Stat 198: Poker Theory and Fundamentals

Hosted by Poker at Berkeley.

Welcome to the Poker Decal!

Applications for the spring 2023 poker decal are closed. If you are currently enrolled in the course, you can find all course information below.

If you want to learn more, you can find course material below, or check out our resources page.


Week # Lecture Topics Resources
Week 1: Introduction to Poker Course Expectations, Rules of Poker, GTO
Expected Value, Variance, Edge, Strategic Principles
Week 2: Introduction to Theory The Open Raise
Open Raise Sizing and Required Fold Equity
Week 3: Preflop Play continued Exploitative Open Raising
Calling Open Raises, 3-Betting, 4-Betting
Week 4: Continuation Betting Review
The Continuation Bet
Week 5: Value Betting Continuation Betting for Value
Value Bets on the River
Week 6: Facing Bets Facing End of Action Bets
Facing Open Action Bets
Week 7: N/A Rake, Bankroll Management
Combinations and Blockers
Week 8: Bluffing Bluffing on the Turn
Bluffing on the River
Week 9: Delayed Bets Delayed Continuation Bet, Probing the Turn
Bluff Raising
Week 10: Back to Preflop 3-Betting
Isolation Raising
Week 11: Special Situations Playing 3-Bet Pots
Dealing with Donk Bets, Stack Depth
Week 12: Concluding Lectures Solvers, Randomization, Game Selection, Pot Limit Omaha
Reading Body Language, Tells, and Angle Shooting

This syllabus is subject to change as the semester progresses.

Course Information


At no point during this course will you wager real money. We understand that betting is a sensitive topic for some and you might have issues with the ethical implications, please let us know. We will be focusing on the probability and statistics behind betting.

Course Objectives

1) Understanding the rules of poker
2) Understand basic and advanced poker concepts
3) Be able to use an understanding of poker strategy to play a fundamentally sound game
4) Be comfortable thinking about hands using correct logic, being able to apply that logic more generally to other games and circumstances.


Day Time Location Lecturer(s)
Monday 6:30 - 8:30 AAPB 155 Prakash, Shrey
Tuesday 6:30 - 8:30 SOCS 126 Ashwin, Sabi, Kaan
Wednesday 6:30 - 8:30 SOCS 166 Prakash, Shrey
Thursday 6:30 - 8:30 SOCS 166 Ashwin, Sabi, Kaan

Assignments and Grades

Lecture Attendance (25%)

This class will be impossible to succeed in without active participation in class and attendance to learn the material. It will be a very laid-back and open atmosphere so students should be encouraged to discuss topics.

Attending over 75% of sessions: 30%

Attending over 62.5% of sessions: 26%

Attending over 50% of sessions: 23%

Attendance below 50%: proportional to attendance. For example, 25% attendance earns 25% * 30% = 7.5%.

Playing Session Attendance (25%)

We will have short sessions after lecture where we will practice using play money. Total hand count and player activity will be logged to find weaknesses and ensure student engagement.

Attending over 75% of sessions: 30%

Attending over 62.5% of sessions: 26%

Attending over 50% of sessions: 23%

Attendance below 50%: proportional to attendance. For example, 25% attendance earns 25% * 30% = 7.5%.

Homework (30%)

Throughout the semester, there will be weekly assignments that should take at most an hour. Homework assignments will be graded entirely based on effort and completion, with examples given of what constitutes a reasonable effort.

Final Project (20%)

The course will have a final assignment requiring you to analyze some of the hands that you played during sessions over the course of the semester. Similarly to the Homework, it will be graded based on effort and completion, with examples of hand analysis provided.

In other words, if you attend a majority of lectures and playing sessions and complete a majority of assignments, you will pass the course. While not for a grade, we will also have short weekly reading assignments. Please contact us regarding time conflicts or needed accommodations for absences. We promise to be reasonable and do not want grades to be a concern for any student engaging with the course.

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to teach students poker fundamentals, both to help them improve at the game and learn wider applications of the game theory found in poker. While we believe students of all skill levels will benefit from the course, it is primarily targeted at beginners and those with an advanced understanding of the game may already be familiar with most material.

The course will focus on 6-max No Limit Texas Hold'em, the most popular variant of Poker played today. We will begin by covering the rules of the game, basic strategic principles, before diving into the mathematics and heuristics used by strong players. While not the focus of the course, we will additionally briefly touch on the psychological aspects of poker, including some common tells and reads found in live play. Specific topics will include (but are not limited to): Position, Preflop Ranges, Pot Odds, Equity, Bankroll Management, Blocker Effects, Polarization, Exploitative Adjustments, Tells.

Learning poker theory is beneficial for reasons outside of improving at the game. Thinking about decisions in terms of their expected value while minimizing variance is a valuable skill with many applications in statistics, mathematics, game theory, economics, investing and finance.

Poker skill is highly valued by many financial firms, with relevant material often appearing on interviews and books on poker theory often finding their way on to the reading list for new hires. Carnegie Mellon and Facebook have put major effort (and have succeeded) into creating Superhuman Poker AI due to far reaching applications to other imperfect information systems. While we will focus solely on poker itself, a strong understanding of poker remains very useful off the table.


For success in this course, it is recommended that you have completed a lower division probability course (STAT 20/STAT 21/STAT 88/UGBA 88) as there will be many fundamental statistical concepts covered. If you have not taken any of these classes before, you are still welcome to take the course, but be aware you may find some of the material more difficult.

It is also strongly recommended that students come to the course familiar with the rules of Texas Hold'em we will cover the rules but starting from no basis will be more difficult.

To succeed in this course, we highly recommend students attend every lecture as content is cumulative and it may be difficult to follow if you are behind on past material.

The only way to improve at poker is through focused play and study.


You can find more resources for learning about poker on the resources page of the Poker at Berkeley website.



Prakash Srivastava



Ashwin Bindra


Kaan Yucel


Sabi Can Ruso


Shrey Ghai