Decision-Making and Reported Thought Processes Among Expert, Intermediate, and Novice Poker Players
St. Germain, Joseph (author)
Tenenbaum, Gershon (professor directing dissertation)
Mondello, Michael (university representative)
Eklund, Robert (committee member)
Eccles, David (committee member)
Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems (degree granting department)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
The experimental design utilized in this study tested the decision-making and reported cue utilization among poker players. Forty-five participants, 15 in each group, comprised expert, intermediate, and novice poker players. Subjects completed the Computer Poker Simulation Task (CPST), comprised of 60 hands of the No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em. During the CPST, participants engaged in a think-aloud protocol in which they literally "thought out loud" throughout the hand. The 60 hands were broken into six separate conditions, two time conditions nested within three style conditions. All hole cards for the participant and computer players, and all community cards, i.e. the flop, turn, and river, were identical across players. The DM performance measures of Expected Value (EV) and profit were subjected to Repeated Measures ANOVAs (RM-ANOVA). The think-aloud protocol was coded to determine if there were skill-level differences in reported cue utilization, using chi square analysis. RM-ANOVAs revealed several significant (p Experts displayed higher EV scores than novices at all stages of play. In addition, expert players outperformed intermediate players at the pre-flop and flop stages. Also, intermediate player's EV scores were higher than novice player's EV scores on the turn. Intermediates scores were higher than novices on the river, but this difference was not significant. All skill-level groups displayed higher EV and profit scores in the timed condition. Novices displayed a large difference in EV scores between the non-timed and timed conditions, while expert and intermediate players displayed only small differences. Experts and novices exhibited large differences in profit scores between the timed and non-timed conditions, with novices displaying the greatest difference. Intermediates displayed moderate differences in profit scores, but these differences were modest in comparison to novices and experts. In the non-timed condition, expert players displayed higher EV scores than novice players at all stages of play, other than the flop. Intermediate players' EV scores were higher than novice players' EV scores on the turn and river. In the timed condition, expert players outperformed novice players in EV scores on the pre-flop, flop, and turn stages. Expert players also displayed higher EV scores than intermediate players on the pre-flop and flop stages. To examine differences in EV scores between the time and non-timed conditions for each skill group by stage of play, effect sizes were calculated. Experts displayed larger EV scores in the timed condition in the flop and turn stages but performed better on the river stage in the non-timed condition. Intermediates displayed higher EV scores in the flop and turn stages in the timed condition. In the turn and river stages, novices displayed a large difference in EV scores between the timed and non-timed conditions, in favor of the timed condition. Considering the think-aloud protocol, expert players reported processing more thoughts than intermediate players, who reported processing more thoughts than novice players. The majority of reported thoughts processed by expert players were of the "Opponent Behavior" and "Advanced Poker Considerations" nature. Intermediate players reported focusing the majority of their attention on three categories: "Opponent Behaviors", "Basic Poker Considerations", and "Advanced Poker Considerations". The majority of reported thoughts processed by novice players were from the "Basic Poker Considerations" and "Other" categories. Overall, expert and intermediate poker players outperformed novice players in DM performance. This difference was largest at later stages of the hand. This can be attributed to greater attendance to the most relevant stimuli, which has the best chance of triggering a correct response (Alain, 1991), and enables prediction of later events allowing subsequent behavior to be planned (Eccles et al., 2002). Experienced players outperformed novices in all styles conditions, which infers that the ability of experts to make better decisions is useful against any opponent style. In the timed condition, contrary to research in other areas, the novices displayed the greatest increase in DM performance. Experts have been found to activate higher-level complex strategies when they had to plan several actions (Poplu et al., 2003). In the non-timed condition, experts and intermediates were given the time required to engage in more complex DM strategies and evaluative DM processes. However, in the timed condition, the initial heuristically-based decisions may have been distorted, and due to time constraints evaluative processes could not occur.
Decision-making, Think-aloud Protocol, Gambling, Thought Processes, Poker
November 4, 2009.
A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
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