Volume and variance

Marcus Bateman RSS / Marcus Bateman / 28 October 2008 / Leave a Comment

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These two concepts are very closely linked in poker. As in any area with probability, the larger your sample size, the closer you get to the actual odds, and the smaller the variance from the correct line there is (as a good example of this, a recent survey of the national lotteries past numbers found that even after the thousands of picks so far, there are still numbers which have occurred too much or too little than they should have - even over this length of time there is still variance in this sample.)

When playing live poker, it is quite hard to increase the volume that you play, as the fact that you can only play one table, and that table will be slower than online, means that variance will be very hard on you. This is particularly true if you follow the live tournament circuit, where the fact that you can only play around a hundred tournaments a year will mean that you have to be able to deal with long downswings.

Online this is not the case. Although playing live it might take you a year to play a hundred tournaments, online you can play a hundred tournaments a week if not more. This has massive consequences on the variance of your game - by playing so many games, you can drastically reduce the swings in your game. To put this in perspective, some of the highest volume MTT players hardly ever even have losing months, let alone years - no live tournament pro could ever say this truthfully.

The only problem with this, is that to be able to increase your volume like this, you have to reduce your edge in each tournament you play in, due to the fact that your attention will have to be split between (at least) a few tournaments - although the added tournaments will still produce more profits than if you were just playing one. The variance you will experience over your career is directly related to how many hands you can play on a daily basis. Whether this is through playing for eighteen hours a day, or through playing eighteen tables at once for a few hours (or both if you are a true poker nut), the number of hands you play will decide what kinds of swings you have to deal with.

Always remember that volume will decide your variance - the two concepts are completely interlinked. By trying to develop techniques (such as improving your ability to multi table) that increase your volume, your true ability will quickly become apparent - and your profits will go up accordingly.

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