The Mathematics of Poker

published on 10/07/08 at 6:00 pm

You may have heard some people talk about poker players with respect to their mathematical skills. “He’s a math player,” some might say, or “I’m not a math player, I play by instinct.” To be a good poker player, especially at a game like no-limit Texas hold’em, you need to be both. You need to understand the basic mathematics poker skills, things like pot odds and outs. You also need to understand the psychology of the game. You need to be able to read players and understand a player’s thought process. Either one without the other will leave you an incomplete player.

That being said, the book mathematics of poker is definitely for the “math player.” Some books will say that they are not for poker beginners, that people must have a grounding in basic poker strategy before attempting the book. Well, the Mathematics of Poker is not for math beginners, and people should have a solid grasp of mathematics before attempting this book.

Bill Chen, a PhD in Mathematics, and Jarred Ankenman take a fully mathematical approach to poker in the 382 pages of this volume. They use mathematical tools and online poker stats to analyze the mechanics of the game and which strategies are likely to produce the most profit. There is little philosophical debate here; this book is the hard science of poker.

If you are a “math guy,” there are a lot of interesting analyses to be gleaned from this book. If not, you will find useful principles to employ, but you will have to dig through some complex-looking math in order to find it.

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