You are on page 1of 10

1.

Introduction
This is Part 2 of the article series "Modeling Poker" where we'll study poker theory analytically using mathematical modeling and simplified poker games (so-called toy games). In Part 1 we warmed up by solving the AKQ game over 1/2 street with fixed limit betting structure:

Rules for the AKQ game: We have two players: Alice (out of position) and Bob (in position) At the start of the game both players puts a 1 bb ante into the pot Both players get dealt one random card from the AKQ deck Alice checks "in the dark" Bob can now check and see a showdown, or he bets 1 bb If Bob bets, Alice can fold, or she can call and see a showdown When the betting round is over, and nobody has folded, the highest card wins in a showdown

We then solved the game under the assumption that both players are trying to play perfectly. This leads to an optimal strategy for each player: Alice Always check-calls A Check-calls K 1/3 of the time Always check-folds Q

Bob

Always bets A for value Always checks behind with K Buffs Q 1/3 of the time

We found these strategies using logical reasoning, and without writing down mathematical formulas. Finally, we found that Bob makes 1/18 bb/hand in this version of the AKQ game, which is equivalent to 100/18 =5.56 bb/100. An interesting property of the solution is that it gives us a measure of the value of position. If both players always check to showdown, each player wins half the time, and no money changes hands in the game (the EV of the game is zero for both players. But when the game has a round of betting, Bob gains a position advantage. Bob then makes a profit from the game, while Alice loses. All because of Bob's positional advantage, plus the rule that forces Alice to start the betting round with a check (and we'll see in a later article that Alice can reduce Bob's positional advantage if she is allowed to bet into him). The rules of this version of the AKQ game allows Bob to check behind his medium strong hands (K) without having to make a decision with them (which he would have been forced to do if Alice had been allowed to bet into him with a balanced range of strong hands A and bluffs Q). When Alice checks all hands to him, he can sit back and build an optimal valuebet/bluff range that guarantees him a profit in the game, regardless of Alice's call/fold strategy. If Alice calls too much, Bob makes more money from valuebetting A. If she folds too much, Bob makes more money from bluffing Q. Alice ends up using an optimal call/fold strategy where she always calls with A, and sometimes with K. But even if she plays perfectly, she can not prevent Bob from making an automatic profit from the game. In Part 2 we'll continue to work on this variation of the AKQ game to build methods/tools we can use later for solving more complicated poker models The main topic for Part 2 is to formalize the solution for the AKQ game over 1/2 street with fixed limit betting structure. We'll get to the same solution that we found in Part 1, but via a more rigorous and general procedure. This trains our ability to solve toy games systematically, and we introduce more useful game theory concepts (for example, indifference points and dominated strategies).

2. Formalizing the solution to the AKQ game over 1/2 street with fixed limit betting structure

2.1 Building a reduced payout matrix


We begin the solution process by building a payout matrix for the game. This is a table with all possible outcomes, and the profit/loss for each player in each of the outcomes. Our definition of payout is: We look at ex-showdown value This means we're only interested in the chips that changes hands as a result of the betting round. For example, if Alice has K and Bob has Q, Bob can bluff or check behind. If he bluffs and Alice calls with K, he loses 1 bb in the betting round. If Alice folds her K, Bob wins a 2 bb pot he could not have won by checking. So his ex-showdown value for bluffing successfully with Q is +2 bb. If he checks behind with Q, he can never win the pot, but he does not win or lose money from betting. His exshowdown value for checking and losing with Q is therefore 0. We look at ex-showdown value relative to Bob This is a choice we make, and we could also have used Alice. The full payout matrix is:

Where we have used the following abbreviations: - C/C =Check-Call - C/F =Check-Fold Our next step is to simplify the payout matrix by eliminating dominated strategies for both players. If one player has two alternative strategies A and B, where A is always as good as, and sometimes better than B, we say thatstrategy A dominates strategy B. Since the player doesn't have any incentive to use strategy B, we can eliminate it from the payout matrix. First we eliminate dominated strategies for Alice. We observe that Alice's check-calling with A (always > 0) dominates check-folding with A (always 0). Similarly, check-calling with Q (always < 0) is dominated by check-folding Q (always 0). We can therefore remove check-folding A and checkcalling Q from the payout matrix, and we get:

Then we eliminate Bob's dominated strategies. He has two of those. Checking behind A (always 0) is dominated by betting A (0 or > 0). Betting K (0 or < 0) is dominated by checking K (always 0). Bob therefore eliminates checking A and betting K, and we get the new reduced payout matrix:

Finally, we make one last simplification by removing strategies that are automatic and don't influence WEV. Alice always check-folds Q, and no money changes hands regardless of which hand Bob is betting. The same goes or Bob's automatic check with K, which has EV =0 regardless of Alice's hand. So when we solve the game to find the optimal strategies for Alice and Bob, we only need to take the following strategies into consideration:

2.2 Solving the AKQ game over 1/2 street with fixed-limit betting structure
We now solve the game in a mathematically stringent way, by formulating and solving equations. Bob always bets A and Alice always check-calls A. So the strategy components we need to solve for in order to formulate the optimal strategies for both players are: - How often does bob bluff with Q? - How often does Alice call with the bluffcatcher K? Bob's optimal bluffing frequency with Q When Bob bluffs optimally, it should be impossible for Alice to improve her EV by either calling more (which she can do if Bob bluffs to much) or folding more (which she can do if Bob isn't bluffing enough). Bob achieves this by bluffing exactly so much that it's the same for Alice whether she calls or folds with her bluffcatcher K. This creates an indifference point for Alice, where here choice to call or fold K does not matter.

So when Bob is bluffing optimally, we get:


EV_Alice (call K) =EV_Alice (fold K)

Bob always bets A. In addition, he bluffs some of the time with Q. Let b be the probability of Bob bluffing when he has a Q. Alice's EV for calling with K is then:
EV_Alice (call K) =EV (Bob bets A) + EV (Bob bluffs Q)

Bob has A 50% of the time, and when Alice calls against Bob's A, she loses -1 bb. Bob has Q 50% of the time, but only bets a fraction b of those Bob 50%. So the probability Bob has Q when he bets is b x 50% =1/2b, and Alice wins +1 bb when she calls in this case. The EV expression for Alice's calling with K can now be written as:
EV_Alice (call K) =EV (Bob bets A) + EV (Bob bluffs Q) =(1/2)(-1) + (1/2b)(+1) =-1/2 + 1/2b

The same kind of reasoning tells us that the expression for Alice's folding with K (where she loses 0 bb when Bob is betting A and -2 bb those times Bob is bluffing a Q) can be written as:
EV_Alice (fold K) =(1/2)(0) + (1/2b)(-2) =(1/2b)(-2) =-b

We now find Bob's optimal bluffing frequency by setting Alice's EV for calling with K equal to the EV for folding K (so that she is at an indifference point):
EV_Alice (call K) =EV_Alice (fold K) -1/2 + 1/2b =-b 1/2b + b =1/2 3/2b =1/2 b =(1/2)/(3/2) b =1/3

We conclude that Bob should bluff 1/3 of the time he has a Q. Alice's optimal calling frequency with K We use the same type of reasoning as previously. When Alice is playing optimally, she calls precisely so often with her bluffcatcher K that Bob can not increase his EV by bluffing more (which he can do if Alice folds too much) or by bluffing less (which he can do if Alice calls too much). So Alice chooses a calling frequency with K that makes Bob indifferent towards bluffing or checking behind with Q.

Then we have:
EV_Bob (bluff Q) =EV_Bob (check Q)

Bob's EV for checking behind with Q is 0, so our remaining job is to find the EV expression for Bob's bluffing with Q. We have:
EV_Bob (bluff Q) =EV (Alice calls A) + EV (Alice calls K) + EV (Alice folds K)

The first term of this expression is simply the probability Alice has an A (50%) times Bob's loss when he gets called (-1 bb):
EV (Alice calls A) =(1/2)(-1)

For the two terms that involve Alice's calling and folding with K, we let c be the probability that Alice calls with K. The probability that she folds with K is then (1-c). When Alice calls with K, Bob loses -1 bb. When Alice folds with K, Bob wins +2 bb with his bluff. The two last term in the EV expression then become:
EV (Alice calls K) =(1/2)(c)(-1) EV (Alice folds K) =(1/2)(1 - c)(+2)

And we end up with:


EV_Bob (bluff Q) =EV (Alice calls A) + EV (Alice calls K) + EV (Alice folds K) =(1/2)(-1) + (1/2)(c)(-1) + (1/2)(1 - c)(+2) =-1/2 -1/2c + (1 - c) =-1/2 -1/2c + 1 -c =1/2 -3/2c

Finally, we solve for Alice's optimal calling frequency with K by setting Bob's EV for bluffing with K equal to his EV for checking behind with K:
EV_Bob (bluff Q) =EV_Bob (check Q) 1/2 -3/2c =0 1/2 =3/2c c =(1/2)/(3/2) c =1/3

We conclude that Alice should call 1/3 of the time when she has a K.

2.3 Complete solution of the AKQ game over 1/2 street with fixedlimit betting structure:
Alice Always check-calls A Check-calls K 1/3 of the time Always check-folds Q

Bob Always bets A for value Always checks behind with K Buffs Q 1/3 of the time

We also found this solution in Part 1, but without using equations. The solution process we have used here is more general, and much better suited for handling more complicated games. We end Part 2 by calculating the value of the game for Alice and Bob by solving mathematical equations:

2.4 The value of the AQK game over 1/2 street with fixed-limit betting structure:
We'll now find the value of the game for Alice and Bob when they are playing their optimal strategies. We do this by finding Bob's EV for the game. Since no chips are entering or leaving the game (it's a zero sum game), Alice's EV is then the negative of Bob's EV. We have to take into consideration 6 scenarios: - Alice has A and Bob has K - Alice has A and Bob has Q - Alice has K and Bob has A - Alice has K and Bob has Q - Alice has Q and Bob has A - Alice has Q and Bob has K

All scenarios are equally probably, so there's a 1/6 chance of each of them occurring. We now calculate how much money changes hands in each scenario, and then we find Bob's total EV for the game by summing all 6 EV contributions: Scenario 1: Alice has A and Bob has K
EV1 =(1/6)(-1) =-1/6

Bob always checks behind, and loses his ante for -1 bb total. Scenario 2: Alice has A and Bob has Q
EV2 =(1/6){(2/3)(-1) + (1/3)(-2)} =(1/6){-4/3} =-4/18

Bob checks behind 2/3 of the time and loses his ante for -1 bb. 1/3 of the time he bluffs loses his ante + his bet for -2 bb total. Scenario 3: Alice has K and Bob has A
EV3 =(1/6){(1/3)(+2) + (2/3)(+1)} =(1/6){4/3} =4/18

Bob always bets. Alice calls 1/3 of the time and Bob then wins Alice's ante + one bet for +2 bb total. The remaining 2/3 of the time Alice folds and Bob picks up her ante for +1 bb total. Scenario 4: Alice has K and Bob has Q
EV4 =(1/6){(2/3)(-1) + (1/3){(1/3)(-2) + (2/3)(+1)}} =(1/6){-2/3 + (1/3){0}} =(1/6){-2/3} =-1/9

2/3 of the time Bob checks behind and loses his ante for -1 bb. The remaining 1/3 of the time he bluffs. Those times Bob bluffs, Alice calls 1/3 of the time, and Bob loses his ante + one bet for -2 bb total. The remaining 2/3 of the time Bob bluffs, Alice folds, and Bob wins her ante for +1 bb. Note that the EV contribution for Bob's bluffing with Q is 0, which it should be when Alice calls/folds optimally. The only term that survives in the equation is the -1/9bb from Bob checking behind and losing with Q. Scenario 5: Alice has Q and Bob has A

EV5 =(1/6)(+1) =1/6

Bob always bets Q, and Alice always folds Q. Bob picks up Alice's ante for +1 bb total. Scenario 6: Alice has Q and Bob has K
EV6 =(1/6)(+1) =1/6

Bob always checks behind his K, and wins Alice's ante for +1 bb total. Bob's total EV for the game We now sum the EV contribution for each of the 6 possible scenarios. This gives us Bob's total EV for one round of the game:
Bob's EV =EV1 + EV2 + EV3 + EV4 + EV5 + EV6 =-1/6 -4/18 +4/18 - 1/9 + 1/6 + 1/6 =-1/9 + 1/6 =-2/18 + 3/18 =1/18

So Bob makes 1/18 bb per game, which is equivalent to 1/18 =0.0556 bb/hand, or 0.0556 x 100 =5.56 bb/100.

3. Summary
In this article we have formalized the process for solving the AKQ game over 1/2 street with fixedlimit betting structure, which be began exploring in Part 1. The solution method we used was: Build a payout matrix for the game Eliminate dominated strategies for the payout matrix Find optimal bet/call/fold frequencies for the remaining strategies in the payout matrix by defining indifference points. We require that neither player should be able to increase his/her EV when the other player is playing optimally

In Part 3 we'll continue to explore this version of the AKQ game. There we'll discuss how Alice and Bob can increase their EV for the game by deviating from optimal play against an opponent who is making mistakes. For example, we'll see that Bob can increase his EV by never bluffing if Alice is a

calling station who never folds her bluffcatcher K.