We all think that poker strategy is all about knowing the right moves during the course of a game. That is a very critical aspect of the game, true. There are those who even have fine demarcations between poker strategy and poker tactics. While the line separating that may be distinct or a blur, depending on which boat your foot is in, let me throw another aspect into the mix – the concept of psychology in poker.
There are many who have demarcated psychology as also being a distinct entity in poker and having a separate role to play than strategy. Some say strategy, tactics, and psychology are three distinct entities that serve a common purpose. My opinion is that all the three overlap, and that psychology can play a key role in determining your poker strategy.
In this article, we will discuss more about the role of psychology in determining poker strategy.
Poker Strategy – The Power of Observation
One of the best things you can do when you have folded and are generally sitting through a hand is, besides running the different basic strategies you have in mind for the game, to keep an eye on the other players at the table. Observation has a key role to play in poker strategy. From observing the other players and the way they go through a hand, you can actually work out your strategy for scenarios that pitch them headlong against you during a hand in future.
When you keep an eye on a rival player, you need to notice the various things about him during a hand – the number of times, roughly, that he has folded over a specific timeframe, how good a bluffer he is, how frequent a bluffer he is, how consistently is he winning (is he in the middle of a hot winning streak?), and many such seemingly small but very important details.
Observation and Poker Strategy – Forewarned is Forearmed
Once you spend some time observing the other players and work out the way they act and react during the course of a hand or a few hands, you can assess the psychology of their game play and prepare yourself accordingly. Such observation can be a lethal weapon if you understand its powers and know how best to use it.
For instance, if you notice that a player is consistently folding after a round or two whenever someone raises the stakes, you can formulate a strategy of your own to tackle him when you go head-on with him or are in a situation where you are playing a hand that he is also playing. You can try raising the stakes from your end in such a situation, and if your observation and the subsequent analysis is correct, you know how that hand will pan out.
I place psychology and observation in the basic poker strategy category and not the advanced strategy category because this does not involve any complex math or any elaborate system; it just requires you to observe more and learn to infer from your observations, both very basic attributes to being successful.