PCA 2014: Statistics vs. the power of positive thinking

Whatever happens today Mike McDonald will cement his position as an "-est". Not the "biggest", not the "winningest", but the "most-referred-to-as-a-potential-first-double-EPT-winner-ever-est".

No EPT champion in tour history has taken a seat at the final table more often, while the likes of James Hartigan talked excitedly of them becoming the first EPT double winner. Today is another of those days for McDonald.

It is of course down to his remarkable record. Since he won EPT Dortmund in 2008, becoming the youngest ever EPT winner, McDonald has reached EPT finals on four separate occasions, not to mention a handful of penultimate days. In McDonald's own words, he either goes deep or busts early.

So it's fair to say that McDonald has the weight of statistics on his side.

Mike McDonalds stands ready to make history. Or an "-est"

But sometimes bigger forces play a part in a poker tournament, something that goes unseen and might not even exist. But thinking of it brings a kind of low rumbling sound into your mind and maybe some Wagnerian bass. That force could be called many things, but today we're going to refer to it as "positive thinking".

It contrasts greatly will the airy logic of statistics, one which enters the thought process to the leitmotif of a roomful of typewriters hammering away.

It's not uncommon for players to rely on the first. When in doubt, it can be tempting to reduce your fortunes to the level of closing your eyes tight and thinking hard, like a child blowing out candles and making a birthday wish. It's easier to do that sometimes than to rely on the second, which can never predict what will happen, only what has taken place in the past.

Shyam Srinivasan has absolute conviction that he will win. In his pre-match interview Srinivayans was adamant: "I'm not here to do anything else. I know I'm gonna win. I told myself I'm gonna win... and anything else would be a disappointment to me because you don't know when this opportunity will come up again."

So this final table will be a battle between these two forces - the power of positive thinking, what with all its emotional baggage, and the cold hard facts provided by statistics. Then again, with that comes the burden of expectation.

Either way, whether today becomes a record day or merely extends an "-est" it should prove unmissable.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.