Expectation And Hourly Rate The Fundamental Theorem Of Poker The Ante Structure Pot Odds Effective Odds Implied Odds and Reverse Implied Odds The Value of Deception Win the Big Pots Right Away The Free Card The Semi-Bluff Defense Against the Semi-Bluff Raising Check-Raising Slowplaying Loose and Tight Play Position Bluffing Game Theory and Bluffing Inducing and Stopping Bluffs Hands-Up On The End Reading Hands The Psychology of Poker Analysis at the Table Evaluating the Game


Psychological Plays

The late John Crawford was one of the great game players and gamblers of all time. His best games were bridge and backgammon, but he was also an excellent gin rummy player. He and the legendary games expert Oswald Jacoby used to play gin rummy against each other constantly. They were close in ability, but there was no question Crawford had the pychological edge.

He would needle Jacoby, taunt him, even laugh at his play, until Jacoby sometimes became so enraged he could hardly see the cards in front of him.

Along the same lines, Los Angeles backgammon pro Gaby Horowitz is well-known for his glib, sometimes disparaging talk during a game, which is calculated to put his opponents on tilt.

seven card stud poker pro Danny Robinson is equally famous for his nonstop patter during a hand, which is used to distract and confuse his opponents.

These are all psychological ploys, and there are an endless number of such ploys. Some people approve of them.  Some don’t will they have a definite place in poker, they are not what we mean by the psychology of poker. They are psychological devices that apply to all games or, for that matter, to all forms of competition.

Chess champion Bobby Fischer used them in his famous match against Soviet master Boris Spassky. Managers like Earl Weaver and Billy Martin use them on the baseball diamond. And the late Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was notorious for using them as tactics of cold war diplomacy.


What we mean by the psychology of poker is getting into your opponent’s heads, analyzing how they think, figuring out what they think you think, and even determining what they think you think they think. In this sense the pychology of poker is an extension of reading oponents’ hands, and it is also and extension of using deception in the way you play your own hand.

Recently, while I was working on this book, a friend ran up to me and said, “I made a great play in seven-stud last night at the Castaways.” We had recently been talking about using deception by getting a second-best hand to make an opponent think you are  stronger than you really are in hopes he will fold if you improve.

“Low card brought it in, and I called with a pair of kings,” my friend began. “One of the kings was showing. Behind me a guy who was steaming and almost all-in called with an ace showing.

He could have anything. Another guy, A.D., the best player in the game, raised with an ace showing. We all called.  “On fourth poker street I catch a 5. I have a king, 5 showing still only a pair of kings. The guy who’s steaming has ace, 10, and he bets.

Maybe he has a small pair. The good player calls. Now I know for sure the good player has aces because he would never call another ace unless he had aces himself, especially with me sitting behind him with, maybe, two kings. He’s played with me a lot, and he knows how I play.”
   “So you folded your pair of kings.”

“No, I raised!”
“That’s pretty dangerous in that spot,” I said.

“Well, I knew A.D. had aces,” My friend continued, “and I knew he knew I knew he had aces. So when I raise, he has to figure that since I know he has aces, I must have made kings up. The guy who’s steaming calls, and A.D. reluctantly calls. Then I get lucky. I make an open pair of 5s on fifth street, and I bet out. The guy who’s steaming goes all-in, but A.D. shakes his head and flods his two aces because now he’s worried I’ve made a full houe 5s full of kings.

I end up winning the poker hand with kings and 5s against a pair of 10s. A.D. grumbled afterward that he’s the one who should have been raising.”  My friend did get lucky when he paired the 5s. However, in playing the hand he demonstrated the kind of thought processes that are the principle subject of this chapter.

He went three steps beyond what he saw on the board. First, he though about what his opponents might have. He tentatively put the steamer on a small pair, and with more assurance he put A.D.

on a pair of aces. Then he went one step further. He thought about what A.D. thought he had namely, a pair of kings. Then he went a step beyond that.  He thought about what A.D. thought he thought A.D. had and he knew A.D. knew that he thought A.D. had two aces. It was only after reaching this third level that he decided to raise with a pair of kings to make A.D.

Think he had kings up. Of course, it was also important that A.D. was a good enough player to think on a second and third level himself. Otherwise the play would make no sense. Just as you can ’t put a weak player on a hand, you can ’t put him on a thought either. A weak player might reraise with two aces, without analyzing the possibility that the other man might have kings up.


Calling on the Basis of What Your Opponent Thinks

Psychology and Future Impressions