Psychology

What we mean by the “psychology of poker” is getting into your opponents’ heads, analyzing 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, and it is also an extension of using deception in the way you play your own hand.

Here is an example. Suppose you have nothing and bluff at a flop that contains a pair.

You are raised by a strong opponent who 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.

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.

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.

Very sophisticated hold’em can go even beyond this third level. For example, suppose two suited cards flop and there is a bet from an early position.

A strong player, who thinks his opponents is probably on a flush draw (since this player likes to check-raising 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, assuming that 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 poker, 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 you have.

And third, think about what your opponent thinks you think he has.

Only when you are playing against weak players, who might not bother to 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 part of the game.

Several other important ideas play major roles in the psychology of online 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.

For example, suppose that you bet when 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. (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 poker hand that has some potential to become a very strong hand.

An example is middle pair on the flop that has now raised in these situations are giving up too much.

This is especially true at the larger limits, where the games are usually tougher.

A corollary to the principle we are discussing is that if your opponent bets when there appears to be a good chance that you will fold, he may very will be bluffing.

What this means in practice is that if your opponent bets in a holdem situation where he thinks he might he might be able to get away with a bluff, you have to give more consideration hand.

An example’s is when no one bests on the flop and a small card hits on the turn.

If one of your opponents now bets, and he is the type of player who would try to pick up pot with nothing, it maybe 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.