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Game Theory in Poker

I find Game Theory to be one of the more interesting topics in Networks. The basics of it are somewhat simple, with the idea being that each player plays to their dominant strategy. Of course there are equilibriums involved, such as Nash equilibriums. But looking at various articles, game theory has been involved in so much, and in various ways. Looking at the Cold War, we can see a prime example of game theory. Both the US and the Soviet Union had two options, to build an arsenal, or to trust that the other would not. But while the best outcome would have been for both nations to trust each other, both ended up building arsenals. We see game theory applied to many decisions involving the threat of war and preparations. More information can be found at But I find game theory can be applied to almost every sport. Basketball, Soccer, Tennis, Football, etc. But perhaps the most debated use of game theory is in poker.

Some people like to play based on the “tells” of other players, or based purely on odds. I personally know someone who plays solely on calculating the odds of his hand winning and based on how much is in the pot. However, I like to use a little game theory in my style of play. I don’t have the best poker face, nor am I exceptional at reading other players. So the whole idea for me is to let other people try and read me, while I try to play every hand that I can so people have ample opportunity to gather information on me. Here is where game theory comes into play. Since I play most hands, good and bad, no one can really know what hand I have. So it all comes down to how I play each one. I also have the option to show my hand even if I win the hand. I can either be passive or aggressive, as in the Hawk Dove game. From what we learned in lecture, it would be very bad to play Dove if the other player can play the Hawk. Therefore I should tend to play aggressive, and try to bluff most of the time. But the real advantage is when I can pretend to play passive, as if I had a bad hand, and pull out the big money in the end game.

But I can’t do that if I decide to always play passive unless I have a very good hand. So I try to bluff a lot, even when I know I can’t win, just to seem like I tend to bluff the most. But I never bet too much money. But whenever I have a bad hand, I always play passively and let people assume I have a bad hand, assume that I will be taking the Dove choice. But it’s all about the previous behavior. If I had constantly played passive, but then went all in randomly and won on good hands, then people will be hesitant to bet a lot. They will take the Dove-Dove response and I will gain, because I have a good hand, but not a lot. Now if I had constantly played the aggressive play, and kept losing, then people will tend to bet more and I will win more. So by playing the non-dominant strategy more often, I can pull out big winnings when I play passive with a good hand. In this case, it is more about reverse game theory, where I either have the Dove or the Hawk in my hand, but pretend to have one or the other. Or perhaps you could call it a two stage game theory. But even with the way I use it, someone could use it another way, a 1 stage process.


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