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Round Table Poker Game Guide- A Computer's Analysis


by sagesw

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Many people don't play this game because they don't think neopoints can be made consistently on it. Since the payout for winning is only three times the cost to enter, you need to be able to win one tournament out of every three for it to be profitable. There are five players in the tournament, so if you play only as good as your opponents you can expect to win only once out of every five. Not good enough to make a profit. But is it possible to play so much better than your opponents as to overcome this deficit? The answer is yes, but only if you play wisely. This guide will show you everything you need to know to be able to do it.

Reading Tells:

One important way to gain an advantage in this game is to recognize the players' tells. A tell is some kind of sign that gives you information on the hands your opponents have. Each computer character has three different graphic displays: a normal state, a happy state, and a sad state. At certain times these different displays have meaning and you can gain some valuable information about that player's hand. At the beginning of the game all the players are displaying their normal faces. Right after the Deal button is pressed, their faces reflect the hand they have. You should always take the time to look at all the players' faces each time you start a new hand by pressing the Deal button. This will give you information that you can use to determine what you will do when it is your turn to bet.

It may also give you some information on a player's final hand. All players with normal faces have a pair or worse. All players with a happy face have 2 pair or better. Throughout the game the players will display different states while they bet and discard but these displays have no meaning as far as I can tell. The next time when the display states have meaning is right after everyone is done discarding. This is probably the most important time to look at their faces. The displays have the same meaning as they did right after the initial deal: happy means they have two pair or better and normal means that they have something less than two pair. One warning however, the displayed state of the last person to discard does not reflect his hand. He is reacting to his draw which could as easily be a bluff (a false tell) as a tell.

There are other tells besides the display states of the players. The number of cards they discard and the way they bet also can give you insight into what kind of hand they have.

When a player shows multiple tells it can give you even more information. Here is a list of all the tells that I know of:

Tell Player's Hand

Happy after deal or discard.....................2 Pair or better

Normal after deal or discard....................Pair or worse

Normal after deal then first to bet.............Pair or Ace high

Normal after discard then first to bet..........Pair (77-AA) or Ace high

Calls a bet after discard.......................Pair or better

Reraises a raise................................2 Pair (Jacks up) or better

Happy after deal or discard then raises a bet...3 of a Kind or better

Happy after deal or discard then checks when first to act............................3 of a Kind or better

Discards 3......................................Pair or worse

Discards 2......................................3 of a Kind

Discards 0......................................Straight or better

Normal after deal then discards 1...............4 of a Flush or 4 of an open Straight

Happy after deal then discards 1................2 Pair

Happy after deal then discards 1 then raises a bet or checks when first to act.........Full House

Normal after deal then discards 1 then happy after discard...........................Straight or better

Predictable Play:

These computer players play in a much more predictable manner than most human players would. In many situations they will always react the same way. There are some situations, however, where they do randomly pick between two different actions. Here are the guarantees and nonguarantees that I have observed:

Guarantees:

A player will never discard more than 3 cards.

A player will discard based on what he has, never as a bluff.

A player will never fold on a 10 NP bet in the 1st round of betting.

A player without even a pair will never call or raise in the 2nd round of betting.

A happy player will never check when he is not the first to act.

A player with 2 Pair will always bet if no one has bet yet, even if first to act.

A player with 2 Pair will always call, never raise, a bet. He may however reraise a raise.

It is impossible to win with a bluff (less than 2 Pair) if happy players are present.

A normal player will never call an 80 NP bet in the 2nd round of betting.

A normal player will never raise a bet.

No guarantee:

A player with a hand of 2 Pair (Jacks up) or better will usually reraise a raise but sometimes will just call.

A player with 3 of a Kind or better will usually check when first to act but sometimes will bet.

A player with 2 Pair usually will not fold but sometimes does when 3 or more players are active and the bet goes up to 60 or 80.

Knowing Which Cards to Discard:

Discarding the proper cards will increase your probability of winning the hand. I'm sure most people just take a guess as to which cards they should hold onto. In many situations the proper cards to hold is very obvious. If you have a full house or a straight or a flush you would of course hold onto all the cards. If you have 3 of a kind you would hold onto them and discard the two nonmatching cards. But there are many situations where it is not so clear which cards are best to hold. Well, I wanted to find out for sure what the best cards to keep were in all situations so I wrote a computer program that would tell me. This program allowed me to set certain conditions and would play millions of hands under those set conditions, calculating which discard combination yielded the best chance of winning.

Here are the discard tables that this program calculated.

Discard Table when strongest opponent has a pair or worse

Royal Flush.............................(discard 0) 100.0%

Straight Flush..........................(discard 0) 100.0%

4 of a Kind.............................(discard 0) 99.3%-100.0%

Full House..............................(discard 0) 97.2%-99.3%

Flush...................................(discard 0) 94.4%-97.6%

Straight................................(discard 0) 90.0%-94.4%

3 of a Kind.............................(discard 2) 71.9%-91.7%

2 Pair..................................(discard 1) 48.5%-72.3%

Pair (QQ-AA)............................(discard 3) 34.9%-55.3%

4 of Str Flush (open)...................(discard 1) 30.3%-36.4%

Pair (XX-JJ)............................(discard 3) 25.1%-38.8%

4 of Str Flush (closed).................(discard 1) 27.2%-34.1%

Pair (66-99)............................(discard 3) 18.7%-27.8%

4 of Flush..............................(discard 1) 18.4%-27.6%

AKQ (suited)............................(discard 2) 20.6%

Pair (33-55)............................(discard 3) 17.5%-20.1%

4 of Straight (open)....................(discard 1) 15.7%-21.9%

3 of Str Flush (A high).................(discard 2) 18.5%-19.4%

AK (suited).............................(discard 3) 18.2%-19.1%

Pair (22)...............................(discard 3) 17.5%-18.1%

KQJ (suited)............................(discard 2) 17.3%-18.4%

AK .....................................(discard 3) 17.5%-18.3%

AQ (suited).............................(discard 3) 16.8%-17.1%

A.......................................(discard 4) 16.1%-16.8%

3 of Str Flush (semi open, K high)......(discard 2) 15.6%-18.4%

KQ......................................(discard 3) 14.0%-14.9%

K.......................................(discard 4) 13.5%-13.8%

3 of Str Flush (open/semi open, Q high).(discard 2) 13.2%-15.2%

QJ (suited).............................(discard 3) 12.1%-12.4%

Highest Card............................(discard 4) 8.4%-11.9%

Discard Table when strongest opponent has 2 pair or better

Royal Flush.............................(discard 0) 100.0%

Straight Flush..........................(discard 0) 100.0%

4 of a Kind.............................(discard 0) 97.9%-100.0%

Full House..............................(discard 0) 86.8%-97.8%

Flush...................................(discard 0) 82.7%-88.6%

Straight................................(discard 0) 75.4%-84.0%

3 of a Kind.............................(discard 2) 47.2%-77.4%

4 of Str Flush..........................(discard 1) 21.6%-27.5%

2 Pair (6s up or higher)................(discard 1) 9.1%-47.3%

Pair (AA)...............................(discard 3) 17.0%-17.1%

4 of Flush..............................(discard 1) 15.8%-16.8%

Pair (QQ-KK)............................(discard 3) 13.3%-16.0%

4 of Straight (open)....................(discard 1) 12.9%-14.1%

Pair (XX-JJ)............................(discard 3) 11.4%-13.6%

Pair (22-99 w/Ace kicker)...............(discard 2) 9.6%-12.2%

Pair (66-99)............................(discard 3) 9.0%-12.1%

Pair (22-55 w/K kicker).................(discard 2) 8.5%-9.6%

Pair (22-55)............................(discard 3) 8.2%-9.6%

3 of Str Flush (open)...................(discard 2) 6.8%-7.8%

4 of Straight (closed)..................(discard 1) 6.4%-7.1%

3 of Str Flush..........................(discard 2) 5.0%-7.2%

3 of Flush (J high or higher)...........(discard 2) 4.3%-5.3%

3 of Straight (open, 9 high or higher)..(discard 2) 4.2%-4.8%

2 of Royal Flush (Ace high).............(discard 3) 4.2%-4.5%

A.......................................(discard 4) 4.1%-4.2%

3 of Flush (X high or lower)............(discard 2) 4.0%-4.2%

2 of Royal Flush........................(discard 3) 4.0%-4.2%

3 of Straight (open, 8 high or lower)...(discard 2) 3.8%-4.1%

Highest Card............................(discard 4) 2.9%-3.8%

Discard Table when strongest opponent has 3 of a kind or better

Royal Flush.............................(discard 0) 100.0%

Straight Flush..........................(discard 0) 99.9%-100.0%

4 of a Kind.............................(discard 0) 95.4%-99.9%

Full House..............................(discard 0) 84.0%-95.3%

Flush...................................(discard 0) 75.0%-86.1%

Straight................................(discard 0) 59.0%-75.8%

3 of a Kind.............................(discard 2) 9.5%-63.3%

4 of Str Flush..........................(discard 1) 19.9%-25.8%

4 of Flush..............................(discard 1) 14.7%-16.5%

4 of Straight (open)....................(discard 1) 10.0%-12.8%

2 Pair (Ks up or lower).................(discard 1) 7.6%-8.6%

Pair (XX-AA)............................(discard 3) 5.2%-8.7%

3 of Str Flush (open)...................(discard 2) 5.7%-6.6%

4 of Straight (closed)..................(discard 1) 5.0%-6.4%

3 of Str Flush (semi open)..............(discard 2) 4.9%-5.8%

Pair (88-99)............................(discard 3) 4.2%-6.2%

3 of Str Flush (closed).................(discard 2) 4.1%-5.1%

Pair (77)...............................(discard 3) 3.0%-4.6%

3 of Flush..............................(discard 2) 3.3%-4.0%

Pair (66)...............................(discard 3) 2.2%-3.9%

3 of Straight (open)....................(discard 2) 2.8%-3.7%

Pair (44-55)............................(discard 3) 2.0%-3.2%

3 of Straight (semi open)...............(discard 2) 1.7%-2.7%

2 of Str Flush..........................(discard 3) 1.6%-2.7%

2 of Straight (open, 9 high or higher)..(discard 3) 1.7%-1.9%

Highest Card............................(discard 4) 1.6%-1.7%

Explaining the Discard Tables:

There are three columns in each table. The left column represents conditions that you try to match to the cards in your hand just before you discard. You should always start at the top of the table and work your way down until you find the first match. Once you find a match you look to the right and it shows you how many cards you should discard and the probability that your hand will win against your 4 opponents if you make the recommended discards. The cards that you should discard are the ones that are not part of the stated condition.

Some of the statements in the tables above are a bit cryptic and may need some explaining.

X - 10

J - Jack

Q - Queen

K - King

A - Ace

() - Additional conditions that must be met are contained within "()". For example, "Pair (QQ-AA)" means that your hand must contain a pair of Queens, Kings, or Aces in order to match this condition.

open - This refers to cards that form part of a Straight. An open Straight draw (short for open ended Straight draw) is a partial Straight that can be completed in a maximum number of ways. For 4 cards of an open Straight there will always be two different cards that can complete it. The cards 5,6,7,8 are 4 of an open Straight since either a 4 or a 9 will complete the Straight. For 3 cards of an open Straight there will always be three different card combinations that can complete the Straight. 4,5,6 is 3 of an open Straight since a 2,3 or a 3,7 or a 7,8 can complete it. Open Straights are more desired than closed Straights.

closed - Also sometimes called a gut shot Straight or inside Straight. This is a partial Straight that can be completed only one way. 5,6,8,9 is 4 cards of a closed Straight since the only card that can complete the Straight is a 7. A,K,Q,J and 2,3,6 are other examples of closed Straights.

semi open - A partial Straight that has less solutions than the open Straight but more than the closed Straight. This term is only used when referring to 3 card partial Straights. There will be two solutions. K,Q,J is an example of a simi-open Straight since only a A,X or a X,9 can complete it.

suited - All the cards must be of the same suit, as in "AKQ (suited)". A hand must have an Ace, a King, and a Queen all of the same suit in order to meet this condition.

6s up - As in "2 Pair (6s up or higher)" This means that the hand must have 2 Pair and that the highest pair must be 6s or higher. The value of the lower pair doesn't matter.

w/Ace kicker - A kicker is a card that isn't contributing to the type of hand you are holding. If you have a pair, for example, the three cards that are not part of the pair are kickers. So the condition "Pair (22-99 w/Ace kicker)" means that there is a pair of 9s or lower along with an Ace.

There are three tables. Each table represents a slightly different playing strategy to take advantage of the information you gain from your opponents' tells. The stronger the hands that you put your opponents on, the stronger the hand you should go for when you discard and the less likely you are going to win. If none of the players were happy after the deal then you would use the first table. If at least one player was happy and you are not sure if he has anything better than 2 pair then you use the second table. If you are sure that the strongest player has at least 3 of a Kind (perhaps he checked with a smile as the first better, or he raised a bet, or you saw him discard 0 or 2 cards) then you use the third table.

Once you know which table to use, find the first condition that matches the cards in your hand. Let's look at an example. Suppose you are using the first table and your hand is: 2H,2S,6S,7S,KS. If you start at the top and work your way down you will eventually find the matching condition: "4 of a Flush". This is a match because your hand contains 4 spades. It says to discard 1 card (the 2H because it is the card that isn't part of the flush) and that your probability of winning the hand when you discard the 2H is somewhere between 18.4% and 27.6%. You can use this win probability to help you in deciding whether to bet, raise, call, or fold. More about this later. So how many of you would have incorrectly kept the 2s instead of going for the flush?

Additional Info on the Discard Tables:

The last condition in each table is a catch-all. If your hand doesn't match any other condition then the last condition states that you simply keep the highest card in your hand. The win probability is usually given as a range because the exact probability depends on exactly what cards are in your hand. High cards are usually better for you and represent a win probability closer to the upper range limit displayed and lower cards closer to the lower limit. For example, in the first table the win probability for a pair (QQ-AA) is 34.9%-55.3%. If you have a pair of Queens the win probability will be closer to 34.9%, and if you have a pair of Aces, it will be closer to 55.3%. Even cards that you are discarding have an effect on your win probability. If you are keeping a pair, for example, that pair becomes even stronger if you have kickers that are higher than your pair value because it takes away some of the possible hands your opponents can get that beat yours. As an example, a pair of Kings with an Ace kicker is much stronger than one without an Ace, even if that Ace was discarded, because none of your opponents can have that Ace and it is less likely that anyone has a pair of Aces.

The first discard table was calculated based on none of the players having 2 pair or better (no happy players). There is a saying in poker to never draw to an inside straight. That is sound advice when there are no happy players.

The second table was calculated based on just one player having 2 pair or better, but if there is more than one in your game, you would still use this table. In table 2, drawing to an inside straight is often the best play, because you need to get a hand that can beat at least some 2 pairs, so you need to take more risks in order to get it. It is very interesting that if you have 2 pair where your high pair is 5 or less, you do not keep both pairs. You keep the high pair and throw away the low one. Also interesting is that it is often best to keep an Ace or King kicker along with your low pair. This is because if you match either your pair card or kicker you have a good chance of winning.

The third table was calculated based on just one player having 3 of a Kind or better, but if there are other happy players in your game, you would still use this table. Your win probability is very low if you are using this table, as you can see by the win probabilities displayed there. You therefore should be folding a great many of your hands in this situation. There are situations when you know your opponent has something even better than 3 of a Kind because he didn't discard any cards. I could have created another table for this situation but it is fairly rare and I didn't feel it warranted one.

But the playing strategy would be similar to table 3 so you would use that.

Knowing What Action You Should Take:

You got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away. And know when to run. Taking the right action on your hand is the most important thing to do in this game. Where discarding the right cards only yields you a slight advantage over your opponents, folding, betting, calling, and raising at the proper times should give you a huge one. The actions you take when playing against real humans may not work when playing against these computer opponents. Bluffing, for example, is a very effective strategy in a human game but it seldom works here. On the positive side, these computer players are easier to read and they play in a much more predictable manner. You can take advantage of this.

The goal of the actions you take on your hand is to maximize your probability of earning the most money... well, usually anyway. More on the exception later. Whenever you think that your hand has a good chance of winning, you want the pot to be large. Whenever you have a weak hand that you think has little chance of winning, you want as little of your money going into the pot as possible. Let's look at these actions from a mathematical point of view since that is the best strategy to use against these computer players.

It is profitable for you to bet or raise if the probability of winning is greater than the percentage of your bet with respect to the total money going into the pot in the current betting round. Breaking it down into a mathematical formula it would look like:

win_prob = bet / total_bets * 100

where win_prob is the lowest the probability of winning can be in order to make betting profitable, bet is the size of your bet, and total_bets is the total amount put into the pot during the current betting round. Many times you will have to estimate the size of total_bets because you will not know how many players will call your bet. If it is the first round, however, you are guaranteed that no one will fold on a 10 NP bet. Let's take an example. Suppose this is the first round of betting and you anticipate that if you bet 10 NP all four other opponents will call your bet. That means

win_prob = 10 / 50 * 100 or win_prob = 20.0%

This represents the lowest win probability that you can have in order to make betting profitable in the first round of betting. This is useful knowledge since you can look your hand up in the discard tables above, and if the win probability is greater than 20%, you know you should bet or raise if someone has bet before you.

Determining when to call is a little different because you take the total pot size into consideration. You should call if it is not profitable for you to raise and if the probability of winning is greater than the percentage of your call with respect to the total pot size after the current betting round. Breaking it down into a mathematical formula, it would look like:

win_prob = call / total_pot * 100

where win_prob is the lowest the probability of winning can be in order to make calling profitable, call is the size of your call, and total_pot is the total amount in the pot after the current betting round. Once again, you may have to estimate the size of total_pot if you are not sure whether other players will call or not. This formula is fine to use in the second round of betting, but since you have a nice advantage over your computer opponents due to their tells, the formula used for the fist betting round should be modified a bit so that it allows you to reach the second betting round more frequently. Adding a small amount to total_pot will do this. How much? Well, this is just a guesstimate, but I would add 20 if there are no happy players and about 60 if there are. The amount is more with happy players present because if you do make a good hand you can generally generate bigger pots. More on this later.

Let's take an example. Suppose this is the first round of betting with no happy players and someone has made a 10 NP bet. You have a terrible hand with a win probability of about 8.4%. Should you call or fold? Plugging the numbers into the formula we get:

win_prob = 10 / (100 + 20) * 100

or win_prob = 8.3%. Since 8.4% is bigger than 8.3% you should call. This example shows an important point. Since 8.4% is the lowest win probability you can have against normal players (look at the first discard table), you should NEVER fold before discarding against them. This assumes that the bet is 10 NP, but it will never get bigger than this unless you yourself raise it because normal players never raise. If someone has bet and you find that it is not profitable to raise or even call then you should cut your losses and fold your hand.

When it is the first round of betting, you can use the discard tables above to find an approximate win probability for your hand and then use the formulas provided to calculate the proper action to take. Basically, if there are no happy players, it takes a winning probability of 20% or greater to make betting or raising profitable and it takes a winning probability of 8.3% or less to make folding the best action. Since the worst hand you can have yields at least a 8.4% win probability, you should never fold. When there are happy players, it is still 20% win probability to bet or raise but it is 6.3% or less to fold.

When the second betting round comes around, most of the time you will know whether or not you have the best hand from the tells your opponents displayed. When you know you have the best hand, you want to make the pot as big as possible. If you know you are beat, then you might as well fold. Normally you should not try bluffing because it seldom works. If you try bluffing, I assure you that you will lose much more money trying to bluff than you will gain. The only time I would recommend bluffing is as a desperation move near the end of the tournament if you are behind. Bluffing has a slight chance of working only if there are no happy players present. You can never bluff a happy player.

Sometimes you are not sure if you have the winning hand even after reading all your opponents' tells. The tables below show the actions you should take when this happens.

Second round of betting, no happy players

Opponents Action Raise/Bet Call/Check Fold

0 bet 0 folded QQ or better JJ or worse never

1 bet 0 folded QQ or better XX-JJ 99 or worse

2 bet 0 folded JJ or better XX 99 or worse

3 bet 0 folded JJ or better XX 99 or worse

4 bet 0 folded JJ or better XX 99 or worse

1 bet 1 folded JJ or better XX (50 NP Pot) 99 or worse 99-XX (100 NP Pot) 88 or worse

2 bet 1 folded JJ or better XX (50 NP Pot) 99 or worse 99-XX (100 NP Pot) 88 or worse

3 bet 1 folded JJ or better XX (50 NP Pot) 99 or worse 99-XX (100 NP Pot) 88 or worse

1 bet 2 folded JJ or better 99-XX (50 NP Pot) 88 or worse 88-XX (100 NP Pot) 77 or worse

2 bet 2 folded XX or better 99 (50 NP Pot) 88 or worse 88-99 (100 NP Pot) 77 or worse

1 bet 3 folded XX or better 88-99 (50 NP Pot) 77 or worse 77-99 (100 NP Pot) 66 or worse

The table above shows what action you should take when there are no happy players after everyone discarded. The "Opponents Action" column refers to the actions your opponents have taken before you. If you are the first to bet then you would use the "0 bet 0 folded" row.

If one player bet and two folded before you, you would use the "1 bet 2 folded" row, etc.

The other columns show what hand you need to have in order to make the stated action the best one to take. Many rows in the "Call/Check" and "Fold" columns have two entries, one for a 50 NP pot and one for a 100 NP pot. This pot refers to the size of the pot after the first round of betting. If the pot was bigger than 100 NP you should use the 100 NP entry.

These are separate entries because the pot size has an effect on whether or not you should call. The larger the pot is, the more favorable it is to call. Let's take an example.

Suppose there was 100 NP in the pot after the first round of betting. You saw that there were no happy players after the discards. In the second betting round Chortle made a 20 NP bet, Lazarr folded, Nigel called, and now it is your turn. You have a pair of nines. What should you do? Since two people have bet and one has folded, you would look at the "2 bet 1 folded" row. Go across until you find a condition that meets the pair of nines that you hold and you will see that calling is the best action to take. If the pot was only 50 NP, then you should fold.

Second round of betting, a happy player is present

Opponents Tells Raise/Bet Call Fold

tell 1 Js up or better 8s up-Xs up 7s up or worse

tell 2 Ks up or better Xs up-Qs up 9s up or worse

tell 3 888 or better 444-777 333 or worse

tell 4 999 or better 555-888 444 or worse

tell 1 - Happy after deal then drew 1

tell 2 - Normal after deal then drew 3 then happy after discards

tell 3 - Happy after deal then drew 2

tell 4 - Normal after deal then drew 3 then happy after discards then checked with smile or raised a bet.

This is a rather brief table that describes what actions you should take when there are happy players present after the discards. There are a lot of assumptions made to get this table so small and it isn't 100% accurate for all possible situations, but the recommended actions will always at least be close to optimal.

A bit about the Opponents Tells column. This refers to what tells the strongest player has shown. Both tell 1 and tell 2 means that the strongest player has 2 Pair or better. The difference is that for tell 1 he was dealt 2 Pair, so you know he either has 2 Pair or, if he was very lucky after the discards, he now has a Full House. Tell 2 means that he could have any hand that is 2 Pair or better. Both tell 3 and tell 4 means that the strongest player has 3 of a Kind or better. The difference is that for tell 3 he was dealt 3 of a Kind, so you know he either has 3 of a Kind or, if he was very lucky after the discards, he now has a Full House or even 4 of a Kind. Tell 4 means that he could have any hand that is 3 of a Kind or better.

You now know how to calculate the proper action to take in most situations, but whenever you think the best action to take is to bet, sometimes calling is an even better option. Let me explain; if betting was calculated to be the best action, it means that you have an advantage over your opponents and you would like to make the pot as large as you can. When there are happy players present that act after you do, you can often drive the pot up more by calling.

Let's say you have a great hand that you think has a very good chance of winning and you know there is a happy player betting after you. If you bet, then the other players may call or fold. The happy player may possibly raise or he may just call. If he calls, the betting round will end without you having the option of acting further. If instead you check, then when it is the happy player's turn to bet, he is guaranteed to put some of his money into the pot. That means that when the betting gets back to you, you will have the option of calling or raising. By doing this you are guaranteed to have the option to raise, which means more money going into the pot.

After you raise, the happy player will frequently reraise, making the pot even bigger. In fact, if there are happy players that are to act after you it is always best for you to check, whether you think you have the best hand or not. This is because there is a chance that you can read more tells on the players and get a better understanding of what kind of hands they have before you have to commit any of your money to the pot. The best case scenario for you is that you have the best hand with a lot of happy players present. In this case you are likely to drive the pot way up and there will be few people folding.

The Exception to Optimal Winnings:

Remember when I said that the goal of the actions you take on your hand is to maximize your probability of earning the most money, but there was an exception? Well, the exception comes into play as you near the end of the tournament. As you near the end of the tournament you should move away from play that optimizes your expected winnings and move towards play that optimizes your chances of winning. You may be wondering what the difference is. Maybe the best way to show the difference is with an example.

Suppose it is the last hand of the tournament and you have a great hand of three Aces. There is a happy player (we'll say it's Nigel) that just made a 20 NP bet. You know Nigel had 2 Pair before discarding. He is 180 NP behind you and there is now 120 NP in the pot with Kalandra, Chortle, and Lazarr still active. It is now your turn to act.

What should you do? If it was early in the tournament you definitely would want to get the pot as big as possible because the chances that Nigel made his Full House is extremely slim, so you would raise. But this is the last hand and there is a chance, although unlikely, that he got his Full House. So the thing to do is to analyze what would happen in the worst case scenario for each of the actions you could take. Let's say you were to call and every other player called and Nigel did make his Full House. Then Nigel would win the hand and the 200 NP pot to take over the lead and you lose the tournament. Very remote, but it could happen. If you raise, the same thing could happen, only your chances of losing are even greater since not as many players would have to call in order for Nigel to overtake you. If you fold, the worse thing that could happen is that all other players call and Nigel makes his Full House in which case he would collect a 180 NP pot and tie you. A tie is just as good as a win in this game, so you are sure to win the tournament if you fold. Which is better, a very good chance of winning the tournament or a 100% chance of winning? This is an extreme case that clearly shows that there are situations where going for the win is different than going for the winnings. Many times the difference will not be quite as clear.

In the first half of the tournament you probably should play solely to maximize your winnings. It is in the second half when you should start being concerned about playing for the win. In general, if you are ahead you want to try to preserve your lead by trying to keep the pots small. If you are behind you want to try to take the lead by making the pots big. In other words, you want to play conservatively when you are ahead and aggressively when you are behind. You should make only slight deviations from the optimum winnings strategy at first. As it gets later in the tournament and as your lead or deficit grows you want to make larger deviations. For example, under normal situations you would want to bet if you had a pair of 7s and greater if no happy players are present. Maybe when you get to the second half of the tournament and you are 100 NP or so behind, you may want to change that to a pair of 4s or 5s or 6s and greater. When it gets later in the tournament and you are even further behind, perhaps you will bet Ace high and greater, etc. You would do just the opposite if you are leading by only betting with stronger hands. You should also tend to fold fewer hands when you are losing and more when you are winning.

Summary:

Unlike many games where if you master them you can expect to win practically every time, there is a certain amount of luck involved in this game. You will never be able to win every time, even if you make the perfect play in every situation. You can, however, win enough in the long run to make this a profitable game to play. It is important that when you do get on a losing streak that you do not alter your playing strategy in an attempt to end it. The best way to end it is to keep using sound judgment as laid out in this guide.

The losing streak will eventually end. And conversely, when you get on a winning streak it may seem that you can't lose no matter what you do, but it is best if you keep making the optimum decisions. Unless you have ESP and can predict what cards you will get on the draw, you should trust the discard tables presented above.

Well then, if you follow all the advice in this guide what kind of winning record can you expect (you may be thinking)? My overall record is currently 137 wins out of 322 tournaments. That is a 42.5% win rate. It only takes 33.3% to break even. Many of these tournaments were played before I knew all the knowledge that is contained in this guide though. My record playing with all this knowledge is currently 73 wins out of 162 tournaments, or 45.1%. That averages about 3,500 NP profit per tournament. Not too bad considering that there is no limit on the number of times you can play each day. It does take a bit of time to complete a tournament, however, especially for us dial-up users.

Well, that about covers it in a nutshell. Okay, a very big nutshell. If you follow all the information in this guide you will have those computer characters thinking that you have some kind of supernatural ability granted to you by one of the faeries. Good luck!

 
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