HDouble over at The Cards Speak has an interesting post where he ponders whether poker is he sees poker as a hobby, a sport, or if he’s just in it for the money. He ends by saying that he’s unsure which but I couldn’t help but remember a supposedly true story told by Mike Caro about Bill Gates and Doyle Brunson.

Taken from: What’s the Right Limit for You?

This is why Bill Gates might not be able to play winning poker at any customary limits. There may not be any games where the stakes are enough to motivate him. The legendary two-time world champion and Hall of Famer Doyle Brunson jokes about the time Bill Gates was playing $3-$6 at the Mirage. Gates sent a copy of Brunson’s poker bible, Super/System – A Course in Power Poker, over to Doyle’s $3,000-$6,000 game for a requested signature. But instead of acting honored by the request, Doyle good-naturedly needled Gates, refusing to sign a book for anyone with billions of dollars who was afraid to come over and gamble with the big boys. I know what Doyle’s motive was. He was trying to tease Gates into his game, and it might have worked – not that time, though.

But there’s another point here. Bill Gates already was sort of playing poker for $3,000-$6,000 right then! How come? Because there’s no conceptual difference to Bill Gates – the richest dude alive – between playing $3-$6 and $3,000-$6,000. Both stakes are meaningless. It’s sort of like you were playing in a game in which you got 10,000 chips for a penny and someone needled you for being unwilling to play in an adjoining game in which they were playing 10 chips for a penny.

No matter what the outcome, the result would have no bearing on your life. And as a result, you might not play any more seriously at $3,000-$6,000 than at $3-$6.

Advice: Don’t play for tiny stakes unless you’re a very poor player who would lose meaningfully more money by playing larger. If you care about mastering the game, you’ll probably improve faster by playing for stakes that are large enough to make you feel a little bad if you lose. Bill Gates can’t do that.

3 thoughts to “Play Until It Hurts

  • Gribbon

    It doesn’t matter how much more you can afford. If $3-$6 poker is fun for you, why not play at that level? It doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of–or learn from–players for whom a round of betting involves a day’s pay or more.

    If Bill Gates played at Doyle’s table he’d have winning sessions maybe one time in twenty. Not much fun in that. Gates is used to being a winner.

    Gates plays strictly for fun; to relax. If he really applied himself he’d probably do better but so what? Poker columnists should be encouraging players, not chastising them!

  • TomAnderson

    That advice doesn’t sound like good bankroll management to me. But then, my bankroll is $60, and the best I can afford to play is the $2/4 limit game. The bankroll would be a good deal larger, but I’ve been playing for gas money and pocket money while I search for a job, so it’s pointless to bother playing if I don’t skim the winnings off for day-to-day use.

    I’ll be honest, it hurts if I lose, but I normally make more there than I would at a minimum wage job in the same time.

    But I’m playing at levels that far out of my bankroll because I lack the resources to do better. If I had enough money to manage it better, I definitely would.

  • hdouble

    Doyle was just jealous. But I think “play where it hurts” is pretty good advice. If you can’t win/lose as much as you make in 1 hour of poker as in 1 hour of work, then it’s tough to take the game seriously.

    Keep up the good posts. And if you need another body for your next tourney, email me!

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