Poker is a game of skill, luck and most of psychology. Playing poker without the right mental preparation can mean you have lost before the cards are even dealt with. Before developing a poker strategy, a player must first acknowledge their weakness and strengths. Knowing how to respond in a tough situation, whether you have a tendency to protect your cash tells the approach you choose. It’s easier to use what you have than to try and remove a lifetime of habit.
Poker personalities are categorized in four ways:
- Passive players: they bet rarely instead folding or checking while others lead to play
- Aggressive players: They often raise and re-raise to increase the pressure on rivals
- Loose players: They join the game with lower hands than most players
- Tight players: They play fewer hands, as few as 10 per cent.
These are more like the extremes of a broad spectrum of playing styles. The more you will spot these traits, the better you will understand where the players sit on the spectrum and how to use it as your advantage. It means building a table persona that taps into your opponents’ psychological weak spots.
A huge part of building a table persona is developing a strategy for when and how you place your bets and controlling pressure and tempo. Your approach will completely depend on poker variant you chose, but there is a rule that should guide every strategy. You have to decide whether to play based on the cards you are dealt with, how to play based on cards you want others to think you were dealt with.
For example, if you play a tight game it will cut your losses. As others pick up on your tight approach, you can first play according to their expectations and then push a bad hand. You can also play the tempo- quick checks will make people think that you are chasing cards. While quick raises imply you have a good hand and want to win big.
Some movies might show players twitching when they have got a good hand or rubbing noses when they are bluffing. But in real, physical tells are few and far between and tend to be micro expressions rather than clear movements. It is not so difficult to study someone over a long period of time and may pick up a tell. For most instances and especially during online poker games, tells tend to be about spotting patterns in opponents betting.
Tilts and river rats
Spotting these types of players at the table is more lucrative than looking for tells. A player betting with emotion is on tilt. Don’t look out for these players – amp up the pressure to create them. Stay focused and calm to avoid going on tilt.
River rats will bet before the flop if their cards are promising and stick with the game through to the river if they are cashing a lost cause which means filling the pot for you. Keep your eyes peeled for these types of poker players, practices your psychological strategy, read online poker blogs and soon you can take the mind game to the casino.