How Data Mining Has Influenced Poker

By David Sasseman | May 4, 2009

The way I find a table on an online poker site is to go down the list until I find a table with good stats, that is, better than 33% of the players per flop, and an average to large amount of money played per pot. Any low numbers on either stat indicates a tight table and I would continue looking.

This method still works well on some online sites that do not allow third party software. But on the sites that support data mining, table finding, fish finding and other software there are 3-7 vultures on the waiting lists! The first few can find the fish still there but, by the time I get on, the fish are gone. The table consists of a couple players with well over the maximum buy-in, a couple of real tight players, and three sharks that got on ahead of me. Oh, sometimes the fish get lucky, bust a couple of players, and are still there. But, usually, after a couple of rounds, the stats go down to less than 20% of the players per flop, with nobody betting; a dry, profitless, boring table.

Lately, I look at the tables with just a couple of players (3-7 players on a 9 player table) (2-4 players on a 6 player table). The advantage, besides getting to play right away, is, fish don’t want to be on a waiting list. They want instant gratification. Why do loose players play 50% of their hands and want to call bets they shouldn’t? Because they are action junkies. The table soon fills up with (hopefully) loose players. You recognize the fish, wait, and pounce (or another player does). The waiting list then gets longer because the stats are right. The fish are running and run they do, right out of money or they get berated for their ignorance and leave the table. I hate when that happens. Then the waiting sharks jump in. The table gets tight and tough, and the stats start to reflect it. The good players leave and other players avoid the table like the plague. There are empty seats and no waiting list. The fish get back on and the pattern starts all over again. The tables have a life to them, an ebb and flow that fits a pattern.

Sometimes, I will start a table if the site is increasing in traffic or already busy. It gives me a chance to build my short handed skills, and the table will quickly fill. If we get a couple of fish, then the table gets going, the stats go up, a waiting list starts and the cycle goes on – if the table gets tight, it stalls out, and the smart players leave and look for better tables.

The Future of Online Poker

As more and more players get tracking and data-mining software, and the players without the software get more sophisticated and diligent in looking for a good table, the longer the waiting lists get at the soft tables. The fish are being eaten at an alarming rate. As long as new money comes in, then poker will remain vibrant. But a bad economy will take money out all along the food chain. Not as many new players will enter the feeding frenzy and poker will get smaller right along with the world economy. The poker rooms will get more and more competitive and the numbers of sites will go down and we will continue to play a better and better quality of player.

Will data mining hurt poker? A little, but mainly it just makes it easier to do what most players did before, look for soft tables. Granted there is more information available (tons more) but not enough to upset poker too much, and none that you cannot obtain on your own through observation. Any silver lining? Never fear, through depression, wars, and biblical plagues man has gambled. So, study poker, learn from friends, or get a coach because this is getting more challenging everyday.

By David Sasseman

David lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and has played over a million hands online and many thousands of hands in Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Las Vegas casinos.


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