Poker has always been a game in which intuition and instincts play an important part in deciding whether you win the game or not. It is possible to win any game of poker with only trusting your gut and reading your opponent. So, why should we even discuss something that is complicated and not everyone’s cup of tea? We can all just continue playing without going into the mathematical aspect of the game. In this blog, we’ll try to answer your How’s and Why’s about Math in Poker!
- You can’t be the best in today’s game without having an idea about Math in Poker:
It is completely true and proven that you do not need to have a strong grasp of the mathematical part of poker to win the games. Some of the best players have very good instincts and do not need math to win games. However, if you are able to learn and understand math, it becomes essential and valuable. It will instantly help you in making better decisions, marginal or big. The math surrounding poker isn’t necessarily difficult to understand. In certain situations, it might seem that the right call or raise is costing you more money. The only way to truly get to the ‘right’ decision is by checking if the math adds up.
So, even though it is not an absolute, understanding the basics of poker math becomes extremely important when it comes to online games.
- How Math helps us in Poker:
Q.1- You are Heads-up and there are ₹10 in the pot. The opponent bets ₹5 on the river. What percentage of time should you be winning to make the call?
- There may be a part of you which tells you that you should be good 50% of the time in order to take down the pot. But the truth is that you don’t even have to be the favourite to make this a correct call.
Think about it this way:
There are ₹10,000 in the pot. Our hand is likely to be good only 20% of the time. The opponent bets ₹1. Do you call or fold?
- Hopefully, we decide to call. It doesn’t matter if we lose 80% of the time. We are only risking ₹1 and 20% of the time we will win the ₹10,000 pot. It should be a very easy call despite the fact that we’re losing 80% of the time.
The original question is less absurd and clearly a realistic scenario, but the same principle applies. We do not need to win 50% of the time because money is already there in the pot. So, how often do we need to win? We can use a simple formula to figure this out:
Percentage of the total pot we invest = How often we need to be good to call
If we called, we’d be putting ₹5 in a pot of ₹20 (opponents bet + our call). That is 25% of the entire pot (5/20). This implies that we need to be good only 25% of the time to make this a profitable call.
Q.2- There are ₹100 in the pot. We decided to bluff the river for ₹50. How many times does our bluff need to work to make this a profitable move?
- Again, our intuition will tell us that this bluff needs to work 50% of the time. If it doesn’t, then our bluff is failing and we lose the pot. However, our decision might be wrong again.
Think about the same situation as before. ₹10,000 in the pot and we are told that our bluff will work 40% of the time if we bet ₹50. Should we bluff? Most certainly we should because we only risk ₹50 and we win the ₹10,000 pot, 40% of the time. Here is how we calculate this method:
Percentage of our investment in the pot = how often our bluff needs to work
It’s just a small tweak to the earlier formula!
Going back to the original question, we are investing ₹50 in a pot which will be ₹150 after our bet. This means:-
This implies that, even if our bluff fails the majority of the time, we’re making money a third of the time!
This is just the start! We do not want to make you overconfident in your mathematical ability, but it really does get more complicated than this. There are many different things in which Math can be applied when playing poker, such as constructing optimal ranges, value betting etc. Math can get very complex and not many people can say that they are completely familiar with all the variations.
However, at beginners level, we need not worry about the advanced stuff. Just a basic understanding of poker math can go a long way in improving your game! Not a lot of us love maths, but in order to make money at the tables and crush the competition, we can learn it for our advantage.
To Learn More About Poker Maths and different aspects of the game, Keep reading PokerShots and Keep Grinding!