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Psychology Skills

What I mean by “the psychology of poker” is getting into your opponents’ 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 psychology of poker is an extension of reading opponents’ hands.

It is also an extension so of using deception in the way you play your own hand.

Here’s an example. Before the flop, you raise from late position with a weak hand, trying to steal the blinds.

You get reraised by a strong poker players behind you, who knows you automatically would attempt to steal in this position.

Since you know that he knows you automatically would try to steal, his reraise does not mean that he has a very good hand.

Consequently, because your opponent might also be bluffing, the correct play may be for you raise back and then to bet again on the fourth and fifth streets if necessary.

This brings up another point. 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.

Very sophisticated Omaha eight-or-better can go even beyond this third level.

For example, two small cards flop, an early position player (who raised coming in) bets, and a strong player calls.

A blank hits on fourth street, and the player in early position bets again.

His opponent, who thinks this player is probably on a low draw ( perhaps because he knows this player is reluctant to playing high hands up front ), may now raise with only top pair.

His opponent may realize this and raise back, trying to represent a strong hand.

The initial raiser now may comprehend this possibility and call his opponent down.

When the hand is over, assuming that the low card does not comes, if the initial raiser is actually against a low draw, his calls will look fantastic to some opponents.

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 Omaha eight-or-better, the “skill” of trying to outwit your opponent sometimes can extend to so many levels that your judgment may begin to fail.

However, in ordinary play against good players, you should think at least up to the third level.

First, think about what your opponent has. Second, think about what your opponent thinks you think he has.

Only when you are playing against weak online poker players, who might not bother to think about what you have and who almost certainly don’t think about what you have and who almost certainly don’t think about what you think they have, does it not necessarily pay to go through such thought processes.

Against all others, this is crucial to successful play, since deception is a big pair of the game.

Several other important ideas play major roles in the psychology of poker. To begin with, when an opponent bets in a situation where he is sure that you are going to call, he is not bluffing.

For example, suppose you have been betting all the way, you bet again after all the cards are out, and a player raises you.

It is rare to find an opponent who is capable of raising 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 or you have a lock for one side. ( Even though you could getting quartered, your call still may be correct because of the size of the pot.)

But beware of the player who knows you are capable of these folds. However, folding is not necessarily correct on fourth street.

Tough players will raise on this street if they hold a mediocre hand that has some potential of becoming a very strong hand.

An example is a draw at the second nut low that also has picked up a flush draw. Those of you who 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 and these plays are more common.

A corollary to the principle that we are discussing is that 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 have to give more consideration to calling him, even with a mediocre hand.

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