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The Assumptions of Poker Books

If you’re interested in becoming a better poker player there are a number of things you must do. First, you need to play a lot of poker. Second, you need to learn proper poker strategies, most often found in good poker books. Then, you need to play a lot more poker. Poker books, ever since Doyle Brunson’s Super System let the cat out of the bag, have made poker accessible to everyone; yet there are some assumptions in poker books that can prevent good poker players from becoming great poker players.

Most poker books will approach the topic of poker from two angles: calculating odds and probabilities, and understanding the psychology of the game. If poker was all about math, then mastering the game would simply require mastering the formulas behind it. Fortunately, there is a great deal of uncertainty in the game, which is why most decision making is based on “best estimates”. Because you know the number of cards in the deck, the number of people in the hand, and how much money is in the pot, you can calculate some absolutes, such as your pot odds. But because you don’t know what your opponent is holding or how he or she is going to act, you’re going to end up making a guess as to the best decision. Here is where poker books make a few assumptions of their own.

When an author of a poker book says that the best move when facing in an all in move that would cost you 3/4 of your stack post flop holding wired Tens with a board of AKJ rainbow is to fold, he is assuming all sorts of things. For example, he might be assuming that your opponent is a tight player who never bluffs – but you might be facing Uncle Ned, who bluffs as often as he breathes.

The point is that even when you learn proper poker strategy, you need to adjust it to your circumstances and your environment. For the beginning poker player, however, sticking to standard poker strategy until it becomes second nature is always recommended.


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