“Psychology of poker” is getting into your opponents’ heads:
- Analyzing how they think
- Figuring out what they think you think
- Determining what they think you think they think
In this sense, the psychology of poker is an extension of reading opponents’ hands and using deception in the way you play your own hand.
You bluff with nothing at a flop that contains a pair. You are raised by a strong opponent who knows you would bluff at this flop. Since you know that he knows you would bluff at this flop, his raise does not mean that he has a good hand. Consequently, because your opponent might also be bluffing, the correct play may be for you to reraise and then to bet again on the turn if necessary. The above play works because you are against a strong player whose thinking makes sense. A weak player is a different story. Just as you can’t put a weak player on a hand, you can’t put him on a thought either. When a pair flops, a weak player might raise (after you bet) with a small pair in his hand, hoping to get a free card that would allow him to draw out on his opponent, who obviously has trips.
Flop has two suited cards and there is a bet from an early position. A strong player, who thinks his opponent is probably on a flush draw (since this player likes to check-raise a lot when he has a legitimate hand), may now raise with bottom pair and then bet on fourth street. His opponent may realize this and try to check-raise with a flush draw on the turn. The initial raiser now may comprehend this possibility and call his opponent down. When the hand is over, if the flush card does not come, his calls will look fantastic to some opponents, if he actually is against a flush draw. Conversely, if it turns out that the first bettor really has a hand, the calls will look like a “sucker play.” At the expert level of hold ’em, the “skill” of trying to outwit your opponent sometimes can extend to so many levels that your judgment may begin to fail.
- Think about what your opponent has.
- Think about what your opponent thinks you have.
- Think about what your opponent thinks you think he has.
Several other important ideas play major roles in the psychology of poker. To begin with, when an opponent bets on the end in a situation where he is sure that you are going to call, he is not bluffing.
You bet when all the cards are out, and a player raises you. It is rare to find an opponent who can raise on the end as a bluff. Similarly, if you raise when all the cards are out and your opponent reraises, you usually should fold, unless your hand can beat some of the legitimate hands with which he might be raising. (But beware of the player who knows you are capable of these folds.) However, folding in similar situations is not necessarily correct on fourth street. Tough players will raise on the turn if they hold a mediocre hand that has some potential to become a very strong hand.
You opponent has a middle pair on the flop that has now picked up a flush draw. Those of you who automatically fold when raised in these situations are giving up too much. This is especially true at the larger limits, where the games are usually tougher. If your opponent bets when there appears to be a good chance that you will fold, he may very well be bluffing. What this means in practice is that if your opponent bets in a situation where he thinks he might be able to get away with a bluff, you must give more consideration to calling him, even with a mediocre hand.
No one bets on the flop and a small card hits on the turn. If one of your opponent’s now bets, and he is the type of player who would try to pick up the pot with nothing, it may be correct to call (or raise) with a relatively weak hand. In deciding whether to bet, it is equally important to consider what your opponent thinks you have. If your opponent suspects a strong hand, you should bluff more. However, you should not bet a fair hand for value in this situation.
You reraise before the flop with AQ three rags come on the flop, and the last card is a king. If you have been betting all the way, it would be difficult for anyone to call on the end with only a small pair.
Conversely, if you know your opponent suspects that you are weak, you should not try to bluff. But you should bet your fair hands for value. Varying your play and making an “incorrect” play intentionally are also part of the psychology of hold ’em, because you are trying to affect the thinking of your opponents for future hands.
You occasionally can make it three bets before the flop with a hand like 7h6h. If your opponent’s see your hand in a showdown, they should be less inclined to steal against you in a similar situation when rags flop. Also, you are taking advantage of the impression you created to get paid off later when you bet with a legitimate reraising hand.
You throw an extra raise early in a hand with cards that don’t really warrant it, in order to give the illusion of action. For instance, you can occasionally raise the pot with a hand like 5d3d. This play costs only a fraction of a bet in mathematical expectation but gains you a tremendous amount in future action on subsequent hands. However, this play should probably not be made in loose games where you are against people who play too many hands and go too far with their hands, because you get excess action anyway. There are also other ways to affect your opponents’ play on future hands in limit hold ’em.
You may want to make what you think is a bad call if you believe this play will keep other players from running over you. If you find that you have been forced to throw away your hand on the end two or three times in a row, you must be prepared to call the next time with a hand that you normally wouldn’t call with. This is because you can assume that your opponents have noticed your folding and are apt to try to bluff you. A less obvious situation where you should think of the future is to sometimes check a good hand in early position on the flop and then check it again on fourth street, even if there was no bet on the flop. Not only may you catch someone stealing on fourth street, but this check also might allow you to steal the pot on fifth street in a future hand when there has been no betting up to that point(especially when an irrelevant card hits the board).
You are in a blind position in a multiway pot and call a raise before the flop with Ad6d. The flop comes Ac 6h 2s. Since giving a free card does not appear to be dangerous, this is the type of hand that you may want to check twice if no one bets. On the surface this is a debatable play. But as just stated, it can work for you both in this hand and in future hands, since it sets up future steals on fifth street after checking twice. However, you occasionally might want to do something that is theoretically incorrect to create an impression for the future. Once you have opponents thinking one way, you can take advantage of that thinking later.
Finally, keep in mind that these types of plays will work against players who are good enough to try to take advantage of their new-found knowledge, but who are not good enough to realize that you know this, and that they should therefore ignore it. In hold ’em, as in all poker games, there seems to be a large group of players who like to “realize things.” You must know how these people think and whether they are thinking only on the level that you are giving them credit for. If they think on a still higher level, you must step up to that level.
Psychology is an extremely important aspect of Texas hold ’em. If you always play a certain hand in a certain position a certain way, your game can use a lot of improvement.
You must consider:
- Your opponents
- How the current hand has been played
- How former hands were played
- Your opponents’ perceptions of you, and so on
Many of the concepts in this section are most powerful against decent players – that is, players who play in predictable patterns and who can realize things when at the poker table, especially if they play “weak tight”. Against bad players, straightforward play is usually the best approach, and against extremely good players, these ideas probably will only keep you about even with them.
- How To Use Your Position In Poker?
- How To Raise In Hold ’em Correctly?
- How To Play Heads-Up Versus Multiway?
- Types Of Poker Players And How To Play Against Them?
- Inducing Bluffs. (Advanced Poker Concepts)
- How And When You Should Bluff?
- How To Check-Raise In Poker Correctly?
- How To See A Free Card In Hold-em?