In poker, players can think on a few different levels. Generally the more advanced a player is the higher a level he is thinking on. You should be thinking on at least three levels whenever you play no limit hold em. The levels are:
- What do you have? This is the simplest level; you merely look at your hand and the board and figure out how strong your hand is.
- What does your opponent have? This is a bit more complicated as you have to try to pin them down to as narrow a range of holdings as you can.
- What does your opponent think that you think that he has? Here you are trying to figure out his level 3 thought process.
Level 1 – Thinking about your hand
Level 2 – Think about your opponent’s hand
Level 3 – Think about what your opponent thinks that you think that he has. This is more complicated as you have to evaluate your own play from the standpoint of a player who isn’t in the hand.
This is the most difficult to get across in words, so the best way to get across the idea is to draw an analogy between thinking about what you would do in certain circumstances and think about what your opponent would do in certain circumstances. An example would be thinking about what would happen if you had a pocket pair in the last showdown. How would you act? Would you raise? Would you check? How would your opponent act? There are tons of examples you could use to get across the idea, but it’s best if you visualize your opponent putting his money in the pot in such a situation.
Level 3 – Think about what your opponent thinks that you think that he has. Now you are thinking about your opponent’s hand based on his own perspective.
Level 4 – Now you think about your opponent’s hand based on your own perspective. At this level you are still trying to figure out what your opponent thinks that your hand is. At this level you still are trying to figure out what your opponent thinks that his hand is.
Level 5 – You are so confident in your post-flop play that you are ready to play any hand.
Once you have completed this level, you should be playing every hand. At this level, you are still thinking about what hands you would play pre-flop and post-flop. You are also practicing reverse-psychology. How would your opponent react to a particular flop? How would your opponent react to a particular turn? Through your analysis, you will be able to predict an opponent’s next move. How will you play against a player who has a shaky hand? How will you play against a player who always raises when a button player limps? Of course, you will not be able to play well every hand, but you will be able to play consistently against good players, making money in the long run. Also, you will develop your abilities to read bluffs and semi-bluffs.
Although thousands of books have been written about how to play poker, many of the basic principles the professionals use have not been written yet. Among other things, I believe that as long as there are avid poker players, there will be games played using poker rules. How many poker books have you read that teach you how to be a winning player? How many have you not read? If you do not read, you will never know where you did not need to.
There are also thousands of websites online that offer online poker tips and strategy. Unlike a book, a good poker site can offer you many articles, videos, and downloadable software to play at your convenience. No time, or money spent on purchasing these items. Just sit back and relax enjoying poker while receiving helpful hints and advice from other players. You could also be one of those players who grows no fear when risking money or favors. I know that you are probably just as happy with your game as you are with your life.