Inasmuch as an understanding of maths is important to play poker, psychology also has a very big influence in your game and most players use it without even realising it.
When you join your online game of poker, one of the first things that you do is to have a good look around at your opponents – see if there are any amongst them that you already have records about, and note where they are seated in relation to you. You may choose to wait for the big blind until you first get involved to get a feel for the table and observe any players that you are not familiar with, and by doing this you are sending a message to the other players that you are serious about whet you are doing – that is the first piece of psychology!
Good psychology works along the lines of not only letting your opponent think he knows what you have, but letting him think that you know what he has also. This is achieved by raising by the appropriate amounts to relay whatever image you are intending, bluffing, call/checking,– even folding forms part of the picture that you are painting that you hold a monster hand when you don´t. By definition, slow playing is reverse psychology – implying that you have a weak hand when keeping that monster behind bars until the river.
Psychology does not have the same implications in flop limit poker, but it is still good practise to apply it whenever possible. Bear in mind that other players will be making notes about your game, so it is vital to always play to the best of your ability to ensure consistency and earn respect at the poker tables.
There are several books about psychology in poker, and one of the best is Alan N Schoonmaker´s “Psychology of Poker”, which explains why people play in a certain style (ie Tight-Passive, Loose- Aggressive etc), and how to take advantage of it. He also investigates the issue of why so many players know how to play the game, but frequently do not apply what they know. Schoonmaker suggests several adjustments to your game, depending on the type of player that you are, which will increase your enjoyment of the game and may help to turn you into a more successful player.
“Psychology of Poker” is available from Amazon, with new copies available from around $15.
Psychology of Poker
Author Alan N Schoonmaker
Paperback: 330 pages
Publisher: Two Plus Two Pub.; 1 edition (May 2000)