Pragmatism, Poker and the Human Factor

prag-ma-tism: an approach that assesses the truth of meaning of theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application

Poker, by definition, is a family of gambling card games, but is often considered a skill based game. With the exception of initial forced bets, money is only placed into the pot voluntarily by a player who either believes the bet has positive expected value or who is trying to bluff other players for various strategic reasons. Thus, while the outcome of any particular hand significantly involves chance, the long-run expectations of the players are determined by their actions chosen on the basis of probability, psychology, and game theory.

Probability and game theory offer us a set of guidelines showing us the “most probable” outcome of any given set of circumstances. The caveat to this is the Human Factor. If everyone played by the same set of guidelines then all of the published probability charts, game theories and strategic advise given by the so called “poker professionals” would hold water. It is when you add in the “Human Factor” that things begin to go awry. Psychology, the most misinterpreted factor of any situation (whether in poker or every day life), adds a level of chance that no gaming theory or probability chart can expect or explain. There is not a player among us who has never asked the question, “Why in the world did that player call that bet with those cards?” From the pre-flop all-in bet with 8-3 off to the all-in bet on the river with bottom pair, there is just no way to predict what the other player will do. It does become frustrating when you see a player, whether beginner or pro, win hand after hand with “junk” cards you would not dream of playing with. This is the nature of the game, especially in a “free” game.

This being said, you have to remember, unless you spend real money for play chips, you are neither winning or losing anything but pixels on a computer screen. Play your game by what ever set of rules and/or guidelines you choose, be pragmatic, and most importantly have fun.

Very nice.

I enjoyed the read, too bad we didn’t have a dedicated “strategy” section for stuff like this.

I agree, a dedicated section on strategy would be great, as long as the views expressed and/or commented (challenged) on about a particular point were not taken as an attack on the player offering any advise or opinion resulting in them being “locked” out of the discussion thread.

Very interesting. What makes poker so much fun (apart from the nearly infinite board/hand combos) is that three really good players can often play the exact same hand in three completely different ways.

There are 1326 distinct possible combinations of two hole cards from a standard 52-card deck in hold 'em, but since suits have no relative value in this poker variant, many of these hands are identical in value before the flop.Of the 1,326 combinations, there are 169 distinct starting hands grouped into three shapes: 13 pocket pairs (paired hole cards), 13 × 12 ÷ 2 = 78 suited hands and 78 unsuited hands; 13 + 78 + 78 = 169. The relative probability of being dealt a hand of each given shape is different. And that’s just one players hand…:slight_smile:

Yep, and when you factor in the possible combinations of cards on the board and among a table with up to 8 opponents, the possibilities are endless.