Don’t talk about being results-oriented

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“I had a losing session, which followed a big losing hand. I flopped the nut flush and on the turn went all-in and was called by two pair that boated on the river. This self-appointed guru of poker told me I was results-oriented. I laughed and said you bet I am, I usually play to win.

We’re admonished that being results-oriented is a flaw in poker. I don’t buy that and I think the anti-results-orientation gurus are making a mistake selling it because it’s so easily misinterpreted. I think they mostly don’t know what they’re talking about in this area.

They say look at the long run, not the short run. A player has five losing sessions and there’s no long run.

Results-orientation is something we’re taught in every sport and in every job.

So, why is it such a flaw in poker? Because it’s a poor choice of words. It’s counter-intuitive, going against all training, experience and education. It’s a trick phrase. But when some commentator uses it, it sure sounds impressive.

I think the flaw is to use the phrase. If not results then what are we doing playing a competitive game in which we can win or lose money? Is this some kind of mystical mantra?

What is really being meant is the outcome of a hand is less important than the process of the decision-making in that hand. We can’t control variance, luck and other folks’ bad decisions that turn out good. If we make the best decision and lose, that’s the peak performance. Of course, we have to really have made the best decision and not trick ourselves that we did.

Results-orientation is a micro-mechanism. It has to be hand-based. It doesn’t really mean results don’t matter; it means the result of a particular hand can’t be controlled for many reasons: lack of information, luck, misunderstanding information, emotions, etc.

The message is, “Don’t be dependent on whether you win or lose a hand. Instead, understand why you won or lost the hand. Did you have the right read? Did you take all the information you had into account? Did you have as much information as possible? Did you ignore some information? Did you weigh some information too strongly? Did you bet correctly? Did you fall in love with pocket aces when the evidence was that there were stronger hands?”

Good decision-making is dependent on using all of the information you have, and that means you make sure you have all the information there is to be had. So, keep your head in the game and enjoy.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at editor@anteupmagazine.com.”