Not be­ing aware of your sur­round­ings can be costly

The Mercury News Weekend - - PUZZLES - By Chad Hol­loway Chad Hol­loway is a 2013 World Se­ries of Poker bracelet win­ner.

In the NFL, coaches and play­ers of­ten draw crit­i­cism for mak­ing the wrong choice in a sit­u­a­tion where the right choice seems ob­vi­ous. Maybe it’s a player fail­ing to run out of bounds to stop the clock when time is of the essence. Or maybe it’s a coach hav­ing his team kick an ex­tra point when it would make more sense to at­tempt a two-point con­ver­sion.

Game the­ory is de­fined as the “anal­y­sis of strate­gies for deal­ing with com­pet­i­tive sit­u­a­tions where the out­come of a par­tic­i­pant’s choice of ac­tion de­pends crit­i­cally on the ac­tions of other par­tic­i­pants.” While game the­ory ap­plies to most games and sports, per­haps its most ob­vi­ous ap­pli­ca­tion is in card games.

Take poker, for ex­am­ple. At the Mid-States Poker Tour Grand Falls $1,100 Main Event in Sioux Falls, S.D., this sum­mer, just seven play­ers re­mained when Swadeep Mishra lost a big hand and was left with 37,000 in chips. To make mat­ters worse, the blinds were 10,000-20,000 with a 3,000 ante, and Mishra was the big blind in the next hand.

This was where Mishra failed to rec­og­nize the game the­ory op­ti­mal (GTO) strat­egy.

In the sub­se­quent hand, Ahmed Taleb, sit­ting in early po­si­tion, moved all in for 323,000 hold­ing 8h 8d and J.W. Nel­son, who was next to act, made the call with As 10c. Ac­tion folded around to Mishra in the big blind, and he looked down at 8c 2h.

What would you have done in this spot?

Mishra, who had more than half his stack in the big blind, ended up call­ing off the rest of his stack when he should’ve folded.

Here’s why: Mishra’s stack of less than two big blinds wasn’t worth much, mean­ing his chances of win­ning the tour­na­ment were slim. Odds were that he’d bust out in sev­enth place for $7,801. How­ever, by Taleb mov­ing all in and Nel­son call­ing, Mishra had an op­por­tu­nity to lad­der up to sixth place, which paid $9,361. All he had to do for a shot at an ex­tra $1,560 was to fold and hope Taleb busted.

Granted, Mishra would have been left with only 16,000 in chips, but at that point in the tour­na­ment, there re­ally wasn’t much dif­fer­ence be­tween hav­ing 16,000 or 37,000 or even 100,000 in chips. Mishra would have been much bet­ter off fold­ing and go­ing for the ex­tra cash.

In­stead, he called off his stack with a ter­ri­ble hand, mean­ing that if both he and Taleb busted to Nel­son, Taleb would have fin­ished in sixth place be­cause he had the big­ger chip stack.

As it turned out, fold­ing wouldn’t have helped Mishra, as Taleb dou­bled af­ter the board ran out 2c Jd 7s 4h Qh. In fact, this hand helped set Taleb on a course to vic­tory, as he ul­ti­mately won the tour­na­ment for $54,089.

Re­sults aside, it’s im­per­a­tive to al­ways be aware of game sit­u­a­tions and act ac­cord­ingly. If you don’t, you could be cost­ing your­self some cold hard cash.

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