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Bias in Reflection

By: Profess Awe @ 23:17 (EDT) / 149 / Comment ( 4 )

I have gotten better at recording my results this year, so I know in black and white, how I am doing this month and that I made some money today  However, does that tell the whole story? ... Not really, I punted off a reasonable stack in both tourneys I played. Plus in the hunt for a lucky milestone hand playing 5NL I was down 100bb! Cant claim that things are great if cannot beat 5NL.

But then if I was more positive I would say I ran $20 below EV, so was playing better than the outcome suggests, or maybe I was just getting it in in obvious spots and running bad (sounds likely ). These differing views on the same action suggst there is the potential for bias in how we reflect on results and the story we portray. Sometimes we hide the full story from others 'Yep winning night', sometimes we hide the reality from ourselves, 'I ran into hands, I got unlucky'.   

This bias in reflection really struck me when thinking about my rollercoaster May that was littered with great success and miserable failure, I could interpret May in three ways:

a) By the numbers, I posted an overall loss of -$320, meh big deal

b) In a positive light: Shipped a 500+ runner tourney for $1500, got unlucky on FT of another MTT and cashed a live donkament meaning Poker completely paid for my trip to Prague. Also ran really bad in bigger buy in tourneys, so May could have been a lot better.

c) In a negative light: Could not convert 3 huge stacks in Sunday majors into a single $ on first Sunday of month. Got lucky to win the tourney I did - crapshoot that it was. Dissapointing SCOOP. Came close to a goal of FT of live tourney but could not convert in a field of donkeys.


Three quite different interpretations of the same thing and although biased all three are true and cannot be denied. As humans we are always going to make attributions for success and failure and sometimes their bias protects us, other times we dwell on what could have been. Tournament poker in particular is a brutal game psychologically, where I can finish 2nd in a 550 player MTT and feel worse than had I busted before the first break.

When it comes to interpreting our results, all we can do is try to be honest with ourselves and get into the habit of taking a deliberate balanced view of our game: Answering both what is going well? As well as what needs work? We then need to channel both positive and negative perceptions of our results into a desire to work on the game and improve, whether that is focussing on what we felt we did right or wrong. That way it matters less if I am reflecting positively or negatively, because I am always looking to improve or understand, even if I feel that the doomswitch is on.

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