Math in Poker

    • Ascension9000
      Ascension9000
      Basic
      Joined: 23.08.2014 Posts: 14
      I'm very new to poker, and I'm sure this question has been asked thousands of times in one form or another, but how important is math in poker? I only ask because I'm considering taking college courses next semester, and I'm thinking I'll be able to refine my skills more with specific subjects.

      Based on my rather primitive understanding of poker, here is the main observation I have made:

      Math plays a HUGE part. However, it doesn't seem like you have to be a mathematician to be a pro poker player. It seems like a lot of it has to do with understanding the probability of winning with a certain hand, when to fold, when to raise, and when to bet. But all that seems to stem more from poker experience and rote memorization rather than poring through calculus books.

      So where do I stand here? Am I kind of right, or am I dead wrong? Or maybe somewhere in between. I only ask because I want to become as good as possible at poker as quickly as possible, and I'd like to know what subjects will be beneficial, and what other ones would be a complete waste of time.

      Thanks
  • 12 replies
    • metza
      metza
      Bronze
      Joined: 28.01.2012 Posts: 2,220
      I feel like it might not be the best idea to do college papers just to improve your poker. Papers are expensive to take so far better $ value to just hire a coach.
    • patuxz
      patuxz
      Diamond
      Joined: 23.05.2014 Posts: 86
      Basically every decision you do has to deal with math somehow.
      What i would note is that, there's no complex math involved. Sometimes you have to solve some simple equations, but nothing more complex.
      When i review my sessions i sometimes have like 10 windows calculators open.
      So you don't have to be a math genius. What's more important is to know & use basic math to it's full extent. Equity & pot odds & combos (combinatorics). Pot odds as caller and bettor. It's easy to learn, but it might take long time to master these, but this is how it's done.
      This is coming from someone who did Calculus course this year.
    • Ascension9000
      Ascension9000
      Basic
      Joined: 23.08.2014 Posts: 14
      Metza, I hear what you are saying, but I'm going to be going to college anyway, might as well do something that potentially helps me with something I want to be good at, you know?

      Patuxz, that's awesome! That really clarifies things quite a bit.

      Alright, I appreciate the responses guys!
    • VorpalF2F
      VorpalF2F
      Super Moderator
      Super Moderator
      Joined: 02.09.2010 Posts: 8,955
      Hi, Ascension9000...
      Welcome to PokerStrategy.com !

      If there is a basic course in statistics and probability, that might help.
      Elementary Game Theory might also.

      Poker math boils down to something like this:
      How does my reward (if I win) compare to my chances of winning?

      The first part is easy: You compare the amount of money you need to put into the pot to the size of the pot already there.

      For the second part, you need to know the odds of making various hands. That is not math so much as memorization.

      Best of luck (in poker and in your course)
      --VS
    • Ascension9000
      Ascension9000
      Basic
      Joined: 23.08.2014 Posts: 14
      Thank you!
    • PmagicLchocoOballs
      PmagicLchocoOballs
      Bronze
      Joined: 27.12.2013 Posts: 208
      So how much equity do i need to profitably call flop and how much for turn?
      And what is the number for multiply my outs on flop/turn to get that equity %
    • YohanN7
      YohanN7
      Bronze
      Joined: 15.06.2009 Posts: 4,144
      Originally posted by VorpalF2F
      ...
      If there is a basic course in statistics and probability, that might help.
      Elementary Game Theory might also.
      ...
      Spot on Vorpal.

      Math in poker ranges from "close to trivial", e.g.. odds and outs, to the stuff that is far beyond human capacity to ever solve, e.g. finding Nash equilibria (thait is game theory stuff) in deep stack NL Hold'em.
    • redrawstump
      redrawstump
      Bronze
      Joined: 09.05.2012 Posts: 244
      Hey dude (s), I'm gonna chime in on this one.
      Maths in poker is mainly quite trivial, like 2ndary school level and even if you can't derive stuff then if you watch enough vids and hand evaluations you'll get it pretty quick. The thing you need in poker is logic and reasoned thinking. Every hand is a logic puzzle where you try and deduce what hands an opponent can have based on his and your actions, the scenario and the other people in the hand. The whole thing of poker is how good you are at whittling down an opponent's possible hands (range) and how you use that information. That comes from experience and hard work, which does involve plenty of maths along the way but never anything too tough. it's true people who are good at maths are frequently good poker players but that's not cos they do maths, it's more to do with transferrable skills. You could draw a Venn diagram of it probably... :f_p:
    • YohanN7
      YohanN7
      Bronze
      Joined: 15.06.2009 Posts: 4,144
      I object against the viewpoint that good solid ABC poker must come from experience and hard work. You could equally well grasp the math first and then skip the "experience" part where you lose to learn.

      I also object against all math in poker being simple. You can take a ridiculously simple poker game, and still find that finding a good strategy for it is hard. Even something as apparently simple as analyzing how much you should fold to a check-raise all in on the river against a polarized (nuts or bluff) range is something that 99.5% of the players can't compute given the size of the raise and the pot.
    • VorpalF2F
      VorpalF2F
      Super Moderator
      Super Moderator
      Joined: 02.09.2010 Posts: 8,955
      Originally posted by YohanN7
      I object against the viewpoint that good solid ABC poker must come from experience and hard work. You could equally well grasp the math first and then skip the "experience" part where you lose to learn.

      I also object against all math in poker being simple. You can take a ridiculously simple poker game, and still find that finding a good strategy for it is hard. Even something as apparently simple as analyzing how much you should fold to a check-raise all in on the river against a polarized (nuts or bluff) range is something that 99.5% of the players can't compute given the size of the raise and the pot.
      For a good illustration of this, have a look at the last months of jbpatzer's blog Midlife Crisis? What Midlife Crisis? .

      He is doing a computer analysis of a simplified poker game.
      If the math was that simple, the game would be more-or-less "solved" and it would then be down to luck.

      Poker is a game of edges. One of those edges is being aware of odds and outs. If you are aware, and your opponents aren't you can profit a bit more.

      Cheers,
      --VS
    • redrawstump
      redrawstump
      Bronze
      Joined: 09.05.2012 Posts: 244
      Hey @Yohan
      Yeah, GTO requires huge amounts of computational power but it's hardly difficult maths. Not compared to vector calculus or Bessel functions or anything else that used to keep me up at night. While we are on the topic of GTO I have a problem with the whole thing. Basically GTO gives us a way of playing that is unexploitable. However it does not instruct in how to exploit others. So we win the minimum from obviously exploitative situations. E.g. villain folds too much to CBets. So we CBet our whole range. But that is not a GTO solution. If we adapt then we win more.
      If our opponent plays true GTO then we are screwed. But say if we play like a monkey for a few hands. Surely even the most devout GTO player would start to change his strategy to take advantage of the "easy money". Then if you can spot their deviation from the true path you can start to exploit them.
      If we can play a vast number of hands with and never deviate from the 'solved' strategy then theoretically we will win overall. But do we beat rake? And if we do what would our win-rate look like? And wouldn't decent villains sit up from any table we sat down at?

      I'm not trolling here, I'm with you that there is probably a solution to each scenario and that it can be calculated. But given that we have to make about 2000 decisions per hour is it feasible to think it will make money in poker?
    • VorpalF2F
      VorpalF2F
      Super Moderator
      Super Moderator
      Joined: 02.09.2010 Posts: 8,955
      Hi, redrawstump,
      Yeah, I think you nailed it.

      If you play like a maniac for a few hands, then "nit it up" for a few, skilled players will pick up on your tendencies, but by then you are playing the opposite.

      It is the rock-paper-scissors method. Doyle Brunson called it "switching gears"

      Ever notice that when you get 3 great hands in succession, they all jump in on the 3rd one?

      The trick, of course, is to raise with air the two hands just before you get AA :coolface:

      If you "switch gears" frequently enough, and drastically enough, you will probably end up looking like a tight-aggressive.

      There is an article called "The 8 Player Types and how to take their money" It is old, but the principles make sense.

      The newer article has only 5 player types. The Rock and Donkey are made part Nit and Maniac. Weak-Tight doesn't really fit anywhere -- they don't play many hands, and give up easily. Good guys to have at your table.

      Peace,
      --VS