WSOP 2012: Judging books by their covers


In Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book Fooled by Randomness, the author explores the notion that human beings often discount randomness, looking instead for causality in things in order to explain the unexplainable.

It manifests itself in various aspects of modern life such as in business, where, to quote form the book "Option sellers... eat like chickens and go to the bathroom like elephants." Sure, you can make some money selling options, but when it all goes wrong you likely to lose the lot, and someone else's lot too.

It also explores the notion of giving more prominence to negative events rather than positive ones, which can skew our way of thinking and preconceptions.

I was discussing this with Jan Heitmann in an earlier break (it is he who has read the book, not I), who suggested the same ideas can be applied to poker; that we can easily damage our prospects by focusing on the negative and in minute detail, rather than finding direction from a bigger picture.

Watching play from the spectator gallery, a place filled with lubricated 21-year-olds cheering their friends, loved ones and soon to be loved ones, two spectators in the front row began discussing Heitmann, using their phones to look up his record for their friend, who was seated at Heitman's table.

As they did so they began to form a picture of the Team Pro based on scant information; dismissing the German after looking up his online and live record. Then they texted their friend with the news - Heitmann was not threat, no doubt pointing out that Heitmann's biggest cash was $127K in London several years ago. His stack of five million must be an aberration.

The feature table

It's easy to be fooled by randomness like this. It happens a lot in poker where new players emerge in high profile positions. It's natural to want to reduce a players' ability to a number - in this case their career earnings - without taking into account a variety of more prescient factors; not least their ability and in the case the enormous stack in front of Heitmann. The clues are there is you look.

The Team Pro is now on the feature table, under the lights and in front of the television cameras. Any doubts as to Heitmann's ability should soon be exposed as false, and on show for all to see in the most testing of arenas.