Are poker players born or created to play the way they do? I am sure that genetics plays a significant role, but education and work experience could be even more important. Why are some much more aggressive than most of us? Why do many play so tight?
Recently, a guest contributor to Cardplayer Lifestyle, Sol Rosenbaum, published an article entitled Three Reasons Why Engineers Make Great Poker Players…. and One Reason Why They Don’t. Sol is a professional engineer specializing in energy technology, and as an engineer (M.S., MIT, 1952), I can comment on his ideas. I believe that there are both benefits and disadvantages to being an engineer that would manifest themselves at the poker table.
The Advantages Poker Player Engineers Have
Generally speaking, the advantages that engineers have at the poker table are the same ones they have when playing online blackjack, namely their strength with numbers.
Engineers understand and are able to use the odds. Their extensive math education makes it relatively easy for engineers to estimate and make use of the odds – pot odds vs. card odds. Meanwhile, far fewer other poker players try to do so. They simply recognize that there are several cards that will help their hands and continue on. (Some unwittingly may be chasing with only a few outs. By the way, that may account for many of the bad beats we suffer. In the long run, chasers are destined to be losers.)
Engineers are skilled at recognizing situations and assessing the pertinent variables. Thus, they are better prepared to make those tough decisions they encounter so often at the poker table.
Engineers develop special skills in analyzing data, thereby reducing dependence on luck (chance). Consequently, their results at the poker table tend to be more positive and repeatable – and they can better avoid the losing hands.
The Main Disadvantage Poker Player Engineers Face
While they might be great with numbers, engineers on the whole tend to be risk averse. As Rosenbaum explains, engineers are accustomed to using safety factors; often, they tend to overstate the risks. As a consequence, they are more likely to miss good opportunities to extract value from their opponents at the felt, as well as exercise a bit too much caution overall.
A Broader View – What’s the Big Picture?
There is a bigger message here; namely, that your education and work experience will influence or determine how you play the game. Below are two examples:
A successful salesperson learns to make sales pitches, and to exaggerate the benefits of what he has to sell. Applying this to poker, then, he is more inclined to play aggressively and try more than his fair share of bluffs. As his opponent, knowing his work experience, you can use this information to your advantage. It’s a tell.
A businessman may play the game for two opposite reasons: for relaxation and pure recreation, or just as he would operate a successful business enterprise (i.e., to earn a significant profit). In the first instance, he makes it easier for his opponents to beat him. Most likely that’s the case if he is drinking and laughing or chatting with others around him. It’s just the opposite if he is serious and focused on the game; be cautious when he raises.
Of course, to capitalize on tendencies such as those described above, you would have to ask any player about his or her work. One way to find out is to casually ask him during a pause in the game, and note his response. Poker is meant to be a social game after all…
P.S. I regularly read the “Tournament Hand Matchups” in Card Player magazine and have often wondered why high-stakes players frequently play weak starting hands. Is there something in their education or work experience that leads them to such loose play? Email your comments to [email protected]. For the best answer submitted by a reader, received within two weeks of publishing, a copy of my book, The Art of Bluffing, is the prize.