Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame is turning his data-analysis attention (and mad skillz) to the world of online poker with Pokernomics.

Understanding Successful Poker Play

How much more succesful can a player be if he knows the odds? What are the best betting strategies for getting the most money out of a winning hand? Are there simple betting strategies that can be used to win money even with losing hands? To what extent does position from the button and position relative to other players matter? Does having a big stack of chips allow a player to bully others and win more of their money? Do people lose big after winning a big hand, or does success follow success? These are some of the many questions we would like to answer.

Our goal is to understand the factors that make players succesful at poker. Many people have written books on poker theory, but there has yet to be a systematic analysis using actual data on what works and what doesn't. University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt hopes to change this and perform the first large scale analysis of poker.

How are we going to do this?

Every day, over 187 million dollars are wagered at online poker tables by over 2 million players worldwide. Recently, companies such as Poker Tracker have made keeping records of one's own play extremely easy. Individuals can now store tens of thousands, even millions of their own hands on their computers almost effortlessly. We at are requesting that people send us their hand histories for analysis. We are particularly interested in analyzing the game of Texas Hold'em due to its immense popularity in the world of online poker. With the right dataset, we are confident that we can answer the questions above and many more.

What's in it for you?

Everyone who sends in at least 10,000 of their own hands will receive a free analysis of his or her poker play. We will identify the strategies you use that earn you the most money and will pinpoint your frequent mistakes that cause you to lose or prevent you from making as much money as you could have. We will tell you which starting hands you play best/worst. We can even tell you if you earn more or less at different times of the day, at tables with different stakes, or against certain kinds of opponents.

In addition, players who send in over 30,000 hands will get an autographed copy of Steven Levitt's book Freakonomics delivered to them. Players who send more than 50,000 hands will receive both an autographed copy of Freakonomics and a free freakonomics t-shirt.

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