There are many skills a player can have that grant them an advantage in professional poker. Risk assessment, for example, is often cited as being a key skill, and one that separates good players from great players. But what exactly is risk assessment, and how does it help in a game about playing cards, bluffing, and making bets? More to the point; can being good at mathematics make you a better poker player?
When breaking the game of poker down, it can quickly be seen that the biggest key element is being able to make the most of a hand. But, of course, you don’t know what a hand will actually be until the last card has been revealed. So, how can you confidently make bets when you don’t even know what it is you’re betting on? The answer is, by knowing the percentages of the hand you will land up with at the end of the round.
Kicking off a round with a King and an Ace in your hand is a great starting point. A pair of Aces or Kings is respectable, and a triple even better. But will there be any Kings or Aces in the community cards? You’re not psychic, so you don’t know.
But what you do know for sure is how many cards there are in the deck, and how many of those cards are Kings and Aces. Hence; you know the likelihood of a King or an Ace appearing. The statistical chances are therefore essential in managing the risk of betting big, before you even know if your hand will have value.
But what are the statistical chances of other players having a better hand than yours? How many hands can beat a pair of Kings, or three Kings? How many other players are at the table? This is the essence of risk management, all of which is greatly bolstered by having one key skill; mathematics. Doing these equations in your head on the fly in an ever-changing game is a characteristic of being among the greatest poker players in the world.
But just knowing these statistics are not enough on their own to make you an excellent player. Knowing the risks and playing accordingly is what brings it all together. A player who is excellent at bluffing can, and will, outplay an opponent who is just good at maths. After all, you can take a guess at what hand an opponent has, but when they are playing as if they have a hand that far exceeds yours, how can you be sure?
So, although risk assessment, and maths by extension are a wonderful ally when playing poker, bringing the skills together with others are the ticket to playing like a true champion. Don’t forget to employ these skills at crucial moments in extremely high-pressure situations, with often-enormous sums of money on the line, assuming you’re playing professionally. Good luck!