Mastering Poker Math

Mastering Poker Math has been created to help you learn the math of Texas No-Limit Hold’em. It is primarily geared towards tournament play. Yet, many of the concepts described within can be applied to cash games as well.

Some of the math is straight-forward. Some of it is more complicated. The in-depth parts are to help you understand how the math is derived so you can internalize it, not just memorize a lot of boring numbers and tables.

The reward for understanding the math at a gut level is a significant competitive advantage resulting in a higher level of confidence. You will know more than most players who depend heavily on good cards and good luck.

Mastering Poker Math Helps You Trust the Math

Mastering Poker Math helps you learn to trust the numbers in the right situations and circumstances to improve your game.

Integrate the Math with Your Other Skills

Knowing the math isn’t enough. No-Limit Hold’em is incredibly complex. To be a complete player, your math skills need to be integrated with your other poker skills. This book will show you how to accomplish this. Using all your skills is crucial to becoming a feared shark at the tables.

The Variability in Texas No-Limit Hold’em

“Poker is a skill game pretending to be a chance game.” ~ James Altucher

The variability in poker is huge. This gives rise to some fascinating characteristics of the game.

First, the high variance of the game provides excitement that has some addictive qualities.

Second, a high percentage of players think they are better than they are because they can play with excellent players and do okay at times. They play by their gut and rarely (if ever) use the math. The high variability allows them this luxury.

And third, there are few (possibly no other) major sports or games where the variability is as high as it is in Texas No-Limit Hold’em. Here are a couple of examples.

• If you worked hard on your golf game for three years solid what are your chances of winning against Tiger Woods, even on his worst day? It is essentially 0%.

• If you worked diligently on competitive swimming for a few years, what is your probability of beating Michael Phelps in the pool on his worst day? Also, it is essentially 0%.

The point is that in most sports and games, the top players have an overwhelming advantage (because of small variances) over beginners in the long run, and well as in the short-run. This isn’t the case for No-Limit Hold’em in the short-run.

Tight Hand Variances

The poker hands in Hold’em have relatively tight hand variances. Here are some examples:

• AKs (a premium hand) is a 69% to 31% favorite over 7,2o (the worst hand in poker) before the flop. In other words, AKs will only win 2 out of 3 times if the hand goes to showdown.

• KQs (a premium hand) against 6,5s (a highly speculative hand) is only a 61% to 39% favorite before the flop. Thus, KQs will only win about 3 out of 5 times if the hand goes to showdown.

• 6,5s against AA (the best starting hand) has a 23% probability of winning before the flop. Consequently, 6,5s will win almost 1 out of 4 times if the hand goes to showdown.

Note: The “s” in these examples means suited. The “o” means non-suited. This convention will be used throughout the text for suited and unsuited cards.

There are many more examples. The point is, even the worst hands will win a reasonable percentage of the time against the best hands.

It is this tight variance in poker hands which allows bad players to get lucky in the short run and beat good players. This is a major reason why vast numbers of people enjoy playing the game. On any given day even some of the worst players have a slight chance to win.

But, not in the long run! The best players will consistently win because the game of Texas No-Limit Hold’em is really a skill game, not a luck game.

Self-delusion is common in poker because of occasional runs of good cards and good luck. But good cards dry up, and good luck runs out.

Bad beats (low probability events) by bad players are common in poker and cause many tilt related rantings, especially from those who don’t understand the math. Yet, it is just the variance which provide these emotional roller-coaster rides all poker players have experienced time and again.

Millions of people play the game because of the high variability allowing them to get lucky at times. They supply massive sums of money for the tournaments fueling the poker boom. The silver lining is that the exceptional players do well over the long run.

Emotional roller coaster rides and adrenaline rushes are part of the Texas No-Limit Hold’em landscape. They provide the high-octane experiences that keeps players coming back repeatedly.

Although you will have plenty of bad beats (everyone does), in the long run if your math and other parts of your game are solid, you will do better than those who depend on luck, instead of skill as a strategy.

So, what is luck? Simply put:

• A low probability event that goes in your favor is good luck.

• A low probability event that goes in another player’s favor is bad luck.

The top players are studious, curious, patient, willing to do the work and always striving to do better. They combine their math skills with their other poker skills and become a feared shark at the poker tables.

Self-delusion is common in poker because of occasional runs of good cards and good luck. But good cards dry up, and good luck runs out.

Who This Book is For

Mastering Poker Math is for all serious poker players who want to take their game to the next level. Improving at anything takes time, study, dedication, and a burning desire to learn new ways of thinking. Mastering Poker Math is no different.

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