With the decision to use poker as the test vehicle, it was time to get on with it.
The plan was simple.
I'd learn the basic maneuvers and play in a few on-line play money games. If I did okay, that would validate the learning techniques and the game development could move forward.
The poker books said that you had to know the starting hands. That became my goal. Memorize the hundred or so combinations, play, and move on.
To help with the memorization, the hands were in matrix formats with nice neat row and columns. It was all very well organized and understandable.
The initial study took a couple of days. I studied for thirty minutes and recited the material, just like the learning books suggested. I worked up a set of flash cards for repetition. Two days later, I had the starting hand charts memorized.
The flash cards were a test of sorts, but I wanted something more like a final exam, a final validating stamp on the learning techniques.
I figured that writing out the hand values in full row and column format would be a reasonable test. The charts included over a hundred variations with additional options for suited and raised hands. If I could recite that information, that would represent a high grade.
Let's just say the results were impressive. I wrote out the full matrix as fast as my hand could write, with no errors. The chart was 100% correct.
Now I could shift to the software side with confidence in the standard repetition-based learning method.
In keeping with the plan, one more test was required. I needed to use the information in a real-time performance situation. In this case, it meant playing poker against a few on-line opponents.
I dialed up the Internet and found an open poker table. The game was free, so there was no pressure about the money. The game looked pretty fast, but I could recite the hands fast too.
I was ready. Here came my starting hand.
Looking at the cards dealt to me, I froze. I couldn't recall the response for that hand. Eventually, I looked at a chart and came up with a reply.
With practice, I could muddle through, but something was not right. Each time I tried to recall the response for a starting hand, it was as if I entered a cloud.
How could this be? I could write out the values as fast as my hand could move.
With more practice, I played somewhat better. Something was still wrong, and this certainly didn't validate the cutting edge learning system for the game software.
What was wrong?
When writing out the values, I had clear, quick recall. So, there was reasonable evidence that I had memorized the information.
Yet when attempting to use individual pieces of that data in an active decision, my recall reaction was slow. It was a struggle to find the memory clip and then put it into context. The result was slow and draining not a response that validated the learning technique.
Undaunted, I figured it might be the data. Other poker books had different figures and some added a color-coding. I memorized one of those charts.
Results were the same. Good paper recitation, and poor game time reactions.
A Classic Educational Problem
Looking at the dilemma from the learning side, I realized it was a classic educational problem. It was the old conflict between those with classroom credentials and who were incompetent in the world.
Educated and incompetent...wow! I had stumbled into an energy packed issue. To shed light on this dilemma would shake up the educational world.
Energized, I hit the poker books. Armed with more variations on the starting hands information, I memorize the material again, and again. Same results. Five books, five experts, five times.
My mind was frying. Relearning the same information with slight variations meant erasing the old data each time. Once was acceptable; five times was pushing me over the edge.
Here I was on the verge of an educational breakthrough, and I was stuck. Deep, dark, stuck.
I refused to memorize the information again.
If it wasn't the content, what was the problem? The organization looked good. The rows and columns were clear. Was there another format, another pattern that might make a difference?
I was not that enthused about another pattern. The rows and columns were about as clear as you could get.
Maybe the key factor wasn't about clarity. Being clear seemed logical, but it wasn't working. Another pattern might be more relevant. Maybe the problem was connected to the decisions themselves.
Hmm...I was on to something.
I sketched out the decision sequence.
These decision points were addressed by the matrix formats on the old charts, but the information was imbedded within the rows and columns. The pattern was content oriented. Since that wasn't working, a decision-oriented format might be better.
For each decision, I wrote out the values. Instead of one chart, I now had five.
Not So Pretty
Flipping through the new charts was cumbersome. This didn't seem helpful. I had created more forms of the same data. It looked like clutter.
I spread them out on the table, in roughly the order of the poker deal. The new pattern was definitely decision-based.
The arrangement sure looked logical. With a fresh enthusiasm I memorized the new charts and looked for a live table to test it out.
The results were a shock. I had perfect recall, no strain, and instant responses. I didn't need to remember I just knew the answers.
What happened? What were the underlying factors?
It took a while to untangle the issues. Let's looks at the results.
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