Are we rational, irrational or both?
Nowadays, elite poker is more and more a scientific game, in which it's increasingly complicated for an amateur player to survive and succeed.
Who's to blame? I can find only one explanation: online poker! Any regular player is now playing more hands in a week than Doyle Bruson played live during a whole year.
The internet has allowed the game information to be transmitted very easily. The players have gathered in study groups and in poker schools. There is now software that traces our opponent's profile in a matter of seconds. Players have managed to accumulate a tremendous amount of experience in dealing with very straining situations.
All this makes it feel like we're playing against machines more than players, considering the rational way they look at the game.
Despite all this preparation, there are always feelings, emotions, and ambitions at stake that end up betraying the rational side of a poker player.
And there is a moment when all poker players become completely irrational...
(I'll now tell a recent story that will offer a better explanation of what I mean.)
I returned to Monaco this year to play the EPT Grand Final. This is without a doubt the most important tournament I play annually and the one I dream of every night. Winning this would be my life-changing moment.
So I started playing in a more rational way, without taking many risks. When there were 114 players left (relatively close to getting paid - 80 players would make it to the money) I found myself with the hand I dream of everyday when I am on my way to a victory in an EPT (in my dreams, of course).
The flop brings Q64, and I hold 66. Villain bets 12,000, I raise to 27,000, he goes all-in, and I insta-call the 85,000. You cannot imagine how proud I was of my move, I managed to raise the pot just like I wanted, sure he had AQ, AA or KK. We turned our cards over, and he showed QQ... set over set. My dream fell apart.
I got up from the table, stunned by what had just happened and sank into a tremendous void.
"I want to go home."
"I'm giving up poker."
"I hate this game."
"I'm the unluckiest player in the world."
"leave me alone."
Who hasn't felt that?
Five minutes later, my irrational state continued, but I slowly made it back to earth, began to digest the situation, and moved on to the next stage: telling everyone I know about my misfortune.
After all these years of poker, everyone has had enough of hearing about bad beats, coin flips, two-outers. We know that. We hate when people tell us about their hands, but we just can't get out of the hole if we don't share our story with 20 people and if we don't get a pat in the back from our friends. We always need the compassion to overcome such a moment.
How is it possible in a game that is becoming more professional and scientific to still have moments when the players/machines go from a completely reasonable state in all their actions and decisions to a completely irrational one?
Well, because in the end, we are only human, and because this is the best game in the world. Poker raises our ego to the sky and then throws it down to the depths of hell, but after the shock, there is always acceptance and overcoming.
When is the next tournament again?
Joao Nunes is a member of Team PokerStars Pro