I recently checked out the one of Andy Glazer’s new articles. I have very mixed views on Mr. Glazer. On the one hand he writes extremely well and that writing is informed by at the very least reasonable poker skills. This is a marked contrast to the other popular writers out there who seem barely able to tell a flush from a straight. On the other hand, his moral compass seems a little off from true North. He continually defends the indefensible in Phil H’s behaviour; he thinks Daniel N is a man of integrity; worst of all he made a massive mistake in his reporting of the WSOP 2002 Big One and simply did not change it, despite it being pointed out. This shows a lack of respect for both his readers and his work.
Anyway, the article was basically saying that poker is a card game, at a basic level, and that poker is a people game at an advanced one. This to me seems to be missing a fundamental point, that at its core, underlying both, poker is a game of mathematics. Anyone looking at some of the posts on rgp from Howard L can see that at the very top level, many of the players have an extremely strong underpinning in the maths of the game. As some of the hand examples we have looked at here, sometimes the maths situation supercedes the psychology. And clearly, you can be successful in some poker fields, such as tournaments, without any strong understanding of the maths at all – Phil H recently bet that AK offsuit was a favourite over AK suited :-) But how much better a player would he be if he stopped passing those 4 to 1 favourite situations just because he does not want to put his stack in jeopardy?
A simple use of the mathematics of poker is to use it as a barometer of your play. Were you lucky in a hand? Did the maths justify your actions? How much “extra” do the intangibles of the play have to make up for the shortfall in the equity you have? There are numerous sims that can do this for you, but it is still good to hand crank the numbers through a spreadsheet and get a feel for a situation. I am convinced that one of the factors that contributed to my improvement in playing PL games was my determination and perseverance in examining difficult situations on a regular basis in just this way.
If you wanted to sail, the cards may be the boat of your play, with people skills and psychology the rudder and sail. But where would you be without the ocean? Navigating a complex tributary, you’re not going to get far without the river. Mathematics is this undercurrent beneath our complex, people and cards game.