ESPT6 Barcelona: The rational vs. the irrational; or, how groups behave

An astute observer of human interaction and cultural mores once remarked that the most common conflict affecting practically every group of people there has ever been has been between the irrational and the rational.

In other words, while it is easy enough to find other ways to divide ourselves into warring factions according to disparate beliefs or prejudices or whatever else you can imagine, all such divisions might be regarded as versions of the one between those who respect reason and logic as an ultimate arbiter, and those who do not.

A rough translation of that idea into the context of a poker tournament might go something like this:

In poker, there is an objective truth represented by the cards that are dealt. Players sometimes act accordingly, betting when the cards justify betting, and not betting when they do not. Those who do might be considered "rational" (in a way).

Meanwhile players also sometimes act in discord with the "reality" of the cards, betting when their value doesn't indicate they should. One might call such acts "irrational," even if doing so means speaking overly bluntly about how the game really works.

After all, we know that in certain situations a bluff can be the most reasonable play of all.

Right now Anton Morgenstern, the young German who has made two especially deep World Series of Poker Main Event runs (finishing 20th in 2013, then 22nd this year), is dealing quite reasonably with the reality of having a below average chip stack. And while doing so, he's weighing carefully the actions of those around him, including measuring whether or not their actions are rational or not.

ESPT_Barcelona-68_Anton Morgenstern.jpg

Anton Morgenstern

Just now after Morgenstern raised from under the gun -- on the surface a show of strength -- he watched the player to his left, Danyl Amri, call with his big stack. Then came an all-in push from a short stack on the button and an all-in call from the small blind, forcing Morgenstern to look back and forth and decide just how "real" these actions were.

The German folded, as did Amri, and the others revealed ace-jack and a pair of nines. Rational enough, that.

Soon after Morgenstern called a raise from the blinds, then folded again following Amri's squeezy-shove from the big blind. The raiser then repopped it all in, Amri called, and with ace-ten knocked out the shover's king-queen.

ESPT_Barcelona-69-Danyl Amri.jpg

Danyl Amri (left)

Again, there were ways to rationalize it all. Or argue alternatively about what was going on. Such is the conflict marking this group we are here observing, now numbering less than 350 from the 592 who began Day 1a of the Estrellas Main Event.

Such is the conflict marking all groups, in a way.

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Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.

Martin Harris
@hardboiledpoker in Barcelona