December 21, 2010
The Game of Draw Poker : Chapter 1 - The Element of Chance
Some worthy writers on the subject of Draw Poker have endeavored to eliminate the element of chance from this game. By a series of clever mathematical calculations they have made a fair showing in this direction, and a few of them have been bold enough to declare that they have approximated elimination. To my mind this claim is a mistake, and I believe that the experience of every poker player will bear me out in the assertion.
Dr. Pole, whose opinion of any game at cards is to be respected, has arranged a table showing the probability of the occurrence of the higher classes of poker hands. From this table I will take one instance and compare the theory with experience. Dr. Pole has rightly calculated that the odds against a straight flush being held before the draw is 64,999 to 1. And yet my individual experience with straight flushes reduces that adds materially, for in ten years of poker playing I have held several such hands. In a single sitting of three or four hours I remember to have held two straight flushes. On the other hand a friend of mine, who has played fully as many poker hands as I, claims to have never held a straight flush. Now by what theory, other than chance can it be explained that all these straight flushes should have fallen to me and none to him?
The effort to eliminate chance from the game of Draw Poker is as pitiably futile as the endeavor of those mistaken creatures, who wear out their lives searching for the secret of perpetual motion. Change is a prime element of piker and must be so regarded in order to play the game successfully. Otherwise, players would be continually placing false values on their hands. That is they would be playing their cards cording to a fixed mathematical valuation, rather than according to a carefully estimated resultant of the possibilities of the hands out and the individual temperaments of the players engaged in the game. For it must be remembered that in poker "bluffing", or betting on nothing, is not only permissible, but is one of the most seductive features of the game.
The definite application of mathematics, to per is at best but limited. Even Dr. Pole stops at the "draw", for the "discard" produces combinations that are not only multifarious but incalculable, the element of chance having doubled its force with theta discard. Therefore, there is no absolutely sure way of winning at poker, provided that the game played fairly. It must not be judged from this, however, that poker is a mere game of chance, for it is in reality the most skillful game at cards that has ever been invented. But the skill necessary to play the game well must be acquired by experience, and its perfection depends wholly upon the mental calibre of the player. Nevertheless, I venture to offer the following formula as a rule that should be remembered and applied by every poker-player.
Study your adversaries carefully; watch the game closely; be patient in adversity and calm in prosperity.