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It’s Okay to be Wrong

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: May 24, 2017


A few years ago I was playing the $1,500 buy-in stud eight-or-better event at the World Series of Poker. It was early in the series and there was quite a bit going on that day so, understandably, there were some dealers that didn’t know very much about dealing the game. It’s no surprise, many WSOP dealers have never dealt hold’em and that’s a much easier game to deal than stud hi-lo.

Unlike most mixed-game tables, mine was full of lots of people who were happy to help the dealers when they were making mistakes and nobody was losing their patience or getting upset. As an aside, this unfortunately meant that my table wasn’t very good. Anyway, another dealer pushes into our table and he’s struggling from the start. He brought the antes in and started to deal a flop (completely understandable), he misread hands, he didn’t split pots correctly, etc. The biggest difference between him and the previous dealers was that he didn’t take correction well. He was never wrong in his eyes. It was always our fault or the cards fault or whatever he could find to blame it on. He was aggressively bad.

We eventually asked the floor to take him out of the lineup because we heard him doing the same thing at the next table. He suffered from a problem that everyone deals with at some point. He was afraid to be wrong.

He, like many others, thought that being wrong was a moral problem. He’s been taught that it’s bad to be wrong. This happens in all walks of life. Recently, there was a problem on a United Airlines flight that could have been fixed in many ways by someone involved admitting being wrong. We have leaders in our country that feel they’re never wrong, that it’s a sign of weakness.

I’ve definitely had trouble with being wrong in my life. I can be stubborn and dig in when I feel like I’m right. I try my best to listen to evidence-based arguments from the other side of something I think I’m right on. I’m not always great at it.

My wife taught me something useful last year. She told me that when she has a subject that she’s not sure how she feels about or hasn’t really done any research on, she reads about the extremes on either side to set boundaries and then starts reading things more in the middle ground so that she can learn more about the subject and develop her own thoughts on it.

I see many examples of bad practices in being wrong amongst poker players all the time. The one that sticks out in my head right now happened in a no-limit hold’em tournament I just played. Player A raised, the massive chip leader in the tournament three-bet and player A called. The flop was 8Diamond Suit 7Club Suit 3Club Suit and they both checked. The turn was the 9Club Suit, player A checked, the chip leader bet 200,000 and player A went all in for roughly 500,000 more. My read on the situation was that player A was very, very strong. He could have 10-10 through Q-Q, 9-9,8-8,7-7, flushes, and that’s about it. The chip leader saw it differently and after thinking for a bit, called with 7Spade Suit 5Spade Suit getting about 2.2:1. Player A had 8-8 with the 8Club Suit and the river was an offsuit six to bust player A.

Here’s where things got a little weird. Player A’s significant other started berating the chip leader and his friends from the rail. He was massively out of line and couldn’t understand that there could be some good reasons to call in chip leader’s spot. He has no flush or good straight blockers so there could be lots of bluff shoves in players A’s range, he’s getting quite a good price so he doesn’t have to be right that often, and, if behind, he has at least some ways to improve against some of the hands player A could have. Sure, he had a hand that had him in really bad shape, but it wasn’t a given. Player A’s significant other was aggressively wrong and I was very close to getting a floor over to get him taken out of the room.

Like most players who have a problem being wrong, he let the emotions of the situation get in the way of the analysis of the situation. Perhaps the chip leader’s call was bad in this instance, but it doesn’t have to be bad against all players. And if player A and her husband had gotten past the fact that it’s painful to lose, they would have been able to see that losing and being wrong are important to improving as a poker player and as a person.

One of my favorite writers on the internet right now is Shea Serrano. He makes a point to remind his followers on Twitter of this fact in his own special way. He says that no matter how many losses you take, you should always get back in the game and shoot your shot. Nobody knows about taking losses like poker players. It’s so ingrained in the game that I often tell people that I lose for a living. It’s the most important skill we can have. Take a loss in stride. Learn something from it if there’s something to be learned. Be okay with being wrong. And always, always get back to it and shoot your shot. ♠

Gavin GriffinGavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG