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
    PartyPoker
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    Double Bubble Poker is a fun place for beginners with a friendly interface, welcoming hosts and pocket-friendly tournament entry fees starting at just £0.01.
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    Deposit £10, Claim £40
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    Rakeback
    Does this poker site refund a portion of your rake or offer cashback for poker loyalty points?
    Yes
    WSOP Satellites
    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    Yes
    Home Games
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    No
    GG Poker offers award winning features include EV Cashout, Snap Cam, NFT Avatars and Squeeze Cards. You can also play online with GGTeam Pro Players Daniel Negreanu, 'ElkY' Grospellier and Jason Kroon.
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    Established 2015
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    Bet £10 Get £40 Free Play
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    Yes
    PokerStars host some of the biggest online poker tournaments including the famous Sunday Million which has a $1million guaranteed prize pool, plus exclusive satellites to the European Poker Tour.
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    WSOP Satellites
    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    No
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    No
    At Coral Poker you can qualify for big online and live poker tournaments, including the Irish Open and UK Grand Prix, plus the high roller MILLIONS tournament series.
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    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    No
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    Bet365 Poker offer regular Cash Games, Sit & Gos & Tournaments, plus premium tables where you'll play exclusively against Bet365 players only. They also provide 24/7 customer support.
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    Rakeback
    Does this poker site refund a portion of your rake or offer cashback for poker loyalty points?
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    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
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    Can you set up private online poker games with friends?
    Yes
    Paddy Power Poker have a 'Twitch Team' of poker ambassadors, who you can enjoy live interaction with as they broadcast MTTs & Cash Games via their Twitch channels.
  9. 9
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    Earn up to 40% Rakeback
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    Bonus Code
    The code required to claim this sign-up bonus (if any)
    not required
    Rakeback
    Does this poker site refund a portion of your rake or offer cashback for poker loyalty points?
    Yes
    WSOP Satellites
    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    No
    Home Games
    Can you set up private online poker games with friends?
    Yes
    Grosvenor Poker can reasonably be called the home of UK poker, with exclusive satellites to live events taking place at Grosvenor Casinos across England, Scotland & Wales, including the GUKPT and the biggest live poker tournament in Europe - the Goliath.
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