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Why I Love Poker

A study in imperfect information

In game theory, a game has “perfect information” if, at all times, all players have complete knowledge of how the game started, every event that has transpired and the current situation of the game. Chess is a game of perfect information. At all times, the two players can see the complete layout of the board and they were witness to every move in the game. In contrast, poker is a game of imperfect information. Take Texas Holdem’, currently the most popular variant of poker. You know the cards you started with. You know the community cards – the cards that appeared on the flop, the turn and the river. But your opponents “hole cards”, they’re a mystery. Add in the fact that poker is a game of skill with a massive dose of luck. You can be a superior player to your opponents, make the right reads, make all of the right decisions AND STILL LOSE. 

It can be infuriating at times but also tremendously exciting! So you’re left with your knowledge of the game, ability to track the play of your opponent and understand her style, constantly make calculations of pot and implied odds and expected value, and varying your tactics. What I really love is when I’m keyed in enough that I can decide on the outcome and path that I want a hand to take and then make it happen with almost complete disregard to the cards. Now that’s fun!

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