Multi-Level Thinking in Poker

Poker is a thinking man’s game. When thinking a hand through, there are different levels of thinking a player utilizes. Understanding each level of thought in poker is key to a player’s long-term success.
The first level of thinking when you are playing is one in which we determine what we have. This goes without saying that we identify our holdings in relation to the board to determine what kind of hand we have. From there, we identify whether our hand is made, are we on a draw, or have we totally missed. This thought process is quite basic in nature.

The next level of thinking is placing an opposing player on a hand or range of hands. We use tools such as betting patterns, physical tells, and deductive reasoning to determine what our opponent is or is not holding. We consult historical knowledge of the player’s habits and tendencies with respect to position and betting to better assess the opponent’s hand range. Thinking on this level requires a strong memory, as well as the ability to string together clues to lead to a logical conclusion. We make an educated guess on their hand range and holdings, in which we look to modify or adjust based on further information.

The third level of thinking takes into consideration that while you are busy pondering what the opposing player or players might hold; they are busy thinking about your holdings. As a result, we want to explore the thoughts of what the opposition thinks we have. To determine what other players believe we are holding requires understanding of how they view us. We might ask ourselves questions such as “What is my present table image?” Have I played a hand the exact way I have played this one so far? Have I bluffed lately? Does this player think I am a straight-up player or do they believe me to be bluff capable? If I were they, what would I think I was holding?

Once you have figured out what they most likely believe you to hold, you can adjust your play to make a believer out of them or cause mass confusion, depending on the situation.
When you play poker online, there are many more things to think about than merely “what hand do I have?” Be aware of other player’s habits, and additionally know how you are viewed as a player. By thinking things through on multiple levels, you will better understand your opposition and profit more from being a thinking poker player.