While drinking a beer and talking poker with a friend, the conversation turned to various aspect of “being a poker player” in terms of things that we do away from the tables. It’s great to talk through specific hands or handling specific situations that come up often during the games, but this was different as we stepped back discussed topics that don’t start with “My hole cards were…” or “I bet and then she…”, such as:
- why we play
- game selection and seat selection
- bankroll management and buy-in amounts
- emotional stability
- diet and exercise
For purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to the aforementioned conversation as the “Beer Meeting.”
This brought to mind Tommy Angelo’s Elements of Poker, the best book I have read about being a poker player and thinking about and approaching the game like a pro. Tommy introduces the concept of “reciprocality,” which he describes as “any difference between you and your opponents that affects your bottom line. Reciprocality says that when you and your opponents would do the same thing in a given situation, no money moves, and when you do something different, it does.” An entire article on his website is devoted to the topic of reciprocality.
Bankroll Reciprocality – if you partition your money better than your opponents do, you gain another small edge. You may not see it, but it’s still there. On the subject of bankroll, I found this helpful article by Jonathan Little (and other excellent strategy content). While the article focuses on funding an online poker account, the principles apply to all poker environments.
Quitting Reciprocality – in tournaments there is no way to be better at quitting than your opponents. The decision to quit is made for you, usually rather abruptly. In cash games, however, Tommy says “there are many ways to outquit your opponents. If you consistently quit before your skills are dulled when you get tired, bored, irritated or tilted, and your opponents play on despite sub-optimal conditions, money will move in your direction over the long haul.
Tilt Reciprocality – the opposite of tilt is emotional stability, a much more benign term used at the Beer Meeting. Tilt reciprocality is the difference between your tilt and others’ tilt. Whoever tilts more often, stays tilted longer, and tilts the hardest loses; whoever tilts less or recovers fasters gains a reciprocal advantage.
Betting Reciprocality – most players fold their worst garbage hands, so no reciprocal advantage is gained or lost. But approaches to checking, calling, betting, raising and folding vary widely. The differences in these actions creates betting reciprocality. Simply stated, consistently taking actions that result in the highest Expected Value (EV) is the way to gain a betting reciprocal advantage over players who pursue lower EV betting lines. Each hand or situation that you would play differently than your opponent would results in a reciprocal advantage or disadvantage.
Position Reciprocality – part of what I love about Tommy’s writing is his ability to laser in on the very essence of a complex topic. Either you are last to act, or you are not! The reciprocal advantage goes to the player who acts last most often or leverages their favorable position most effectively. This quote is a gem: “Acting last is like taking a drink of water. We don’t have to understand why it’s good for us to know that it is. And the benefits are unaffected by our understanding of them.”
Shut up already! I’m perfectly aware that this post extolling the benefits of drinking water was inspired by a Beer Meeting.
But seriously, if you’ll stop snickering for a moment, most of the things we discussed at the Beer Meeting suggest ways to improve the odds of success at the poker table that don’t require an understanding of how they work. Randomly picking a good game or seat is profitable. Playing within your bankroll is profitable. Emotional stability is profitable. A healthy diet accompanied by regular exercise is profitable. And yes, drinking water instead of beer is profitable.
Information Reciprocality – in a game of incomplete information, getting more information from your opponents than you give them creates a reciprocal advantage. This is another reason to shut up already, at least with regard to your hands that aren’t required to be shown and your thoughts that aren’t required to be explained.
The concept of reciprocality applies to anything else we might do differently from the other players at the table that creates an edge. Study or sleep habits, meditation, exercise, larger bets and disciplined folds all are ways to improve our edge. I suppose even a Beer Meeting to bring awareness to the connection between what we do away from the table and our long-term results can create a reciprocal edge.
And if that’s true, a Water Meeting might be even better!
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