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David SklanskySeveral years ago, a new hold’em playing poker machine hit Nevada. You actually could play real heads-up limit hold’em against this machine with no rake.

And at first, almost no one beat it.

The reason for that was that the machine’s strategy was developed through playing billions of hands against itself, while constantly making adjustments to coalesce to a strategy that was close to GTO.

But things change fast, and I believe the machine is hard to find now, if available at all, because an even more perfect computer program was being used against it.

While it was still on the floor, I did have an opportunity to speak to its programmer, because I was curious about a slight mistake it sometimes made. Sometimes, the machine would fold to a bet on the turn when it had a draw to the nuts and was getting very slightly higher pot odds than its chances to hit.

The programmer told me that since its strategy related to the experience it had during the billions of practice hands it was possible that during those hand the draw won a little less than would be expected and thus would now fold a few of the times it had a borderline call.

So, I asked, “Why not override the simulation results when there is a draw to the nuts and the computer says fold and simply have the computer do the calculation to double check the fold is correct?”

As simple as that would be to implement, he refused to do it. Despite the sound logic, the programmer was a little scared of making decisions with probability techniques rather than just trusting his computer.

Which was ridiculous, but maybe not surprising. As I have talked with players who are pretty familiar with GTO theory, I have encountered many who are much weaker at probability than you might think. Those players need a refresher course on the subject, much like the programmer. Especially because as the opponent’s skills decline, probability becomes more important than game-theory knowledge.

The reason why many people resist studying probability is because they are not that mathematically inclined, and because those who teach the subject make it more complicated than they need to.

So who can take the subject of probability, and teach it in a way that doesn’t bring about needless aggravation? C’est moi. Well not just moi. Also Dr. Justin Conrad, Professor of International Affairs at the University of Georgia, author of Gambling and War, and statistics teacher to those who major in his subject.

We knew that we could write a fairly short book that could explain the main parts of probability and statistics in a way that even math-phobics could understand.

Probability and Statistics: The Vegas Way contains 19 chapters, including probability in action, which shows how you can multiply fractions to get the chances that two or more things both happen or at least one of them happen, keeping in mind that “chances” are different than “odds.”

You’ll learn all about averages, means and medians with a story about a famous proposition about the number of throws you’d need to be favored to throw doubles sixes.

Other chapters will cover the Bayesian Approach, permutations and combinations, normal and not-normal distributions, and the wonderful world of statistics.

Of course, I will probably mention many of these topics in future columns, but do you really want to wait to read them all? ♠

David Sklansky is the author of The Theory of Poker, as well as nearly two dozen other guides on gambling, poker, and other games. The three-time WSOP bracelet winner’s latest book, Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em: Help Them Give You Their Money, is now available on Amazon. You can contact Sklansky at dsklansky@aol.com.




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