10,000 hours

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Post  pseudoswede on Mon Mar 02, 2009 12:35 pm

I'm currently reading a fascinating book by one of my favorite authors (Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell).

In one of the chapters, he describes the turning point of expertise is usually after 10,000 hours of intense practice. That can be applied towards the obvious like musicians (world-class classical artists to The Beatles*) to the more obscure like computer programming (like Bill Gates and Bill Joy--the guy who essentially developed the modern-day versions of UNIX and Java). Most of the time, these musicians and computer programmers weren't essentially gifted nor had any greater natural abilities compared to their peers. It was essentially "practice, practice, practice."

* - For those not familiar with their history: prior to the release of their hit album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the subsequent "British Invasion", The Beatles spent close to 8000 hours playing in strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany.

To put 10,000 hours into more laymen terms, it means 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for five years.

As I thought more about that, there are some things that it doesn't address. One of them involved poker. You can go to Vegas, heck even Blackhawk, and you can find scores of people who spend almost every waking hour at the poker tables for years on end. Yet, most of those players often just squeak by and grind out a meager living. Very few of those players ever make it big.

So, the question of the day to you...

How many hours do you think you've spent playing poker?

And, of those hours...

- Does simple table/on-line time really count?
- How often do you really analyze the hands or the players?
- Can you do such analysis when you multi-table on-line?
- Does it count when you're just donking around? (At a friend's house or at bar poker?)
- Can you apply hours spent in other disciplines (like chess, backgammon, or Magic: The Gathering) towards poker?
- Do you think indirect, outside influences* affect how one becomes a poker great?

If you look at purely on-line players, many of whom dedicated 12+ hours a day playing, 10,000 hours equates to 12 hours a day, 50 weeks a year, for 2 1/3 years. How many of those players end up being truly successful? I guess "successful" is a very arbitrary term.

* - As noted in the book: with The Beatles, it was a chance meeting between a German strip club owner and a Liverpool concert promoter in Soho (in London) that allowed the band to travel to Germany in the first place. For Bill Gates, it was a series of events starting with the foresight of a mother's club at his middle school that gave the school a computer and money for mainframe time (which was extremely expensive in the 60's) that allowed him virtually unlimited time in front of a computer.

Nonetheless, it's a great book and highly recommended.

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