Learning to Make Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Information

A key skill for poker is learning to make decisions when you don’t have all the information. This is a fundamental challenge of the game and translates to any situation in life where you need to estimate probabilities without all of the information at hand.

To understand this, let’s look at a typical poker hand. Players each start with 2 cards and then place ‘blinds’ into the pot before betting begins (the amount of the blinds varies by game but is usually around a nickel).

Each player then aims to make the best five card “hand” using their own two cards and the five community cards. The highest hand wins the pot.

There are a number of ways to make a hand in poker but the most common is a pair. A pair of matching cards of the same rank. A flush is any 5 consecutive cards of the same suit. A straight is 5 consecutive cards that skip around in rank but are all from the same suit. And a full house is three matching cards of one rank and two matching cards of another rank.

A big mistake a lot of newer players make is slowplaying their strong hands. This is the opposite of what you want to do because it gives your opponents time to overthink and arrive at the wrong conclusions about your hand strength. Instead, you want to bet and raise heavily when your hand is ahead of your opponent’s calling range. This forces your opponent to fold a lot of hands that they would otherwise call and it allows you to get maximum value from your strong hands.