Finding wisdom where you can
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.