Sunday, July 11, 2004

I Knew There Was a Reason I Read This Magazine

Astute readers of the poker-blogosphere recall a couple of months ago, when Hdouble posted his hierarchy of a poker player's development, and I attempted then to place myself in his hierarchy, having little success. His hierarchy was enjoyable to read, and literate, but I ultimately determined it wasn't as useful as it should be.

I'm a couple of issues behind on reading CardPlayer. Gil subscribes, but I usually take the magazine when I'm going to eat a sit-down dinner by myself, particularly when it's in the middle of the night and there's no baseball on.

Anyway, in the Fossilman issue, Tom McEvoy (who originally hails from Grand Rapids; some of the regulars in the local games remember him) had an article which boils down to "Don't try fancy plays on unsophisticated opponents." But he classifies the opponents, which is what I found most interesting.

At the basic level of thinking, a player decides that he holds a good hand, possibly the best hand at the time. One step up the ladder, he determines what he thinks his opponent holds. Moving up one more rung, he decides what he thinks his opponent thinks he has. The highest step on the poker thought-process ladder is deciding what you believe your opponent thinks you have, determining the way that you think he expects you to play your hand (if you have what he thinks you have), and, finally, determining how you think he will play his hand if he has what you think he has.

In other words, there are four levels a player might be thinking on.

  1. What cards do I have?
  2. What cards does he have?
  3. What does he think I have?
  4. How does he think I should play what he thinks I have?

A player can be then categorized by the highest level his thinking usually reaches. So, your favorite game becomes one which is populated by type-1 players. By mixing some deception into your play, you can beat a lot of type-2 players. And in most of the games I'm in, I don't find a lot of type-3 or type-4 players.

I'm not sure how to categorize myself here. I have no problem with 1; I know if I have a good hand or a good draw. I'm usually thinking about 2, but with varying degrees of accuracy. I'm not sure if I count as having mastered 3 or not; I often know what I want my opponent to think I have, but I'm not sure that's the same thing. And I don't know that I've ever given much thought at all to 4, which is probably bad. Or not, because it gives me a direction to grow.

Geez, a direction to grow ... I just had a huge dinner, I'm growing in a lot of directions already.


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