Originally Posted by Jerrod Ankenman
I snipped a bunch of stuff here, where you seem to have advocated the view that if you had a game where opponents were anonymized and randomly shuffled every hand such that the game was still fair (buttons equalized etc), then the "optimal" play would be play that maximized vs the field on average, and that such plays would effectively be the "solution" to poker. Setting aside the different definitions of the term "optimal," the game evolves over time.
Yes, unlike Blackjack, in which the maximally profitable move never changes (assuming a sufficiently randomized deck) in non-iterated poker, there could be long-term changes in patterns of play, which would mean that the list of most profitable plays would have to be updated periodically. But stats on actual play would be your only way of achieving some exactitude. GT questions like "how often should I check/bet/call/fold in this situation" are meaningless, because in non-iterated poker the correct answer can only be "always" or "never."
Creating a near-perfectly non-iterated game, as you have noticed, requires some diligence: in theory, it can only be achieved with an effectively infinite player pool, and perhaps also by releasing historical information in a carefully controlled way, with some random mixing of long-term and short-term results.
(I'm not sure how it could be done perfectly, but even an an imperfect non-iterated game can produce meaningful results: the prisoner's dilemma only works as a coercive device if it is, to some extent, a non-iterated situation, in which external factors such as retribution are taken out of the equation. But it does not have to be perfectly non-iterated in order to work a lot of the time. In poker there is (I think) a large grey area, where the game is neither perfectly iterated nor perfectly non-iterated, and different forms of the game - such as Zoom, and tournament play, versus cash play - contain different levels of iteration: any reduction in iteration reduces the strategic content of the game, and the usefulness of normal GT calculations.)
I think that the play of non-iterated poker could solve, or answer a particular question, which is, what is the correct tactical play in a particular situation if you remove all strategic issues. Unlike purely mathematical calculations which may treat a hand as an isolated event, the optimal play in non-iterated poker incorporates the human element, averaged over all players, because that play is (paradoxically) determined entirely by historical data, rather than calculation. So the data produced by non-iterated poker in analyzing a single hand in isolation may be more accurate than the mathematical calculation for the same situation.
At the same time, non-iterated poker is a seriously inferior form of the game, even though in most respects it looks just the same. The value of any move you make has no residual value: if you lose when you bluff there is no "advertising value" gained, so the number of bluffing situations capable of enhancing long-term profitability is reduced, which leads to conservative play But at that same time, whenever those bluffing situations do arise the paradox is that you must then bluff 100% of the time, which is ultra-LAG.
The situation regarding non-iterated poker is also somewhat clouded by the fact that averages also work over time: that is, in non-iterated poker you can re-coup the loss of a failed bluff by repeating that bluff 100% of the time, if the average result for that bluff in that situation is positive, but you cannot recoup the value of a failed bluff through "advertising value" if that bluff is on average unprofitable. In both cases, profitability can only be measured over time, but in one case there is strategic variation, in the other, there is not.
In non-iterated poker there is no advertising, and just like an economy which does not permit advertising, it is therefore dysfunctional and inefficient, which limits but does not completely negate the value of any results it produces. A similar observation may be made of mathematical calculations and poker problems involving a single hand, ignoring all long-term considerations: the results are imperfect, and may or may not be useful in actual play.
Another problem in discussing these matters is that the term "strategy" has multiple meanings: I started thinking about these issues in order to clarify for myself the distinction between strategy and tactics, which in common speech are more or less interchangeable, and could in many instances be replaced by "policy". The answer (which satisfied me at least) is that strategy can only work by varying your actual plays over time, while tactics relate only to the immediate situation and, in the absence of any strategic considerations or prior knowledge, the optimal tactical move is a constant, as it is in a sufficiently randomized game of Blackjack.
A policy which simply says "ignore strategy, and consider only tactical matters" is, in common speech, still a "strategy" since it sets the long-term agenda: but since that "strategy" does not involve any variation, it is not a strategy in GT terms, or at least, it is not one which requires mini-max or other GT calculations to solve. In normal GT-strategy calculations there must be variation over time, and again, there is room for misinterpretation, because someone might consider that an unvarying policy of bluffing 10% of the time in a particular situation represents a static rather than a dynamic playing strategy: but in fact it is not static: it varies 10% of the time.
In tournaments there is a degree of non-iteration involved, which actually produces some apparently strategic variation related to bubble play, stack sizes etc. But those changes could also be seen as simply representing variations in the tactical situation, with all such situations being equal, and treated in exactly the same way each time they arise. So you might vary your play from one part of a tourney to another, but not vary your play between occurrences of the same situation in different tournaments: that is, you will always choose to open raise all-in when short-stacked on the button with a particular strength of hand at a particular stage of the tournament, which in other situations you would have some choice in how you played, or could randomize in some way. It is the automatic nature of such moves which makes them low on skill content - while not affecting their profitability
- since they can be made by reading them off a list, just as they can when playing Blackjack. While we might not realize it, we may in fact be in almost
Strategy-Free, All-Tactical situations in poker fairly often.
In such cases, where there is no knowledge deficit involved, and the correct play is known to all competent players, "skill" is replaced by self-discipline, and poker courage.. Perhaps that is all there is in poker when played between experts: poker courage, discipline and the fear factor are the intangibles of the game, which are outside the realm of classical game theory, and relate to the psychological side of the game.
Sorry about the length and any redundancies or omissions, or misuse of GT terms: as far as I know, this is the first conversation which makes extensive use of the term "non-iterated poker", so some problems with terms are to be expected.