7 Ways To Use Psychology While Playing Poker

Updated on 12 Sep, 2014 at 3:04 pm


There are many ways in which psychology can help us in our lives. It helps us improve our memory, get rid of bad habits, mend our relationships, and cope with challenges of life. Now, the same science will also help to win a game of poker may sound quite funny; but, it is true. Though poker is a game, it provides an excellent context for thinking through theories of psychology. Poker may be called the game of cards, but in fact it is a game of human behavior. It is just played with cards. What makes the game interesting is the response of people playing the game. Every action of a player will have something backing that action.

With or without the knowledge of the players, a lot of psychology gets involved when people play poker. Let us have a look at 7 ways to use psychology while playing poker which is as interesting as the game itself.

7.  Body Language

Psychology will tell you about what the body language of your opponent tells you and also what clues your own body language is sending out to others. By learning to read the eyes, hands, body posture, attitude and facial expression, you can very well predict the hand your opponent holds. A slight trembling of hand, staring at a card, looking around the table and many other behaviors gives out a lot of clues regarding the hand your opponent holds. For example, a glance at the chips may tell you that your opponent is planning for an attack.


Body Language

6. Knowing the Poker Bluff

Though the pros may have mastered the trick, they like the novice players tend to use the Poker Bluff as well. The psychology behind the Poker Bluff is to send wrong message to the opponent. When the player is having a weak hand, he/she may tend to behave as though they have an upper hand, or on the other hand they may try to act disheartened or sad when they actually hold the monster hand. Knowing the psychology that goes into lying, you may actually be able to tell when the poker player is running a bluff; moreover you may learn to disguise your bluff so well that others may not recognize it.

Knowing the Poker Bluff

5. Reading the ‘Tells’

Playing poker has much to do with how you read other players. Psychology helps you make educated guess as to what are the probable cards the other players are holding in their hands. In the game of Poker there are patterns of behavior which give out the other players. These patterns are commonly known as ‘Tells’ as they tell you the little secret. The patterns will reveal the intended actions of your opponent, but you need to be all ears and eyes to catch this spit-second action. Also you need to watch out for those tricksters who give out ‘Tells’ to fool you into believing something.

Reading the ‘Tells’

4. Chip stacks

Psychologists have found out those little things people do in their everyday life gives out a lot of information about their characteristics. In Poker, you can know your opponent by watching the chip stacks in front of them. Gamblers or loose players will have a messy chip stack where as tight players that do not bluff or gamble a lot will create neat chip stacks in front of them. Again you have to watch out for those pros who purposely leave a messy chip stack to send out wrong message to you.

Chip stacks

3. Honing your listening skills

It is easy to lose the a sigh or slight sound of disappointment escaping from your opponent among the chatter going on, the chips being rattled or by the loud music playing in the background. Psychologists have found that no matter how trained a person is, they cannot help the escape of emotions for a moment, though they may gain control over it in a jiffy. If you learn to listen, you will hear that escape of emotion from your opponent which will give you a clue as to what he/she holds in her hand. If the sigh is too loud or the expression is very clear – you can call it a bluff.

Honing your listening skills

2. Signs of nervousness

Your opponent is a human like you. Understanding your own responses will allow you to understand your opponent as well. Weren’t you quite excited and nervous when you held a strong hand the last time? Off course you did. Most of the times the players assume the opponent who is looking nervous as the one with a weak hand or who is acting out the poker bluff, but in fact this is a clear indication of your opponent holding a strong hand. Watch for those signs of nervousness in your opponent to know when to be cautious.

Signs of nervousness

1. Chatting is good for you

Most often you would be advised to shut up and concentrate on the game, but psychology would say it is good for your game if you engage in casual conversation with your opponent. When your opponent is having a conversation with you, he/she may not be able to handle their bluffs effectively. They may get thrown off even with a casual question you may ask like – What did they have for lunch? Those who are concentrating on their bluff may not be able to answer you immediately and would usually respond with a “huh?” or say something incomprehensible or fumble over their answer hesitatingly.



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