The Poker Shrink, Vol 17 – 'Original Position'
Suppose you had the power to set up all the rules of society. You get to be the creator of the laws and social conventions for how everyone will act and interact in every aspect of life. You get to create the "social contract" for the world. Sound good? OK, there is one small item I forgot to mention: You don't get to know your role in this world until after you make the rules. You could be a rich retiree; you could be a single mom with two jobs, a migrant farm worker or a recent MBA graduate with a six figure salary and a gorgeous girl/boyfriend.
You might want to ponder this idea for a moment; it is called the theory of "Original Position". Try googling Original Position, I recommend the Wikipedia explanation.
So how does this theory apply to poker and psychology? Well you sit down at a tournament table and you know none of the other players. This is the 'original position' but just as you would know that some rules of conduct would be necessary in creating a society; you also know something about tournament poker. You are not making up the rules of poker but you should be constructing, in your head, the structure of this table. You start making reads even before the cards are in the air. I am suggesting that your original position could be defective and hindering your ability to win the tournament.
So you bring to the table some basic "knowns" about poker players in general: weak, tight, fish, pro etc. Your job is to win the tournament and to do that you need to read these unknown players by building on your basic knowledge of poker players and the information you collect during the play is used to modify your original position. Here comes the problem: How to separate general knowledge of the game from specific information on individual opponents at the table. For example: the lady in seat eight.
You perhaps begin with the position that female poker players tend to be weak-tight and easy to push off a pot by coming over the top. This is, after all, a $200 buy-in, that ain't Annie Duke down there in seat eight. On the other hand, are you able to change that read as play progresses or is your original position hardened into some sort of poker truth that you can't modify based on the play at the table? Holding to a generality on individual players is a mistake made by lazy players who do not focus on making reads based on the table action.
Now all of this seems fairly straightforward, at least I hope it does, you read the table you build up player profiles based on what actually happens during the tournament. But now let's turn to the very essence of the psychological component of Original Position theory. You do not know who you are or what your status is before you enter the arena. In other words you might not want to assume you are the best player at the table; just as you also may not want to assume you are dead money. Your developing analysis on this little single table society should include a read on yourself and your position in the table's food chain. Assuming anything about your skills or abilities in the mix of these other combatants before the cards are dealt will inevitably prevent you from forming a correct view of the entire playing field. You are one of ten or nine or eight members of this little world and correctly placing yourself in the order of things will allow you to see yourself as other see you and that may be the best position for any poker player.
Ed note: Improve your original position in the poker world by playing at the tables of Ultimate Bet