Play better Poker with this one weird trick

Bram Cohen
3 min readJun 29, 2019

I’m going to propose a completely insane way of playing better Poker, but hear me out.

Instead of playing as one person, play as a team of two. This doesn’t require you know any more information than you would by yourself, in fact one of the people knows less. That person is the ‘sizer’ and they don’t know their own hole cards. They only see what someone watching the table would see. When play gets around to your team, the sizer’s job is to think ‘If I were to make a raise right now, what should the amount be?’ and then whisper that amount in their teammate’s ear. The teammate, called the ‘bettor’, then has to decide whether to raise, call, or fold, but can only raise by the amount the sizer gave.

The weird thing about this setup is that most people, including most professionals, would play much better Poker this way. For n00bs the reason is straightforward to explain: Most people have a natural tendency to raise higher with strong hands and lower with weak hands. The beauty of Poker is that this is a massive tell and will get you stomped because your opponents will fold when their hand is worse than yours and continue playing when they’re better. Having a set raise size will force you to think in terms of ranges.

(Sidebar for people who don’t know Poker strategy: Poker professionals talk about ‘ranges’ in a particular spot, correlating loosely with what you do given how strong your hand is. You raise with stronger hands, called a ‘value bet’, call with ones in the middle, bluff with weaker hands, and fold the absolute worst ones. Which ones you do each thing with are called a ‘range’. Value bets and bluffs must always be balanced with each other to not give away too much information. When making larger bets the value and bluff ranges get much smaller, known as being ‘polarized’, and the bluffs tend to be much more Hail Mary draws. Most players are much better at setting their value range than their bluff range, so small non-standard size raises are likely to put them in difficult positions where their bluffs should be acting as value but they screwed it up.)

The reason why professionals would play better this way is similar but more subtle. The space of possible strategies to in Poker is so massive that even supercomputers have to resort to taking some shortcuts and one of them is that they often approximate doubles badly by only considering one or at most two or three raise sizes in a given position so when you’re playing against them and they call you have a pretty good idea what tradeoffs they were considering for their range. By going up to multiple values at widely different amounts they can approximate perfect play much better, but obviously with a continuous set of possible raise sizes available considering only a few is suboptimal. (Technically when most programs consider multiple hand sizes they’re doing it differently from the doubles approach, where they consider all raise sizes all the time with knowledge of the hole cards. The results can almost always be approximated well with the doubles approach because as mentioned earlier when they can’t it’s a tell and bad play.)

Thinking of your opponent playing doubles can also be a cognitive benefit because when they do a funny size raise you can assume their sizer was the one that called it and their bettor made appropriate ranges given that constraint.

Technically on most Poker sites today playing like this is against the rules, because any sort of collaboration is disallowed, even this split-brain silliness. It would be fun if they’d build in doubles as a feature. My guess is people playing doubles would be at an advantage for a while until people got good at it and mastered doing split-brain play even when playing by themselves.



Bram Cohen

Creator of BitTorrent. Mad scientist. Puzzle author.