it may improve one’s play. Papers of Newman (1959), Friedman (1971), Cutler (1975,1976), and Zadeh (1977), and the book of Ankeny (1981) are of this category. On theother hand there are also books that contain valuable information and recommendationson how to play the real game of poker. The books of Brunson (1978) and Sklansky (1987)on general games of poker and of Sklansky and Malmuth (1988), Sklansky, Malmuth andZee (1989), Zee (1992) and Harrington and Robertie (2004-2006) on speciﬁc games of poker can be recommended. Unusual in its treatment mixing mathematical analysis, gametheoretic ideas and the real game of poker, the book of Chen and Ankenman (2006) maybe especially recommended.One of the simplest and most useful mathematical models of a situation that occurs inpoker is called the “classical betting situation” by Friedman (1971) and “basic endgame”by Cutler (1976). These papers provide explicit situations in the game of stud poker and of lowball stud for which the model gives a very accurate description. This model is also foundin the exercises of the book of Ferguson (1967). Since this is a model of a situation thatoccasionally arises in the last round of betting when there are two players left, we adoptthe terminology of Cutler and call it Basic Endgame in poker. This will also emphasizewhat we feel is an important feature in the game of poker, that like chess, go, backgammonand other games, there is a distinctive phase of the game that occurs at the close, wherespecial strategies and tactics that are analytically tractable become important.
1. Basic Endgame.
Basic Endgame is played as follows. Two players, Player I and Player II, both putan ante of
dollars into a pot (
0). Player I then draws a card from a deck of cardsthat gives him a winning card with probability (w.p.)
and a losing card w.p. 1
< P <
1. Both players know the value of
, but only Player I knows if the card hereceived is a winning card or not. Player I may then check (also called pass) or bet
0). If Player I checks, the game is over and the antes goes to Player I if hehas a winning card and to Player II otherwise. If Player I bets, Player II may then fold, orshe may call by also putting
dollars in the pot. If she folds, then Player I wins the antewhatever card he has. If Player II calls, then the ante plus the bet is won by Player I if he has a winning card and by Player II otherwise. Only the ratio of
is signiﬁcant,but we retain separate symbols for the ante and the bet so that the results are easier tounderstand.Situations of the form of Basic Endgame arise in poker. For example, in the last roundof betting in a game of ﬁve card stud poker, Player I’s cards are the 5 of diamonds, the6 of spades, the 7 of diamonds, the 8 of hearts and a hidden hole card. Player II’s cardsare the 2 of hearts, the 3 of spades, the king of spades, the king of clubs and a hiddenhole card. No matter what card Player II has in the hole, Player I will win if and only if he has a 4 or a 9 in the hole. Since Player II has the higher hand showing, she must actﬁrst by betting or checking. In this situation, it is optimal for her to check. Assuming shedoes check, it then becomes Player I’s turn to act, and we have a situation close to BasicEndgame described in the previous paragraph. The number
may be taken to be half thesize of the present pot, and
will be the maximum allowable bet. The number