Poker Shrink Vol. 55: Interference
Interference has to do with recalling previously known information. There are events that can and do interfere with our ability to have an accurate recall. In poker, this is often a problem when we try to remember how a particular opponent has played previous hands.
There are two types of interference. Proactive interference is when we have trouble learning to remember something new because of some previously held memory. One of the more obvious examples of proactive interference is learning to drive an automobile on the other side of the road. If you have ever tried this, you know that while it might be possible to quickly learn to stay on the opposite side of a busy road, it is quite another feat of navigation to make a turn across an urban intersection and get yourself in the correct lane on the other end of the turn.
The other type of interference is retroactive interference, which is just the opposite. With retroactive interference, some new information is presented that makes it difficult to recall some older memory. A good poker play example is when a player you had a tight, conservative read on suddenly comes out firing a couple of hands in a row and takes down a pot or two with weak starting hands.
Is that player changing up his play? Or was your read just wrong? Both are good questions to ask, but what you want to avoid is interference. Because if you let new behavior wipe out your older memory of how this player acted, you are losing what could be valuable information to retroactive interference. The last hand is not more valuable than the hand played an hour ago. If your recall is correct, then don't let it go just because the player has made a contradictory move.
What is most interesting about interference for poker players is that all of us have a tendency to allow interference of one kind over the other. Most players are more likely to have old information dominate any new play from another player. We tend to get locked into a read we have and will almost always ignore new contradictory play. We really don't like to alter our reads. Basically, we all have a tendency to be proactive interference victims; we just don't like to change our minds. But clearly an old read is no more valuable than a new one, so be flexible.
Now if you happen to be a retroactive interference player, I have some bad news. It is often very difficult to break a retroactive memory pattern. Remember, with retroactive memory we tend to remember the new play and forget the old one. If that is how your brain normally recalls, you are going to have to work on this problem to overcome retroactive interference.
We all know we should change up our play and not fall into patterns. What if you discover that every player at your table is a 100 percent retroactive interference memory person? All you would have to do is never repeat yourself. If you play a big hand aggressively they will all remember that, so the next big hand you slow-play and they'll be remembering the aggressive play. You just switch up each hand and no one ever gets a read on you.
The reality is that there is no perfect pattern to varying your poker play but there is one really good tip when you do change it up – make sure they see it! Show those bluffs. Make a show of that river check-raise. If you are trying to keep the other players off your game, take advantage of their ingrained need for interference and get that new information out there. It doesn't matter if it interferes with their old reads or their new reads, just as long as you keep them guessing.
On the other hand, figure out whether you are susceptible to proactive or retroactive interference, and be aware of your own tendency to give more or less credit to new or old information. A read is a read is a read, no matter how new or old it may be.
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