Thursday, March 08, 2012

Has mathematical analysis changed the game a lot in the past few years?

This is similar to one of the last questions I got after my Mathematical Poker talk last month. Unless a commenter asks another question, I think this will be the last one I answer here on the blog.

The game has indeed changed a lot in the past several years, but it's hard to tell how much of that change is really attributable to mathematical analysis. Certainly, the games have gotten tougher in during the years I played, but I think the main factor may just be natural selection. I would guess that most of the players int the games I was playing in Los Angeles do not know the game theory results I presented in the talk. Ten years ago, I think there really was a Moneymaker-aided poker "craze", which was the inspiration for this blog's name. That brought in a lot of new players, and so games were easy to beat. The ensuing years weeded out the bad players, while the good players were more likely to stick around. This process is pretty hard to disentangle from the fact that the good players were also getting better with practice and study, so in order to guess at the influence of analytics, I need to rely upon conversations I've had with players. My impression from such conversations is that new players tend to have a good sense of the analytical fundamentals of the game, much better than almost anybody had ten years ago. Meanwhile, the older players tend to be mostly those who had a good intuitive feel for the game and were able to survive the natural selection process. Most of the best players today (especially the young players) seem to have a very strong analytical foundation, and that is where I think analytics have caused some of the biggest and most visible changes in poker. In light of that, the continued success of Doyle Brunson is all the more impressive to me.

Another area analytics seems to have made a big difference is in tournaments. I haven't been playing tournaments much, so I can't speak from experience, but tournaments seem more ripe for mathematical analysis. Also, my poker discussions with tournament players gave me the impression that they are more keen on the technical aspects of the game. 

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