Poker Game Theory
Game theory has been around for a long time. The first practical game theory appeared in the 1700’s through the work of Daniel Bernoulli, who introduced to the world such concepts as diminishing returns and expected utility. A winning poker strategy is all about utilizing game theory effectively. Much as a master warrior studies the martial arts in order to defeat his opponents, the master poker player studies game theory in order to dominate his opponents on the felt.
2 Goals of Poker Game Theory
In applying game theory to poker, the poker player is trying to accomplish 2 main tasks:
1. Understand the opposing poker players and their strategy
2. Develop a counter strategy to beat the opponents
Although those two goals may seem overly simplistic, the ability to execute them efficiently and effectively over and over again is what differentiates the winning poker players from the fish at the table.
Understanding the Opposing Players
Poker is a game where all the players share common knowledge. They all can see the community cards, the all see the size of each other’s stacks and the amount in the pot; but no player has complete knowledge. No poker player knows exactly what each of the other players is holding. The most successful poker players, the big tournament and cash game winners, are the ones who can turn the common knowledge into the most complete set of knowledge. The best players simply make better use of the information available to every player. They remember past hands, and how they other poker players acted, they pick up on physical tells, they know the exact odds of a given card coming out that will help or hurt them on the turn or the river. How are you working to make better use of the common knowledge? Are you studying poker odds until you completely understand them? Have you read and learned the books on tells and psychology? As you get better and better at knowing what cards your opponents have, your own cards matter less and less, and you will win increasing amounts of money.
Developing A Strategy To Dominate Opponents
After you understand how the other poker players are playing, you need to hone your own strategy to beat them. Knowing that another player has you beat does you know good if you go ahead and call their bet on the river anyway. Likewise, knowing that your opponent is bluffing won’t help you if you aren’t willing to re-raise them on the river even if your hand is garbage. When you develop your strategy there are many things to keep in mind. Are you playing a cash game or a tournament? If you’re playing a cash game, which of your opponents are making mistakes that you can take advantage of? It is far easier to win money off of opponents playing badly than to slowly work a small advantage against someone on top of his game. You should identify the weak opponents and target them, as opposed to just waiting for a hand and playing against whom-ever limps into the pot with you. If you are playing a tournament you must develop your strategy to help you effectively pick your spots. Playing a hand for all your chips at the beginning of a tournament, even as a small favorite, can be a huge mistake! Sure you might be a 55-45 favorite going in, but the 45% of the time you lose, you have a huge opportunity cost. You are giving up all the future spots in the tournament where you can get money in as an even bigger favorite, or even against an opponent drawing dead.
Study The Game, And You’ll Do Well
As someone taking the time to study poker and learn how to play better, you would likely be amazed at how many of other poker players put no work what so ever into their poker game. They go to the tables, if they win, they win, if not then oh well. By taking the time to study your poker game, learn how to read your opponents, and learn how to develop a strategy to beat them, you will find your self winning more and more money playing poker.
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