In two previous articles, I have talked about the use of psychology in poker. We all know that deception is a big part of playing the game. Anyone above the amateur/fish skill level also knows that giving off false information to your opponents is also an aspect of the game. But we also know that the knowledge of false tells is not exactly a secret. Here we enter the realm of what is often called reverse psychology.
Reverse psychology is the term that describes the outcome where advocacy of one course of action persuades someone to do the opposite. (Wikipedia.com)
This is precisely what we are doing when we give off false tells. We anticipate that players at the table, who are able enough to watch for tells, will see our false signals and make incorrect interpretations of our hand. Or we actually make certainly plays during inexpensive hands to lead players to believe we play a certain way with the hopes of using the 'planted' false information later to win a big hand.
Both of these aspects of a solid poker repertoire fall into the category of reverse psychology. Let's look at an example of each; first false play to plant an image of your play that you will reverse later.
Last night I was playing a $4/$8 game at the Gold Strike in Tunica when a player I knew sat down on my right. I knew him because I had seen him win a "bracelet" and go deep in several other major events. So, yes I was a big surprised he was taking a seat in a $4/$8 game but he mentioned right away that he was just killing time waiting for a NL seat to open up.
He played the first six hands dealt to him, lost five, won one on a huge suckout and showed his cards on all six occasions. Then he pulled back a bit and in just a few hands went on a huge rush to the tune of about $350. Everyone at the table (except me, I saw him win the bracelet remember) but everyone else at the table was after his chips. When it was all over and I got nine folds to my 3X raise UTG with KK; he leaned over and said:
"You know if you waste thirty or forty bucks when you first sit down, these boys will call your pocket Kings."
A perfect and simple example of reverse psychology. Show a style of play that is not your style and show it when everyone is looking at the new guy at the table. These early reads tend to endure long after you have changed up your game.
The other use of reverse psychology is a bit more complicated if not more subtle. In this example you actually give off a tell that most players at the table will recognize but you give it in the opposite situation from what is expected. Easy example: most of us know that when a player looks at the flop and then immediately looks away, the flop has hit him. Players instinctively look away because they sense that staring at a flop means you like it. So if you quickly look away from flop, some players will interpret this to mean you have hit it big.
Now here is the big problem with reverse psychology. If the other players know about false tells they may read you as using reverse psychology; so they may read you as strong when you falsely signal weak because they think you are a good enough players to give a false tell. So they think that you think that they think you would think that if only they thought that……
But it's so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy's? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
No one said this was easy. Next week, some final words on psychology, reverse psychology and poker.
Ed note: Business is booming at Mansion Poker