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Poker- random thoughts

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Jpwoo
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Been thinking about poker from a game design point of view, so this looked like a good place to post on it.

The structure of poker is pretty simple. You are given information, a baseline chance of winning. You bet based on that information, then you are given more information. Again your chance of winning. And you bet again. This maybe happens a few times or just twice. Then you show your cards and win or loose.

Your choices each time are extremely simple in comparison to most games. Bet, check or fold. Probably if you designed the game fresh today it would be ignored. So what is it that makes the game popular and robust?

Just a few thoughts.

1.The game rewards long shots. This is the same thing that keeps people playing slot machines. You don't remember all the times that you loose, but you remember the big time that you won. Poker provides lots of ways to lure you into pushing your luck to get the long shot. You keep on betting because you might make the flush. This is probably a good mechanic to slip into a game, in fact it is probably in many games but it is something to consider thinking about.

2.simple mechanics, with complex theory. There is almost no system in the game like we see in many board games. No programmed hoops to jump through to make the game do something, People like the tagline, a moment to learn a lifetime to master. And it applies to many of the great games, like go, chess, poker, backgammon, mancala. Designing a game like this would seem to be trouble though. As many of the people who enjoy this kind of game don't want to learn others. I play Go, I probably wouldn't go back to playing chess in any kind of serious way now. The other thing is that these public domain simple games are honed by essentially thousands of playtesters and they evolve slowly over time. You can see this in the rules of chess with the additions of the castling, and the two spaces on the first move pawn rules, and some piece changes.

3.Player interactions and hidden information. I think this is what makes poker viable for the tv audience and bar league poker tourneys. Open information games reward those that can eliminate possibilities the quickest and arrive at strong moves. Hidden information games remove this advantage from people with strong analysis abilities. This has the additional effect of eliminating analysis paralysis. Some of my favorite war games are the columbia block series because they feature hidden information. This helps both players speed up their turns while adding some tension. It forces you to play the player, or the odds rather than to consider the board positions, or card information. I think in general most people don't consider themselves to have the skills of analysis. While almost everyone thinks they are a good reader of people. That is a skill that most people have. At the same time the game presents itself as a game of skill, while adding a luck element. So the winning player can say, “I won with my superior skill” and the loosing player can still say, “those are the breaks I was lucky or unlucky” leaving everyone happy. Where if someone beats your ass in chess, you just have to admit they are a superior player.
4 many people say that poker wouldn't be a good game without money involved. I think that it is just traditionally played with money But it has several things going for that make it a good money game. Simple widely known rules mean you can find players fairly easy. But I think the real factor in it, is that a game of poker is really something like 50 mini games of poker played in rapid succession. You can win money, you can loose money. There are up and downs, again this applies to slot machines as well. While you can bet money on any game, I think that these minigames within a game lend themselves well to gambling.

5 Theme. Poker is at its face a themeless game. Just cards. But the game itself is the theme at this point. Just as smart people in movies are always seen playing chess. Pokers theme is of daring gamblers and the fish that got away stories, it is all cowboys, and friday night poker with the boys smoking stogies, and now pudgy guys wearing sunglasses playing for millions. It appeals the American ideals of being smarter, and riskier than the other guy and the rewards are big jackpots.

So what does this mean from a game design point of view? I'm not exactly sure.

A hidden information game should be simpler than an open information game. Imagine how boring poker would be played open handed, Notice how nobody plays chess with the doubleblind methods. I think the more interaction you have among discrete pieces or objects in a game the better off you are going with open information.

Coax players into actions with the promises of long shots? Somehow this seems more fitting in a card driven game rather than a dice driven one. A player knows there are 4's in the deck and may stick around to try to see it while the same player might not if it was rolling 8% or less on percentiles.

Just my ramblings as I procrastinate tonight. I would love to hear what you have to think about it.

ReneWiersma
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I play a lot of poker these

I play a lot of poker these days, so I find this topic very interesting. I agree with all of your points, Jpwoo, but I think you missed out one important one: people like to bluff! It's great to hit a good hand in poker and value-bet it three streets, hoping people will call with lesser hands, or calling with the right odds to hit your hand, but the ability to pull off a huge bluff on the river for all of your chips, that gets the adreline really pumping!

I sometimes think of poker as an auction turned upside down. You are putting money into the pot, but the winner of the auction is not the one who put the most money in, but the one with the best hand, who wins the money.

End of Time Games
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ReneWiersma wrote:I play a

ReneWiersma wrote:
I play a lot of poker these days, so I find this topic very interesting. I agree with all of your points, Jpwoo, but I think you missed out one important one: people like to bluff! It's great to hit a good hand in poker and value-bet it three streets, hoping people will call with lesser hands, or calling with the right odds to hit your hand, but the ability to pull off a huge bluff on the river for all of your chips, that gets the adreline really pumping!

I sometimes think of poker as an auction turned upside down. You are putting money into the pot, but the winner of the auction is not the one who put the most money in, but the one with the best hand, who wins the money.


Actually, bluffing is a fabulous point to look at here. Poker is a flippin ausome game and popular game. And bluffing is an interesting phenominon about it. That could be one of the things that makes it so fun. What other games could encourage this fun activity? What other activities that are like bluffing......not bluffing but some activity that is not stated in the rules that players end up doing that makes a game fun. Great thing to bring up.

SiddGames
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Bluffing

When I first started playing poker "seriously" (and I am by no means an accomplished player or anything), I had no understanding of how bluffing worked. I can't remember where I read or what show I saw, but one of the pros was explaining some theory/practice behind bluffing.

He basically looked at it as telling a story. If your betting in the first three chapters of your story says, "My cards are mediocre," and then in the last chapter of your story your betting says, "My cards are fantastic!" it's not effective because your story wasn't consistent. Bluffing is most effective when you tell a good story, from the prologue to the final chapter.

Compare this with how bluffing works in most board games that have a bluffing element, such as games where you make a blind bid to augment strength (say, LotR: Confrontation). They call it a bluffing element because you don't know if he's going to go high to win or low to trick you into wasting a strong card against one of his weak ones. This type of system doesn't allow the "storytelling" aspect of bluffing. It includes only the story's prologue, from which players need to decide how the story goes. It puts a great deal of focus on "reading" the opponent without much historical information.

Condottiere's bluffing element is stronger. In that game, players take turns adding a card from their hand to the table to augment their strength (or have some other effect). Because it goes around repeatedly, there is more of the storytelling element... "He's only playing low value cards and has not backed out of the bidding... he's threatening me with a Winter card (reduces all cards to strength 1)." Players also carry over their hand cards from round to round, which makes the hand-management part of the game similar to a poker player's stack of chips; if you want to stay in the story, you have to commit more resources.

I'd like to see more of the storytelling type bluffing mechanic in board games. I've played around with a lot of ideas for this kind of thing, but so far they almost all boil down to "poker with a theme" which isn't entirely satisfying.

Jpwoo
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I most definitely neglected

I most definitely neglected bluffing. Maybe because I don't have a proper handle on how to do it effectively. The best advice I have heard on it so far, is Imagine what hand you have, don't even look at your cards. Play the entire hand like you have pocket Aces or whatever. This makes you do exactly what Sidd was talking about in creating a narrative.

ReneWiersma
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I wouldn't call the mechanic

I wouldn't call the mechanic in LotR: Confrontation bluffing. It's more like a guessing game, or a risk-management mechanic. I see bluffing more as pretending to be strong when you are in fact weak.

I do agree with the idea that bluffing becomes more interesting when it has to tell a consistent story. In poker, bluffing on the flop isn't very risky. When you get called or raised, you don't lose that much, because the pot isn't so big yet. However, firing a second bullet on the turn becomes a bigger bluff, the stakes are higher and your opponent had already shown strength by calling on the flop. It becomes riskier, but also potentially more rewarding. This is of course even more true by firing the feared 3rd barrel on the river with absolute air.

I don't know of many games that have a good bluffing component. Might be interesting to design one, but I think it will be pretty tricky.

Zeto
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Re: Bluffing

But that is the beauty of bluffing, a player could be trapping on the flop, on the turn, and when you bet on the river, he shoves, and you may have been had. At that point, if you had no information about the other player, you cannot know whether he has you beat or not. Of course I am assuming that you have a hand that can be beat, not quads. You can name any situation, and I can argue that there might be another layer of bluffing. You could say that the player is playing it wrong in terms of equity, but I will just reply that if you don't know who you are playing against, it is purely possible. That is the beauty of poker.

What I am trying to say is that it isn't just telling any believable story, it is about telling a story to your opponent. Your opponent may be a beginner and won't read into your bluff, or he or she may be a pro and will understand your 2 layers of bluff. The whole game revolves around reading the chances of your opponent would act with a certain archetype of hands in this situation.

Of course that is very hard to do, and it takes years before you master it. Most of the times, one can start to imagine what the other has to play this way. I find it useful to analyze hands where I know that my opponent has nothing, but I have less than nothing, and he bluffs me out. If I can reverse that situation, I would be able to bluff at the right moment too.

questccg
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That kind of "tension"...

That's what I am TRYING to "accomplish" with my WIP "Archon: Circlet of the Heavens".

Since the table reveals "Partial Information", some of the information is hidden. By showing you three (3) colors (RPS-3), you know that your odds are 1:3 to get the right one. But if you use another color "outside" those three (3) colors, you have a 2:3 odds of beating that card.

And because each card battle is important - because A> you'll lose points if you lose the RPS battle. B> if you outsmart you'll win the RPS battle and your opponent will lose points.

That still leaves out the THIRD and most "interesting" possibility: TIES!!!

If your goal is to "outpower" your opponent using STRONGER cards, well the ties are the best way to achieve your goal. Because with ties NOBODY gains or loses, scores are modified according to each players' card. This means that everything hinges on the "points" battle (which player has the higher score - including the color bonus).

But yeah - I am hoping that the tension could be good enough that both players experience something FUN and "exciting" when they play my game...

Cheers.

Zeto
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I don't know much about your game

I don't know much about your game but it sounds interesting! Any partial information game is enjoyable. The point system is a little like chips in poker right?

questccg
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Not really...

Zeto wrote:
...The point system is a little like chips in poker right?

Never thought of it that way... It's just that the game relies on Victory Points (VPs) and the player with the most points wins the battle.

Of course melee units attack each other (according to the RPS-5 rules) and Ranged units can attack from behind their own ranks.

It's not as if you "risk" your own "chips" like in poker. There is no betting. It's just a method used to score and win games.

It's also a short game 5-10 minutes and you can play best of three (3) for longer games... You can also use several decks, choosing a new deck for each game.

GameKnight
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Poker is popular for many

Poker is popular for many reasons.

1) If you are a great player, you will win much more than lose over the course of a session.

2) If you are not a great player, you can still take down a great player in a hand. This is extremely gratifying even if you lose money when all the chips are cashed in at the end of the session.

3) Bluffing is clearly a key component to the success of poker. When you pull one off, it is an amazing feeling. Just don't share that you bluffed if you don't have to show your cards. Let them think you had the cards.

4) You can play the player, not just the cards. Players have "Tells" which is additional information you can use to your advantage.

5) There is usually not just one winner. If six players play poker, you'll often see 2 clear winners, 2 who finish about even, and 2 clear losers. If you regularly play with the same group of friends, you could end up in any of the groups in any given session. Which means 2/3 of the time, you had a lot of fun and didn't lose money.

Zeto
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questccg wrote:Zeto

questccg wrote:
Zeto wrote:
...The point system is a little like chips in poker right?

Never thought of it that way... It's just that the game relies on Victory Points (VPs) and the player with the most points wins the battle.

Of course melee units attack each other (according to the RPS-5 rules) and Ranged units can attack from behind their own ranks.

It's not as if you "risk" your own "chips" like in poker. There is no betting. It's just a method used to score and win games.

It's also a short game 5-10 minutes and you can play best of three (3) for longer games... You can also use several decks, choosing a new deck for each game.

ah ok ok. I see. I don't know your game so it was from the way your explained. Sorry about that!

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