Time Magazine: Tight Is Right

by , Jan 13, 2010 | 9:01 am

First we had Kiplinger’s embracing the poker religion, and now Time Magazine is getting on board … with a story that probably will do more to change my game than 76 poker books:

From Time’s Health & Science department:

How Winning Can Mean Losing — in Poker and in Life


It’s really a great article, looking at a Cornell University doctoral student’s sociological study of millions of online poker hands (via PokerTracker) to draw conclusions about the human propensity for risk in relation to rewards. In a nutshell, the more hands you win, the bigger loser you tend to be overall.

So what does this have to do with you if you don’t gamble? It’s the wrong question because, actually, you do. Investing, driving, buying a house and merely crossing the street are all acts that involve discernible risks and uncertain rewards. The more small returns you get from your small investments in stocks, the likelier you are to make — and lose — a big investment. The more times you get behind the wheel and speed a little bit, the likelier you are to speed a lot — with deadlier consequences.

“These kinds of calculations are made every day,” says Siler. “Adultery is another good example. People get away with it countless times but they get caught just once and they lose everything.”

4 Comments to “Time Magazine: Tight Is Right”

  1. Kevin Mathers

    Short Stacked Shamus threw in his two cents, and got a reply from Andy Bloch about Siler’s study:


  2. Jay G

    Pretty terrible article, and a reminder of how bad reporting can be when the author is out of his technical depth.

    A few years ago a family friend, a very brilliant senior researcher at the CDC, was quoted in a very lengthy New York Times Magazine piece. The author managed to present his position — the article was on vaccinations — as exactly opposite of what it truly was. He was livid. The retraction was a single paragraph of fine print the following week.

    At this point I read any article that deals with research data as potentially deeply flawed and uncomprehending of the original report.

    Unless, of course, the article is by Malcolm Gladwall, in which case I assume the whole piece is entirely bullshit from word one.

  3. DanM

    I thought it was a decent study, but was buying your arguments, Jay, until you dissed Malcolm Gladwell, who makes my Top 5 for most influential 21st century authors.

  4. Johnny Hughes

    The fact that you win more money if you win fewer pots has always been known to good players, tight players.

    One of the greats, Pat Renfo, laid a prop on me that I now use. I agreed to give him 5 bucks when I won a pot, and he’d give me 5 when he won a pot. He was Johnny Moss’ partner when they were only 21. We are there to win money, not pots.