Being At War With Luck

I've alluded to the reasons for the title and theme of this blog quite a bit, but I don't think I've ever explicitly stated the main rationale. Maybe it's obvious to those of you who know me offline, but I'll explain myself to those who don't.

I've always been one those alpha geeks who get overly obsessed with competitive strategy games and so on. Some time in college I discovered blackjack and then poker (thanks C!), from which I have made a nice chunk of change over the years. But sometime before the Moneymaker poker boom took off, I got a real job in finance and missed out on some of that fun (but I plan a comeback -- more later). Applying those same skills that I used in strategy games and poker, I built a business trading futures for institutional clients.

The common skill to all of those things I've been involved with over my life is to recognize and follow the optimum strategy for any given situation. It's a lot easier to do when playing chess, because all the information is right there for you on the board. That's why there's no luck in chess -- just skill. There's a lot of luck in poker, but skill manages luck's impact over the long term. There's just as much luck in trading as in poker and you have to spend lots more time managing the consequences of luck.

Skill is generally in opposition to luck. There are exceptions, such as when a poker player has a small stack of chips and has to shove it in the center and pray to Fortuna. But even that is skillful in that the move is optimum strategy. So being at war with luck is about being as skillful as possible in your actions and being adaptable to the impact of random events.

The way I view it is that you can't control luck -- only Fortuna can. Trying to control Fortuna is delusional and is the opposite of embracing life. What you can control is yourself and the way you handle situations -- whether those situations are a hand of poker, a bad market for trading, or even bad guys stalking you through the parking lot. Skill in anything -- be it chess or football or a musical instrument -- is built on learning from people who know something you don't and practice, practice, practice.

There's a lot more to it than that, but those other tangents go down all kinds of philosophical rabbit holes that I'd rather break down into bite-sized nuggets for blog posting. I'll post more on those as time goes on, but now at least the main point is out here.