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What is “Losers’ Consent” and how does it relate to poker?

April 1, 2024

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In the gaming world, particularly peer-to-peer games like poker, losers are often expected to suck up their losses, and they traditionally get little-to-no sympathy.

“Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” – Stu Ungar

How does losing affect you, and how do you deal with it? Taking variance into your stride is necessary to cope with life, even for a poker pro. It is also advisable for a recreational player who is in it for the thrills and spills, expecting to leave their money behind.

Everyone loses sometimes. Even the most successful gamers have short-term losses. They will inevitably lose some individual hands, back-to-back ring game sessions, or whiff a series of tournaments they play.

There is a condition whereby the participants in an election or referendum are expected to abide by the result. It is called Losers’ Consent.

Losers’ Consent is defined as: The willingness of voters on the losing side to accept electoral outcomes – losers’ consent – is essential to democratic legitimacy. 

Source: this journal, and others.

Why does this apply to a game of cards?

Accepting losses gracefully doesn’t make you a lesser player. Only you are able to say for sure what your bottom line is and whether playing the game is a worthwhile venture.

  • Losers’ Consent infers that you are entering into the wager knowing the result will not always be in your favor and you agree to accept the result.
  • It is important to review decisions which may have contributed to losses. Decide which were bad decisions and which were reasonable, given the circumstances.
  • Don’t get into the habit of putting down losses to bad luck or write them off as one offs because of tilt or outside influences like alcohol or the need to leave the game at a certain time.

Poker is results-oriented in terms of cash outcome; it is very difficult to think of any win-win situations where everyone profits.

Be prepared to be on the wrong end of it from time to time.

When you enter a poker game at any level, you have to remember that the outcome will depend partly on skill, over which you have control, but also partly on luck, over which you have less control. When the cards do not fall in your favor, learn all you can from the experience and strive to make the next encounter more likely to be better.

REMEMBER, the flip side to this is being a good winner. Mocking opponents as you stack up your winnings is all too often rewarded by karma circling around to pay a visit later.