BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS, POLITICS, AND POKER

Careful Analysis Reveals Surprising Realities in Human Behavior

Money makes the world go around – that aphorism has stood the test of time, and for good reason. Those that don’t have it want it, and those that have it want much more of it. This perpetual cycle fuels an insatiable appetite for wanderlust, opulence, and entertainment. We are all inherently drawn to this precious resource, and we’re willing to do pretty much anything within our moral and ethical parameters to get it. This brings us to an interesting correlation – that between poker, economics, and politics.

Since everybody in these ‘sectors’ is seeking to maximize personal standing for personal benefit, it all boils down to how we behave to get what we want. In this case, it’s money. Politicians will use fear and loathing to make lofty promises to the disillusioned electorate. Once elected, these officials hardly ever fulfill their mandate. Successful politicians – the purported career politicians – utilize their charm and savvy to sweettalk their base to get them where they need to be. It is the psychology of the politician that resonates with the hopes of the voters.

You Rub My Back, I’ll Rub Yours

If we extrapolate this to economics, it’s much the same thing. Demand and supply form the bedrock of all economic activity. 1% of the people control an extraordinary amount of the world’s resources. Therefore, when we tout the economic imbalances in society we can attribute the Gini coefficient to factors such as taxation, loopholes, lobbyists, and special interests. We use psychology to make the case that the imbalance is the result of people with too much power doing favors for their friends in high places. The trickle-down effect in economic circles hardly ever reaches Main Street.

Politicians and their smarmy backdoor deals tend to grease the wheels of their donors by providing a more conducive environment for them. Of course, it is hardly ever a blatant political act – it’s subtle. Politicians will bench items that tend to rub their donors the wrong way. They may not approve certain measures, calling for additional studies and amendments. This is stonewalling, and it’s done all the time. Inaction is in itself a decision that has far-reaching consequences. When politics and economics are discussed, the correlation is blatant.

The psychology we use to understand our own behavior is often flawed. We tend to extrapolate our inner fears and perceptions to the real world by way of distorted thinking. A polished poker player may not look kindly on a scruffy poker player who has a blatant disregard for etiquette. Does this mean that the aforesaid player is less likely to succeed at his or her craft? Our psychology creates distortions in our thinking that affects our actions. We have all been told never to judge a book by its cover, and yet so many of us only look at the cover.

We Cannot Control the Cards That Other Players Have Been Dealt

What we project often reflects back on us. The worst poker players may have been the best poker players were it not for their inability to objectively evaluate the situation. Other players cannot be assumed to be good or bad based on appearance, play or demeanor. More often than not, the best poker players have outplayed their opponents by creating the illusion that they are what they are not. This paradox is precisely what we see reflected by our politicians, and in the economy itself. The clarity that we seek at the poker table hardly ever exists. Instead it’s a dance with the devil, where we are our own worst enemy.

In the game of life, we want things to fit our narrative. We want to understand the world around us, and the players in it as we perceive everything. Therefore, we manufacture a narrative that determines where we will be positioned in life. If we choose the high road and accept our strengths and weaknesses, we will invariably be at ease with the way we conduct our lives. If we delude ourselves one way or the other, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.

Successful poker players understand their innate abilities and attribute the outcomes of their decision-making processes to whatever it is that got them there. One can never discount the importance of good fortune or bad fortune on any outcomes in life. We do not control the cards that others are dealt, or how they play them. We control our own emotions and how we use psychology and action to get us where we need to go.


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