Here's Hoping: How to Generate Hope in the Face of Poker Variance

Leo Margets

I want to talk to you about something that has been all over social media since the WSOP.

I’m talking about hope. The question is: Is hope necessary or just an asset?

In the dictionary hope is defined as a desire whose accomplishment brings us considerable joy.

A relatively neutral description universal enough to apply to everyone, isn’t it?

Generating Hope

To generate hope you need a subtle balance of expectations and abilities.

Margets 7
How do you explain tournament failure?

To clarify, consider the following example: a player is about to play the WSOP Main Event, the biggest tournament of the year.

He busts on Day 2 without even cashing. What will give him enough hope to take part in next year’s Main Event and give the best he can? Or even to play another tournament the next day?

The answer is buried deep inside his own personality. The key? How the player will explain his failure and the expectations generated by this result.

If the player explains his failure by inevitable factors (“no matter how much work I put in, tournaments are just luck and it’s statistically almost impossible to win”), general factors (“it’s poker, it’s all about variance”) or factors that are impossible to control (“the dealer only gave me bad cards”), then he will feel powerless and discouraged.

If he explains his failure by temporary factors (“it happened this tournament but it will be different next time. I'll keep playing the same way and it'll all work out”), specific factors (“I played well but this is part of the game”) or factors that can be controlled (“I'm going to keep working and playing to get better, that’s what I can actually do”), then he’ll be able to generate enough hope to do the best he can for following tournaments (while still having a realistic view of variance).

I Take Variance Into Consideration

Motivation is also a big booster of hope, both as cause and consequence. It can be intrinsic motivation based on a specific objective.

Leo Margets
No tournament creates hope like WSOP Main Event.

For example: I want to become a good poker player because it makes me happy and allows me to live the life I want. I know it’s hard work but it’s worth it (“it’s a hard way to make an easy living”, as they say).

I play poker tournaments and I take variance into consideration but I’m ready to seize any opportunity that comes up and I have the tools to do so and succeed.

Motivation can also be extrinsic, ie. based on gratifications that are not directly linked to the goal: I want to be a good player because if it all goes well, I will be rich, I will be my own boss and I will be able to get all the girls.

Obviously, intrinsic motivation is much more effective, but even without it you can make up for it with external resources.

Some personality traits, like optimism or thirst for adrenaline, can help increase your hope as can previous successes.

In my case no other tournament makes me as hopeful as the WSOP Main Event and I’m sure it’s at least partly because of my past experiences there.

As a Rule, Hope Never Weakens Anyone

I tend to think of hope as an ineluctable wave and when I feel it coming I tend to just let it flow as I know it’s generally a good sign. Luckily for me, I’m very easily motivated because I always think that things happen for a reason.

Leo Margets
Here's hoping.

What matters is that I particularly love that sensation of feeling more alive.

However, it must be noted that people can get overwhelmed when they’re too hopeful and not make the best decisions, but it’s quite rare.

As a rule hope never weakens anyone. If anything it helps you focus more on your tasks because you’re conscious of your goal - as long as you know how to handle defeat.

As far as I’m concerned I’m a natural optimist. Each slap in the face is a lesson that I turn into positive energy to be even more eager at the next tournament.

Here’s hoping!

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