Don’t be a ‘Soldier’ who tries to defend your beliefs, be a ‘Scout’ who tries to learn when something challenges them.

One of the real gifts poker has given me is that it has been a great jumping off point to learn things from other disciplines like economics, AI, psychology and Game Theory. So here is a series of articles where I bring some of the most interesting things I have learned from other subjects outside of poker which are applicable in this game we know and love.

Julia Galef coined the terms Scout and Soldier Mindsets. A ‘Solider’ is somebody who defends existing beliefs and, thus, will shoot down conflicting information. They see people presenting different information as the enemy and are guilty of motivated reasoning. A ‘Scout’ is somebody who is curious, likes to learn new things and solving puzzles. When a Scout is presented with conflicting information they want to learn more rather than dismiss it. 

The Solider Mindset is rife on social media, particularly where politics is concerned. It is also rife in poker. When somebody loses a hand the default is to replay it with themselves as the Hero and the opponent as the one who made an error. 

We are all guilty of this, but we should all strive to be more like Scouts. 

Avoid motivated reasoning

I am lucky enough to have interviewed, working with and been friends with some of the best players in the world. The vast majority of them have a Scout Mindset, somebody like Phil Hellmuth really is the exception here. When something doesn’t go their way they tend to be as much curious as they are frustrated by why they lost at the tables. 

I think Daniel Negreanu is a great example of the Scout Mindset, while he is certainly guilty of motivated reasoning in other areas of life (try arguing with him on Twitter) he really has checked his ego at the door when it comes to GTO. He accepts that there are modern players currently better than him and these days comes across as a fascinated student of GTO. I suspect he will have some good years ahead of him at the tables for this reason. 

I’m not sure you will ever see me complement my own game on this site again, but I personally think I have something close to a Scout Mindset where poker is concerned. It has served me well in my books and creating content for this site, knowing what I don’t know means I can identify where our customers might also have blindspots. A good example is this recent video I did with the Chip Race guys. I made the final table of a big MTT but the hands I picked for the video were all the ones I messed up. They made fun of me quite a bit, but it was a much better way to learn than patting myself on the back with the hands I played well. 

Scouts won’t fall out of love with poker

scout
Be a scout, not a solider

It’s really difficult not to have a Scout Mindset in the solver era of poker. Solvers have made even the best players scratch their heads and question if they have been playing incorrectly for years. 

It’s also pretty hard to argue with a solver. They have the word ‘solve’ in them after all and they are essentially supercomputers that run thousands of simulations at lightning speed. 

Finally, just having a Scout Mindset will likely keep your game fresh. Being in the habit of pushing back and resisting whenever you hear something you don’t like is tiring and frustrating. It will make you fall out with poker when you constantly try to argue with it. 

What theories from outside of poker have helped your game? Let us know in the comments.

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