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Temporal Discounting

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  • Temporal Discounting

    I have a fascination with how our minds work and occasionally surf for articles on this subject. I recently ran across one on “temporal discounting”, aka time preference. The premise is that we have a tendency to take an immediate reward now versus a higher reward later. The amount of time which must elapse for before the reward determines how much larger the delayed reward must be for acceptance.

    I have noticed this in poker. We will tend to play small edge/small reward pots immediately instead of saving our chips, aka ammunition, for a greater edge/higher reward situation later. It can be hard to remember the poker maxim “Chips not lost are the same as chips won.” Making these decisions with the added time pressure causes some the discount more than others.

    So, how must one adapt to overcome this condition? Unfortunately there is no magic formula for instant success. We must prepare our minds by repeatedly rehearsing beforehand. My way of doing this is during hand analysis where I ask if I assessed the situation properly and acted appropriately. One of the questions to ask in assessing the situation is “Am I giving up a significantly better opportunity later?” Put another way “Is immediate gratification costing me more chips down the road. This is especially relevant to small edge/high risk situations.

    I would like to hear some of your thoughts on this idea, how it affects your play and how do you adjust for it?

    Good decisions, FTW.


  • #2
    thanks joe read this post shortly before a recent success.not saying it s why i did well but it did cross my mind in more than 1 situation umbup:umbup:
    6 Time Bracelet Winner


    • #3
      Interesting topic Joe. And one that see's it's applications reach into more than one aspect of the game I believe. To me,for the strictly hand analysis portion of this subject I really think it falls,as so many things in poker invariably do, into the "it depends" category. Type of game (SNG,ring table,MTT...) can make a big difference into whether pushing more or less in a marginal/close spot is the best option. For instance in MTT/SNG play there are tournament EV and payout structure/ladder climbing considerations that don't exist in rings. To me,and I could be totally wrong-headed in this but I THINK I'm correct (it makes sense to me anyway...),that means that I'm more likely to take the marginal spot on a ring setting if all things are equal as playing even something as narrow as a 51-49% advantage over a large sample will ultimately prove to be profitable (provided the percentage holds true of course...). But even there other variables DO come into play..."Am I a significantly stronger player than my opponent in this spot?";..."Is this player getting way out of line and spewy?;..."Are they on Tilt?;...these and other considerations can easily make it better to pull back,pass on the close spots against this player at this time and wait for when we'll have a much bigger edge. In an SNG/MTT scenario there is always the balance of chip accumulation (to be big stacked for a deep run,optimally to the FT with a real chance at the top 3 where the big money is...) versus survival (since each payout level adds more money to our take than the one we're currently at...). Since payouts in SNG's tend to be a more significant payback on one's initial buy-in at the min-cash/lower payout levels than MTT's,whilst MTT's pay a much bigger payout for deep runs than SNG's the consideration of what reward and when is different in these as well. For myself if I had to honestly appraise my thought process in these scenarios when US players could play here for money,I think I was pretty good at balancing between ladder climbing and pushing hard when it was most optimal in SNG's,but in MTT's I think I was pretty much not making the right decisions enough times. Quite simply I settled for far too many lower payouts instead of pushing thin advantages/flips when I should have. Which also leads to the line of thinking that the more patient/timid approach in an MTT setting is actually the "immediate reward" thought process,since playing more aggressively in MTT's will tend to lead to more widely spaced good results,but the results should be better when they do come. Lastly I think another huge consideration of "immediate gratification" versus the longer view happens BEFORE we ever sit down at a table to play a hand---bankroll decisions. How many times have we seen someone have a good result and immediately turn around and punt most or even all of the bounty for that result with poor bankroll decisions right afterwards? How many times have some of us done this ourselves? And to me it doesn't even have to be money for it to be a less rewarding choice. For example look at our FPP's. When US players could play here the only thing I ever used my FPP's for at first were the 10 and 20 FPP Turbo tourneys. Now these aren't necessarily a bad place to use them per se,but after I became more familiar with other options and took a long hard look at standard satellites,promo satellites and steps options I decided that I was going to sit on my FPP's and build them up to take shots in those games,as the rewards looked much better to me. Alas Black Friday happened and that plan remains on hold. But it is another example of the now thought process competing with the delayed gratification one. I see Wetmoose says that reading your offering helped his thought process in a recent good result. I think for all players,ESPECIALLY less experienced ones,this is a great mind exercise and discipline to start working on for their games. We all won't reach the same conclusions as we all have different goals and expectations. But I think we can all be better off in our own poker journeys simply for making the effort of being honest in our games and how immediate versus delayed rewards plays into that and when. I have a mental "touchstone" of sorts that I use for this type of decision when I feel I may be moving too fast,whether in poker or life in general. Was from when I was just out of school and working in a restaurant as a sous chef. A good friend of mine was also in the industry at a different joint and he and I would occasionally get together with friends and family and do a big communal dinner type of event. Sometimes we would do this at his parents place as it was a big Colonial house on a good sized tract of land and his parents were,to this day,absolutely two of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Anyway the "touchstone" is a sampler that his mom always had hanging on the kitchen wall. It read... "The hurrier I go,the behinder I get." Great topic Joe. umbup:


      • #4
        Thanks Mox & Moose,

        Originally posted by TrumpinJoe View Post
        The premise is that we have a tendency to take an immediate reward now versus a higher reward later. The amount of time which must elapse for before the reward determines how much larger the delayed reward must be for acceptance.
        My words don't truth convey the concept correctly. It's better expressed as one over valuing the immediate while under valuing the future. Someone who consistently plays a tournament to not lose instead of playing to win can be said to overvalue their buy-in and undervalue their cashing expectation.

        Taking a thin edge now instead of a higher one later is but one of a myriad of possible scenarios. For a short stack a thin edge is usually a no-brainer as the odds of surviving until the bigger edge comes along are poor. In Limit HE ring games you should take thin edges more often than in NLHE because the average pot size in much smaller so the better situation later may not enough better.

        On a slightly different topic, I believe "hand analysis" is a vast oversimplification. You must evaluate the entire situation. Those who have been around the game a while understand this, but the frequency that new players post hands with little explanation or set up shows this is an acquired attitude. The good side of that is they have the courage and self knowledge to understand they need help. Those that never ask meaningful questions give their chips to the rest of us, so where would we be without them?

        Good decisions and be sure to evaluate your critical decisions.


        • #5
          Also, we all have biases and we aren't aware of all of them, probably not even most of them. For example, I have a bias against simple solutions so I will examine them relatively more than a more complex solution, in spite of Occam's razor. So I must be careful to give them each due diligence.

          Knowing a weakness, or leak, is the first step in correcting/overcoming it. This is another kind of bias we need to be aware of so we don't fall into it's trap.



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