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Does Game Theory Work in Poker?

Poker is one of the most well-known games in the world, played competitively with prize money that ranges in the millions. Naturally, many people are devising strategies that try to win poker games with a degree of certainty. And it is not surprisingly that people have tried to incorporate game theory into poker. The basic definition of game theory is to find the best decision at a given moment by taking in account of what your opponent’s best strategies are. In regards to poker, say you bluff $40 dollars to win a $500 pot. If you always bluff, your opponent will always call your bluff and place down his hand, even if it is weak. However, if you never bluff, your opponent will never place down a weak hand. Like we learned in class, the perfect game theory strategy is never choosing a certain option all of the time. The optimal strategy is bluff some of the time. and not bluff some of the time. Game theory allows you to determine what frequency you should bluff and what frequency you should take other actions. Another important part is being random. Once you have determined the frequency, you need to be realistically random as to not give your opponent any additional information to which he could use to his advantage.

The article concludes, as well as I, that game theory fails as a good strategy for playing poker. First, poker is far too complicated for someone to calculate all the options on the fly. In class, we ¬†only considered two people, each with only two options. In poker, as many as 8 people can play at a time, and the number of card combinations for a five card hard, coupled with the five cards already on the table, is enormous. Furthermore, game theory does not take into account of possible tacit cooperation between two people. Cooperation changes the dynamics of game theory dramatically and introduces even more complications. Lastly, trying to find the right proportion to bluff or not is already pretty complicated but you must calculate a new strategy for every new game you play. For example, game theory assumes that your opponents are also playing perfect games. If your opponent plays imperfectly, you would win less than if you were to play taking that defect into account. Essentially you won’t be able to maximize your profits from weaker opponents if you were to choose the perfect approach, which doesn’t even make sense. The best strategy in poker, in my opinion, is to take game theory into account, but not too seriously, and adapt to changing circumstances.


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