Randomization Techniques

Solvers and other strong AI programs usually split their lines of play between several options with the same hand and same board, and even before this strong pros were employing similar techniques. Dan Harrington’s books on cash games more than a decade ago (but quite a few years after his books on tournament play) discussed some ways of randomizing your play, essentially consisting of considering a few reasonably viable lines, quickly deciding how often you’d like to take each line, and then looking at the second hand of a clock to select the line at random.

I’ve used Dan’s clock approach for years, and love how quickly it can be used. But one drawback to the method: if people are playing quickly, you tend to get locked into aggressive plays several decisions in a row, and then passive several in a row, assuming that you cluster your most aggressive lines on one side of your 60 second spectrum, and your most passive lines on the other. In other words, it is quite random on your first decision, but if you make another decision a few seconds later, it becomes less random.

So I thought I’d ask if others use techniques for randomizing their lines (or pre flop ranges, which I also do), and what works best for them. A few other approaches I’ve tried or thought about:

  • dice: works very well and is essentially perfectly random (or close enough), but I somehow find rolling dice, even when playing online, rather distracting, and I can’t imagine doing it in a live setting
  • suits of hole cards: pick a primary and a secondary suite (or perhaps color), or rank all 4 suits on how aggressive you’ll be with them… I like that this tends to generate line consistency (though it is sometimes nice to play a lot of really weird lines also)
  • literally look out the window (or some other defined region) and count the number of something (I’ll do birds or squirrels usually), and select more aggressive lines when the critters are out, and passive lines when you don’t see any (and watch out if several birds land in the bushes at one time)

You could also use card values to get finer control. Each value is about 8%, so if you want to take an action 1 in 6 times, for example, do it if your first hole card is a 2 or 3 (or any other cards you want to use.)

You can combine this with suits or colors to get even finer control. For example, your first hole card will be a 2 about 8% of the time, a red 2 about 4% of the time, the 2 of hearts 2% of the time.

You can work out a simple way to arrive at any number, and it will be truly random, but do it in advance, not on the fly!

Use a random number generator. There are any number of them available for free and there are no proscriptions against using them as far as I know. Random.org has a simple one if you like. Same for randomnumbergenerator.com There are some apps as well for live play.

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