Projection - thinking like your opponent

Poker Strategy RSS / Marcus Bateman / 16 December 2010 / Leave a Comment

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Most people - and this counts for nearly all walks of life, not just poker - tend to project their own way of thinking onto others. Instead of trying to work out the exact motivations and feelings of someone else, they rely more on just assuming everyone would behave like them. However, most human beings follow very different thought processes to one another - even in areas with widely accepted notions of what the 'right' and 'wrong' things to do are - and nowhere does this seem more true than in poker.

Players who play tight or loose, mostly do it for a very simple reason - they think it is the 'correct' way to play. This is a very important and useful point when you first sit down in games against relative unknowns, as it allows you to use their own bias against them. In general, players who act a certain way project their own style onto others as a first port of call when making decisions. Tight players give people too much credit, and loose players give people too little.

As they play a certain way, their first resource when tackling unknown players is to think about the hand in the same way they usually think about the hand, and this leaves them open to early exploitation by astute players - you simply have to bluff the players who seem tight and value town the looser players for as long as you can.

Obviously poker is a game of observation and adaptation, so don't suddenly start doing this against someone you have played thousands of hands with and who knows your game, or against players who seem to be adapting to you, but when deciding what to do against new players this should often be one of the first areas you analyse in a hand.

On the whole, human beings are terrible at ever thinking that other people could ever think differently to them (after all, we are all geniuses right?), and this is a very useful tool in deciding how to take advantage of players we have only had limited hands with. You are much better off trying to use lessons learnt from other players than your own thoughts on the game when dealing with newcomers, and taking advantage of their own reliance on inner projection can quickly make a huge difference at weak new tables.

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