Tuesday, April 28, 2009

posted by James - 4:43 PM

I have high respect and praise for Barry Greenstein... even though I was calling myself The Bear long before I knew who he was... I'll give him props for being THE Bear of poker. Here's a great interview from pokernews.com with him... pay attention to the bolded statement.

PN: On a recently-aired episode of “High Stakes Poker”, you alluded to a phrase that had come up over on Joe (Sebok)’s PokerRoad podcast -- “math is idiotic.”

Greenstein: Yes.

PN: The phrase is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but back in Ace on the River [Greenstein’s 2005 autobiography and poker strategy guide], you tell an interesting story about a hand you once played against a philosophy professor back when you were a student at the University of Illinois. It actually comes up in a section called “Misusing Mathematics.” It was a stud eight-or-better hand, where he had calculated it to be over 1,000-to-1 against for you to have had precisely the right cards [three low diamonds] in the hole to scoop him...

Greenstein: Yes, mathematically, with random cards, I shouldn’t have him beat. But of course, in that particular case, there wasn’t anything random about it. I had to have the hand I had, pretty much, to be able to raise him all in, because it was obvious that he had something like possibly a six-high straight, as I recall. I wouldn’t have called his bet with one card to go without a low and flush draw, and I made it and scooped him.

PN: It was funny rereading that, and thinking of the phrase...

Greenstein: Yes, I think of it more as not that “math is idiotic,” but that math is misused a lot in poker.

PN: It makes idiots of us. Or it can.

Greenstein: Right. So many people cite the math. And we have this all the time. If you go on the Red Pro forum, I had a big argument over there with... I’ll call them the “internet kids.” You know, sharp kids, good players. Daniel Kelly, Jimmy Fricke... real respected, obviously smart kids, and good players. And they will all do some mathematical figuring of when things are plus-EV and my whole argument is to say, “You guys are missing poker things that can allow you to give yourself a greater EV than your mathematics is giving you.”

And I see this recurrent theme among the young players who think they’ve figured the game out, but a lot of times it’s getting in their way. Because in live poker there’s so much more that you can go on beyond the mathematics, especially when you are playing against weak players where you can exploit them. I think a lot of the young players are missing this, and I think that we’ll see over the next couple of years, as they get better, the better ones will wake up to not be hampered by their mathematical models which are actually getting in their way sometimes.

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