Thursday, July 25, 2013

A little method to the madness...a.k.a. syllabus creation.

Bear with me, as this is a little complicated, but I needed to create a syllabus, or lesson plan, for taking a newbie from the very basic concepts up through poker mastery. And as I mentioned in my previous post (here), it all springs from the concept of gambling and expected value.

Once we've gotten the concept of EV across to our new student, we can then easily demonstrate that the profit we make (or the money we lose) is just the EV of each hand decision, multiplied by the number of hands we play. Roy Cooke talked a lot about this concept in days of yore, but it's still really important because it shows us where our money in poker comes from. Said another way, we have to play a lot of hands where we have positive expectation. But how do we maximize our positive expectation (and minimize our negative expectation)? The key to this is recalling the equation for EV, which really boils down into two parts: 1) maximizing the chance our hand is going to win and maximizing how much $ we win when we do; and 2) minimizing the chance our hand is going to lose and minimizing the amount of $ we lose when we do.

EV = (%Chance We Win x $ Amount Won) - (%Chance We Lose x $ Amount We Lose)


Profit = EV x Volume

My take on these equations is that there are three things that allow us to maximize profit:
  1. First, we need to make better decisions that our opponents. This can be anything from deciding what games to play in, to making complex line decisions, to even knowing when to quit.
  2. Second, we need to maximize the benefit of those decisions, or said another way: act more profitably on our decisions. For instance, if you've decided your on a value line, but have high fold equity, the most profitable thing to do might be to bet smaller because it makes it more likely that your opponent will call.
  3. And thirdly, we need to learn to completely and totally ignore the results of individual hands, because this allows us to keep doing the first and second things correctly.
Okay, then what? Well, it's not a great leap to subdivide these three things into individual specific teachable skills. Long time readers of this blog know that I am a believer in the three key edges of Off-Table Prep, In-Game Tactics and Techniques, and Emotional Control. Taking the individual skills, I can easily slot them into one of these three edge categories. Here's a somewhat confusing, rough picture of what I mean by this:

I also believe that you really, truly, absolutely need to master all three of these edge categories. It's not enough to be technically savvy and skilled, and do great table selection, for instance, but be tilt prone and lose all your money when the results start coming in bad and you're not emotionally prepared to accept it. The key is being good at each.

But what does "be good at each" mean? For me, it means mastering the subset of skills in each of the three edge categories, but focusing on the simpler things first. Once that's done, it's a matter of building upon those skills as the student learns and progresses. To try to make this clearer, here's a picture of my pyramid of poker skills I showed a while back. It's arranged bottom to top in different levels of skill. Also, I've arranged the pyramid so that the off-table stuff is on the left, the tactics and strategies are in the middle, and the emotional control skills are on the right. A new player to the game needs to master each level before moving up to the next level. And this basically is my syllabus in graphical format:

Now, each of these blocks may be a single lesson, or it may be multiple lessons. For instance, bankroll management is pretty straightforward and can be covered in one or two short presentations. Other things, like R-is-for-Reading will require multiple lessons that build upon each other.

And that's it for now, as I'm out of time. I'm about to drive to the airport, strap myself into another big aluminum tube, and jet back across the ocean. Wonderful. And it's a red eye flight, to boot. Ugh.

All-in for now...

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