Observation and Poker

In this post I described 3 essential skills of poker and the challenges they present for intermediate poker players.  The first skill, the one of observing and recognizing the situation, seems the simplest but can be the most baffling for struggling players.  What makes it difficult is the immense number of variables to consider.  The noise to signal ratio at a poker table is huge.  It is difficult for beginner and intermediate poker players to focus on the task at hand and not be side tracked by all the distractions.

The solution to this problem is to prioritize your focus.  We need to dissect what information MUST be focused on versus what information is beneficial yet not essential.  It is impossible to view and understand the tactical impact of everything going on at the table.  To help determine what information to seek out at the poker table, consideration should be given to the following criteria:

How frequently will the information benefit you?

The more frequently information will help you, the more you should seek it. For instance,  players should constantly focus on GAME CONDITIONS throughout their poker sessions.  Blind structure, rake structure and table dynamics are all variables universal to everyone at the table.  You will factor in these conditions in most, if not all, of your decisions; which makes this information crucial.

How reliable is the information?

Some parts of a poker problem would be great to figure out, however there is just too much noise to make RELIABLE DECISIONS based on them.  This is why BETTING PATTERNS AND PLAYER TENDENCIES TRUMP NONVERBAL TELLS.  Live players need to focus on both, but you should never sacrifice focus on tendencies in favor of nonverbal tells. Player tendencies are much more reliable.

How valuable is the information?

Although all information available at the poker table is valuable, it is important to understand that all information is not equal in value.  We must focus on what we can capitalize on most.  For instance, it is far more valuable to gain understanding of our opponent’s preflop ranges then it is to know about his current mental state.  The psychological aspects of poker strategy are intriguing, but skills like hand reading must be mastered and should take precedence.

Agree with this article?  Have any comments or questions?  Please feel free add your comments by clicking on the comments link below.


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  1. How to take over your home poker league | pokerforvalue.com - [...] Luke quietly gathers tons of information on his opponents.  He insists on knowing what cards his opponents mucked  and …

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