"Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things."
— Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton is considered by many people (including his modern-day counterparts) to be the greatest and most influential scientist that ever lived. Newton was a physicist and mathematician who helped - quite literally - write the books on those subjects, and he also had wide-ranging interests that included astronomy, philosophy, alchemy and even theology. Without his monograph Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, we likely wouldn't have the same world we live in today. His philosophy, as shown above, gives us an opportunity to look at an aspect of poker and philosophy that should be discussed more frequently: simplicity.
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While poker is a game where personality and psychology play heavily, particularly in live events such as the World Series of Poker, there is a lot to be said for knowing and understanding the basic math of the game. A good understanding of pot odds and implied odds will help a beginning poker player to get an idea of when they should and shouldn't play a hand. This is true regardless of how much experience a player may or may not have.
A lot of decisions in a poker game can be made with no regard for the personalities involved and this can make you a lot of money over the long term. Let's look at deciphering pot odds, which involves determining the likelihood of winning when on a drawing hand, by creating a simple ratio system between the card odds and the pot odds. The first thing you do with pot odds is find the ratio of cards in the deck that you don’t want, against your outs. Once the flop is placed, there are five cards that you definitely want and 47 that you don't.
In this scenario, let’s say that there are nine outs that will help you make a flush. That means that there are 38 that won't, creating a ratio of 38:9, or 4:1 for all intents and purposes. Then you need to calculate the size of the pot and the size of the bet that you will need to make to get in on the action. If you have a $100 pot that will cost you $20 to call into, then you've got a ratio of 5:1. If the card odds are lower than the pot odds, then you should call.
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Playing mathematically-based poker may not be especially glamorous, but it will help you learn how to intuit the right decisions more quickly. Many poker pros talk about their gut instincts. What they're actually talking about is the fact that they've absorbed and are able to perform a lot of these calculations on the fly. Simple math is at the heart of poker, especially at the less expensive tables, a fact that Sir Isaac Newton would have appreciated.
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