time.

One good example of this is the “squeeze play”, which we have covered previously in this column. A squeeze play is not simply a re-raise after an earlier raise and a call. Sure, this is the situation that exists when a “squeeze” is made, but that doesn’t mean that every time that situation arises a “squeeze” exists, and, all too often, this play is made without any consideration of the actual hand ranges or playing styles of the other players involved.

Obviously, in poker, it is entirely possible to do the wrong thing for completely the wrong reason and look like a champion when you get the result you think you deserved, but the truth is you will get the right result more often if you make thoughtful, reasoned actions, rather than what only really amounts you a random guess that paid off.

Talking of teaching, at the pool at my youngest son’s swimming lesson the other day there was a slow flume (waterslide) and a fast flume. I can offer some good-intentioned advice here without any ulterior motive. DO NOT go down a fast flume (as I did) with your legs apart because when you hit the water you will get an experience akin to a night out with Tiffany Michelle (judging by her table manner three tables out in last year’s WSOP Main Event).

Youthful exuberance can often be accompanied by a fearlessness born of ignorance. I don’t mean to sound harsh; it’s the same for all of us. It’s hard to fully appreciate a consequence when you have never seen or experienced it. It is also true that, to a certain extent, older players have a negative view of this youthful fearlessness, as it reminds them that they were once young but now have to settle for just being immature as the closest alternative.

Of course, we must be careful when dishing out advice ourselves. Take bad beats – particularly those which occur online and are preceded by an apparently poorly conceived action, at least in the perception of the “victim”. In such circumstances the prudent and disciplined professional, when suffering an horrendous beat by an ignorant tree dwelling buffoon, will not rant and abuse the opponent, but will congratulate him in the hope that he will continue to play in the same “creative” style that spawned his recent financial success. The alternative option is to abuse him, which may well give rise to one or both of the following events: The chimp will leave the table and you will not get an adequate chance to recoup any losses; or they may take your “advice” and go learn to play the game properly. Bit of a lose/lose situation there, I think.

The above disciplined response is, of course, much easier said than done and I have to admit to being guilty of not following my own advice sometimes. I was recently on a cash table when the administrator posted a request in the chatbox that all players maintain a dignified and respectful chat style with their fellow players. I asked a very reasonable and relevant question: “Does that mean if we get bummed by a monkey we have to say well played?” and for some reason my chat privileges were revoked. No sense of humour these suited-up office types.

Tags: Paul Jackson, Strategy