View Full Version : The curse of knowledge (Long and bitter)

09-19-2001, 07:59 PM
This is a satirical essay concerning a few things that an educated, enlighten, winning gambler must face in his gambling career.

It's kinda bitter.

Bitter, party of one, your table's ready!

And it's kinda moronic too.

It's also perfect for the Vince forum. And it does shed some light on this highly important subject…

I am Dave in Cali. I am a scientist. I have edumacation in mathematics, statistics, logic, and a variety of other brainiac kinda topics too. I study the game of poker. I aspire to be the best player I can be, and to win money while doing it. I understand how gambling works. I know about things like the standard deviation. Like expectation. Expected value. Fluctuations. And the nature of randomness and "luck". I have read many books. I have studied the best texts on the game of poker. I have studied about the true nature of gambling. I "know" the facts. I "know" about gambling. I choose my actions based on what I know about gambling, poker, the facts, randomness, luck, etc. There are a few individuals who know me that can verify that I "know" all these things. A very small few indeed. The rest of the world doesn't have a clue. And they don't want one either….

So what do you do when you "know" what I know? Well obviously, you play poker. And win money. And feel smug when you do. You use all these facts that you "know" to win money. To win at poker. To win at gambling. And depending on your bankroll, discipline, and personal desire, you can potentially make a lot of money because of what you "know". But WHY does this knowledge you have allow you to win at gambling? Well, against most gambling games, you "know" that you simply can't beat them. So you don't play them. One of the reasons I have become a winning player is that I really don't gamble. Yes, I play poker. And poker has an element of chance. And many people play poker because they like to "gamble". But not me. I don't like to gamble. I lived ten minutes from Atlantic city for years and hardly ever went to the casinos. And when I did go, I hardly ever spent more than 20$. Until I took up poker. Then all of a sudden I was at the casinos there three or four nights a week. But I still wasn't gambling. I read the top five books before I had finished my second session. By the second month, I had read fifteen books. By a year, I had read over 30. The competition in Atlantic city at the lower limits is weak, especially at stud. While Holdem took a while to get the hang of (and become a true winner at), stud was profitable right from the beginning. Not surprising. I am young, and my memory is good. I remember upcards. Plus, I "know" how to play seven card stud. And the competition was mostly elderly tourist who didn't "know" squat about jack. And had poor memories. People who had come to the casino to "gamble". People who didn't know what I know.

So what good does knowing all this stuff do for you, other than to make you a buck? What else can you get out of knowing all this stuff? I make more money as a scientist than I do as a poker player. I make money in science because I "know" stuff. Stuff that is valuable to my employer. Stuff that allows me to overcome obstacles and make decisions that will ultimately be profitable for both my employer and myself. I make money in poker because I use what I know to evaluate situations and put my money into the pot when I have a mathematical advantage. I use what I know to avoid making costly mistakes that other poker players routinely make while they are "gambling".

But there's a major difference. I can talk about science. I can talk to co-workers. To family. To friends. I can explain interesting stuff. I can educate people on the facts of science that I know about. People want to hear these facts, and when they do, they tend to believe you. If I talk about science, people will listen, people will believe that what I am saying is factual. I can share my knowledge, and people appreciate it and believe it. This is not the case with gambling (or poker), not at all. Try to explain to the average craps player that he is a loser, and can never win, no matter what he does, because the laws of mathematics make winning at craps impossible in the long run. Try to explain this to the little old ladies by the nickel slots. Try to explain to grandpa in Atlantic city that no matter what he thinks, let it ride is a loser game. Try to explain to loose Lucy that calling two raises cold while drawing at an inside straight in a three way pot is suicidal on your wallet. Try to explain to your sister that she can never win at slots. Try to explain to ANYONE that the idea that your can be "due to win" is simply not true. Try to explain to Mr. maniac that he is not ON a rush, he HAS BEEN on a rush. Try to explain the true nature of the relationship between the standard deviation and the expectation. Try to explain that winning or losing in gambling depends on how you will fare in the long run, and that the short term results are pretty much irrelevant. Try to explain just how long the "long run" really is. You will be mocked, ignored, ridiculed. No one will believe you. You can't explain any of this stuff to the average person, they simply won't believe you. The misguided ideas they hold are so ingrained into their brains that they simply can't even comprehend that the facts may be different from their beliefs.

Throughout the land, people widely believe many things about gambling that are completely false. They hold onto these beliefs like a security blanket. They use their misguided beliefs to comfort themselves, to justify their actions, and to give themselves hope. But it's a false comfort, a false hope. Their beliefs do not actually change the laws of mathematics. Believing that you are a winning craps player does not provide you with any means of beating the game and actually becoming a winner. If you play craps, you are losing money. If you bet 10$ on pass, you theoretically lose about 14 cents every time a decision is made on your bet. Drop a ten dollar bill, pick up nine dollars and eight-six cents. That's what you are doing each time you bet the pass line. And it's worse if you play the proposition bets. And if you play the slots, you are losing just the same, but the exact amount that you theoretically lose on each pull of the handle may not necessarily be readily apparent, even to those who "know" about gambling.

All across the land, people are relying on their false beliefs to give them hope, justify their losing ways, and comfort themselves. Ignorance is truly bliss, and I have seen an awful lot of blissful people gambling their hard earned dollars into oblivion. And the greedy know how to exploit this ignorance. Yes, greedy. Casinos. Imagine that. A business derived solely for the purpose of getting people's money. A business that exploits the ignorance of the common man for material gain. A business that perpetuates the ignorance and illogical beliefs that so many Americans use to justify their feeding the pockets of the money mongers. A business that knowingly and purposefully uses the common man's ignorance as an avenue to relieve him of his cash.

And if you try to explain the "facts" to these ignorant, blissful people, they refuse to believe. They offer illogical, mathematically impossible explanations as to why they are exempt from the "facts", how they overcome the facts, and how they are really winners, despite any so-called "facts". Sometimes they get upset with you because you are saying something which is different from the things they already "know for a fact". Sometimes they mock you. But most of the time, you might as well have just been talking to a brick wall, for they never even heard you at all. Oh yea, they may have been watching you speak, and they may have been nodding their head the whole time, and they may have even complimented you as to how interesting those facts you mentioned are. But it's a lie. They didn't hear a thing. You didn't impart any of your vast extent of knowledge upon them. Their ignorance remains steadfast and strong, their beliefs do no waiver. It's the same all over. Your average Foxwoods tourist from Maine is just as clueless as your average Vegas tourist from Oregon. You couldn't impart one iota of your vast array of facts upon them, no matter how you might try. When it comes to gambling, not only are people ignorant of the facts, but they don't want to hear them either. They don't want to hear anything that might take away that comfort blanket of ignorance they hold so tightly around them while they play Caribbean stud or slots. And if they DO happen to hear some actual facts, you can bet they will probably find some way to ignore them. They won't accept the "facts" because the "facts" contradict that which they "know". And they use what they "know" to justify their gambling habits. After all, gambling is fun. When you win, endorphins are released in your brain. And people will do almost anything to release some more endorphins. And if you try to slip in your darn facts, then those endorphins won't get released anymore. And we can't have THAT, now can we….

So there you are. You and your facts. You and your vast array of knowledge. Smugly sitting there, knowing you are a winner. Knowing that you won't be the victim of misguided beliefs. Knowing that you have evolved, and are somehow above the rest of humanity because of your extensive comprehension of the facts. You're so impressed with yourself. But you're all alone. No one else here but you and your measly little facts. And you aren't releasing any endorphins at all. No, you are too evolved for that. You know that releasing endorphins is not something you are going to be experiencing when you go to the gambling hall. That's because the facts aren't pretty. Actually, the facts kinda suck! They aren't pleasant at all! They provide no real security blanket, no genuine hope, no relief. The facts stand between you and the money, and there is no easy way to get around them. Sure, there are a few gambling games that can be beaten. Poker can be beaten. So can blackjack and paigow, but these are much more difficult to beat, because the facts are even less favorable for these games. And on occasion other gambling games can be beaten too. But the facts still remain. And they still kinda suck.

And there you remain, all by your little lonesome self, just you and your pathetic little facts. With no one to talk to. Of course no one will believe you anyway, even if you and your facts did have someone to talk to. You're doomed. Doomed to a life of lonely solitude. Doomed to a life of being scorned, being rejected, being cast out. Just you and your facts. You don't have hope, you just have the facts. You don't have a security blanket, you just have your EVs and SDs and CVs. You don't have anyone to hear you, no one who will listen. There is no one whom you can impart your vast array of knowledge upon, no one whom you can impress with your extensive wisdom. No one wants to hear the facts. And they certainly don't want to hear them from you. So you struggle through life, bitter and alone, because you have no one with whom to discuss your enlightenment with. No one exists who can have an intelligent conversation with you regarding that which you have studied, that which you have successfully applied in order to forge a winning strategy. The truth is a lonely road, and it holds no comfort for those whom choose its path.

But wait! Alas! There's light at the end of the tunnel! As it turns out, perhaps your bitter lonely existence has another side to it, an unseen ray of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day! As it turns out, you really don't WANT to discuss the facts with people! You CAN be a winning player only because of widespread denial of the facts! If all the poker players in the world knew what you knew, you couldn't win jack! If everyone knew the facts, and acted in a rational manner because they knew these facts, then gambling wouldn't exist at all! And people wouldn't be releasing any endorphins! THEN what would happen? I'll tell you what would happen. Massive, massive suffering. The end of mankind as we know it. Huge, writhing swarms of people, running like lemmings, eager to jump off the nearest cliff and end their horrible, pointless, hopeless, endorphinless lives! No, life could not exist as we know it if everyone were to truly understand the facts. No, you may have to suffer through life, bitter and alone, never able to share the wisdom you have attained with the world. But the world will still be happy anyway. And it's in the best interest of the world to keep people happy. Because after all, Ignorance is truly bliss….

Dave in Cali

09-19-2001, 08:30 PM
yea Dave but try to explain evolution to a religous fanatic, or the big bang to them and convince them that is what really happened. or tell a plumber about gravity. he may only care that shit goes downhill. it turns out that most people only care about what they are interested in and also have an affinity for. that is what it seems anyway.

09-19-2001, 10:58 PM
A bit of hyperbole, here and there, but interesting reading nonetheless.

09-19-2001, 11:22 PM
Dave- the "existential dilemma" lives... your post reminds me of that one fact of life- "we do not know the ultimate meaning of our existence".! Why try to convince anyone of anything? The "purpose" of life (to the existential philosophers) was simply to oppose an uncertain and meaningless life via the "free will" which all humans posess. To inject meaning where there is none is the "work" of the human mind- to impart structure where there is none is the business of the frontal cortex. Even today, in our "modern" society, the "real question" is: WHY ARE WE HERE? Religion, philosophy and science all offer answers - take your pick. I'm happy to be alive now, following the tragic "accident" of Sept 11th which, by some act of "fate" did not involve me or you or our friends at 2 + 2. I love to share ideas and knowledge, but frankly Scarlet do not "give a damn" if someone wants to lose their money at games which cannot be won. I do give a damn about being a good poker player, like you, and I also am happy that my endorphins kick in once in awhile! Keep thinking..., but remember...some things are ineffable.... Take care. Babe

09-20-2001, 08:20 AM

Your essay deserves a Bravo. A writer once said "It's as long as it needs to be". But it is the reader that is the ultimate judge. I think it's a bit long. If not then I would have given it two Bravo's.

That said, the bottom line is that I really enjoyed and was enlightened too things that I already knew. I've had the dice arguement hundreds of times. I have a sister. Make that two. I am very happy and appreciative that you posted your essay here on the Vince forum. It fits perfectly with my philosophy. Philosophy? I've got a philosophy? News to me. Anyway thanks again. And remember, Science may get in your way of winning the lottery. Endorphins rule!


09-21-2001, 02:54 PM
interesting thoughts....but could they be based on wrong idea???

in the local area where I play there is a saying: "don't school the fish"

fact is, most of them do not want to know...and we are better off for it.

09-30-2001, 01:22 AM
"Endorphins rule!"

Thank you. This phrase has just been coopted for the greater good of poker players in particular and humanity in general...