Green's math solid in explaining poker skill, luck
January 03, 2017 3:00 AM
by George Epstein
In corresponding with poker math guru Tom Green, he spoke of a rather common quote that appears in the introduction of his amazing Texas Hold’em Poker Textbook. So I opened up my well-thumbed copy of the book to remind myself. (As we age, our memories become less forgiving, shall we say? Don’t ever forget that.)
So, let’s take a short walk down memory lane, and see which of these notable quotes you can recall. (I’ll offer a few comments along the way.) We will start with a few from several well-known poker personalities:
“…in poker, as in life, you can’t count a man out until the last card falls.” – Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson. But it is better if he has lots of outs. And, of course, this applies to women, too.
I recall years ago, when Daisy H. was practically busted out in one of our Claude Pepper Seniors poker tournaments hosted at a local casino. Someone offered her a similar quote – and she lived on to finish high up in the money.
“Some days you are on, some days you are off.” – Phil Ivey. Every poker player knows this all too well. Wouldn’t it be great if you stayed home those days you were off?
“On any given day it could be 99 percent luck, but over the year it is probably 90 percent skill.” – Chris Ferguson (on winning at poker). I agree, but you can’t be a winner if you depend only on luck – good luck, that is.
“We must believe in luck, for how else can we explain the success of those who have beaten us?” Green asked tongue in cheek. That explains why bad beats happen so often.
“I’d rather be lucky than good.” Personally, I’ve said that so many times at the poker table, I wonder if Green got that one from me.
“If luck was not involved, I would win every time.” Can you guess who said this? And he was serious.
“Luck, or chance, will, at times, make a winner out of the most novice of players. Skill will, in the long run, make a winner many times over, more often than not.” That’s what I have been teaching my poker students for many years.
“Luck comes and goes… knowledge will grow and stay with you.” That’s another way of recognizing there is both good and bad luck, neither of which you can control. So, in the long run, it’s really knowledge (skill) that counts.
“The more skills you have, the luckier you become.” I agree, but I would rather say it a bit differently: “With skill, you can influence luck to make it less significant.”
Here’s a very similar quote: “The smarter you play, the luckier you’ll be.”
As the old saying goes: “Any two cards can win! All you need is a chip and a chair (and a passel of skills and a pot of luck).”
And, finally, let’s close with a super quote (source unknown): “Knowledge is knowing what to do; skill is knowing how to do it; wisdom is knowing when to do it.; and success is doing it.”
That’s a great quote to end with, but I would rather close with a quote from Tom Green: “In the long run, every player will receive their (sic) share of good luck and bad, but the skilled player will more likely win out more often than not. If you know what you are doing and you get your share of the good luck (or a little more), you will be a winner. The cards you are dealt are a matter of luck; how you play them is a matter of skill. Stick with it and learn as much as you can, apply what you learn, and you too may be right there when the cards fall in your favor.”
Keen words of wisdom.