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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Most Important Poker Lesson Every Person Needs to Know

Tuesday, December 09, 2014 Posted by Chris Tung , , No comments

"You can do everything right and fail. It doesn't mean you made a bad decision."

The most important first lesson in the game of poker is to not be results oriented. By that, I mean that you should shift your focus away from the outcome of a decision and instead examine the decision itself. Of the available options you had in front of you, was it the smartest choice you could have made? Did you gather enough evidence to support your plan of action and were you certain the move you made was the best one you could have made for a successful outcome? If so, then, regardless of the result, you made the right decision.

However, poker (and life) are often filled with moments of chance, and sometimes the right decision still leads to failure. Here is a famous poker moment from the 2010 World Series of Poker that is a perfect example of how chance can ruin our good decisions:



So what happened? Cheong started off with pocket Aces and Candio started off with a seven and a five of spades. Before any additional cards were dealt, Cheong was an 80% favorite to win the hand, or, to put it differently, Cheong would win this battle four out of five times. In fact, once the flop--or the next three communal cards--was dealt and both players went all-in, Cheong's dominance jumped to 87%. But, a four came out in the end, and Candio won the hand with a straight.

What this moment illustrates is that you can do everything right and still fail, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have made that decision. Four out of five times, Cheong will win that hand, and when there's $8.5 million on the line, those are incredible odds. So you take those shots every time you get them in poker because you know that, more often than not, you come out winning.

But what does this have to do with life?

Unlike poker, life doesn't give us neat odds on a decision. We don't have a dashboard of probabilities that constantly updates every time we find ourselves at a crossroad. But, like poker, we do have the evidence around us to gather information. In poker, we can judge our opponent, look at the communal cards, and look at our own cards to see what are the possible probabilities of success, and in life, we have our friends, our family, the successes and mistakes of others, and a million other things for us to look at before we decide to make a decision. And, if we believe that the decision is the best one we can make, then, like Cheong, we should put our chips all in and we can live our life knowing that no matter what happens next we did the right thing.

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