Turning the Tables with Luck
Lady luck is a very fickle entity with a strange and almost eerie way of revealing herself. First bestowing favors on one person then swiftly shifting to someone else close by, at the blink of an eye.
If you’ve ever played poker at the casino, or even at home with friends for that matter, you might just have noticed how ‘luck’ seems to travel around the table. One particular player may win hand after hand for a series of games and then in an instant his luck will change. This is the point at which most experienced players will sit it out, take a break or even call it a day.
For others, with the recent winning streak still fresh in their mind, a string of losses will only make them more determined to get back on the ‘high’ usually resulting in total wipeout.
Although luck is most certainly evident in every form of gambling, card games appear to be prone to its unpredictability. The one exception is perhaps online poker.
Although luck accounts for some poker player’s ‘one off’ online winnings, it’s generally very short lived. Having sat in to watch real online poker in action over several months, I’ve come to the conclusion that luck doesn’t travel very well in the electronic atmosphere of cyber space.
I’ve watched experienced online poker players win and lose steadily all night long. I’ve sensed the mental tension between players as they engage in a battle of wits and I’ve witnessed the luck element play its decisive part. A bad player can beat a good player every time with luck on his side.
Some players believe you make your own luck. I’ve never quite understood this statement, but I think it probably has something to do with self belief. “Think lucky and you’ll be lucky”.
Whichever way you look at it poker is a little bit of both luck and skill. The luck aspect falls on the cards dealt and the skill lies in how you then play the cards. You have to have some skill in playing poker, no one can rely entirely on luck. You have to instictively know when to call, raise, and fold. It takes skill to know when to play the cards and how to play them right.
Generally, to be able to turn the table in your favor, you need to be able to win at the expense of your opponent’s mistakes. The skilled player will make fewer mistakes and will know how to press the positive expected value of their hand against what they think their opponent may have. The unskilled player will never realize he is beat and will call to the end.
Finally, I think luck can be very situation specific. What can be more unlucky? An opponent who in a 10-20 game is dealt two consecutive perfect cards on the turn and river to make four of a kind and beat your full house, or an opponent who has nine outs to make his flush on the last card to beat you at the end of the final hand?
If some players really can make their own luck, I wonder whether they have something that we mere mortals don’t. Then again, perhaps luck is simply a state of mind.