Monday, August 14, 2006

Bloom's Taxonomy and Poker

Has my game improved?

I was thinking about this question as I agonized through a particularly tough sermon at church yesterday morning. The sermon was tough because I already had discussed it with the pastor so I new what was coming for the most part. Anyway, I came up with a few ideas about my game that I am going to reflect upon in hope of finding the answer.

One idea that I’ve read about is that you have to play 10s of thousands hands before you can start to see improvement in your game. I agree with this whole-heartedly because of the fact that improvement doesn’t happen like the flip of a switch. It is a realization that occurs over time as you experiment with an idea or a style of play that is unnatural for you at that time. As you become comfortable with this new idea, nuances occur and you start the process all over with a new variation of a previous idea. In the end and over time you have the ability to adapt to situations that have occurred in the past and make sound decisions while you play. The anatomy of experience is thus a constantly evolving understanding of the game that allows you to adapt. This is not rocket science but is in fact the way we learn everything in our lives. Some of learn at faster rate then others just like when we were in school. We have A players and we have failing players. The A players have bad tests and the F players have good tests. In the end the As have success and the F struggle with their inept play.

So, like just about everything else, our ability to learn and adapt is the driving force behind our success. This should explain why so many of the great players in the world are college graduates as well as some very successful businessmen. They have gone through the grind of life as a student, learning new things and forging the rest of their lives through study. After time in the working world, or sometimes not, they are drawn to the degenerate challenge of new and constant adaptation of the poker world. Of course, these intellectuals thrive on the challenges placed before them where the want-a-be players shrink at the obstacles that hinder their path. However, is it really intellectuals? Or are they people that have the propensity to be an intellectual?

Many of today’s successful players may not have gone through the learning experiences that many former students went through. Does this mean they are lesser qualified to play the game? They have the same abilities as their well-educated brethren without the time commitments to higher learning. The explanation for this is not hard to decipher. Many brilliant people have forgone the path of higher education. This doesn’t leave them any less intelligent. It only changes the knowledge base they have achieved. In reality, a college degree doesn’t just show all the things that you have learned but in fact shows that you have the ability to learn. A degree doesn’t show that you are more intelligent. It shows that you have a larger base of knowledge to expand upon. In the end, have a master's degree or whatever other intellectual achievement award you have obtained, doesn’t show more intelligence, it show your propensity to learn.

I guess all this can be explained by Bloom’s Taxonomy. In essence, we are all at different levels of learning and thus are chances of success are directly proportionate to the skill level of our opponents. Notice I said chance. It truly is chance in the case of poker because the element of chance is inherent in the game. But what is Bloom’s Taxonomy? It can be categorized as the different levels of learning as it pertains to the human condition.


Knowledge
Understanding
Comprehension
Application
Analysis
Synthesis
Evaluation

Anyway, it shows the different levels of thinking that are needed to become a truly successful poker player. The players we want to play against are the ones with knowledge and understanding of the game while the Evaluators and Synthesizers challenge us to improve our game.

Locking back on my progress as a player, I can see the different levels I’ve gone through as well as the ones I still need to attain. There are times when I have touched the top of the triangle but I have not maintained a residence in this position. I think I’m somewhere around the 4th or 5th level for the most part with forays in both directions. This would put me at a slightly better then average play that can make some money in the end. Of course, this is relative to the level of game I’m playing. As you move up to higher games your position in the triangle changes. Overall, to achieve the highest level in Bloom’s Taxonomy, you must be able to do it at the highest games.

Now that I’m through with my term paper, there are players who can play at the highest levels but don’t have the bankroll to do so. The different levels of thinking help them build their financial backing as the move up in limits over time. I’m working on this as a way to categorize my position within the playing world in order to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself.

This evaluation doesn’t improve me as a player but it gives me the tools for future success. I guess that broad knowledge base I gained while attending college did some good after all.