Saturday, October 10, 2009

Book Review: "Practical Poker Math" by Pat Dittmar

A while back, I had read a book on poker odds & probabilities and was a bit lost on the subject. The book by Matthew Hilger seemed thorough enough but was a ways over my head, I guess. So when I saw this book, "Practical Poker Math" by Pat Dittmar, in the book store and thumbed through it, it looked a bit simpler and more my style. (Not that I'm stupid or anything. Just that it takes a bit longer for new concepts to sink in with me and simpler explanations help with this.) So I thought that maybe this book could help me build a base for my poker math knowledge so I can understand the more complicated stuff later.

Well, I was right in a way. It was simpler, but not in the way I thought. This book is nothing more that an over-explanation of what most average players already know. Every non-beginning poker player worth his salt should know that the odds of flopping a set or boat with a pocket pair is 7.5-1 and the odds of being dealt Aces is 220-1, etc., etc. So all this book does is tell the reader how to calculate those figures. Every... single... one of them.

(NOTE: I skipped reading the Omaha parts of the book since I am concentrating on learning Hold'em for now.)

The sections of the book address odds of hitting certain hands on each street including preflop. Each section begins with some barely useful poker tips and a very useful table of odds pertaining to an array of different hands for that section's situation. Then it goes on to explain how to calculate each and every one of those odds in the table. And the author shows how to calculate each results, not 1 but 2 different ways. Here's an example of the calculation for a pocket pair flopping a set or boat:

(48 * 47)
(1 * 2) = 1128

1128 * 2 = 2256

(4 * 3 * 2)
(1 * 2 * 3) * 12 = 48

2256 + 48 = 2304

19600 - 2304 = 17296

17296 : 2304
17296/2304 : 2304/2304
7.5 : 1

OK, so I left out some words in there. But why does the reader need to know how to get an answer when he is given the answer first? This isn't studying for a college exam. This is poker. All I need to do is memorize the odds (the answer) for a situation and apply it to my current implied odds, etc. Tell me how to apply and calculate that next step. I don't need this overkill, imo.

Anyway, the author is in the "trading" industry so it figures he'd be caught up in calculations. The tables at the beginning of each section and towards the back of the book are great. But I bet you could find most of them searching the internet. Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm missing something here. But this still just seems like overkill. It's like showing me how to slaughter a cow when I'm just going to McDonald's. Not necessary, imo. And to top it off, the retail on this book is about $30. On the high end compared to other more popular poker books on the market.

So I can't really recommend this book for any purpose other than math/stats geeks getting their fix with a poker flavor. Not useful for anyone wanting to improve their game. I can't even recommend this book for beginning poker players. I think it could do some damage by muddying the basics that they need.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I know this is an old article...hell, I read it before I even bought the book...but I have to say I enjoyed it. I agree it is probably overkill, but I want my understanding of the fundamentals as solid as can be. I feel there is some value in understanding how the odds and probabilities are arrived at. I dont need to spell it out but poker is a game of mathematics and probabilities. Indeed when I sit down at my setup I see myself as a trader... I trade in probabilities with other traders all day long, taking odds and giving odds on the probable outcome of situations. A solid understanding of the mechanics behind the market is valuable indeed. Loved it.