Player's Guide to Poker Psychology

Player's Guide to Poker Psychology

Poker is a game of luck, skill and, most of all, psychology. Joining a table without the right mental preparation can mean you've lost before the cards are even dealt.

First, Know Yourself

Before developing a poker strategy, every player must first acknowledge their own strengths and weaknesses. Knowing how you respond in a tough situation, and whether you have a natural tendency toward protecting your cash or taking on all comers should dictate the approach you choose. After all, it's easier to use what you have than to try and remove a lifetime of habit.

Playing Psychologically

Poker personalities are generally categorised in four ways:

  1. Tight Players - play fewer hands, some as few as 10%
  2. Loose Players - join the game with lower hands than most people
  3. Aggressive Players - often raise and re-raise to increase pressure on rivals
  4. Passive Players - rarely bet, instead folding or checking while others lead the play

In reality, these are more like the extremes of a broad spectrum of playing styles. The more you spot these traits, the better you'll understand where players sit on the spectrum and how to use that to your advantage. That means building a table persona that taps into your opponents' psychological weak spots.

Tactics

A huge part of building a table persona is developing a strategy for when and how you place your bets, and controlling tempo and pressure. Your precise approach will depend on the poker variant you chose, but there is a basic rule that should guide every strategy: decide whether to play based on the cards you're dealt; decide how to play based on the cards you want others to think you were dealt.

For example, playing a tight game cuts your losses, but because others pick up on your tight approach, you can play on their expectations now and then to push a bad hand if you're on a dry spell. You can also play the tempo: quick checks will make people think you are chasing cards, and quick raises imply you have a good hand and want to win big.

Spotting Tells

Movies might show players twitching when they've got a good hand, or rubbing their noses when they're bluffing. In real life, physical tells are few and far between, and tend to be micro-expressions rather than clear movements. It's possible to study someone over a long period and maybe pick up a tell. But in most instances, and especially during online poker games, tells tend to be about spotting patterns in your opponents' betting.

Tilts and River Rats

Spotting these types at a table is much more lucrative than looking for tells. A player betting with emotion is 'on tilt', and likely to haemorrhage cash. Don't just look out for these players - amp up the pressure to create them. And stay calm and focused to avoid going on tilt yourself.

'River rats' will bet before the flop if their cards are promising, and stick with the game through to the river even if they're chasing a lost cause. Which means filling the pot for you.

Keep your eyes peeled for these types, practise your psychological strategy at partypoker, and soon you can take your mind games to the casino.

Recommended Poker Sites

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  1. 1
    BetMGM Poker
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    Poker players at BetMGM are in for a treat once they register with this poker provider. The exclusive software and an abundance of ongoing promotions and tournaments make this operator the perfect pick.
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    PokerStars Poker
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    100% Bonus Up to $600
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    Guts Poker
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    Aside from sportsbook and casino, users can also access the poker section. Like other brands, it requires client download and offers an excellent poker experience.
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    PartyPoker
    Established 1997
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    Experience World Class Online Poker
    Official Partner of F1 McLaren Racing Team
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    Promo Code
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    Rakeback
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    One of the pioneers of online poker, PartyPoker was once the world’s biggest poker site and they still host huge online tournaments such as the prestigious MILLIONS series with a $1million guaranteed main event, plus satellites to PartyPoker live events.
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    888 Poker
    Established 1997
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    With over 10 million registered members, 888poker is one of the world’s largest poker networks and they also have their own live circuit featuring some of the most prestigious poker events in the world, with destinations such as London, Barcelona and Bucharest.
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    GG Poker
    Established 2014
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    Bet $20, Claim $50
    Largest Online Poker Site in the World
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