The Pareto Principle and the Mental Game of Poker

think!I wrote a piece about the Pareto Principle in Poker last year for TitanBet Poker. For those of you that don’t know, it is a popular mathematical theory that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. For example 80% of healthcare budgets are used by 20% of the patients. 80% of crimes are caused by 20% of criminals. The exact numbers don’t have to be 80/20, but the point of the principle is to point out areas where you can make disproportionate increases in productivity.

I identified a ton of poker examples too. For example table position. If you look at Hold’em Manager, chances are that around 80% of your winnings are from the hands where you had position. 80% of your winnings probably came from 20% of the (bad) players. Also if you practice good hand selection, 80% of your winnings probably come from the top 20% of your hands.

These are all in the realm of the mathematical, but the same principle can easily be applied to your mental game too. Again, you are not looking for an exact 80/20 split; you are simply looking for areas where there is a big imbalance between effort and reward.

The 80/20 mental game

focus-ratingsFor example, 80% of your leaks could be caused by 20% of the mental game issues. One of the inevitable problems that came for some readers of The Mental Game of Poker was that we displayed so many mental game issues to fix; some people felt they had to fix everything. Not only is that incredibly overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be so hard. Given that our advice is to get to the root of a mental game issue, we have found that if you can fix the most pertinent root cause, it often fixes a lot of the other issues around it.

You might have a tilt issue, and then during downswings you lose motivation because you hate tilting, then when you are returning after a downswing you are low on confidence worried it may happen again. To some readers this looked like three issues, but potentially it was just the tilt issue, as tilt caused the low motivation, which caused the low confidence. In this instance, fix the tilt issue and you fix all three.

A really easy fix could be that 80% of your focus is being disrupted by 20% of the distractions. What I mean by this is simply that an external distraction could easily be removed to improve your focus by a massive rate. I found my personal productivity skyrocketed when I stopped listening to the radio during work (The music was fine, it was the talking bits in-between). For you it might be turning your phone off, or shutting down Skype. Whatever the issue, often with focus it is simply a case of removing the biggest distractions, rather than trying to become a Buddhist Monk.

80/20 learning

homer-simpson-brain-mriA huge one in my opinion is that 80% of your improvements could come from 20% of your learning. First of all, we all have learning styles that are more beneficial than others. For me I learn faster and harder when I discuss hands with better players than myself, so if I want to make leaps and bounds, I’d be much better off doing more of that than reading books and watching videos. Rather than trying to learn everything, if you know a certain way to learn is stronger for you, simply do more of that.

My final point on learning is straight from Jared, and that is you will probably improve your earn rate quickest by focussing on your biggest leaks. You know what your biggest leaks are, so there is no worry about what to work on. Your biggest leaks are probably costing you the most, so the money saved will be greater than any extra money won working on another part of your game. Plus they hurt the most personally; so working on them will be mentally the most valuable to avoid things like tilt.

Once again, don’t get too bogged down in the numbers side of the Pareto Principle. It is simply a case of looking at what is working, and replicating those results.


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