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The need for flexibility in poker.

If evolution has taught us anything during those millions of years it took its course, it is that those who fail to adapt will perish.

This idea is present in poker as well. Not that there’s a whole lot linking online poker to evolution, but still, if you are not a flexible player and you do not adapt to different situations on the go, it doesn’t matter how good a mathematician you are, and how perfect a fixed strategy you decide to apply.

Poker is never about cold-hard knowledge and information alone. This is why game theory always fails, and this may be the very reason why we like poker so much.

What exactly is game theory? Poker game theory should tell you the optimal choice to make, when faced with a certain set circumstances, and taking into account what the opponent might or might not do (his/her strategy). It is supposed to suggest a course of action, that will leave your opponent in a situation where he can’t win.

That sounds excellent in theory, that’s why it’s called game "theory” to start with, but as soon as you put it to the test in practice, you’ll bump into a whole set of hurdles.

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Let’s consider bluffing (one of the most popular and often-abused aspects or poker play). Poker game theory will consider the strategy that your opponent uses, it will assess the situation from his point of view (if he happens upon a weak hand, will he fold it when faced with a bluff? etc.), and thus it will determine the frequency at which you should attempt a bluff. Obviously, he will not always react the same way to your challenge whenever he holds a weak hand, and besides, if you keep on bluffing every time he’s on rags, he’ll read you and counter you. Therefore, you cannot bluff every time the circumstances call for it.

Let’s say, game theory tells you to launch a bluff once every 15 hands. From the point of view of the analysis, this will be a perfect decision at the time, and it would probably be OK too, if you played against a computer programmed to play according to a certain strategy.

In reality however, your "one bluff every 15 hands” will become readable by your opponent. (the fact is, some people would probably never catch on, but the point is that some would) That’ll kill the whole value in the play, and it’ll have you throwing game theory straight out the window.

What could you possibly do to avoid being read? Same thing you generally do to stay in the shade. Make random decisions. You have to decide for each and every hand that you play, whether or not to bluff. You should strive not to bluff more than once on every 15 hands, on average, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bluff three times in a row, or be honest 20 times.

Another problem with the whole issue is, that if your opponent uses the same game theory to determine when to call your bluffs, your efforts will be compromised again. Game theory cannot work when it’s going up against itself. You only hope is, that your opponent makes mistakes, and that is something pretty substantial to capitalize on, since players make mistakes all the time.

Final conclusion: game theory will not work, for several reasons. The above mentioned few are just a couple of examples. On the whole, poker is a very complicated game. In order for game theory to work its magic, so many factors have to be taken into consideration, that no human being could ever successfully cope with the amount of information. On top of that, something will always come up that will upset the balance of the whole, carefully set-up system.

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The point I’m trying to make is that no fixed poker strategy can work either, for the same reasons.
If you devise a battle plan to which you stick no matter what happens, you shall never make it as a poker player. The fact that you build up a strategy that is meant to make you the most money when faced with really good opponents, won’t mean that you’ll make an optimum amount off of bad players too. This is not like a race, in which once you overtake the best of them, you can rest assured weaker opponents will never get to you.

The same is true the other way around too.
No matter how well-put-together your game-plan is, something will come up to mess things up for you. Truly good poker players adapt to different challenges on the go. The table that you play at, and the types of players you’re confronted with should largely dictate your strategy.

Then there’s your bankroll, psychological factors, the luck factor, and a bunch of other things that will also influence the equation.

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