Poker Essentials
Download the Pocket52 App  and start your poker journey today

🔥 Get full buy-in value on all  your deposits

Updated: September 17, 2023

Poker Thought Process

Poker is a captivating combination of skill, strategy, psychology, and chance, making it a timeless activity that has enthralled players for years. Players enter a domain where decisions are essential, and every move can affect the path of the game as they gather around the green felt table.

This fascinating interaction of mathematical computations and human behaviour is the foundation of the poker thought process.

At its foundation, the poker thought process. is a dynamic cognitive trip that develops with each hand dealt. It requires carefully calculating probability, understanding opponents’ tendencies, and managing emotions. 

As players examine their hole cards and the communal ones, they compare the chances of generating winning combinations against the odds of forming winning combinations. However, the poker mental process goes beyond numbers. It digs into psychology and tactics, necessitating an acute ability to interpret opponents’ emotions, betting patterns, and gestures. Deciphering whether a competitor’s quivering hand signals nerves or a well-masked bluff becomes an art form in and of itself.

This complex mental gymnastics culminates in a strategic dance in which every bet, call, or fold represents a step ahead or a step back. The poker mind accepts the unknown, calculates risk, and thrives on the game’s unpredictability. We will peel back the layers of this mental process in this research, delving into the calculations, psychology, and strategic factors that characterise the art of poker play.

Evaluation of starting hands

Starting hand evaluation is essential to poker strategy since it sets the tone for the entire hand and influences players’ decisions throughout the game. The procedure examines the power of a player’s first two cards and determines their potential to produce a winning hand based on various factors.

Card Strength: The initial cards’ inherent strength is the most important component. High-value pairings (e.g., Aces, Kings) and powerful connectors (e.g., Ace-King suited) are regarded as strong starting hands because they are more likely to build strong pairs or draw into strong hands.

Location: The location of the player at the table is critical. Players at later positions have more information about their opponents’ activities, allowing them to make more informed decisions. Strong starting hands can be played more aggressively from later positions, while earlier situations allow the folding of poorer hands.

Table Dynamics: Observing opponents’ patterns and playing styles aids in modifying starting hand evaluation. Players who are looser will call or raise with a wider range, whereas players who are tighter will fold weaker cards.

Stack Size: A player’s chip stack size concerning the blinds and antes determines their opening hand selection. Larger stacks may allow for more speculative bets, whilst small stacks may require greater care.

Previous actions, such as raises or bets, reveal information about the strength of opponents’ hands. Adjusting starting hand evaluations based on these behaviours might help you make better selections.

Hand Potential: Evaluating the opening cards’ ability to build powerful hands (e.g., straight draws, flush draws) might impact decisions. Small pairs and suited connectors can greatly improve the flip.

Skill level: A player’s experience influences how they judge starting hands. More experienced players may play a larger range of indicators based on subtle criteria, whilst novices may play more conservatively.

Game Variant: The type of poker being played (for example, Texas Hold’em or Omaha) impacts starting hand evaluation. Varying games have varying hand strengths and success requirements.

4 Level of thinking

Level 1 What Do I Have on?

Players concentrate on the strength of their own hands and the worth of their cards at the first level of thinking. Based on their own cards, they weigh their possibilities and assess the strength of their hand. At this level, you must make simple decisions and comprehend the principles of poker hands.

Level 2 What Do They Have at?

At this stage, players begin to speculate about what their rivals may be up to based on the facts at hand (opponent awareness). They examine the moves, betting patterns, and prospective hand ranges of their rival. Players start speculating about the probable hands that their rivals may be holding and utilise this knowledge to guide their moves.

Level 3 What Do They Think I Have at?

This level requires the player to consider both what they feel they have and what their opponents believe they have. Players take into account how their own behaviour may come out to their opponents. The level thinking and the idea of “metagame,” where players plan their moves based on how they seem to other players at the table and how they think they could be viewed by them.

Level 4 What Do They Think I Think They Have at?

Predicting what opponents will think about a player’s cognitive process is required at the fourth level. When making moves, players strive to take advantage of how their opponents view their own actions. This level necessitates a thorough knowledge of psychology as well as the capacity to influence your opponents’ views.

How to apply poker thinking

1. Learn the Different Poker Thinking Levels:

Learn about the four stages of poker thinking: advanced metagame, metagame awareness, opponent awareness, and self awareness. Recognize the requirements of each level and how they interconnect.

2. Analyse Your Hand:

Commence with the fundamentals. how to apply poker thinking Analyse your own hand’s power and potential in relation to the game. Think about how your seat at the table influences the value of your hand.

3. Watch Your Enemies:

Pay attention to the behaviours, bet patterns, and activities of your rivals. Try to infer from their behaviour the range of hands they could be holding.

4. Think about your opponent’s range:

Consider the potential hands your rivals may have in light of the information you’ve obtained. Are they bluffing with weak hands or playing aggressively with strong ones?

5. Consider Your Image:

Consider how your adversaries view you. Are you acting tense, loose, hostile, or submissive? Think about how your reputation may affect the choices made by your competitors.

Understand the opponent’s thoughts

In poker, reading an opponent’s mind is a critical skill that distinguishes skilled players from the rest. While you can’t read people’s minds, you can use their actions, behaviour, and previous play to estimate their potential cognitive processes.

Keep a watch: Always keep an eye on your opponents’ actions, betting patterns, and judgments. Is their behaviour consistently aggressive, passive, or unpredictable? Observing how they react to various situations can reveal their cognitive processes.

Hand History: Consider previous hands and how your opponent played them. Did they display strength, bluff, or fold under pressure? Create a profile of their playing style and habits using this information.

Body Language: While not perfect, bodily indicators like facial expressions, posture changes, or fidgeting might reveal an opponent’s level of confidence or uneasiness. However, be wary because some players purposefully employ misleading tells.

Betting Patterns: The quantity and timing of bets can reflect the player’s intentions. A huge bet may suggest strength, but a modest bet may imply a weaker hand or a draw.

Positional Awareness: Consider the player’s table position. Because players act with less information, early position raises are often stronger than late position raises.

Chip Stack: Consider the chip stack of your opponent concerning the blinds and antes. Desperation or comfort may influence their decisions.

Game Flow: Recognize how the game has progressed. Have they been folding frequently because of poor hands, or have they been more aggressive?

Meta-Game: Skilled players frequently look beyond their current hand, making plays to manipulate their opponents. Consider whether your opponent is attempting to take advantage of your perspective of their play.

Tendencies of Players: Players frequently have “go-to” moves. Some players may routinely raise with strong hands, whereas others may bluff more frequently. Recognizing these characteristics allows you to predict their activities.

Emotional State: Emotional players may become more reckless following losses or more careful following successes. Keep an eye out for these changes.

Calculate Expected value and pot odds

Expected Value (EV) and Pot Odds are important concepts in poker that help players decide whether to call, fold, or raise a hand. Let’s break these ideas down:

Expected Value (EV)

Expected Value is a mathematical calculation that assists you in determining the possible long-term profitability of a certain poker decision. Computed by considering the probable outcomes of a decision and their related probabilities.

EV = (Win Probability * Won Amount) – (Loss Probability * Won Amount)

For example, if you have a flush draw with one card remaining and know the chance of getting your flush is 20%, the possible pot size is $100, and you need to call a $20 bet to see the following card, the EV calculation would be as follows:

EV = (0.20 * $100) – (0.80 * $20)

EV = $20 – $16

EV = $4

A positive EV shows that the decision is lucrative in the long run, whereas a negative EV indicates a losing prospect.

The Pot Odds:

It assists you in determining whether the possible profit warrants the risk of placing a wager.

(Current Pot Size) / (Cost to Call) = Pot Odds

For example, if the pot is $100 and your competitor bets $20, the pot odds are as follows:

Pot Odds = $100 divided by $20

5 is the pot odds.

To make a profitable call, your chances of winning (your equity) must be higher than the pot odds. If your chances of winning a hand outweigh the pot odds, it’s usually a good call.

EV and Pot Odds Comparison: When deciding, compare the estimated Expected Value (EV) with the Pot Odds. It’s a profitable bet if the EV exceeds the Pot Odds. When the EV is low, it’s usually smart to fold.

It’s crucial to note that while EV and Pot Odds might help you make smarter decisions, they don’t guarantee success in any particular hand. Poker is a game of prowess and probability, and combining these principles with your observations and understanding of opponents will improve your total decision-making ability.

Awareness of the position

Positional awareness is a fundamental concept in poker that revolves around knowing your table seating position’s strategic benefits and drawbacks. The position you hold concerning the dealer button significantly impacts the decisions you make and the actions you do with each hand.

Positions in the early game (under the gun and in the early middle):

  • After distributing the hole cards, the players in these places take the first turn.
  • They have minimal knowledge of their opponent’s actions.
  • Because of the greater danger of encountering raises from later positions, starting hand requirements are often tighter.

Positions in the middle (middle and late middle):

  • Players in these positions have some knowledge of the actions of the early players.
  • They can make better decisions based on the deeds of those who came before them.
  • Starting hand criteria may be more lenient than in early positions.

Late Positions (Button and Cutoff):

  • After distributing the hole cards, the players in these places are the last to act.
  • They have the most knowledge regarding their opponents’ moves, making it easier to assess their hand strength.
  • Late situations allow for strategic plays such as steals and re-steals.
  • Starting hand requirements may be expanded because of the advantageous location and additional information.

Consider the following factors when applying positional awareness to your poker strategy

Betting and Bluffing: With a better understanding of your opponent’s intentions, you can steal pots with well-timed bets and bluffs in late positions.

Hand Selection: Your position should determine your starting hand. Tighter ranges in early positions and looser ranges in late positions can assist you in capitalising on the advantages of each position.

Controlling the Pot: Positional awareness enables you to regulate the size of the pot better. When you hold a strong hand in late positions, you can increase the pot size while decreasing it when you’re out of position with a marginal hand.

Observation and adaptation: Watch how opponents react to various positions. Adjust your plan based on their patterns. For example, if a player routinely raises from the cutoff, you should be wary of them.

Post-flip Play: Having a better position after the flip helps you to gather more information before making a choice. You can maximise the value of strong hands while minimising losses from weaker ones.


The cognitive process is the compass that guides players through the complex world of poker, guiding them through a landscape of uncertainty and opportunity. Every decision becomes a brushstroke on the canvas of strategy, psychology, and chance as card distribution and chip placement occur. The poker mental process involves constant computation, observation, and adaptation.

This investigation has shown the layers that make up this interesting cognitive dance. We’ve looked at the skill of evaluating starting hands, where mathematics and psychology meet to inform calculated risks. We’ve deconstructed the delicate talent of reading opponents, interpreting the language of bets, tells, and movements to reveal those at the table’s unsaid intents.

Share it with friends