As long as you don’t play for money, poker can be a great way to entertain yourself and some friends for free (if someone else brings the cards). I find it can feel quite wholesome to occasionally adopt a luddite pretence for an evening of smokey back-room action.
I have always been a poker fan, but I’ve not really played the game too much. Part of this is down to not being in touch with the finer details that add the finess and fun. If played properly, poker can be a rich display of complex manoeuvres taking advantage of a players memory, numeracy skills and understanding of people. This post hopes to shed some light for beginners on a few more techniques to be thinking on when they next play.
Multi level Thinking.
We’ll dive right in with this one. Its good to be aware of what is possible, even if you don’t have the skills to execute this kind of tactic yourself. The list below shows the levels of complexity that are used in poker:
Level 0: I know nothing (if you were playing your mum, this might be her assumed level)
Level 1: What do I have?
Level 2: What does my opponent have?
Level 3: What does my opponent think I have?
Level 4: What does my opponent think that I think they have?
Level 5: What does my opponent think that I think they think I have?
By guessing where your opponents fall, skill-wise, on the levels above you can start to understand the complexity of their bluffs and develop ways to make them come unstuck. Its important to note that Level 5 shown above is and even level 4 will usually be more complex than is needed. You only need to be thinking one level above the other players. Consistent poker winners start at about level 3 and this level can be somewhat achieved by doing the maths on the cards on the table and assuming your competition will be predicting the likelihood of winning hands available to you.
This will help you to evaluate when you should be betting and folding by comparing the odds of completing your hand against the pay off from your contribution to the pot. Learning this technique will hopefully save you from inefficient play.
For an explanation on how to use pot odds, please take a look at this site
This is not something that can be written about with global rules as there are too many variables but generally, part of what makes a good bluff will be one that has support for its validity. For example, if you have been on a winning streak and your opponent has been playing week, then it should not raise as many questions if you bluff the continuation of this state of play compared to a strength bluff after you have been weak yourself. Naturally occurring support for your bluff is not questioned as closely as your own engineered convolutions because play that can or has been manipulated by you causes a rub on the status quo which people may otherwise be happy to accept.
Finally… If you can’t easily rally together your friends for a match then online play may be more convenient for you. If you fancy playing online and then you can use sites such as Party Poker to get involved and start developing your poker skills.