Correcting Self-Serving Bias

Follow-up to: Self-serving bias in Poker

We’ve noted before how self-serving bias can eat you alive in poker. Now we’re going to discuss how to correct for it. Yes, there’s actually a solution. It was developed by an online poker instructor named JimmyLegs so he deserves the credit.

The ‘JimmyLegs Theorem’ states:

Given that the Self-Serving Bias will cause you to take credit for your successes but blame luck for your failures, you should ALWAYS assume that you made mistakes in the hand, regardless of whether or not you actually won the pot, at least until it can be categorically proven otherwise.

Or, in short:

Whether you won or lost the hand, assume you f***ed it up.

As harsh as it sounds, in poker, this is a critically useful assumption to make. If you constantly keep this mantra in mind when you play, you actually have a chance to learn from your mistakes… instead of avoiding the pain of failure by ignoring them.

The theorem keeps you from blaming all your losses on outside forces like luck:

And it also lets you keeps your wins in perspective as well:

It may sound a little extreme to always be looking for your mistakes like this. But if you don’t do it, your self-serving bias will put your mind on auto-pilot. It will only tell you how awesome you are when you win (even if you got lucky or didn’t play well) and it will only tell you how unlucky you got whenever you lose. Having these one-way reactions to outcomes is the failure-mode that most losing players stay stuck in forever. Don’t stay trapped there yourself!

Stay active in your analysis. Counter the self-serving bias by assuming that you f***ed up every single hand. With practice, this constant introspective stance will allow you to see past your minds excuses for failure. You’ll gain the perspective you need to make timely corrections to your game and continue to grow. As you make these corrections, you’ll gain more and more experience in noticing when your self-serving bias is leading your mind astray. You’ll eventually even be able to correct for it in other situations in life as well.

Images courtesy: John ‘JimmyLegs’ Wray

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