Poker Philosophy – is the world unfair?

This is my second installment in the soon to be series of mental revelations through the ways of poker. Last one can be read This time it will be a fundamental and groundbreaking discovery that warped my perception of life in general. Poker played a large part in my understanding that the world is unfair.

Fairness is an interesting concept and in a typical poker game the subject of earning the win comes up over and over again. Everyone likes to think that they have earned the rewards they are getting and oft times the rewards they are not getting at that moment. Even if the odds of hitting that sweet river card are not in your favor and you still go in and get lucky, chances are that after the session, when collecting winnings, you think yourself having earned it fair and square.

In case you are winning, life doesn’t seem so unfair. Of course you expect even more good things than you’re getting at that moment, but overall it’s fun. And in that moment you tend to think you deserve it, too. You reckon that you have done so much good and have been such a remarkable person. You warp you inner conscience in your own favor. In poker that takes place every game. It is not luck, it is justice for your previous bad luck.

But actually, luck is the opposite of having earned the win.

The delusion of grandeur in poker (and in life) is expecting calculated odds to carry out as they should in real life.

I define luck as the difference of probability from the actual outcome. It’s the simplest way- if the odds were in your favor and you lost, then you are unlucky, if you were more probable to lose the pot and you won it, then you are lucky. Conditions for having luck is another matter. Stakes come in and luck gets another dimension. Situations happen, where the probabilities of hands act out as they should, but the outcome is drastically different than equal. Let’s say two opponents win a coin flip each two times, but the stakes on those flips were different and one player comes out winning. You cannot control your luck, but it is somewhat possible to manage your exposure to it.

I call that controlling the process. As well as a poker player would know, the outcome is something that you cannot control. You can influence it by following odds, but in the end, your sample of hands is so tiny that the computed odds and actual odds of outcomes can differ drastically. When I go in AA vs. KK, I have 4 to 1 odds that I win. Now if the opponent hits a king and wins, then out of 1 sample hand, the real percentage of him winning against me is not 20%, but 100%.

Now that is a drastic difference. I would call it unfair even. Of course you can say that it’s bad bankroll management, when you can’t get out of an unlucky streak. But every situation in life isn’t financial.  (QI Death probability bananas cigarettes etc. )Let’s say every driver on the highway has a 0,01 percentage of getting into an accident and dying. I wouldn’t say every driver goes out giving that number a thought and even if the accident happens exactly to 1 driver out of 10000, it can’t be called “fair”. Life is a poker game against the world around you, you might beat the odds or you may not, the real gravity comes from stakes of those odds.

The main point I want to come across is that the outcome of life is highly operated by luck – you may increase your odds, but it there’s always a chance that the unwanted happens. There is no possibility of getting so much tries that the outcome would follow the theoretical probability. One thing that you can do is give yourself the highest chance of success and that’s what you should focus on. So when luck happens and you are ready for it, you have the maximum capabilities of making the most of it.

As bizarre as it seems, knowing the fact that life is unfair is a key part of reaching happiness. Your position of psychological control becomes much more impervious to outside influence. Unfair things just happen, accept it and move on, don’t dwell on it. Start another process. Move yourself into a position where odds are best and hope it goes well. Give everything you got. Even if the outcome isn’t exactly what you wanted, then know that you gave everything and life is just unfair. Move on again.

Most of all – don’t dwell on the thought of others having more luck than you. It’s just not healthy. You’ll have it one day also.


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