Levels of thinking in Poker

I have been playing poker for some years now and sometimes I forget that some concepts that are trivial to me are not trivial to beginning poker players. I realized this again, since my father is starting to play poker a few weeks ago. Therefore I will discuss a basic poker topic this article: the levels of thinking of poker. This refers to the deepness of thought process in playing poker. It starts with a simple level 1 and it continues to the very high level good poker pros have.

Levels of thinking in poker

Level 1 thinking poker

Level 1 thinking means that a player is only playing his own cards. Level 1 thinking players will look at 72o and fold immediately. If they have pocket aces they are happy and will reraise. Post flop they are also mainly concerned about their own hand. They do not incorporate the possible holdings, hand range, of their opponents.

Level 2 thinking poker

Level 2 thinking is already more in-depth than level 1. Level 2 thinking not only includes a player’s own card in the decision making process, but also their opponent’s possible cards. For instance, on a K K 9 8 2 non flush board and you are holding K7 off suit and facing a river all in of your opponent. A level 1 thinking player thinks: “Hurray, I have trips and my opponent is all in, I call immediately”. A level 2 thinking poker player will think ”With which hands is my opponent going all in”. If this is a very tight opponent he will only go all in with AK, KQ, K9, K8, K2, 99, 88, and 22. Folding, even with three of a kind, is the best option. However, if his opponent is a maniac, who can do this with any 2 cards, calling is profitable.

Level 3 thinking poker

Level 3 incorporates your own cards, your opponent’s hand range, but also how your opponent is perceiving you. If your opponents perceive you as a total maniac, they will pay you more off than if they perceive you as a very tight player. Opponents will also be looking at what cards you are representing, and if this is logical with your betting patterns. Opponents may bluff you if you are not “repping” something, but you may bluff them back, if they aren’t repping something neither. And then a hand like this one between Phil Laak and Brain Rast can happen.

Level zillion thinking poker

This game I know that you know that I know that you know can go on till infinity. My experience in low stakes poker games is that you should not overestimate your opponents, because you would be giving them too much credit. As you  move up, you encounter tougher opponents who will think on a higher level. If you see showdowns try to discover what their level of thinking is, such that you can take advantage of it.

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