Poker Schema? Are You One of Them?

Just about every poker player has in their mind a poker schema. A schema is only the way you think things work. When you find yourself in a hand up against a decision, or when you are trying to realize why a play went right or wrong, you seek advice from the network of logic and intuitions you have about how poker functions. Perhaps they’re about why check raising certain boards isn’t good, about what hands are too weak to value bet, and so on-all that, however a great deal more than that. Your schema includes all the notions you have concerning poker, how matches evolve, what it appears to be to lose or win, what variance feels as though. It includes all of the language and ideas you use to describe and analyze poker.

Yet this schema is not static. Whenever you learn new stuff about the game, your schema is altered slightly. Sometimes it’s added to, sometimes it’s tweaked in a certain spot. Not to mention, your schema is not always changed correctly. You might be taught a lesson where there is none, or where there is a lesson, you could possibly learn the wrong one. Your schema is consistently changing and shifting, adding and fixing errors. That is inevitable in a game that consists of random and imperfect feedback. There is a disorder that underlies your schema too.

So is poker a chess match? Perfectly, you are not completely wrong to imagine poker that way. Under all the chaos, poker is a chess match. It is logical and obeys fixed mathematical principles. But we do not have access to that. Unfortunately we cannot know the chess match, and we most likely never will. The only thing we have accessibility to is how we experience poker, and that is always mediated through our evolving schema. For people like us, the schema is poker.

There’s an old story from India that serves well here. It was said that there was a king who bought an elephant, a rare and exotic animal, from a distant land. He called five blind men who’d never heard about an elephant, and he asked each and every man to go into detail the creature to him. The first man squashed the tail, and said, “An elephant is like a rope.” The second man grabbed his arms around its leg and said, “An elephant is sort of a pillar.” The third man grabbed the trunk and said, “An elephant is like a tree branch,” etc, each man picking out his description from his limited perspective.

This is the way schemas work. Our limited experiences and perceptions congeal into a psychological model of the subject. Obviously, an elephant is not one of the things the men described, and it is more than the sum of all their beliefs.

In this manner, we are blind men groping at the limbs of poker. We graze against it over and over, even over tens of thousands of hands, but our schema is all we can label of it. It’s the only access we’ll ever have. The utter truth is inaccessible to us; all we all know is what presents itself, what we have had the luck of managing our fingers over, and the photo that we’ve stitched together from our experiences.

What i’m saying more concretely is this-every time you try to come up with a match, or try to analyze a situation, you will be wrong. You could possibly win, make the correct adjustment, even the right read, but you’ll still be slightly wrong. Wrong concerning what-that will depend-but the fact will remain that reality will be shaped in a different way from your schema. It is often and always will be. Ever since the day you started playing poker, you had a number of schema of how the game worked, and every day you’ve played poker, without unsuccessful, your schema has changed. And it’ll change again. This is true even for the best players in the world.

As being a poker player, you doubtless want to think of yourself as a student of logic and mathematics. You imagine rationality is the mortar with which you build your castle of poker. You may be correct that poker is controlled by mathematics and logic. But you yourself are not. Poker is played by human beings. It is experienced and learned by human beings. Humans are not rational machines. The functions of their brains are not a chess match.

And yet, that does not mean that mathematics and logic will get you nowhere, and I don’t mean to point out that you abandon them!

Develop your castle. You have to, even if the only materials you’ve are the sand and mud beneath you. That’s the path you’ve chosen, after all. Go on developing your poker game. But be aware that your castle must collapse repeatedly. Know that your strongest and most steadfast reasoning will sooner or later fall. It is your fate; at best, you are a creature that only approximates rationality, and that’s as far as your head can go. But so it is; the building must carry on.

Do you agree with it? Do you wish to be a poker player? This is your path, the only one. You will end up wrong, always wrong. Nevertheless, you must keep being wrong and keep whittling away at that wrongness.

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