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The Mathematics of Poker Paperback – November 30, 2006

3.6 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"For those who think poker math is only about probability, pot odds, and straightforward, rote play, think again. Chen and Ankenman do a terrific job explaining how math can, among other things, show you exactly how to mix up your play in such a way that even champion players cannot get the best of you. Especially those who don?t read this book." -- David Sklansky "Rear Cover"
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Conjelco; 1 edition (November 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1886070253
  • ISBN-13: 978-1886070257
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason Wortham on April 15, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow, I'm very impressed with the book. I think it's touched ground that isn't available anywhere else. I'm sure that many programmers (myself included) have attempted to solve this game, and have discovered how burdensome the simple odds calculations are, nevermind the strategy and decision trees. Poker will not soon be solved by computers, like chess is. However, Bill Chen's ideas of "Toy games" help humans get insight into the character of the solution.

Anyone picking up this text should be warned of several things:

1) It is not for beginners. Strong poker takes judgement and experience, and basic hand/situational values cen be best learned from Dan Harringtons books or Sklansky's No-Limit book. I've read over 20 poker books, and Harrington and Sklansky stand out as the best. Harrington's books are very practical, with detailed analysis of situations.

2) It is not for the timid, foggy headed, or undisciplined. The new concepts in his books require for you to stop and think. If your instinct is "gee, this sounds complicated", then give up now. Some people will have the same backlash that regular people have with math. If you're from the "Math is hard" philosophy, this is not for you.

3) This book does not read fast. You should read it 3 times slower than a normal book to really appreciate it. The math shold not just be understood, it should be questioned.

4) The book highlights theory behind game strategy, but does not connect the dots with real hands or real situations. It would be good to connect the check-call, check-raise, check-fold, bet-raise, bet-call, bet-fold, bluff, check-raise bluff, etc... thresholds with actual cards.
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Format: Paperback
I just finished my first complete reading of the book. It is absolutely extraordinary.

Those looking for specific advice playing particular forms of poker will not be happy with the book (with one important, and possibly extremely profitable exception). Those who are looking to really understand the depths and complexity of the game, in all its forms, will be rewarded with an absolute masterpiece.

I am a professional poker player, and I've read and studied everything worth reading (and many others not worth reading!) about poker many times. In my opinion, nearly all of the worthwhile stuff is 2+2 books, with a few important exceptions. As stellar as I believe the 2+2 books are, I feel that Mathematics of Poker (MoP) deserves its own category.

Its major departure from most good poker books is to explore the notion of "optimal play" in a great deal of depth. The most powerful tool of this exploration is game theory, and the book contains an extremely rigorous application of game theory to poker using exemplifying "toy" games that illustrate strategic principles of real poker games. Except for what Sklansky has briefly written on the subject (Theory of Poker), this is the only book containing this kind of information that I am aware of.

While the game theory sections seem to be causing the most comments, MoP also contains excellent sections on what the authors call "exploitive play". While optimal play intends to make our own play unexploitable, exploitive play intends to maximally profit from the deficiencies in our opponent's strategies. To do so, we must ourselves deviate from optimal play, which opens us up to be expolited ourselves (what the authors call counter-exploitation).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really didn't expect to like this book. Honestly, the only reason I bought it was because I like to read everything that my opponents possibly have read. I don't want them to have an edge simply because I slept on something. So I thought: "Fine, I'll read this book. But I'm not going to like it." Boy, was I wrong. This might be the most thoughtful and intelligent poker book that I have ever read.

I learned poker by using my instincts, not math. So I expected to disagree with a lot of what this book would present. On the contrary, the opposite took place. Not only was I agreeing with the authors, it also reinforced what I had figured out intuitively on my own. Instead of contradicting my play, it reinforced that what I was doing was usually correct.

I haven't taken a math class since high school pre-calc in 1998, and I did alright. I didn't understand ALL the math in these pages, but one doesn't need to. As long as you get the gist of what they're saying and can apply it to poker, which an intelligent person should be able to do, you'll be fine. If you find yourself lost without a map (which you probably will at some point in the book), take a break and come back to it.

Flipping through this at your local book store, you might be intimidated by all the charts, graphs and equations. Don't be. Just buy it, read it with an open mind, and watch your poker game soar.
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Format: Paperback
Bill Chen and Jerrod Ankenman, The Mathematics of Poker (ConJelCo, 2006)

I should start this review by saying I'm not a math guy. I never was. I failed calculus the first time and had to take it twice (I squeaked by with a C- the second time). Years as a horseplayer, though, made me understand that I was a stats guy, and that the math inherent to the stats was workable even for an English major like me. Then I started playing poker seriously. Probability? Kelly criterion? Game theory? Yeah, I had all that. Then I read The Mathematics of Poker. And there's my old nemesis... calculus.

Chen and Ankenman say in the intro that the book is geared towards laypeople, and that they try to keep the math to a minimum (they separate out the more complex proofs and the like for non-math-guys to skip over). In short, they don't succeed. They can't; in order for you to grasp concepts later in the book, you have to get the math earlier in the book. There's no way to keep it to a minimum, really. There might be a way to make it more palatable, though. I've read probably seven or eight books on horse racing for every poker book I've read. (I was a horseplayer for a decade before I started playing poker with real, honest-to-goodness money.) One thing many of the good ones have in common is that they err on the side of excess when it comes to examples. If there's tricky math involved, the author will take you through it with four or five examples. When you're reading a book on horse racing, sometimes it seems like overkill, and I know I've remarked on that in some reviews of horse books I've written. I am now reformed, and see the light. Had I had that many redundant examples here, I'd probably have gotten it.
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