Can Big Data Revolutionise How Pros Play Poker?

Big data is disrupting the way we experience the world and everything in it. From business and wildlife conservation to professional sports and online poker, data analytics is being used to accurately predict outcomes.

Big Data Being Used to Predict Outcomes in Business, Sports and Online Poker

Huge data sets, where information is mined in real-time, are being crunched to provide precise assessments of performance. That includes on the tennis courts, in the boardrooms, and on Texas Hold’em tables. In the professional sporting arena; in-game statistics, overhead drone cameras and the likes of hawk-eye technology have been providing large data pools for quite some time.

Shift across to poker and the availability of key data is as rich. Every single hand played on online poker sites is captured and stored to enable players to review their own and their opponents’ plays. At the live tournament poker level, TV and video cameras record every move that’s made at the final tables.

The Ability to Analyse Data in Real-Time is the Game Changer

Although vital information has been readily available for several decades, the missing link was the ability to quickly and accurately analyse vast amounts of information. Now data analytics companies are making it easier to access, visualise and interact with data.

Data analytics is a powerful tool that can provide key information about player performance. It not only pinpoints what happened during a particular match or hand of poker, it provides valuable insight as to why it happened.

Predictive Analytics Used to Determine Future Plays

What’s more, a player’s tendencies, strengths and weaknesses can be measured by taking into account past results and the strength of the opponent or opponents he or she is facing next. This information provides an accurate prediction of what the player is likely to do in the future.

By tracking a range of core metrics, such as how often a player raises pre-flop or plays a hand after being given the opportunity to bet or fold, it’s possible to identify weaknesses that can be exploited.

Data Analytics Companies Exploiting Niche Markets

In the past few years there’s been a surge in the number of data analytics companies servicing niche markets. Companies like Golden Set Analytics are making a financial killing by mining, crunching and selling data on all the top ATP tennis players.

The in-depth reports they’re selling for around $100,000 each feature statistical data, advanced shot analytics and visuals on all a player’s groundstrokes. Now professional tennis players can identify weaknesses in their opponent’s game and create strategies and game plans that capitalises on these discernible flaws.

Exclusive Use of Data Packages

The very best players like Roger Federer are maximizing the benefit of big data analytics by signing up for exclusive use of player packages. According to reports, Federer has got an entire team of statisticians, mathematicians, economists and former players analyzing information about his next opponents.

Detailed information, like where a player is most likely to hit the ball from every possible position on the court, helps professional players and their coaches to devise accurate game plans.

Poker Analytics Relies on Apps and Software

In the poker arena, it’s more Android and iOS mobile apps and software that are fulfilling this role. Websites like Sharkscope do analyze big data from millions of poker hands across the globe. However, they haven’t as yet created pay-for packages that provide in-depth data analytics of individual professional poker players.

Some of the best poker pros have come up with their own strategies based on their opponents’ tendencies. By analysing player tendencies and patterns in play – like the timing of big bets and the frequency of bluffs – it’s easier to accurately assess a player’s range and how they are likely to play certain hands.

Are There Too Many Unpredictable Variables That Cannot Be Quantified?

The problem with games like poker is there are more unpredictable variables in-play that cannot be scientifically quantified – like the deal of the cards, the emotional state of the player and his or her opponents and the ability or inability of the players to conceal their tells.

As big data analytics becomes more and more sophisticated it becomes more disruptive. Pundits predict that in the not too distance future tennis coaches will be able to coach professional players from the stands while being fed critical data that’s been analyzed in real-time.

Will professional poker players be allowed similar access to the information? If so, how will it revolutionize the way the game is played?