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Outliers Pt 3, Stereotypes are True!

First of all, thank you for your patience with HighOnPoker. I've been playing a decent amount online, as of late, and even cashed in the Riverchasers tourney on Monday and bubbled the Skillz event on Tuesday. Not too shabby. Otherwise, I've been working hard and this blog has taken the hit. That said, let's fire this baby up and hopefully get this BBQ started again.

This will be my final look at the Malcolm Gladwell book, Outliers, but I highly recommend that you take a jaunt to the old local book shoppe or local Amazon websitte and order yourself some of Gladwell's books. Personally, I would start with his second book, Blink, then his first book, The Tipping Point, before picking up Outliers. All of his books, though, are interesting, and his writing style makes for a quick read.

When last I left you, I delved into the triumverate of a good gig, Autonomy, Complexity and a Connection between Effort and Reward. This time, we turn to a chapter titled The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes, in which Gladwell examines why Korean airlines crashed so often in the 1990s. The final determination was simply this: culturally, Koreans had a high Power Distance Index, meaning that those in power were given greater regard by those beneath them. The result was that the co-pilot and other personnel in the planes were literally too timid to tell their pilots or air traffic control towers that something was wrong. Instead of saying, "According to the weather radar, we are in trouble," the Korean co-pilots would say things like, "The weather radar has helped us a lot." Yeah, I know, retarded.

The next chapter discusses some other cultural distinctions that developed over time. The advent of agriculture is the touchstone to any emerging culture, but the type of agriculture resulted in a very different work ethic between Eastern and Western cultures.

The types of crops grown in feudal Europe were largely the type of crops that needed irregular care. There was a season for planting, then growing, then harvesting, and then rest. In fact, the land had to be rested (usually rotated among parcels of land) and there were times when there was little to do on a daily basis for the farmers. The fuedal system also required that a certain amount of the crops be given to the fuedal lords, thus cutting into the impetus for a given farmer to work extra hard.

In contrast, the Eastern cultures had a rice-based agriculture system. Unlike Western farms, rice paddies are very small areas and the rice crop needs to be tended to constantly to adjust water levels, and other things that frankly are beyond me. Regardless, the crops required extensive daily care, and the space was limited (something about the way the crops are grown, I think). But a crop's yield would be greater depending on how much care the farmer gave his crops. Since rice farming is so difficult the landlord system in these Eastern areas was essentially a flat rent. So, if the farmer worked extra hard, they got the benefit of their hard work. And from this dynamic, a different work ethic was formed. Whereas in Europe, to this day, there is a culture that demands extensive vacations, limited hours, etc., the Eastern cultures tend to value hard work, long hours, etc.

In other words, Gladwell is racist! Or, at least he unintentionally is arguing that stereotypes may be true in certain regards.

But how does this relate to poker? Simple. Poker in its live form is largely about learning your opponents' tendencies, and the first step is to assess your opponent by appearance. If you understand some of the culture personality traits, you naturally have a good starting point. It may not be true from everyone of a nationality, but its true enough for a majority.

Take, for instance, Vietnamese. Vietnam has about 86M people. Asia has about 3.9B. Yet, an odd amount of Asian poker players are Vietnamese. For instance, (in alphabetical order) Chau Giang, Nam Le, Tuan Le, Liz Lieu, Minh Ly, Tony Ma, all the Nguyens (Danny, Men, Mihn, Scotty), the Phams (David, John), a whole slew of Trans (JC, Mimi, etc.), and a Vinny Vihn for good luck. Why are so many professional poker players from Vietnam?

I won't give a 100% answer, because I don't know the answer. But I will share this: gambling is a part of Vietnamese culture. During Vietnamese New Year, gambling is encouraged as an omen to how lucky your year will be. It is even encouraged amongst children. Add to that, the fact that those who took the chance to leave Vietnam for the US are probably the most adventurous (or hard working) of the Vietnamese, and you have a recipe for an elite Vietnamese gambling community in the US.

That's just one example, but there are plenty of others. Like, for instance, the old folks who are still getting over the Great Depression are tighter. Young kids still living off of mommy's teet while in college have no responsibility in their lives and thus play like their money means nothing. Etc., etc.

The point is merely this: stereotypes and cultural distinctions are often real. You can choose to be PC and ignore them or you can choose to be careful and ignore reads based on appearances, but ultimately, the reality is that often there are cultural differences and stereotypes that should be exploited at the table.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:39 AM,


At 5:15 PM, Anonymous KenP said...

What you seem to be saying is that the nature:nurture argument is racist. Bit of a stretch, isn't it? After all, your last post about Jewish city-bred superiority uses that as it argument.

At 5:22 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Nah, Kenny, you get the wrong idea. I'm just poking fun at the idea (in both posts) that basing an assumption on race or religion or whatever is a bad thing, i.e., rascist. I'm not lambasting anyone for being "rascist" as I use it in this post, I'm encouraging it, and let's be real, as much of a tool that I may be, I am not legitimately trying to argue pro-racism. Rather, I'm just saying that some stereotypes are true.

And that pro-Jew shtick, well, it's shtick.

Do I have to explain and defend everything Ken? Good grief!

At 5:22 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Oh, but for what its worth, I love getting your comments, Ken.

At 5:56 PM, Blogger BWoP said...

Don't some Asian cultures believe (to a fair degree) in luck?

Maybe that's why they bet those flush draws so heavily. Especially crubs.

(Word verification: laseist. Say it out loud with an Asian accent . . .)

At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'But how does this relate to poker?'

The next time you're playing poker, and you...

Flop top 2-pair against a nut flush draw (a 70-30 prop)... and your opponent comes from a culture where 'gambling is encouraged', regardless of what you bet, you'll LIKELY get called, anyways - and you should act accordingly.

If you're playing big-bet poker with deep stacks, jam it, and remind your opponent that he's running good, and he'll likely hit.

Go big or go home! :-)


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