Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sociopaths and poker

In the general public's mind the difference between a good sociopath and a bad sociopath is not who they are, but how they channel who they are -- e.g., what they do and accomplish. For instance, what is the difference between the fictional character Dexter and a typical serial killer? Dexter only kills other serial killers, people whom the public would consider "guilty" or "deserving" of dexter's treatment, perhaps in a brutal nod to an ancient eye-for-an-eye mentality, whereas most other serial killers target the "innocent." Even more clear cut than Dexter is when empaths color sociopaths' actions with something like a uniform, a badge, or political authority and reward the sociopath with medals and honors. Some empaths feel that a death is a death, but not the majority of them. High-functioning sociopaths understand these vagaries of the empathic mind and capitalize off of them by using their skills in more socially acceptable ways: politics, theatre, law enforcement... and poker?

The New Yorker published an article recently on the psychology and strategies of poker, "What Would Jesus bet?":
Poker played poorly is purely a gambler's game. Losers tend to think that they didn't get the cards, and not that they were beaten by someone who played better than they did. They return to the table and wait for big hands and lose more. Accomplished players strive to diminish the effects of luck. From the pattern of their opponents' bets and behaviors, they work like detectives to determine their cards. They play opportune hands deceptively, and feckless ones, too, and shed unpromising ones before the cards cause them too much harm. They know that some hands that seem auspicious are not, and that others are stronger than they appear.
As Chris "Jesus" Ferguson says, "you might get lucky and beat me, but you'll never outplay me."

I had recommended that our friend Chris study decisionmaking and game theory, skills that dominate poker strategy:
A player using optimal strategy assumes that his opponents know he is doing so--in other words, that his strategy has been found out. He can announce, for example, that a third of his bets will be bluffs, and then construct the game in such a way that his opponent still can't tell whether it is better to fold or call. If two players have each put fifty dollars into the pot, and the optimal-strategy player is bluffing, and two-thirds of the time he will lose, because the optimal-stratgy player is betting a hand that is strong enough to win. The opponent now has no means of knowing when it is better to call than to fold. This is described as making the opponent "indifferent." He might as well flip a coin. "Now it's a mind game," Ferguson said.
Apart from highlighting how sociopaths might be particularly well-suited to playing poker, I think the connection of game theory to poker strategy is interesting because in game theory, all outcomes for all possible choices are known, but there is still room for gamesmanship. I think this highlights my particular approach to my sociopathy, as illustrated in a favorite quote:
The art of life is to show your hand. There is no diplomacy like candor. You may lose by it now and then, but it will be a loss well gained if you do. Nothing is so boring as having to keep up a deception.
-- E. V. Lucas
And that is why I have the urge to out myself as a sociopath -- nothing is so boring as a deception that you must constantly keep up and from which the game can be played just as well without.


  1. You want to out yourself because you are not as high functioning as you think. You don't know your limitations and think you can outwit the house. Your narcissism comes across pretty clear in what you have written. Psychopathy is synonymous with confidence, not intelligence. Just think of the lesson the show Dexter teaches us, since you are such a fan. Dexter's father always teaches him to stay below the radar. This is smart way to function not only because of the terrible things Dexter does, but also applies to when you are ultimately innocent of something someone is accusing you of. Hypothetical; if one of your friends goes missing, who is going to be to blame? The quiet person who did away with your friend, or the loudmouth who is telling everyone what a super smart psycho he is? Thats an extreme example, but it could easily be applied to loss of money, property or anything else someone wants to accuse the easy out of, aka you. Think about it, or don't.

  2. Actually i have to agree with the above post. The individual has a valid point. Not that i believe that a person should have to fake who they are 24/7, but its better if you try to keep certain things to yourself, (especially because you are a sociopath) only people in my circle know about my personnel illness, and its a very small circle. Therefore there is no need to have to keep up a pretence. Its like my own tiny community. Id be mortified if my whole neighbourhood knew though lol. Not because im ashamed of who i am but because id feel my privacy had been violated, and i really don't want to be known as the neighbourhood nut case. ha ha. Its nice to be invisable. Plus people are so fickle when it comes to "different". The above post with the hypothetical example was indeed right.
    I like this blog because its different from the majority of the other namby pamby forums when its based on..."lets all be super ass kissing to everyone". uurrgghhh!! How exhausting.

  3. i've often thought while reading this blog that sociopaths would make great poker players. someone once told me, "it's okay to live on the fringe, you just have to APPEAR to be normal". i don't consider myself a sociopath, but i am radically different than most people i know. when i play poker my "dark side" comes out. it is one of the few things i can do well that always stimulates me.

  4. It isn't difficult to win or loose when nothing is at stake, but the idea that your tv character is a sociopath, is purely entertainment for your sake, not mine.

    There is nothing Dexter about me.

  5. I'm a man of chance, that's all. I just really enjoy the adrenaline of wagering high on a bluff and I don't think that qualifies me as a sociopath.

    poker tips

  6. I doubt sociopaths would make good poker players. I don't think they could handle the swings of the game. I could be wrong though. Maybe a few could. And they would be great players.

  7. In the general public's mind the difference between a good sociopath and a bad sociopath is not who they are, but how they channel who they are -- e.g., what they do and accomplish. follow them

  8. i have to agree but still in my life as of being younger i have to wonder if outing my self at a younger age would mess with my future in ways i could not predict

  9. These tips are really tremendous. Thank you for sharing with us. I think these tips are really effective for all in real estate dealing. Poker Psychology

  10. Even more clear cut than Dexter is when empaths color sociopaths' actions with something like a uniform, a badge, poker channel

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