1) The meaning of luck and bad luck
“A thimbleful of luck is worth more than a bucketful of skill”.
Well, this is one of the most sensitive topics. Dealing with it is really not easy. What do you mean by that? Of course, no problem, everyone knows the terms and uses them. But what is luck, mathematically speaking? What is bad luck? You can also look for a definition of the term. Or you can come up with one yourself. In any case, I won’t tolerate any contradiction that being born is luck. More precisely: to be in the world. And there I am already very phiosophical/religious. I still dare to speak out.
And I can explain it to you even better: I’m sure there are players who have extreme streaks of bad luck. That happens to me too. But if that makes you want to curse everything or calculate the likelihood of such a chain of adverse outcomes coming to pass, then you should always remember: I am alive. Thank you for that. And, if it concerns you (hopefully): I am healthy. Thank you for that too. This is very helpful in getting rid of the negative thoughts. Even if it is playful bad luck.
Now I go back to these terms on the playful related: First of all, it is the case that almost every player is convinced that he is unlucky. An apt comparison might be like this: When you are riding a bicycle and there is a tailwind, you have the feeling that it is going wonderfully easy today, and absolutely no wind at all. But woe betide you if there is a headwind. You feel the headwind twice as strongly. That’s why you always have the feeling of having a headwind. You don’t notice the tailwind. So too with luck and bad luck. You don’t perceive the luck. Everything is wonderful, things are going well. But it is not attributed to luck. Bad luck is felt.
But that’s only the beginning of the explanation. I still occasionally take part in chess tournaments. And between two games, you talk to the other participants. And you always hear similar sentences: “I just lost a game, you can’t imagine that. I was totally on the winning side, he couldn’t move anything. And then…” The wording changes, the content remains. The statement: “I was unlucky.”
The reason for this is even more psychological (and psycho- is also a logic). There are fluctuations in the distribution of chances in every game, in every match (look at the chapter “Game Developments”). Similar to life, these are fluctuations in the probability of occurrence. Each game has its own peculiarities. So there are abrupt changes in the probability of winning, but also steady developments. And what’s more, there is a basic mathematical law for this, which is really so obvious and banal, but which a) will still be of great importance later, and b) to my knowledge has not yet been formulated in this way:
Here is the trivial law:
“An event with a probability of occurrence of x per cent occurs at x per cent. Therefore, for it to occur, one must overcome the remaining 1-x per cent.” We’ll replace x with a number, let’s say 70%: For you to actually win as a 70% favourite, you need luck for the remaining 30%. If you needed less, you would have had more than 70% to win. Please think about this for a moment.
However, from your opponent’s point of view it looks the other way round: He would need 70% luck to still win. So he would need much more luck than you. That’s what footballers(other sportsmen too) often mean and can only express like this: “You need a bit of luck too.” So, no matter how superior you are, the residual probability to be overcome is the “necessary portion of luck”.
But now how does the feeling come about? After all, the fluctuations in the probabilities are what (see also above, “Meaning of Playing” and “Meaning of Sport”) make playing attractive. When you do it yourself, you expose yourself to these fluctuations (including emotional ones). When you’re watching, you can’t help but feel the excitement. How will it turn out? Who will win this pot? The spectator is captivated both when watching a sport and when observing a game, just like poker. And the participant is directly exposed to the fluctuations.
The only difference is that as a participant you always perceive the moment of greatest opportunity. “I was already so close.” So, now expressed in numbers: if in the course of a game you actually end up in the positive zone, in the range of over 50% and even much higher, if you then subsequently do not win this game, this match, this tournament, you perceive it as bad luck. The closer you were to the 100%, the greater you feel it. But you don’t think about reaching that percentage. How did you get into this situation in the first place? Perhaps there was a moment long before when you were as good as lost. Where you were far below 50%, where the opponent was clearly on the winning track. But this moment(s) is (are) suppressed, simply forgotten. What remains in the memory is the moment of the greatest chance.
You always pick the most favourable moment in your memory or in your story. To return to the example of chess, this can be seen quite clearly when one of the unfortunate losers tells you his unlucky story and then his opponent happens to come along and overhears. Then the discussion breaks out. The supposedly lucky winner reminds the loser that before he got into this winning position, he had already been clearly lost and had only regained the advantage because of his own mistake, and so on.
But now comes a very important question: How do you deal with it?
Dealing with luck and bad luck is extremely complex. If you have a long run of good luck, you will always interpret it in such a way that you are entitled to this luck. Because you perceive the phases of bad luck much more intensively. So then the very greatest danger is actually carelessness. Because you have a tailwind overall, you always have the feeling that things will go on like this, continue to be so easy. So it happens to you relatively easily that you also end up on the losing side when you play. You lose discipline. You start making bad bets. And any bet on a supposedly random event is, after all, a bet. The poker player makes a bet with his stake when he goes to the table, the backgammon player makes a bet when he plays a game for money (and backgammon is really boring and not playable without a stake), the casino player too (“I bet, now comes red”; I would have taken black, by the way), the lottery player, everyone makes a bet, the insured too, just to remind you. One has earned a lot of money, won. Now you can play a little roulette, can’t you? Maybe one even wins?
That may all be justifiable, in principle it is always good to know whether one is or was lucky or unlucky. If you have won too much, invest it, save it. Don’t make bad bets with it. The opposite effect then easily occurs. You start losing and try to get back the money you lost through obvious bad luck. You make all the more bad bets. Especially when you are unlucky, the effect is often even worse. Normally, one makes advantage bets, probably also in this phase. But you don’t earn anything with it. On the contrary. One even loses. Then the tendency is to say to oneself: “If I can’t win with an advantage, maybe I can win with a disadvantage”. Or even just this thought: It is irrelevant whether advantage or disadvantage, the advantage has no effect, now we gambled. Now I play something, maybe it will come if I don’t think about advantage or disadvantage.
So, no matter whether you have a lucky or unlucky streak, the danger is always the same: you start playing the wrong side, making bad bets. So my advice is always the same: discipline, always try to look for the right side and play it. And trust in the power of mathematics. In the long run, the good, best possible choice of bets should show up. In your wallet.
The best way to deal with luck and bad luck, by the way, is again purely philosophical for me. And it’s a kind of self-protection, so to speak, or even you inevitably get there when you’re constantly exposed to these fluctuations. I say it every day, think it and feel it like this: thank you that I’m alive. This happiness is above everything.