Gambling is a game that would tame lions and as such the psychology of gambling is something that needs to be discussed regularly and in depth. Here we take a tip from one of the games untameable lions.
There is a Swedish online poker player best known by the screen name “Wilhasha.”
Very few people know his real name or anything about him. Pretty much all high stakes online players eventually emerge from behind their online screen names and into the public limelight. Not Wilhasha. He has always remained anonymous. It’s not the only way in which he is different from the pack.
Online poker has changed dramatically in the last 5 years or so with the advent of continually advanced computer software and simulators almost solving the game for those with the work ethic and mathematical inclination to embark on an in depth study of the game. It’s taken as a given that to remain in the upper echelons of the modern online game, one needs a profound understanding of the math involved, a type of understanding only attainable through thousands of hours of specific study of the infinite number of possible situations that can arise in a poker game. As a result of this, many top online professionals from 5+ years ago quickly fell by the way side in recent years and only those who were able to move with the times could match the younger and more eager math gurus.
Wilhasha is one of the players who was there in the old pre-math days and yet still has a presence at the top tables. He hasn’t studied any math at all, however. Many other top pros find some of his plays to be terrible. In fact, they don’t find, they know some of his plays are terrible. The maths don’t lie, after all. Yet he still survives in these ultra tough games, despite, as I said, apparently no off table study whatsoever. Not only has he confirmed this himself, but other top pros agree that it must be the case given the way he plays.
Wilhasha is without question an enigma.
Wilhasha has only ever done one interview in his life. He said many interesting and insightful things, but something very simple he said towards the end really caught my attention. He was asked a very generic question along the lines of “What advice would you give to up and coming players trying to break into the top games.”
Now, I’ve seen and read a lot of interviews with poker players where they were all asked that very same question. Answers typically range from anywhere between game specific strategy to bankroll management advice to good game selection. Most players give a small or long list of things to aim for and be aware of. All good stuff.
No such talk from our man Wilhasha. He paused for a few moments and simply said:
“Don’t get too excited when you win and don’t get too disappointed when you lose.”
Seeing as daily swings in the 100’s of thousands are a common occurrence for Wilhasha, I won’t claim to have his level of understanding of the psychology of gambling, but I will confirm for you, that this is without question the best advice you will ever get if you want to back horses or take part in any form of gambling.
Don’t get too excited when you win and don’t get too disappointed when you lose.
You can have all the stats in the World, you can know the odds and the form book, the speed figures and the handicap ratings, the trainer form and the bloodlines, the jockey form and going conditions, track bias, pace bias, bounce factor, staking plans and horses for courses etc but none of it will save you if you can’t control your emotions. If backing a winner gives you an inflated opinion of yourself and the World around you, then you will be too confident and cease to think with clarity. The same goes for steaming too much after a loss. For sure analyse it and work out what you might have done wrong, but don’t carry it around inside you with a woe is me attitude. You have to brush it off. You have to be cold in your analysis and not allow your emotions to bring you up or down. This is a tough game. There will be swings. Good days and bad days. Winning months and losing months, but through it all you must maintain your equilibrium. Through it all you must stand firm.
There are many other aspects to discuss regarding the psychology of gambling and I will deal with these regularly in this column.
However, I will leave it at that for now.
Meanwhile, don’t ever forget: “Don’t get too excited when you win and don’t get too disappointed when you lose.”