Brian Alspach Mathematics And Poker

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Brian Alspach Mathematics And Poker

Let me begin by congratulating Randy Hewines and Dave Scharf for initiating a Canadian magazine devoted to poker. Why a Canadian magazine, you may ask, given that in some sense the game of poker is unaffiliated with any country, although there still are many places in which popular local games are played with a reduced deck instead of the standard 52-card deck. I believe the existence of a Canadian poker magazine speaks to the strength of the game in Canada, especially in the provinces of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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Brian Alspach Mathematics And Poker

Let me begin by congratulating Randy Hewines and Dave Scharf for initiating a Canadian magazine devoted to poker. Why a Canadian magazine, you may ask, given that in some sense the game of poker is unaffiliated with any country, although there still are many places in which popular local games are played with a reduced deck instead of the standard 52-card deck. I believe the existence of a Canadian poker magazine speaks to the strength of the game in Canada, especially in the provinces of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan. There is now a respectable schedule of major annual tournaments in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The rules of the game are the same essentially everywhere, but there are issues surrounding the game that arise in common for Canadian venues. So it seems to me there are some compelling reasons for a Canadian poker magazine. Of course, most of the articles will be of interest to people from many countries. I shall be writing a variety of articles about mathematics and poker. The relationship between mathematics and poker is interesting and murky.
Frequently, I am asked about the perceived advantage a mathematician has in poker. The people who ask me about this almost always are not poker players. I assure them that mathematics plays a role, but there are many very successful players who have almost no formal knowledge of mathematics.

On the other hand, another feature of the people who ask that question is a lack of understanding of what mathematics is. I suspect most of the people reading this article do not share my view of what mathematics is. A thumbnail description of my view is the following: Mathematics is the attempt to discover and classify patterns. The point of this is that there are many questions I see as mathematics, whereas, most people would screw up their brows and query, “That’s math?”

Pure curiosity drives one type of mathematical question that arises in poker — answering these questions is interesting, but, in truth, will have little impact upon how we play the game. This is the kind of question that a mathematician finds much more interesting than does a poker player. The mathematician will smile and think that problem sounds fun and then attempt to solve it. Meanwhile, a typical poker player, upon hearing the question, will say, “Who cares?”

Here is where my professional background comes into play because I find such problems amusing. I shall write about a variety of problems falling into that category. Hopefully, readers will find such questions fun too.
Another category of question, though much rarer than the curiosity driven questions, consists of those that go to the core of how we think about playing poker. Questions in this category are normally difficult and the subject of debate. Accurate results sometimes surprise people and cause people to shift their approaches to the game.

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