Poker like F1 holds no room for errors

12 June 2015

In poker and F1, one thing remains the same, the importance of a great strategy. The slightest mistakes can lead to bankruptcy under the high pressure of the game and having a great plan in place is important said Simon Lazenby.

For a prime position for your yatch at the Monte Carlo Bay during the Grand Prix weekend you can end up paying a six-figure sum. A suite can cost you tens of thousands of Euros if you want it to look over Casino Square and a slimline gin and tonic can cost about 50 Euros. At the Grand Prix people come to watch other people watching the players and the atmosphere is heady with rivers of champagne flowing. Many rub shoulders with the rich and famous and the late spring sunshine of Cote d’Azur holds its own charm. No one said Monaco was cheap but one can still work with a budget and also get all the money spent, if you use the right strategy.

In Formula one, Monaco is like the World series of Poker. The size of the prize and the showpiece in the events make it a much contested series. The stories and legacies of the players in the event are larger than life and there is a respect that is commandeered by both the driver in F1 and the players in World Poker Series.

The biggest headline of the event came last week when Mercedes ousted Lewis Hamilton in Monaco and cost him his victory. This happened due to a strategic error, split-second decision that went wrong in the heat of battle and it is an error that will never be made again. But it is an error that cost a lot to Hamilton and his team and just like the F1, strategy is one of the hardest aspects of poker that must be mastered for a great win. Like with the banks of computers analysing strategy and decision in F1, the brain is the computer at poker.

Hamilton went into the race with a pair of aces in hand and had qualified as the fastest and was ahead of Nico Rosberg who was second and Sebastian Vettel in third position. Let’s take this as a three-handed game with the two men behind him holding suited connectors of high-value with Hamilton having the position on the table. Hamilton’s lead in the race could be compared to a pre-flop raise. Rosberg and Vettel refuse to throw in the towel and call him on the game.

The analogy of the ‘flop’ in the game came through Max Verstappen, a young player who brought out the safety car on hitting the wall. This was the opportunity for the team to bring quick and fresh tyres and the safety car can be equated to a same suit being dropped on the felt increasing the chances of the German drivers following Hamilton. Hamilton still remained in the lead with highest pair, however if Vettel or Rosberg were pitted for fresh tyres they could move ahead. The situation can be likened to having the tables turning against you and the decision under the pressure situation by Mercedes to pit the British driver while in the lead changed things. It was like flat-calling while two others checked the round. Since Hamilton was in the front he could force others to put off their hand or and show who is the boss. He can retain the control over the game with right decisions and slow-playing the aces is a pointless endeavour, the upside to such a choice is minimal.

The sensible decision in any such situation would be to avoid risk, and eliminate any possible risks but desperation can lead people to take the chance. The Monaco track has a reputation as being notoriously difficult to overtake players in, and keeping Lewis out would have been the quivalent of using a big raise. The Hamilton pitstop was the flat call which made him fall behind Rosberg and Vettel who made a flush through their connectors and a straight trumping Hamilton’s top pair advantage. This led to Rosberg winning the equivalent of the World Series bracelet and the third victory in Monaco Grand Prix leading to a hat-trick win.

It remains clear that whether it is the final hand of the last round of poker or the last ten laps of the Grand Prix, strategy and planning is everything. In professional sporting events the slightest mistake can cost you big wins and bankrupt you, or guarantee you a place in the history of the game.



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