Thursday, January 13, 2005

All whipped up...

In light of yet again no poker being played last night, I simply feel like rambling a bit about whatever the hell comes to mind. During a bit of downtime yesterday at work while waiting for some updates to install, I found a fun blog called PreShrunk, which basically highlights T-shirts. Fun Stuff. That’s about the only good one that I found in my trolling of non-poker blogs. Granted, the search wasn’t exactly rife with effort, as all I did was randomly go through a bunch of the recently updated blogs on Doing this however, made me even more appreciative (could I gush more?) of this poker blogging community. In the words of Timmy the Tiger (who I consequently decided must be Tony the Tiger’s older and more cynical brother, who also happened to be taking some time looking for non-poker blogs worth reading), “They’rrrre CRRRRRRRRAP!

There seems to be some sort of flap going on having to do with Stripper by Night getting in digs on ‘The Hammer’ and Felicia. I’m waiting to get added to Felicia’s friend list so I can get caught up on her LiveJournal entries and hopefully not be so much in the dark anymore. I feel like Towlie from South Park, “I’m soo high, I have no idea what’s going on.” Except I’m not high, so where does that leave me? You guessed it. I’m left being just an idiot. That being said, I still cannot fathom why anyone would say anything that was less than complimentary about Felicia. After all, if it weren’t for her, who knows how long it would have taken me/many others to wake up about the current state of tourney “juice”?

As far as the digs on ‘The Hammer’ go, the entire post that bashed it seemed pretty trite, its only purpose being to get everyone whipped up into a frenzy. That, or she got nailed by ‘Pokers new Greatest Hand’ and just couldn’t let it go. Either way, it was (insert valley girl inflection) waaaaay lame, omigod. Even though I have not yet discovered the stones to play The Hammer with any regularity, much less with any skill, I see its point as well as the fun that lies within it’s utilization. To vilify a hand like The Hammer, which every day seems to become more beloved, is much like taking pot shots at Ghandi. Ghandi was not glamorous and did not smell nice (Note: I’m not positive, he may have smelled great, but I think my read is good on this one). The Hammer is also not glamorous and pretty much stinks as far as hand rankings go. However, they both continue to accomplish great things, and I for one, would be loathe to deride either one. So there.

So that the folks who come here looking for poker content don’t leave me forever, I offer the following, which I read a couple of days ago on 2+2. You can click the link and see the actual article on the site, but I will also repost it here, as it is a great commentary to fire back at those puritanical dimwits who would say that ‘poker is evil’.


Is Poker Socially Useful?: Part I
By Alan N. Schoonmaker, Ph.D.

Many people would say, "No," but they would be wrong. It does not create a useful product, but neither does any other form of entertainment. Only the most puritanical people criticize the social value of baseball, ballet, and the theater, but countless people criticize poker as being useless and immoral.

In addition to being enjoyable, poker helps people -- especially young people -- to understand and cope with the real world. The world is and always will be extremely competitive, and people have to learn how to cope with this reality. Because the anti-competitive extremists have taken over much of the educational system, many young people are utterly unprepared to deal with our competitive world.

The Education Establishment's Anti-Competitive Bias

The Readers' Digest's November, 2004 issue contained an article, "That's outrageous: 'A' is for average." It noted that many school administrators try to build self-esteem by protecting students from competition. The administrators detest it because some students win, others lose, and the losers may feel bad. To prevent those feelings, some schools have eliminated honor rolls, and others have as many as 100 valedictorians. They have also taken many other silly actions.

Some schools have prohibited breaking students into ability-based groups so that students can progress at different rates and get the kind of help they need. A few schools have even eliminated grades or ranking of students.

This opposition to competition does not apply only to academic subjects. A high school principal was told he could not release the names of high scorers at basketball games. One idiotic principal even said, "I discourage competitive games at school. They just don't fit my world view of what a school should be."

Anti-Competition Attitudes are Ubiquitous and Destructive.

Long before that article appeared I had written, "Competition is life's first law, but many people deny that reality." This denial is everywhere, and it has enormous social and economic consequences. Americans perform much worse than the students from other industrialized countries on virtually all tests of language and math skills.

They perform abysmally precisely because our schools don't demand enough of them. The educational system is so intent on protecting their self-esteem that they don't learn the skills and attitudes they need to cope with our competitive world.

American colleges must teach subjects that foreign students learn in high school, and even our post-graduate schools have to teach reading, writing, and simple math. The anti-competition bias is also the primary cause for grade inflation, and it is everywhere. In some colleges the median grade is an "A," and more than 75 percent of the students graduate "with honors."

This anti-competition bias has reshaped the labor market. The Equal Employment Opportunities, Americans with Disabilities Act, and various other laws were intended to correct injustices, but the courts have expanded them so widely that their intent has been subverted. Today almost anyone can claim to be a victim of some form of prejudice; their poor performance is not their fault, and they should get the same pay, promotions, and other rewards as everyone else.

All these forces have created an "entitlement mentality." Judith Bardwick is a widely quoted authority on this mentality, and she defined it in a series of short statements.

  1. I am owed, and I am not responsible for what I do.
  2. If I get what I get irrespective of what I do, then I must get it because it's owed to me.
  3. If I fail to do what is expected of me, that's OK -- there will be no significant consequences.

She contrasts this "entitlement mentality" with a "psychology of earning." She also pointed out that many people want a "no-consequence" culture, one in which nothing bad happens to you if you perform poorly, and nothing particularly good happens if you perform well.1

Because of anti-competitive attitudes, our economy and living standards are at risk. In a few decades America has gone from being the world's largest creditor to the world's largest debtor, and every month we buy much more from foreigners than we sell to them. Our foreign debts are inconceivably large, trillions of dollars.

In mid-November Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve Chairman, stated that our trade deficit threatens the economy, and the stock market dropped precipitously. It may have been news to the public, but it should have been obvious that we could not continue indefinitely to spend more than we earn. If we don't become more competitive, our entire economy and standard of living must go down.

Poker is the Ideal Teacher for Competitors.

Peter Lynch, the former manager of the extraordinarily successful Magellan Fund and vice-chairman of Fidelity, emphatically agrees with this premise. He was once asked, "How can a person become a better investor?" He replied, "Learn how to play poker."2

Later essays will describe many other factors that make poker such a great teacher, but now I will mention only one: Poker is a "ruthless meritocracy." Barry Tanenbaum, a Card Player columnist, coined and explained that term.

You can make a living, perhaps even a good one, as a mediocre shoe salesman, teacher, lawyer, carpenter, or doctor. By definition, most people are mediocre, but nearly everyone makes a living. In poker you cannot survive unless you are among the best. Only about 10 percent of all players are long-term winners, and less than 2 percent win enough to support themselves.

This meritocracy is extraordinarily ruthless. In many competitions you can coast on your past accomplishments. Major league baseball teams pay millions to players with long term contracts who can no longer produce, and some corporations have given huge "Golden Parachutes" to people they fired for failing. But poker professionals must continue to excel: Many formerly great poker players now struggle to survive in small games. Nobody cares that they were once great. The only thing that matters is how well they play now.

This ruthlessly competitive attitude is precisely what America needs today. We must stop resting on our laurels, recognize that we are losing the world's most important competition, and do whatever it takes to start winning again. Poker can teach people how to be tougher competitors, and its lessons are extremely useful.

1Judith Bardwick at The Master's Forum, cited by Michael Finley
2"Ten lessons poker teaches great investors," by Christopher Graja, Bloomberg's Personal Finance, June, 2001, p. 56

©2005 by Alan N. Schoonmaker, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved.


Here ends my two cents for the day. Keep Thinking Big everyone.