The Psychological Angle Of Poker Explained

Hard and Soft Skills

These are common terms for the two major skill sets utilised in poker.

“Hard skills” are the player’s general outward skills and strategies, such as bluffing, board prediction, player prediction and analysis, and also effective sizing of bets.

“Soft skills” are the player’s inward mental abilities, such as patience and self-control, and one’s “mental library” the game.

Both of these skill sets involve psychology to various degrees.

Knowledge, Discipline And Planning

Have a good knowledge of oneself in terms of limitations, strengths, and style of playing, while practicing diligence and self-discipline, is the most basic groundwork to developing confidence and an effective mental edge in poker. Likewise, having a solid and in-depth knowledge of the game and strategies can only help.

Individuals vary greatly, and therefore so will their styles and choice of strategies. Developing one’s own style, and sense of confidence therein, will later aid in both maintaining composure, eg. your “poker-face”, and in learning and countering other player’s styles and strategies. Developing multiple styles and preparing strategies to counter and adapt to a variety of possible situations, is all the more beneficial.

Manipulation And Information Gathering

Poker revolves largely around psychological manipulation. Learning information about other players, and their hands, through various methods such as careful observation, especially when betting and attempting bluffs, is highly important. Thereafter such information can be used strategically to your advantage either offensively, or defensively. Adversely, if you are not careful, “telling” information you may give about yourself, can and most likely will be used against you.

Tilt and Self-Sabotage

“Tilt” is a general poker term for a player’s loss of composure and control due to, say, anger, frustration, disbelief, despair, or just plain stubbornness and inflexibility. It is hugely telling to other players and so is frequently used in poker strategy. It is always up to you to understand yourself and what situations might cause you to possibly being “tilted”. Learning how to overcome it is also possibly one of the most useful things you could do for yourself and your game.

It all depends on your style of play, but if you are able to effectively and strategically induce tilt in others, then all the better. Keep in mind though, a keen and skilled opponent will likely be expecting it, and may ready to counter.

Rivalry, Ego And Pride

There is usually never a shortage of ego when it comes to competition. Ego, and pride, though, can be double-edged swords, for better or worse. On one hand they are essential for confidence, motivation, and sense of composure, and on the other hand they can get one caught up in toxic and unnecessary ego-battles and rivalry.

Alternatively, they can be used as part of a psychological strategy to cause “tilt” in other players. Just make sure it’s not something that could backfire on you instead.

Practice Makes Perfect

Often, the most reliable way to learn and to achieve the goals you set out to attain greater mental efficacy in poker, is simply through sheer practice. Experience and honest self-exploration can be of greater benefit than any amount of advice or book-learning.