We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

by Lou on January 14, 2010

A study by Cornell University sociologist Kyle Siler in the Journal of Gambling Studies on Tuesday, January 12, found that winning lots of small stakes ends up in bigger losses. Siler examined 27 million online poker hands played over the past two years and concluded, “When you lose, you lose big.”
Siler examined data on nearly 300,000 poker players and compared playing styles to winnings, finding an, “increased proportion of aggressive players as one moves up stakes.” (Just as an aside, isn’t Isildur1’s track record in Full Tilt Poker’s “nosebleed” stakes games about the best case in point one can find?)

He also found that those who played a lot of hands lost more money than others. “This is an unusual and seemingly counterintuitive incentive structure. After all, is not the object of every hand in poker to win it?” wrote Siler, who explained this by concluding that, “…players who win large proportions of hands lose money, because they lose a few hands of great value.”
Given the huge role of luck in delivering big payoffs and big losses, the best poker players, according to Siler, must learn to keep winning or losing in stride, and that “the biggest opponent for many players is themselves” (or as that old comic strip character Pogo was so fond of saying, “We have met the enemy and he is us).
Nothing really earthshaking here—most poker theorists have been offering up this advice for years—but it’s always nice when conventional wisdom is upheld by scientific examination.

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