On Science and Poker (unpaid advertisement cuz I mean it)

When I was growing up, calling something “unscientific” was a curse–I can still hear the contempt in father’s voice when he pronounced that word.  That is part of why I’ve developed such a fascination for science in unlikely places; for example, the science of football, or writing, or poker.  Yes, there are elements of poker that are subject to scientific analysis.  Some are obvious: You’re holding the AhKh, and there are two hearts on the flop, the odds of hitting that flush on 4th street are subject to calculation (37-9, or about 4:1, if you’re curious).  Others are surprising, such as Mike Caro’s discovery of the science of tells–how to learn what your opponent is thinking by the gestures he makes.

I recently read No Limits by Chris “Fox” Wallace and Adam Stemple, on no-limit Texas hold’em cash games, where a whole different area of poker was subjected to scientific analysis: putting your opponent on a hand.  That is, how do you decide, based on the information available, if the guy in the hand with you is drawing to a flush, has flopped a set, or is in on middle pair?

There is a lot more to the book than that–their approach to starting hand selection is clear and precise and makes sense. The section on bankroll management stands out as especially needed.  But showing you how to go through the process of putting your opponent(s) on a hand makes this book really stand out.  I should say, for the record, that Chris and Adam are both friends of mine, and have given me poker lessons.  The poker lessons have made me a lot of money.  The book figures to make me even more.

The book can be found here: http://www.nolimitsbook.com/

If you like poker, and want to win at it, get the book.  But then don’t play against me.

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0 thoughts on “On Science and Poker (unpaid advertisement cuz I mean it)”

  1. Putting someone on a hand – and, more generally, reading opponents – is probably the single biggest thing I need to work on, to go from being a “decent” poker player to a “good” one. Thanks for the rec!

  2. I didn’t order this, and I won’t read it. Nope. Not me. Especially not if there’s a section on bluffing.

  3. Thanks for the kind words Steve, and thanks again for the help on my writing over the last few years. You and Adam turned me into a writer. I will never forgive either of you for it.

  4. You’re welcome, Fox. You and Adam turned me into a poker player. My opponents will never forgive either you.

  5. “Some are obvious: You’re holding the AhKh, and there are two hearts on the flop, the odds of hitting that flush on 4th street are subject to calculation (37-9, or about 4:1, if you’re curious). ”

    I think your math is a little off there. If you’re calculating the odds of success, it’s 9/47 = 19.1% probability of getting a Heart on the Turn. If you’re comparing unsuccessful draws vs. successful, it’s 38:9, not 37:9. You only know 5 cards, so unsuccessful + successful = 47.

  6. I’ll have to read that book but in my experience there is no real way to put someone on a hand with any level of confidence that even remotely meets a statistical (read ‘scientific’) standard. That does not say that the book is without value, but I would argue against the notion of guess work becoming science. I don’t miss the implication that the guess isn’t the science but rather the method for the guess is. And, I will take every extra 0.x gain in a given probability function I can get and so, for that, the book will be a must read for me.

    PS> I found my name but I am still looking for my face. I sure hope it didn’t go out with the trash ….

    PPS> An excellent explanation of the math behind the Risk of Ruin (RoR) theorem can be found in The Mathematics of Poker (I forgot the author’s name). WARNING: Some Calculus is required (which is annoying, I know).

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