Why Einstein Would’ve Made a Good Poker Player

Posted August 30, 2009 by Andrew in Articles

Poker InsightsThanks to cheesy Hollywood movies, some people think that poker is all about mindgames: outwitting the opponents, making a cool bluff. Take the phrase “poker faced”: expressionless, unreadable. They get the impression that Poker is about knowing how to tell a good lie. Well, possibly, but some “mindgames” are basically about good math. Yes, math. If you want to spend the whole evening working on your acting, join a theater group. This game requires some computation, analysis, and at the very least, the ability to multiply.

For example, the best poker players can look at a hand and generate a series of probabilities. “Hmmm…I’ve got about a 1 in 8 chance of hitting a set with this pocket pair…”

“Let me see…I’ve got a 1 in 3 chance of completing a flopped flush draw by the river.” It’s common sense, actually. Before you throw your retirement funds to the wind, you need to have a pretty good idea of whether or not your hand actually has a fighting chance.

So maybe that expressionless face isn’t just a technique to rattle other players. It’s busy minds at work, mentally reviewing the statistics charts and what move they should make, given the odds.

Of course, it takes more than a genius for numbers to win a poker game. Think Einstein: he didn’t discover the Theory of Relativity just by being able to compute for the square root of 3,500,942. It’s also the ability to make mental experiments. “If I add this, if I change that…” Or, “What can I do to make this hand better?” That’s called reviewing your options, making predictions—the difference between a calculator and a scientist, and a poker chart and a poker player.

That’s why a poker player should know the importance of outs. In a nutshell, outs are the number of cards that will improve your hand. A very simple formula is to count your outs, multiply them by two, and add one, and that’s roughly the percentage shot you have at hitting.

But is it worth it? Scientists do not waste their time on experiments that do little to advance their cause; Einstein would not have helped usher in the next scientific era if he was simultaneously studying the migration patterns of geese. It’s about focus, focus, focus—and knowing that while risks are part of the game, you’ve got to choose your battles. How do you that? Mathematics again. Take the percentage of winning you just calculated. “So, I’ve got a 20% chance of winning, says the Enlightened Poker Player, “is it worth it?” Some go by this process: divide the size of the current pot plus the money that will be added through future bets with the number of money you have invested. That 20% chance becomes ”worth it” if what you stand to gain is say, $200 dollars more than your own bet.

So yes, you do need mind games in poker, but it takes more than the ability to lie through your teeth. From day one, prepare to know the numbers. Then you get to the fun part: counting your winnings.

About the Author


Andrew Keyes is a poker enthusiast, a writer, researcher, speaker, and consultant. You can visit to get poker articles along with winning poker tips, tested poker strategies, the latest poker news, free poker tools, cool poker resources, and more! Visit today and you can download some of the best poker bots for automating your poker play!