Why do you play poker, and reading opponents



Rock Star
I ask myself this every so often. I know exactly why I play poker.

How about this? Why does the person walking up to your table with a fresh rack of chips play poker? As a new player approaches the empty seat at my table, I quickly ask myself this question. Why does he/she play poker?

There are many reasons to play poker. This gives you insight into the way they play poker.
A check raise from a player who plays for money, is different than a check raise from a guy playing to relax. Which will be different from a guy who plays to blow off steam from work.

A major issue people make when putting someone on a hand, is that they think of what they would play if they were in their opponents shoes. But, he doesn't play like you, so when he tables something you would never play if you were him, it is hard to believe.

Instead, realize that this guy doesn't play for the same reasons you do. Put him on a hand, not based on what you would do if youwere him, but he would do.
For example, your playing 150-300 At the Bellagio. You have 2 empty seats at your table.

One, a college age guy, with glasses, and 2 drinks in his hand. His shirt say Alpha Psi Sigma.

The other guy is a business man, in a suit with a scowl on his face, looking at his watch.

How do you expect their play to be different?
Also, when you approach a table what are people watching you expecting?



I would expect the college guy to be more of a statistics player whereas the business man would play hands more because of a feeling that he gets. The business man may just be coming in to let off some steam and relax, and you dont get that by only playing 2 hands an hour, so I would expect him to play more loosely and call more raises. The college guy may be in it to have fun also, but I bet he will make more calculated decisions.


I would expect the college guy to be a smart player, really pays attention the other players and how they play. Doesnt make to many stupid mistakes..he wants to show he serious about playing, but also is there to relax and have a good time..maybe socialize (drinks).

The business man obviously came from work. His scowl shows he probably had a bad or rough day...theres a difference between someone wearing a scowl and someone who is stoned faced. also with him constantly looking at his watch shows hes in a rush or needs to be somewhere in a hurry. I would expect him to play very loosely and probably play a lot of weak hands. i would also expect him to be a calling station or someone who just wants to win fast and leave.

I look really young so whenever i sit down i always get the feeling that older players are thinking "this kid saw this game on tv and thinks he can play." However i prove them wrong with solid game play. I want to portray an image that im a serious about playing, but im also there to have a good time. and i show this my playing solid poker, but socializing with others at the table. I even take time to poke fun beats i get to show that i can take a loss, its not gonna effect my gameplay to bad.


I think everyone plays for the same reason. To win. I believe that you cant judge a book by its cover and that players skill will be based on his experience, poker education, and his own natural ability. All business men wont play one way, and all college students wont play another. I think if you make assumptions before watching them play, youre asking for trouble.


Rising Star
everyone plays differently, but Threesixes is also right, everone wants to win. It Doesnt really matter how a player looks, just what mood they are in. I personally might think the Bussiness guy would play very tight, yet agressive when pot commited. It all depends, maybe he's some rich guy lookin for fun. Maybe he's flat broke and trying to hustle some money. "Maybe" can go many different ways and i think you should do just one thing... play the game like how u play it.


Obviously everyone wants to win - no-one is going to say that they want to lose, but that doesn't mean that there's nothing to be gained from looking at peoples motives. Someone who is playing to put food on the table for their family can be expected to play very differently from someone who plays for fun, and they in turn will probably play very differently from someone who is there because they're addicted to gambling.

Of course you can go wrong when trying to assess people's motives, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to gain an advantage by doing it. 'The Psychology of Poker' is a good book that deals with this kind of stuff.


Rock Star
Jon UK mentions the psychology of poker, by Dr. Al This is the finest book on the subject. It is also the foundation of this post.

Your predeterminations about an opponent are very revealing, but as some pointed out should remain fluid and change as you learn new information. Let's take it one step further.

The college kid sits down, and doesn't know where to put his second drink. So he "slams" it and puts the empty glass to the side.
As opposed to him just leaving the mostly full drink on the rail for the waitress to take away.
Ill often ask folks casually, "What brings you to Vegas?"
If they say they are here for a bachelor party, well that means something.
If they say they beat up the poker games back home, and could't wait to try their skills in Vegas, that means something else.

I am watching these things, as it reveals insights into the way they will be playing.

Dorkus Malorkus

Dorkus Malorkus

I have very little live game experience, and zero live game experience with people I don't know, so this is based on other experiences and theory in the main. I would try and avoid forming "first impressions" just upon seeing a person, as they are often wrong and can be very hard to shake off. I prefer to make my "first impression" after seeing Mr. College Kid or Mr. Businessman play a few hands. If this means I'm at a disadvantage for a few hands because my first "on-sight" impression would have been correct, so be it - it beats forming an impression that is horribly wrong and finding it difficult to shake off, thus putting you at a disadvantage for a much longer period of time.

As you said, seemingly harmless idle chatter can also be a great way to form meaningful first impressions.


>>One, a college age guy, with glasses, and 2 drinks in his hand. His shirt say Alpha Psi Sigma.

i think the key there is "2 drinks in his hand." another key is his "alpha psi sigma" shirt. true, he's playing high stakes, but i would NOT expect a lot of finesse from this player, as his ensemble screams FRAT BOY to me. as such, i would expect him to be sloppily aggressive, particularly if he's drinking, and to be bluff-happy. he might not call you with second pair, but if he thinks you have second pair, i wouldnt be surprised if he pushed all-in on a cold bluff. often. he might get lucky, but this is not the skilled player some of you give him credit for; rather, this is someone who watches travel channel's WPT and thinks he's got what it takes because he cleaned house at his last home game.

the business man, i would agree, is very likely there to blow off steam. of course, he could be someone like sam farha who just enjoys a touch of class, so watch what hands he shows down. if he shows down middle pair weak kicker after a rarise when the board has flush and straight possibilities, you have your fish. ;)

edit: he might be more the statistician were he only sipping a single beer. double-fisting at a poker table is not exactly something i see serious players do very often.


I would expect the college player to be more of a maniac. Drinking while gambling isn't good. The other guy is probably just playing for a little bit because he was looking at his watch. He has to be somewhere in a little bit so is wasting the time playing poker. Probably another maniac but not as loose aggresive as the drinking college kid.

Could also put him as very very tight. Playing little hands cause he doesn't want to loose to much money while wasting time.



A person will play for whatever reason they so choose. But with the exception of those out there who go all-in every hand from the start of a tourney/ring game(and yes there are a lot of them) a person could be sitting in nothing but their underwear for all I care. You don't judge a book by it's cover, and unless the person is obviously so drunk/high that they can't possibly play sensible poker, you don't judge how they play based on appearance. You let their actions and such tell you how they play.

And besides that, when it all comes down to it, one person's chips/money is just as good as the next person's ;).