View Full Version : Basic Poker Psychology

04-05-2005, 01:44 AM
How to use Poker Psychology

After all is said and done, poker is ultimately about psychology - playing against your competitors. For example, many games often end with a very small hand, such as a pair of 7s, beating a smaller hand, such as a pair of 3s. Never forget that your hand doesn't have to be the best hand possible. It simply has to be better than what everybody ELSE has!

Knowing what your opponents have is an art, not a science. Many successful (and unsuccessful!) poker players talk about "tells" - twitches, trembles, and other bodily signs that might give you a clue as to what your opponent has. In time, you may even learn to be able to "read" those tells. Mastering the psychology of poker, however, is much more important (and, in fact, a crucial foundation before reading tells is even possible).

Poker psychology boils down to your ability to watch how others play, and use that experience to judge how your opponents may be playing in the current hand. It is critical that you never become distracted from the game. For example, do not watch TV, even during a friendly game, for this will deprive you of the information you gain while watching your opponents. Even in a friendly game, your "friends" are trying to take your money from you!

The simplest layer of poker psychology is to watch what your opponents visibly do based on their own cards. For example, keep track of how each player bets. If you have problems doing this, start by only keeping track of those who did not fold, and don't worry about keeping track of amounts. Simply get a feel for whether the players bet strongly or weakly. During a showdown, note the hands each player had. Were they betting heavily with a weak hand? Was the hand possibly going to "make it?" (e.g., were they drawing to a flush, and just didn't make it? Was the flush even possible? Was it likely, or was it a long shot?)

This is not a skill learned in a day. You must play THOUSANDS of hands to master it. Gradually, you will build a feel for how players bet in response to what they have in their hands. Then focus on how they respond to other players. Did they come out betting heavily early in the game, then fade away and eventually fold to heavy raising, even if their hand looked like it improved? Did they instead re-raise or cap the betting?

The same mathematical strategies that apply to you can be of assistance here, especially in community card or stud games, which give you some information about what the other players have even before the showdown. In fact, it is during these games that poker psychology is most readily learned, because in draw games you never know what the player discarded.

Learn to classify your opponents, and adjust your strategy against how they play. For example, identify whether your opponents are loose or tight. If they are loose, they are likely to bet heavily or stay in for a long time with even a very weak hand, or on a long shot draw. Tight players, however, tend to fold at every breeze. Also categorize them in terms of passive or aggressive. When raised, do they tend to call or fold? Or do they re-raise?

Ultimately, no single strategy will ever teach you the art of poker psychology. You will either learn it over a long period of time playing many hands, or you will go broke trying!

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

But in the mean time here are some great ways to learn to read the minds of your adversaries.

Mind Games

Concealment is a virtue in poker circles. An art-form, perfected and immortalized by the ‘poker face’, it can mean the difference between winning with a bad hand for those who do it well, and losing with a good hand for those less practiced in the art. The secret is to look beyond the expressionless outer appearance of your competitors and tune yourself in to the abundant signals thrown out by their habitual body language.


Any body language signs need to be evaluated as a cluster. Just one signal alone, such as a person leaning back (sign of disinterest), cannot be construed as meaning just that on its own. You need to qualify it by looking for other signs or what is known as a cluster of signs.

Negative Evaluation Cluster

If a player consistently displays two or more of these signs then chances are that he or she is having negative thoughts about their position in the game and/or their current hand.

· Leaning back
· Legs crossed
· Head bowed
· Body turned/pointing away from table
· Lowered left eye brow
· Constricted pupils
· Free arm placed across chest as a barrier, or both arms folded across chest
· Free hand resting on chin, supporting their head- often with a finger across the mouth
· Slow eye rubbing

Positive Evaluation Cluster

If a player consistently displays two or more of these signs then chances are that he or she is having positive thoughts about their position in the game and are eager to play their hand.

· Leaning forward
· Head slightly tilted
· Free hand resting/pushing down on table
· Legs uncrossed
· Dilated pupils
· Slow rubbing of palms

Confidence Cluster

Players confident (rightly or wrongly!) and decided in their next move only need show one or more of these signs from this cluster of habitual body language.

· Leaning back with hands behind their head
(obviously with their cards left on the table)
·Hands pressed together to form a steeple/triangle either raised with elbows
resting on the table, or the steeple resting in their lap.
· Hands on hips

Hesitant Cluster

A player who is undecided and perhaps fearful of their next move could be betrayed by two or more of these signs

· Clenched fists
· Scratching neck below or behind the ear
· Scratching top or back of head
· Stroking the chin

The Bluffing Player

Concealment or the act of wanting to bluff can often be observed in the frequency by which the hands of a player touch their face. A relatively high frequency of touching compared with their norm will let you know when a player is looking to bluff.

04-05-2005, 06:23 PM
this was an awesome lil read, not as thorough as i'd like, but yet threw me on the right track...



04-06-2005, 12:34 AM
and valuable food for thought. But I'd caution about relying on this more than prior betting patterns, and solid no-frills math on number of outs, etc. at least at the lower limits.

04-17-2005, 06:57 AM
Thanks for the info. I was very interested in reading this. Been trying to figure it out on my own. I only play online so I don't get the visual tells, but I do notice when players are "loose" or "tight". Unfortunately, I haven't had success from my observations so far (lol). Seems whenever I call a "loose" player with a good hand, they seem to have a better one that time. However, I have had success fooling the other players. I usually play tight, but later on will place a big bet on a bluff and the others fold.

04-19-2005, 05:38 PM
great info. as a relativly new player

the psychology i try to use is to figure

myself out. what are my betting patterns?

what are my goal? and what is my plan for that goal and how

am i doing at implmenting the plan? what am

i doing that prevents me from implementing the

plan correctly? right now seems i´m my worst

ememy. the more i develope my ability to focus

on what i´m doing at the table the better i play

and the more i win.



04-21-2005, 10:48 PM
wow that helped a lot i busted my friend out twice already last night

07-24-2006, 03:12 PM
Check out this short video of a mega bluff, its 5 minutes of nail biting stuff.

I cant imagine whats going through their heads.

Its not as if this is just a $2 pot.

What are they thinking to themseves???