Find­ing wis­dom where you can

Los Angeles Times - - THE GUIDE - By Chad Holloway Holloway is a World Se­ries of Poker bracelet win­ner.

Some­times you find poker wis­dom in un­likely places. I was re­cently read­ing “The 4-Hour Body” by Ti­mothy Fer­riss when I was in­tro­duced to the idea of con­so­nant de­ci­sions, which are de­ci­sions we make to be aligned with a prior de­ci­sion.

It’s easy to see how such de­ci­sions re­late to di­et­ing (“I ate that ham­burger, so I might as well eat dessert”), but is the con­cept of con­so­nant de­ci­sion-mak­ing re­ally ap­pli­ca­ble to poker? For me, the an­swer is a re­sound­ing “yes.” Poker is all about de­ci­sion-mak­ing, and in­evitably, con­so­nant de­ci­sions ap­pear. In fact, I make them fre­quently.

Ide­ally, such de­ci­sions ben­e­fit my game, like when I play a hand with the in­tent to bluff. In such cases, my de­ci­sion on each street is in line with my pre­med­i­tated over­all plan. It doesn’t al­ways lead to a win, but at least I’m ex­e­cut­ing a well-thoughtout plan. That’s solid con­so­nant de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

On the flip side, I’m prone to fall into what I will call a “con­so­nant de­ci­sion trap,” mean­ing that I some­times make im­pru­dent calls that lead to big trou­ble later in a hand. A prime ex­am­ple of this hap­pened in a Mid­States Poker Tour event, the $1,100-buy-in Wis­con­sin State Poker Cham­pi­onship at Ho-Chunk Gam­ing Wis­con­sin Dells, a tour­na­ment that saw Ben Wiora top a field of 463 en­trants to win $114,512.

I played Day 1A of the tour­na­ment, and I got off to a good start, in­creas­ing my 20,000 start­ing stack by 10%. Then, in Level 2 (75/150 blinds), I looked down at 10♣ 9♣ and raised to 400 from early po­si­tion. An­other player called, and then a third player in late po­si­tion three-bet to 1,800. Ac­tion folded back to me, and this was my first bad de­ci­sion — I called.

The other player came along, and the three of us saw a rain­bow flop of 10♥ 7♦ 2♠. I checked with top pair, the flat-caller did the same, and the late-po­si­tion player moved all in for 7,000.

I de­cided that since I fool­ishly called such a big raise pre­flop, I might as well call with top pair, even though I was fairly cer­tain it was no good.

“Why did you call with this hand if you weren’t go­ing to play it when you flopped a piece?” I thought to my­self. I was mak­ing bad con­so­nant de­ci­sions.

I put in the chips to make the call, the third player folded, and just as I ex­pected, I dis­cov­ered that I was sec­ond-best, as my op­po­nent rolled over pocket kings.

Both the turn and river blanked, and I sent a third of my stack over to my op­po­nent.

You’re bound to make bad de­ci­sions play­ing poker, but that’s not a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for mak­ing sim­i­lar choices in the fu­ture, like I did in the hand de­scribed above.

In­stead, make the best de­ci­sions you can and al­low pro­ceed­ing ones to fall in line. Those are the kind of con­so­nant de­ci­sions you want to make.

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