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Rock Street, San Francisco

As anyone who
has ever played even a single hand of poker can tell you, there are two
essential parts to the game: the players and the odds.  While perfecting your poker demeanor and your
ability to correctly read your opponents can take years to master, it means
nothing if you can’t do the math.  The Mathematics of Poker by Bill Chenn
and Jarod Ankeman offers players new and old with the tools to obtain that
mathematical advantage. 

From the very
first word of the introduction, the authors describe poker in such a way that
even the most novice poker player or the least mathematically minded person can
grasp.  They offer seamless strategies to
meld the intuition and math of poker.  As
I was reading their list of common misconceptions, I found myself thinking how
I had never thought of the game in these terms. 
As an avid poker player, it is easy to fool yourself into thinking that
you have everything figured out.  Little
did I know how much my poker game had been lacking.

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I had always
hated playing in cash games.  It was too
much of a grind, and I always had better success in tournaments.  I discovered as I read that it wasn’t the
differences in the games, but the difference in how I approached it.  In a tournament, I always knew that once my
stack was empty, I’d be going home.  In
contrast, in a cash game, I always knew that if I ran out, I could just get
more cash.  This caused me to play much
more sporadically and to push odds in a cash game that I knew were very much
not in my favor.  Of course, I wanted to
remain unpredictable and “unexploitable”, but found out that all I was really
doing was exploiting myself.

I love the
honesty with which the authors approached this book.  They made it very clear that they were
offering no mathematical proofs, nor did we have the technology to fully test
their theories.  That made reading the
book feel much more like I was having a conversation with them versus simply
being told how to calculate odds and adjust my strategy accordingly. The fact
that they segregated the “hard math” throughout the book really makes it easy
to understand for everyone.  So many
other similar books read like a mathematical journal that they become
disjointed and confusing.  If you don’t
want to know the deep down numbers of poker, you can still walk away from this
book having a much better understanding of the game as a whole.

Ultimately, I
can say that of several upon several poker strategy books I’ve read, The Mathematics of Poker is very near
the top of my list.  By mixing all
aspects of the game with the uncanny ability to let the reader choose how far
they want to go down the rabbit hole, Chenn and Ankemann have created a truly
“must read” book for everyone who picks up a deck of cards.

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