One of the most common misconceptions of poker is that you need to have some sort of magic, psychic ability to be able to win every time. When the average person watches Daniel Negreanu in action, they may think he has wizard-like powers in the way he can make accurate guesses about what players are holding. In actual fact, most of his predictions come from careful deduction techniques combined with some body language reading. Amateur poker players can go from beginner to expert by understanding the critical role statistics plays in poker strategies. Master this area of the game, and you could end up getting as good as Kid Poker with practice.
Understanding Your Own Data
The mathematical side to playing poker became more apparent after it moved to an online setting, but experts in the game have been using statistics and probability to assess their chances in a hand since poker began. Three-time World Series of Poker winner Stu Ungar, for instance, was renowned for being highly adept at quickly calculating his odds of winning. This is one of the reasons why the Comeback Kid is regarded by many as the greatest player of all time.
When players can get a firm grasp of their odds of hitting a strong hand, they have much better information at their disposal when it comes to making bets. First of all, you need to know how to calculate your outs. For example, if you have an inside straight draw on the flop, there are only four cards in the deck which could complete your hand. These are your outs. According to this poker statistics chart you would have between an 8.5 and an 8.7 percent chance of hitting your card on either the turn or the river. With odds this low, players should only bet if they have the best position on the table and their opponents haven’t bet. They should be folding to any raise, however.
An example of a strong hand would be a combo draw on which a player has outs to make a straight or a flush. There could be as many as 20 outs in a scenario like this, which would give the player a 67.5 percent chance of hitting their hand by the river. In these kind of situations, players need to be raising hard and building up the pot on every street.
The chances of getting the nuts in a poker hand are slim, but when players can work out what draws they have in order to make a strong hand they have a much better idea about how much and when to bet. When on a strong draw, betting aggressively is key as there is still a chance you might not hit the card you need. Therefore, you need to make others think you are strong and try to force them into folding.
Ranges – Understanding Your Opponent’s Data
When Negreanu makes his magical predictions about his opponents’ hands, he often taps into his knowledge of poker ranges. If you are playing in low-stakes games, this kind of statistical analysis doesn’t really apply, as players tend to play openly without caring whether they are knocked out. But when the stakes are higher and there is more riding on it, players have to be cautious. This is when it is possible to put them on certain card ranges.
You need to take into account your opponents’ position to get a better idea of their range. The person who acts first in the hand is likely to only play a monster hand such as a high pocket pair or high-suited connectors. The person who acts last in a hand gets to play more loosely, as they are able to assess their opponents’ hand strength before making their decision.
Imagine that there are only two players left to see a flop and you are in the stronger position. It comes down as a rainbow flop of 3, 5 and 6. This means there is no flush draw out, but there is a potential straight draw. If the other player had 2/4 or 4/7 they would have a straight. But if the player is a professional there is absolutely no chance that he would be calling a pre-flop raise with either of these hands, so you can rule out that he has a straight immediately. You can also rule out any straight draws because it is doubtful they would call a pre-flop raise with 7/8 in that position, even if it was suited.
If they act strong, though, and call or raise another bet, you could deduce that they may have called the pre-flop raise with pocket sevens and hit a set on the flop. There are range charts online that players can study as a way to prepare themselves for a multitude of potential scenarios.
Watch Out for the Common Mistakes of Average Players
One of the most common mistakes of average players is thinking that they are going to get lucky with the cards rather than playing based on probability. Players tend to associate good and bad fortune with certain sets of cards based on what has happened in the past. This is not an optimal way of playing and it will lead to big losses.
Another common mistake of amateur players is not paying attention to the cards that other players have been holding when they have been forced to reveal them in previous hands. By looking at this closely you can get a better idea of their range and whether they are a tight or loose player.
This article has only scratched the surface when it comes to using statistics in poker. There are so many other things to consider including pot odds and break even points, and population and villain analysis. The most important thing to note is that poker is a game that can come down to calculable factors. Once you have mastered some of the techniques to work these out, you will find your game improving massively.