It's been observed more than a few times that poker and life have a lot in common. As Team Pro Liv Boeree explains in her latest TED talk, you can draw some important life lessons from the game when it comes to making decisions.
Ted Forrest, a professional poker player, was driving outside of Las Vegas when he called the Bellagio poker room. The personnel in the poker room informed him the highest game is $10,000-$20,000. He went to the poker room and sat down with his last $500,000. He played against Chip Reese and Andy Beal. Forrest had lost $400,000 without playing. Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Luck, Fortune, And Chance. About Liv Boeree's TED Talk In the game of poker, is it more important to be skilled or lucky? Former poker pro Liv Boeree examines. Chance plays a far bigger role in life than we're willing to admit, says psychologist Barry Schwartz. Of course, working hard and following the rules can get you far - but the rest could boil down to simple good fortune. Schwartz examines the overlooked link between luck, merit and success, offering an intriguing solution to equalize opportunity - starting with college admissions.
'Like poker, life is also a game of skill and luck,' Boeree says at the start of the talk. 'And when it comes to the biggest things we care about -- health, wealth, and relationships -- these outcomes don't only depend on the quality of our decision making, but also on the roll of life's dice.'
How, then, can we evaluate the quality of our life strategies? How do we learn to quantify the difference between being lucky and being good? And how can we tell when we should study a problem carefully and when we can just go with our gut?
There's an 85 percent chance that all the answers are right here in this five-minute talk:
Ted Talk Luck Poker Odds
So I'm a professional poker player, and today, I want to talk aboutthree things that the game has taught me around decision-makingthat I find apply to everyday life.
Now the first of these thingsis about luck. Now, like poker, life is alsoa game of skill and luck, and when it comesto the biggest things we care about — health, wealth and relationships — these outcomes don't only dependon the quality of our decision-making, but also the roll of life's dice. For example, we can beperfectly health-conscious and still get unluckywith something like cancer. Or we can smoke 20 a dayand live to a ripe old age, and this kind of ambiguitycan make it hard for us to know how good our strategies are, sometimes, especially when we'reexperiencing a lot of success.
For example, back in 2010, I won a really big poker tournamentknown as the European Poker Tour. And because I'd only been playingfull-time for about a year, when I won, I assumedI must be rather brilliant. In fact, I thought I was so brilliant that I not only got rather lazywith studying the game, but I also got more risky, started playing inthe biggest tournaments I could against the very best in the world. And then my profit graph wentfrom a thing of beauty to something kind of sad, with this worryingdownhill trend for a long time, until I finally realizedthat I was overestimating my skill level, and got my act together.
And this kind of reminds meof what we've been seeing in the cryptocurrency space,at least in 2017, where the only thing that's been going upfaster than the markets themselves is the number of 'seniorinvestment specialists' who have been appearing out of nowhere. Now I'm not saying it's not possibleto have a strategic edge, but at the same time,it's very easy to feel like a genius when you're in a marketthat's going up so fast that even the worst strategiesare making a profit. So when we're experiencing success, it's important to take a momentto really ask ourselves how much of it is truly down to us, because our egos love to downplaythe luck factor when we're winning.
Now, a second thing poker taught me is the importanceof quantifying my thinking. When you're playing,you can't just get away with going, 'Eh, they're probably bluffing.' That's just going to lose youa bunch of money, because poker is a gameof probabilities and precision, and so you have to train yourselfto think in numbers. So now, whenever I catch myself thinking vaguely about somethingreally important, like, 'It's unlikely I'll forgetwhat I want to say in my TED Talk,' I now try to estimate it numerically.
Trust me, it helps a lotwith the planning process. And the thing is, almost anythingthat could possibly happen here today, or at any point in the future, can also be expressedas a probability, too.
So now I also try to speakin numbers as well. So if someone asks me, 'Hey, Liv, do you think you're goingto come along to that thing tonight?' instead of just saying to them,'Yeah, probably,' I actually give them my best estimate — say, 60 percent. Because — I know that soundsa little odd — but the thing is, I ran a poll on Twitter of what people understandthe word 'probably' to mean, and this was the spread of answers. Enormous! So apparently, it's absolutely useless at actually conveyingany real information.
So if you guys catch yourselvesusing these vague words, like 'probably' or 'sometimes,' try, instead, using numbers,because when we speak in numbers, we know what landsin the other person's brain.
Now, the third thing I wantto touch on today is intuition. How often have you seenthese kinds of inspirational memes in your Facebook feed?
[Always trust your gut feelingand never second-guess.]
They're nice, right? It's lovely. Yes. 'Trust your soul.' Well, they're terrible advice. These are some of the bestpoker players in the world right now. Do they look like people who livepurely off feelings and intuitions?
Look at them! Obviously, these guysare about slow, careful analysis, and that's because the gamehas outgrown the days where pure street smartsand people-reading can get you to the top. And that's because our intuitionsaren't nearly as perfect as we'd like to believe. I mean, it'd be great,whenever we're in a tough spot, to just have an answer appear to usfrom some magical source of inspiration. But in reality, our gutis extremely vulnerable to all kinds of wishfulthinking and biases.
So then, what is our gut good for? Well, all the studies I've read conclude that it's best-suitedfor everyday things that we have lotsand lots of experience in, like how we just knowthat our friend is mad at us before we've even said anything to them, or whether we can fit our carinto a tight parking spot. But when it comes to the really big stuff, like what's our career path going to be or who should we marry, why should we assume that our intuitions are better calibrated for thesethan slow, proper analysis? I mean, they don't haveany data to be based off.
So my third lesson is,while we shouldn't ignore our intuitions, we shouldn't overprivilege them either. And I'd like to summarizethese three lessons today with my own set of memes, with more of a poker-player twist.
'Success is sweetest when you achieve itacross a large sample size.'
Ted Talk Luck Poker Tips
'Your gut is your friendand so is a cost-benefit analysis.
'The future is unknown, but you candamn well try and estimate it.'
Ted Talk Luck Poker Tournaments
Ted Talk Luck Poker Games