Monday, August 20, 2012

Disguising your range

When you play in a poker game with the same group of people, over time you may find yourself not winning as much as you used to. If this downswing lasts for a while, you’ll most likely start looking for the reason why. A powerful piece of advice many experts give is that you need to start doing a better job of “disguising your range.” In the game of poker you are presented with the same situations over and over again. Most people have a certain way they approach these situations, and astute opponents can pick up on this over the course of time. For instance, if every time you had three of a kind you always bet a certain amount, your opponents may eventually realize this and call your bet only when they can beat you and fold every time they can’t – which would drastically affect your success in the game.

So that’s where the “disguising your range” advice comes into play. It’s basically a fancy way of saying “mix it up.” Next time you have three of a kind, bet less or more and make the same bet sometimes as a total bluff. You will then confuse your opponents, and suddenly, instead of playing optimally against you, they start making mistakes which will allow you to be successful again.

What I have learned as Elliot gets older (and more astute) is that I need to start disguising my range when I deal with him. I have written before about how reliant my wife and I are on our routines. We have so much to do each day to get him ready and make it work that we thrive on routine. This worked exceptionally well for the first 16 months of his life, but now he has figured out what we are doing and launched the optimal strategy against it.

For instance, we have always given Elliot his bath right before bed, it’s a good way to wind him down and get him into sleep mode. Unfortunately, this has become too predictable, and as soon as he hears the word bath he goes and hides! He knows what follows the bath. So a couple of weeks ago, I started randomly mixing in an early bath for a few days a week and bringing him back downstairs to play. I have mixed up my playbook, and now he doesn’t know what to expect, so he is compliant again.

The success of this strategy caused me to make a quick list of other things I plan to switch up next week:

1. My truck – whenever he is in my truck, we always go to day care, so on the rare occasion we are going somewhere on the weekend, he cries whenever he gets in it. I plan to take him a few “fun” places in my truck soon.

2. His shoes – we put them on only when we are leaving, so depending on his mood, the shoes are always met with a strong reaction. Next week I am going to let him run around the house with his shoes on just so he knows that there is not too much meaning attached to them.

3. Cups – Elliot is still developing a taste for milk, so to trick him when he was younger, we would put his milk in an opaque cup. This week I was trying to give him water on a hot day out of the same cup, and he refused to drink for fear I was again trying to sneak him some unwanted milk. So now we are going to starting using all our cups for all beverages, completely random.

4. Hair washing – Elliot hates to have water poured on his head during his bath. When I turn the faucet on at the end of bath time to get clean water, he now tries to jump out of the tub to avoid it! I plan to start mixing it up by turning the water on at different intervals during the bath.

So will these changes be successful?

Who knows?

Am I crazy for applying game theory to parenting?


Did I just give my son his nightly bath at 4:00, just to mix things up?


Jordan Echols is a Marketing Manager at Texas Health Resources and Dad.

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