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Why math skills make for better poker players
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Why math skills make for better poker players

Date Published: 26th January 2020
Author: Lowell Forest

Were you born with a natural talent to play poker profitably? If you answer no, then stick around, because this article is for you. Let's bust one of the biggest myths there is about poker right off the bat.


That's not just opinion, that's a FACT! So, why is math important in poker? There's always math involved in every single decision we take on a poker table. Just because you're not aware, it doesn't mean there isn't a mathematical-based explanation for it. And this doesn't just apply to poker; it applies to every aspect of life whenever we need to make a decision. But since we're talking about poker here, let's stick to that.

If you're a winning player that have never read a book about math in poker. Let me tell you; you've been deciding with a positive EV. Wait, what's EV? It's one of the most essential concepts in poker. A MATH essential concept. EV stands for expected value and it reflects the net result of any decision we take at the table. Whether in chips (Chips EV or cEV) or real money (Money EV or $EV). Behind it, there's a mathematical formula that consists of calculating…

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The amount of money/chips we're expecting to win the times you end up winning the pot minus the money/chips we're expecting to lose the times you end up losing the pot. Having this in mind, every single poker decision you take at the tables should have a positive EV. Otherwise, it would mean you will be losing money in the long run. And from here, I want to extract something essential when it comes to the impact math has in poker. Math in poker only matters in the long run, not in the short-term.

What do I mean by this?

You can make a perfect read and take the best possible decision at the table that maximized your EV, and still lose. Or, you can take the worst possible choice in any given situation, and still win. Why? VARIANCE! Because of this, you shouldn't let the outcome stop you from taking the same decision if you end up facing the same situation. This is a critical concept to understand and, it's one of the biggest cancers that keep players from reaching their true potential.

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Don't let short term results influence your decision making. If you're 100% sure you took a EV decision, you need to make the same decision every time you face the same situation. PERIOD! Let variance take care of the rest. The bottom line is, the math assigns a face (number) to a variable and allow us to quantify (through formulas) the net results of our decisions at the table. Does math make us winning players?

It's not as black and white, but theoretically, if you apply all the concepts correctly, it should make you a winning player. What if I am already a winning player? Well, IT WILL MAKE YOU A BETTER ONE! Math takes all the subjectivity and guesswork away from decision making. It should make the game easier even though it requires learning and applying complex formulas in real-time while we play. Which, for many people, it can be very overwhelming and in many cases it is.

But thankfully today, there are plenty of soft wares and tools and shortens the time needed to master these formulas and apply them in practice. All it takes is a bit of discipline, patience and a lot of consistency. From there, it would be just a matter of time before you master very complex formulas and apply them effectively at the tables. After that, it just a matter to put in the required volume to reduce variance to a minimum and watch how the money will start rolling in.

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