Game Selection and Optionality in Poker

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Game Selection and Optionality in Poker

What’s up troops!?

First off, a little hack that might be useful for some of you. 

Pokerstars has a feature/bug, where if you log in from an unfamiliar IP address and then send someone money through their player transfer feature, the transfer gets denied and your account has to go through security review. You can avoid this flag by playing a single orbit of zoom. BUT this author, currently waiting out quarantine in Mexico, recently forgot to play that orbit before attempting a transfer and so tripped this security flag.. for the 3rd time this year.

Pokerstars claim to complete these security checks ‘within minutes’, but unfortunately this is a complete lie. It’s been nearly a month, and my account is still locked awaiting this review.

A year ago, this would have meant I was left with $0 on any poker site, and that my playing hourly would have fallen from X to 0, at least temporarily. I would have lost days getting set up on some other site, and then likely would have had to play considerably lower as my whole bankroll would be unavailable to me. 


Luckily for me, getting temp-banned on stars has not been the end of the world. Around 6 months ago, I decided to improve my game selection by getting set up on a bunch of sites. Instead of playing all the games (and keeping all of my bankroll) on just one site, I now keep short rolls on basically any half-reputable site that spreads games I’d like to play. I did this in order to play better games, what I didn’t realise straight away was this in doing so, I’d drastically increase the number of options I’d have available to me – my optionality.

As far as I know, this term originates with the great Nicolas Nassim Taleb, author of “Fooled by Randomness”. The general principle is that in order to be antifragile (i.e. ready to benefit from unpredictable changes) you must always look to give yourself as many options as possible, particularly when those extra options are free. Because I’d bothered to set up on so many sites, getting banned on the largest site hasn’t largely impacted my ability to play 6-8 good tables of 1k+. 

To illustrate more clearly, consider someone with 0 optionality – Taleb would give the example of someone who performs a super-specialised task for a large bureaucratic company. If this one company goes under, or restructures and fires this person, their experience isn’t relevant to anything else – they have no other options and they’re in trouble. In poker terms, someone who plays a single format on a single site is highly fragile to the soft money leaving the game, the site pulling the format, or the site itself going under.

The best poker players I know gives themselves the maximum amount of optionality. They are ready to play headsup, 6max, 9max, cash game or tournament, holdem or omaha, with or without ante, on any site, at any time. They decide what to play partly on what they feel like playing that day, but mostly depending on where the money is. 

Cliffs: be smart, give yourself options. Also fuck pokerstars.

Gl out there!


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