Course Overview and Introduction


Before I get into any poker I want to talk about the mentality I want everyone to try to have when analyzing poker in this class.

So I call it the decision mentality. I’m going to start with a story.

Who here has heard of credit card roulette? It’s like a game you play at the end of a guy going to restaurants. So what happens is poker players, they’re going to split the bill by instead of everyone paying their own bill, which is annoying. You have to keep track. You might have to Venmo people after the exact amount.

And sometimes the waiter or waitress doesn’t want to split the bill per person. So poker players get around this by just picking one person at random to pay the bill. And we like making this exciting. So what we do is we ask everyone to put in their credit cards. And then we pull out the credit cards one at a time.

And if your credit card is pulled out then you’re safe. And the last person in has to pay for the whole table. So it’s a pretty fun game. Yeah, I think I’m pretty lucky. The biggest one I lost was in Hong Kong. I once had to pay around 1,200 USD.

It was a pretty big table. But overall I’m pretty good at this game. It’s a game of skill for sure. But sometimes this results in some funny stories with non poker players. So this is something that happened to some poker players. So poker pro Matt, he goes to dinner with poker pro Steven.

And that brings Emily, who’s a close friend whom he also has a romantic interest in. So when the bill comes Matt’s like OK, I’m going to pay for it Emily. So he puts in two credit cards. He’s like the second credit card is for Steven– is for Emily. And then Steven pays for himself. So Stephen puts in one credit card.

So they play credit card roulette. And then Matt, being a very lucky guy, pulls out both of his credit cards before Steven’s. And Steven ends up paying for all three of them. So now the question is, who should Emily thank.

So who would you thank if you were in Emily’s shoes? Does anyone want to say to thank Steven? AUDIENCE: Yeah. PROFESSOR: Because Steven actually paid for the meal. So I think it’s a totally reasonable thing to do as a reasonable person to thank Steven who actually had to pull out his wallet. So in this class we want everyone to think in terms of the expected results and not actual results.

So Emily should be thanking Matt because, on average, Matt put in the card for Emily. And on average Matt is going to be paying for Emily because Matt’s going to be paying the one third of the time that Emily would be paying. But at the time, Emily thanked Steven for her meal and then didn’t say anything to Matt. And then Matt was upset about it and told the entire poker community.

That’s how I found out about this story. So we want to think about in terms of on average what your decision would have whether you would have made money in expectation or on average. So roughly, the law of large numbers says, over your lifetime, the amount you end up paying for credit card roulette is the same as you would have paid from splitting the bill.

So you know why split the bill? You might as well just save a lot of time by playing this fun game every single time. And over your lifetime, the amount you pay in credit card roulette is roughly going to be what you would have paid from splitting.

So all randomness eventually averages out to it’s expected value. That’s what this is saying. So what does eventually mean? So basically when we say a gamble is very risky I’m not mathematically defining anything here. But I just want to throw out some intuitive concepts.

So a risky gamble is a gamble where it takes a long time to converge at your expectation. But the point is, no matter how risky it is, eventually it will get you. So there’s a saying that death, taxes are the two things that eventually get you. As poker players, we would like to think that three things eventually get you. It’s death, taxes, and the law of large numbers will eventually– you’re going to reach your [INAUDIBLE]..

So here’s another hypothetical situation. So let’s say you get off at the wrong bus stop because you were distracted. And then you were upset yourself you analyze how to not be distracted in the future and get off at the right bus stop. But then after you get off at the wrong bus stop you find $1,000 on the ground. And then you immediately, you’re no longer upset and you marvel at your riches.

So this is sort of an absurd story. But situations like this happen all the time in poker. You’re going to make a bad decision but bad decisions still get a good result 49% of the time. And if you make the right decision you’re still going to get a bad result 49% of the time.

So it’s very important to analyze your decisions without being biased by the actual outcome that occurred. So you really want to be obsessed with this self-improvement, analyzing your decisions. If you made $10,000 in a situation where you could have be $12,000 then that’s not good enough. So I want everybody to think in terms of what’s the maximum you could of made and analyzing what’s the best decision you could possibly have made in every situation. And sometimes it’s hard because if the result is exactly correlated with the decision then you can just go back and look at the result and know whether you made a good decision or not. But that’s why learning poker can sometimes be very, very hard because you don’t have immediate feedback.

You’re not sure whether the decision you made is what caused you to make that money or you just got lucky. So with that being said, now let’s talk about some ways to reason about poker hands. So roughly there’s three levels of reasoning of poker hands. Level one my hand versus your hand. But by this I mean, you can see what your cards are. And you look into your opponents eyes and you say, OK, I can tell your cards must be pocket kings or whatever.

Your hand must beat this other hand. And you played your hand exactly against your opponent’s specific hand because you have a soul read on them. So let’s see the example of this. So we’ll watch an episode of Poker After Dark here. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] [MUSIC PLAYING] – Raise to 1,200. – I think you would call it this time, Patrick.

– Button raises. Never anything. NARRATOR: Contrary to what Patrick might think Jennifer has a real hand and it just got better. She’s flopped top set. Patrick flopped a pair of tens with a gutshot straight draw. – I’ve got two pair.

– Check. – Full house. – I can’t beat that. – I thought you had pocket kings. – I almost thought I had you. [END PLAYBACK] PROFESSOR: So yes, this is sort of well known poker term from way that in the day.

If you’re a Jennifer Tilly hand– I’m sorry if I’m making fun of her– but basically she put her opponent on a specific hand. She looked at Patrick and Antonius and had a feeling that he had pocket kings for some strange reason. And then what happened was, so she had pocket jacks here, which is a really, really good hand. It’s a full house. And she just checked the turn and checked the river instead of trying to get Patrick to put more money in because she was so certain Patrick had pocket kings.

Just mathematically speaking, out of all the possible combinations of cards you have, to put your opponent specifically on pocket kings in this example is basically unfounded. So this gets to level two reasoning. So level two reasoning is my hand versus your range of hands, versus your probability distribution of hands. And another name for this is exploitative play. So let’s look at a different hand.