Tuesday , January 03 , 2012
CardRunners MTT Instructor Will Ma, a student at MIT, will be teaching a three week seminar titled "How to Win at Texas Hold'em Poker." The course teaches mathematical strategies used to win at poker including probabilities and statistics.
The method of evaluation for the class is the student's performance in the PokerStars Home Game league for the class (all play money only).
Why did you decide to teach a class in poker?
I want to teach this course because I really enjoy teaching and meeting people. I used to teach a lot of math classes to kids. This is a subject that a lot of fellow MIT students have demonstrated tremendous interest in. I think the class will get a lot of interest (around 100 people) and I hope to share my passion for the game with them.
What materials/topics do you intend to cover?
There will be 9 90-minute lectures.
Students entering should know the rules, know basic probability math, and maybe have played with friends on a few Friday nights. I hope to cover basics of what to do and hopefully take them to a point where they can beat $3 SNG's and $10NL. I'll also discuss some advanced theory topics since the math-oriented students here will find it interesting, even if it is beyond their play skill.
Do you know the level of experience your classmates/professor have with poker?
There will be a few people here who legitimately know how to play and have played mid-higher stakes, but I expect the majority to be casual players who are smart people and who will understand what stuff like "Expectation" means and be able to calculate probabilities/count cards very quickly in their heads. I think most people will also have a good sense of what "variance" and "rational decision" and "statistics" means, having dealt with those terms in classes and internships.
What do you expect to be the biggest hurdle or topic for the novice person (of above average intelligence) to really grasp?
I think people at MIT will have an overly strong sense of "learn from your mistakes". Unfortunately, this is a flawed mentality for poker because the results you observe do not necessarily tell you whether it was a mistake. I think I will have to try really hard to drill into people's heads that you cannot think something was a good play just because "it worked".
What do you think will be the keys to make this a very rewarding and educational course for both yourself and the students?
I think the key will be to have lots of examples of very interesting hands. People here want to see strange but well-reasoned bluffs, big calldowns, complicated board textures, and such. They won't necessarily care about the context like "this hand won him 8.7 million". They also won't enjoy material like "memorize this range of hands to call with" since they'd be more interested in theory than how to explicitly make money.
To watch Will's videos at CardRunners, click here.