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Wednesday, 13 January 2010 19:34

Winning more online poker hands causes loss of more money

Although it sounds crazy, a Cornell University study found that the more hands a poker player wins while playing online Texas Hold'em, the more money the player loses in the long run. Before you place your bets, read this story.

U.S. sociology doctoral student Kyle Siler (from the Department of Sociology, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York) analyzed approximately 27 million online No-Limit Texas Hold’em poker hands with a software package called PokerTracker.

Texas hold 'em is a type of poker. The game consists of two cards being dealt face down to each player and then five 'community cards' are placed by the dealer.

The five community cards consist of a series of three cards ('the flop') and, then, two additional single cards ('the turn' and 'the river'). Players have the option to check, bet, or fold after each deal.

The January 13, 2010 Cornell University news release “Online poker study: The more hands you win, the more you lose” is found within EurekAlert.org.

The conclusions of Siler’s study are found in the December 2009 issue of The Journal of Gambling Studies.

Its title is “Social and Psychological Challenges of Poker” (online beginning December 25, 2009, DOI: 10.1007/s10899-009-9168-2).

Page two continues. Are you ready to bet yet?

Siler begins his paper with the following statement: “Poker is a competitive, social game of skill and luck, which presents players with numerous challenging strategic and interpersonal decisions."

He continues. "The adaptation of poker into a game played over the internet provides the unprecedented opportunity to quantitatively analyze extremely large numbers of hands and players.

The PokerTracker software that Siler used generates statistics based on two major criteria: (1) To “gauge the types of strategies utilized by players (i.e. the ‘strategic demography’) at each level” and (2) to “examine the various payoffs associated with different strategies at varying levels of play”. [Abstract]

Siler states that that the Texas Hold'em players often win many small pots, which gives them confidence to continue playing.

However, as they gain more confidence in their perceived ability to win, the more time they spend more time playing online Texas Hold'em poker.

And, the more time they spend playing online poker, the more likely the player will have infrequent but significant loses.

Page three concludes. Hold, bet, or fold?

In the abstract of his paper, Siler states, “Smaller-stakes players also have more difficulty appropriately weighting incentive structures with frequent small gains and occasional large losses. Consequently, the relationship between winning a large proportion of hands and profitability is negative, and is strongest in small-stakes games.”

Thus, the Cornell University article states, “The more hands players win, the less money they're likely to collect – especially when it comes to novice players.”

Siler states (in the same Cornell article) that this result "… coincides with observations in behavioral economics that people overweigh their frequent small gains vis-à-vis occasional large losses, and vice versa."

That is, poker players feel confident ('positively reinforced') by their small but frequent wins but are confused ('don’t totally understand') why they have large, but infrequent losses, which offset their gains.

The article concludes, “… that the biggest opponent for many players may be themselves….”

Siler concludes, “These variations reveal a meta-game of rationality and psychology which underlies the card game."

And, "Adopting risk-neutrality to maximize expected value, aggression and appropriate mental accounting, are cognitive burdens on players, and underpin the rationality work––reconfiguring of personal preferences and goals––players engage into be competitive, and maximize their winning and profit chances.”

The website for the National Council on Problem Gambling begins: "Problem gambling is gambling behavior which causes disruptions in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social or vocational."

It continues: "The term "Problem Gambling" includes, but is not limited to, the condition known as "Pathological", or "Compulsive" Gambling, a progressive addiction characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, "chasing" losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences."

Also read the 1.1.2006 ABC News article "Online Gambling: A Growing Addiction."

It states that there is an estimated six million people in the United States that are compulsive gamblers, a condition that is considered "... just as dangerous and debilitating as drug or alcohol addiction."

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