Sturgeon's Law, applied

Ninety percent of everything is crap. That's Sturgeon's Law - Sturgeon being Theodore Sturgeon, a science fiction writer whose greatest achievement may lie in proving that Sturgeon's Law applies just as firmly to Sturgeon as it does to everything else. (Though he did provide nigh-seminal Midwestern sludge band Killdozer with a fine name.) That's ninety percent of everything, mind you. Ninety percent of what's on TV. Ninety percent of the work done in the halls of power. Ninety percent of the times you've had sex - let's be honest, now - have been utter crap, compared to the other ten percent, when you were just afire. Odds are, you are really not that great at ninety percent of the stuff you do. I shudder at the potential horrors of what goes on in an Olympic-level athlete's ninety percent, because those crazy legs have to be paid for somehow. I'm a writer. Ninety percent of what I write is crap. And I get paid for it, somewhere between a pittance and a handsome sum, and I know it's crap and the people paying me to do it know it's crap. The best way to deal with Sturgeon's Law is to accept it. Find your ten percent and go with it. I am a semi-decent home chef, but ninety percent of the recipes I come up with are going to be unpalatable. I am never going to run, let alone place, in the Boston Marathon. (And here a chorus of joy from all the parts of me ostensibly protected by my tiny, misshapen patellae.) Hell, I'm too lazy to run downstairs to program the TiVo sometimes, now that I can schedule things from the web. This isn't to say you shouldn't follow your dreams, but this isn't a post meant necessarily for inspiration, either. This is food for thought. Sturgeon's Law applies to poker more directly than you might think, you see. Ninety percent of everything is crap. Ninety percent of the hands you are dealt? Crap, whether you know it or not. This makes poker seem like a losing proposition until you realize that it's just as true for everyone else at the table. And, what's more, poker affords us the opportunity to lie. Statistically speaking, only one person at the table has a hand that's not crap. If it's not you, your job to figure out who it is and see if there's a way to take their money anyway. Yesterday I played in my first WPBT event, and I played pretty much according to Sturgeon's Law, and I played miserably. By 'miserably' I mean I didn't really play at all, since I made a decision early on not to embarrass myself by playing KJo and A8o against raises. Here's how well that works: --------------------------------------------------------------- You finished in 20th place (eliminated at hand #1162435363). 170 hands played and saw flop: - 1 times out of 20 while in small blind (5%) - 4 times out of 20 while in big blind (20%) - 6 times out of 130 in other positions (4%) - a total of 11 times out of 170 (6%) Pots won at showdown - 5 out of 6 (83%) Pots won without showdown - 10 --------------------------------------------------------------- Eighteen places paid, natch. About ten percent, that being the ten percent that weren't crap. So I was in the ninety percent; I was crap. One off the bubble, still crap. No, really. I played supertight. I played so tight that even limping UTG I'd clear out the field. I played so tight that - and I am not making this up - I had AA in the big blind, TWICE, and the entire table folded around to me. I played so tight that when I caught a set of aces on the flop and checked behind, I couldn't even get a measily little min-bet action on the turn. The only semi-solid move I made the entire time was calling an all-in with Q4s - which I had to since the blinds practically committed me at that point. (The pusher had J2o in early position, which may have made me look like a genius. It wasn't anything more than simple math.) There is a point to all this ninety percent crap. (This, right here, may be the ten percent of this post that isn't crap.) Over the long haul, you get ten percent good hands, I get ten percent good hands, everybody gets ten percent. But it's not the ten percent that makes us our money. It's what we do with our allotted ninety percent of crap that allows us to make use of the other ten. Those of you who make use of PokerTracker know exactly what to do when someone with a VP$IP around 10% raises in front of you: you get out of the way and hope some sucker behind you calls, flops a raggedy two pair and puts him on tilt. If you play strictly according to Sturgeon's Law, you are only going to get action from the worst players. You can't play every hand, but sometimes you are going to be dealt crap and just have to find a way to win with it. Hence, the Hammer. This isn't the poker wisdom of the champions or anything. Most of you who've read this far know everything I've said (and a lot more). For those of you looking for someone to blame, thank Otis, whose offhand comment inspired this post, and this guy, who provided me with some food for thought by behaving like a betmonkey on uppers. Yes, he's a bastard, but he had a chance to win the tourney, and I never did. Up next: a proper tournament report. Thrill to the excitement of reading my blow-by-blow account of folding 153 times!


Blogger Dr. Pauly said...

Great post. I love the theory. Way before I heard about this guy's theory, I always figured 10% of what write has some meaning. Everything else is noise. But I hoped that over the years the ercentages would increase. I think I'm 11% these days.

2/07/2005 06:33:00 PM  

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