A General Theory of Poker

We don't have the general theory of online poker. By a general theory, it means a unified theoretical view that includes most, if not all, of the commonly expected theoretical perspectives of the game. Each of these theoretical perspectives is useful. No one of them is better than the others. Each of them is useful in a different aspect of the game. At different parts of this text, we see poker through different perspectives. Two examples have already been given.

On game selection, we saw poker through the perspective that money flows from bad players to good poker players. We use that perspective to identify the games that involve many players putting more money in the pot as profitable holdem games.

Several poker players argue that the best games are those when the players are passive, especially loose-passive, but also tight-passive. The reason of this conclusion is that they are looking at poker through a perspective of poker strategy and deception. A weak game of passive players does afford you more opportunity at using advanced strategies and deceptive plays, but that is not the important way of profit in poker.

It is not a question of which perspective is best or superior to the other. It is a question of which perspective is more useful in helping to answer the question at hand. In the case of game selection, the main variable is the amount of money available. The money-flow perspective focuses on this main variable and it is the preferable perspective to use when considering selection of a game.

On seat selection, we saw poker game through the different perspective. There the focus was on the point of view suggested by a strategy and deception perspective. Most poker players look at a seat selection through the game of a partial information perspective.

The difference in seat selection strategy which results from these different perspectives is in the case of maniacs. It is always recommended to sit with the maniac to your immediate right. We suggest the opposite, sit with him either on your immediate left or halfway across the table from you. What is the reason for this difference? It is because of the difference in focus from the two different theoretical perspectives. If you use a partial information perspective, you would want him on your right to ensure you have as much information as you can get before you have to act. This is not incorrect except that we are talking about the maniac someone who plays almost every hand and raises at every opportunity. How much more information can you have? You can gain little extra information from having the maniac on your right but having him on your left extends your tactical playing options immensely.

Poker is a struggle among the players for the rights to the ante.
This perspective has more significance in the early parts of the first betting rounds. In hold'em play game, we use the blinds rather than the antes, but the point of the perspective is that the game starts as a struggle for the initial money in the pot. It is useful perspective in ascertaining starting hand requirements, especially in tight games and from early position.

Money flows from bad players to good players The premise of the ante-theory is that without some initial seed money in the pot, you have particularly no game. The point of view of bad player perspective disprove that, however, with the observation that some players play so badly that they would be willing to play even if the pot had no money to start with at all.

Poker is a contest between a made hand and a drawing hand
This is a perspective of a two-player confrontation where one of them has the best hand and the other player has a possibility of becoming the best hand. It is a useful perspective to use when ascertaining the situations where you are certain that you either have the best hand or almost certain what the best hand is. This perspective is not useful and can lead you far astray, once you have more than two or three players competing for the pot.

Poker is a game of strategy and deception
This perspective has a focus on making plays to create a false impression, outwitting your rivals by bluffs and semi-bluffs and using the position to steal the pots.

Poker is a game of partial information.
This perspective represents poker as a mathematical game. The focus is on evaluation of information about your hand and the possible hands of your rivals. Game theory helps to derive the partial information of the game.

Poker is a game of money and odds
This perspective is a view of poker where the pot size and drawing odds are the important variables. It is valuable perspective for play poker in loose games and in some aggressive poker games.

Poker is a game of manipulation and pressure
This perspective is similar to the strategy and deception perspective. The difference is more of an emphasis on false impression than on tactical uses of position. Players who look the game primarily through this perspective tend to use a lot of table to maneuver and confuse rivals. Those who view the game through this perspective tend to apply pressure by playing in a fast, aggressive style.

Poker is a game of kickers and hand domination
This perspective is very important in tight games or in any games where tight players have entered the pot. The emphasis is on the added value of having two high cards rather than one. The two high cards have value because of the increased probability of flopping the top pair but the domination perspective focuses on the card that does not have a match on the board - the kicker.

What It All Means

Which theoretical perspective you use to analyze a situation depends on the situation and the poker games conditions context of the situation. You should see the example of using all the theoretical perspective to analyze the game. Developing the ability to shift your point of view is the basic step in being able to adjust to changes in the game conditions - the way of winning poker.

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