Friday, April 3, 2015

Cause, Effect, or just plain Superstition?

I'm not a superstitious person.  I don't believe in rushes.  I personally have no doubt that the card distribution is as random as possible and, therefore, the cards that came last hand or in the last hour either to me or to the board have absolutely nothing to do with what is coming next.

Just because I'm not superstitious that doesn't mean that I'm blind to the fact that some of my opponents are superstitious.  For instance, I take into account that other people believe in rushes.....both their own and mine.....and sometimes adjust my play accordingly.

Throughout history superstitions have been borne out of a failure to understand cause and effect.  Did the solar eclipse really cause the crops to fail that year?  Said another way, did the solar eclipse CAUSE the EFFECT of crop failure?  Was the "Sun God" really hiding his face out of shame for whatever happened to be going on at that time?  Said another way, did the shameful actions of mere mortals CAUSE the EFFECT of the solar eclipse?  We, of course, now know better but whole civilizations altered their lives based on some of these superstitions.

Sometimes we confuse cause and effect with superstition.

At other times we confuse the cause with the effect.  This all too common phenomenon reveals itself often in the evaluation of statistics.  Statistic:  Poor families have a higher divorce rate.  Cause/effect or effect/cause?  Statistic:  Country music fans are more politically and socially conservative than fans of rap.  Cause/effect or effect/cause?  Statistic:  Unemployed people generally have lower self-esteem than gainfully employed people.  Cause/effect or effect/cause?

Sometimes we are certain of the effect but the cause is up for discussion.  There are unlimited examples of this.  A quick one:  Sports cars are involved in higher rates of high speed accidents.  Is that because sports cars run faster or because younger and more aggressive people tend to own and drive sports cars?  Here we know the effect but which is the cause?

I have been keeping records of my poker playing exploits for quite a number of years now.  I just yesterday noticed a trend.  I won't tell you what trend I've identified because I don't want you to alter your play against me as a result.  The trend exhibits itself in every year I have recorded with only one exception.  Is this a statistical anomaly?  Would altering my play be tantamount to being superstitious?  The old saying is that "statistics don't lie" but another famous quote is "There are lies, damned lies and statistics".  How much creed should I put into this definite trend?  Should I alter my play as a result of this revelation or not?  I am not entirely sure of the answers but have learned one thing from this exercise:   Keeping records is a valuable tool in determining trends and the more data points the better.

Maybe solar eclipses really DO cause crop failures after all!!

See you at the tables.