I find it quite annoying that I am not able to surpass my 50m mark(on zynga poker )with a much better knowledge of poker since I had earlier crossed it...it is basically the perception of the other player which is single most important factor that can be chalked out as winning point in poker and second is patience....we all know stats are more or less a dirty lie ( quote : there are lies , bloody lies and then stats -: stats is used as superlative degree for lies)...I had won a lot even without even basic knowledge of hands....I have played over 40000 hands at least over multiple accounts and still can't understand the use of my knowledge.To emphasise the question -: I don't think knowledge or strategies are of much use in Texas Holdem poker and only experience pays .

  • The adage about statistics being lies is really not an attack on statistics at all. Rather, it's an attack on how people use statistics. For example, I once worked for a government research lab where, no kidding, they took 10 samples, they didn't like 9 of them so declared them outliers thus not part of the statistics collection, and used the remaining favorable data point to declare what they wanted. When used in a valid manner, statistics are valid but you need to account for things like margin of error, and be willing to accept undesirable results. – mah Apr 18 '14 at 14:07

I'm not exactly what sure what you're talking about when you mention "stats". Playing profitable poker comes down to implementing two concepts:

  1. Identifying your opponents strategy.
  2. Implementing the best response.

The first point is primarily improved through experience. As you play more poker, you will more easily be able to identify what your opponent will do on average. But you can also, if you play online, get concrete statistics on opponent's tendencies through analyzing hand histories — these stats are also known as population tendencies. They will enable you to construct a readless, default strategy that will maximally exploit the population. So a mix of playing experience and analysis of opponent's play will enable you to maximize your ability to quickly and efficiently identify your opponents strategy.

Once you've completed point #1, you'll then need to compute and implement the best, maximally exploitative, response. This is a math-based endeavor. The ability to do this quickly and accurately at the table is the result of a ton of out-of-game analysis. This point is the area of play that beginners and amateurs tend to completely ignore when they should sink a lot of time into it. It doesn't matter if you can consistently come up with good reads if you can't figure out what the best response is.

Honestly, it sounds like you simply play using your emotional responses as the determining factor when it comes to decision making. This might work well against the worst of fish, but the second you begin to play stronger, thinking opponents — or if you actually start playing for real money — you will start to have a much harder time.

It really comes down to this: until you can explain, in a poker hand, why you're doing what you're doing, you aren't going to truly master the game. Don't get me wrong, gameflow is a significant part of profitable play as well, but it remains a part of play, not the only factor in a strategic analysis of poker.

So yes, stats and technical knowledge of poker are of a huge help. You should try reading a book like Poker Math that Matters or the like to get a solid understanding of how basic poker math can improve your game.

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  • Thank you...really good answer...which I could relate with..but I don't play for real money.. The first and only time I played for real money..was a nominal amount and I won everything with extremely good luck and negligible knowledge – Inquist Apr 19 '14 at 16:35
  • Your point of thinking opponents and real money...was the distinction I was not able to understand.. – Inquist Apr 19 '14 at 16:45

I believe that born talent has something to do with it as well. Some players are gifted and just have a natural feel for the game and therefore make better decisions. Antonio Esfandiari likes to call it his "radar". There is a reason why pro players are pro. They didn't have the most luck, they are the most talented and gain most skills. Obviously, luck is also a factor, but not in a long run period. Maybe you got your 50m mark because you had a bit luck here and there?

Being able to calculate fast, knowing stats formulas, ... Makes you in general smarter than the average poker player. I believe that in fact the amount of talent, the patience and the IQ (how smart a person is in fact) are the 3 things that make a formula to calculate how "good" a poker player is. Obviously, there are some other parameters, but the 3 I talked about are the most important I think.

So: Yes it helps you for your game because you are just smarter than the avarage player, but talent and luck are there as well!

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Poker is about rules-of-thumb, techniques, and a whole lot of intuituion. Using game-theory and analyzing scenarios mathematically is, in my opinion, a complete waste of time.

Instead of focusing on stats and math, I believe it is far more effective to analyse your opponent's tendencies qualitatively and therafter use particular techniques to expolit his tendencies. Going over specific scenarios retrospectively and look at betting-% and all that nonsense will yield some clever-sounding conjectures but not much more.

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  • "Using game-theory and analyzing scenarios mathematically is, in my opinion, a complete waste of time". Most of the top online players in the world will totally disagree with your opinion. I personally think that your opinion is not only wrong, but attests to your own ignorance of these topics more than anything else. – mobius dumpling May 12 '14 at 12:52
  • @mobiusdumpling Well, I am in the not-so-usual position of both having lived as a professional poker player and having a degree in applied mathematics. I have done a lot of systematic analysis of poker situations in terms of game theory and mathematics, but it is quite clear from both my experience and opinions of very good online players that most of this analysis is only ad-hoc, and that it doesn't actually help much in the real world. – Slug Pue May 12 '14 at 15:12
  • no arguments about this analysis being ad-hoc. That doesn't affect how useful it is. Are you actually claiming that very good online players say that this kind of analysis "doesn't actually help much in the real world"? Just as one example among many, is anyone seriously going to claim that it's useless to have an in-depth understanding of river situations where one player has nuts-or-air and the other has a bluffcatcher? I know that it helps me, and players like Haxton and Sulsky claim that advanced study of GTO helps them massively. – mobius dumpling May 12 '14 at 15:40
  • @mobiusdumpling The scenario you mentioned is actually the only situation where GTO is potentially of any use. That is, a situation where your range is comprized of hands either having 0 or 100% equity against your opponent. This is a necessary assumption because in order to play GTO you need full knowledge of range equities between you and your opponent (in most cases, you cannot apply GTO even if you knew your opponent's hand!) So when you think about it, these mathematically tractable scenarios almost never happen. – Slug Pue May 12 '14 at 17:31
  • we can continue this back and forth for a while, but the bottom line is clear, so I'll cut to the chase: it seems you, specifically, don't know how to apply the insights gleaned from mathematical and game-theoretic analysis to your game, and you erroneously deduce that no one else can do this either and this is all "a complete waste of time". I wish you luck in your poker career, and would advise you to not share your individual experience with others as if it were universal, because your experience is not universal, and is in fact contrary to many top players. – mobius dumpling May 12 '14 at 18:30

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