Four behavioral traits you can exploit in poker

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Feb 08, 2011 Posted in Op-Ed | No Comments »

Poker is often referred to by the following line: Poker is not a card game played by people; it is as a people game played with cards. The reason for this is because psychology is such an integral part of the game that often times the cards you hold will be of little consequence, and your read on your opponents’ intentions will be of vital importance.

Here is a look at four behavioral traits that you should constantly be aware of in your opponents, as well as recognizing your own tendencies on these fronts.

·    The Peter Principle: In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence

The above statement seems a bit comical, but it actually holds true throughout most of life –you’ll often hear this referred to as rising to your failure point. Basically, a poker player will continue to climb higher and higher in stakes until they reach a level they can no longer beat. At this point they become stuck in a poker limbo, where they are no longer a winning player at say $10/$20 NLHE so as the bankroll takes a hit they drop back down to $5/$10 or even $3/$6 before jumping back up to their failure point.

·    The Dunning Kruger Effect: unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes

Ahh, the real reason why people are bad at poker, and sayings like Steve Badger’s, “Besides lovemaking and singing in the shower, there aren’t many human activities where there is a greater difference between a person’s self-delusional ability and actual ability than in poker.” are spot on in the poker world.

This is why it’s so important to just quietly go about your business at the poker tables. Your opponents actually think they are outsmarting you!

·    Premack’s Principle: more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors

Here is why so many of your opponents will chase long-shot draws; they know there is a reward –a huge pot– to be had, so they’ll take the numerous losses while chasing that one big pot. This is often described by the parenting trick of, “You can have a cookie, AFTER you clean your room.”

·    Hawthorne Effect: subjects improve or modify an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they are being studied

Have you ever heard the expression, “Don’t tap the glass”, well this is why. As soon as a person knows they are being watched, they tend to perform better. So, every time you ridicule or inform someone that there is a right and wrong way to play, you not only clue them in to the fact that there are strategies involved, but you also immediately improve their play as described in the Hawthorne Effect!

A special thanks to Wikipedia for clear definitions of these four principles and effects.

Here is the new Poker Cartoon to start up exclusively on PokerNewsBoy. We will start dropping them in articles every week. But if you want to see all the cartoon you can see them on the Poker Pauly page.

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