An analytical approach to limit hold’em in poker

Aug 18, 2009 5:09 PM
by George “The Engineer” Epstein |

Poker Science 101

The chemist mixes two chemicals in his laboratory, looking for a reaction. That’s science. . . Science is knowledge. Skill is gaining information – knowledge – and applying it for a particular purpose. Likewise, poker is science.

The scientific method involves careful observation from which the scientist draws conclusions or makes predictions. Just as a scientist gathers data – information – so also does a poker player, enabling both to make better decisions.

Our "poker laboratory" is different. The type of data and observations are different. The scientist may be studying a chemical reaction or the impact of a projectile acting on a body.

The poker player’s lab is the table in the casino where he plays hold’em; and the information he pursues differs in specifics. But the principle is the same. . . Like the scientist, a poker player’s ability to gather information and apply it effectively, is essential to success; i.e., winning!

Poker is a game of partial information

The more you gather, the better will be your decisions and ultimate success. What might a winning poker player – a PokerShark – look for?

He considers his hole cards – their potential for becoming top hand at the showdown; the cards on the board; his betting position; how the betting has gone so far in this hand; his assessment of his opponents; how many players stay to see the flop; the pot odds and the card odds.

He also looks for "tells" – inadvertent actions or reactions by his opponents that can yield information about their hands. Gazing to his left as the cards are being dealt, he seeks clues as his opponent first looks at his hole cards.

His opponent may study his cards and then straighten up in his chair; his hand goes to his chips. That’s valuable information. (PokerPigeons – losers – are too obsessed with studying their hole cards to seek information from their opponents.)

The flop comes down. PokerPigeons focus on the board, anxious to see if the flop helps their hands. The PokerShark, on the other hand, observes his opponents, especially those who will be betting after him, observing their reactions as the flop is placed on the board. That observation – like watching the flask for a chemical reaction – can provide essential information.

The poker player isn’t wearing a white lab coat; his "uniform" is casual and comfortable garments. His lab is different. The kind of data he seeks is different. But the principle is exactly the same: Gather information so as to be better able to draw conclusions and take appropriate actions.

The more effective he is at this task, the more success he can expect to enjoy. And the more fun it will be because, as Irene Epstein used to say: "Winning is great fun. The more I win, the more fun it is!" (Reference: The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners by Epstein and Abrams) Poker and science are great fun when you succeed.

You can try out your strategy by playing our free live online poker.