Psychology is the business of knowing people and understanding why they do the things that they do. Not only is it one of the most lucrative doctrine practices in today’s medical field, it can turn a mediocre poker player into a phenomenally successful poker pro. However, as a poker player, you don’t have to have a master’s degree in psychology to exploit its application.
Using proper psychology can work two ways. When you get into an opponent’s head, you can start predicting his hand, as well as his reaction to different situations. If you let your opponents think they’ve gotten into your head, you can take full advantage of what they think you’re holding.
First things first, successfully reading your opponents isn’t something you can acquire in a single day, by reading an advanced poker strategy article. It is something attained through experience and deep observation.
You will find, over time, that most players fit into a category. Each of those categories come with typical tendencies. For example, there are loose, carefree players who simply love to see the flop, no matter what their starting hand is. We like to call these players “fish”. They are very easy to take advantage of as you can put them on a wide range of hands. You may get duped once or twice, but since you’re playing a more strategic poker game, way more often than not you’ll have the better hand.
Maniac poker players are a lot like fish, but with one key difference. Maniacs are extremely aggressive spenders. A fish isn’t going to risk their stack on a pitiful hand, where a maniac player uses intimidation through high raises. Again, it’s hard to put them on a hand since they are likely to bluff as often as they are holding a monster. The key to maniac players is to take them down tactfully, waiting for a great hand of your own to scoop a large portion of their stack. This will cool their heels faster than anything.
Playing against a tight player is also easy to identify, and much easier to predict their hand strength. Simple, tight poker players are not easy to defeat because they are not going to stay in a pot if they don’t think they can win it. Therefore putting them on a hand is a simple matter of observing the board, deciding what their best hands could be, and noting at what time they chose to become aggressive.
An experienced, tight poker player will either make a move as soon as he’s developed a hand, or on the next card, in an attempt to throw you off his actual holdings. The latter is actually more common. If you can determine the nuts one card prior to his aggression, it’s generally safe to assume that’s his best possible hand.
Reverse psychology works in much the same way. Knowing how other categorical player types react to various situations will allow you to mix up these tactics and fool your opponents. Never let yourself fall into a specific category. As a beginner poker player, a tight strategy is recommended, but as you advance in experience, changing up your game is crucial.
Play tight, play loose, play like a maniac – play every poker strategy in the book. Just don’t ever let yourself fall into a readable pattern. As soon as your opponents think they have you figured out, change your tactics completely. Not only will your opponents be utterly confused, they will fear you. Intimidation is one of the best poker strategies in the book, and the ability to be intimidating without having to wager a substantial amount of your chip stack is incredibly advantageous.