Levels Of Thought In Poker

If you are new to poker then you might think that the most important factor for winning a pot is the cards that you hold. In fact this is only one level on which you can think.

Your opponent will also be thinking, for example, about what hand you might have.

This article explains the different levels of poker thought and you will see that out thinking your opponent is just as important as the hand you are dealt.

Levels Of Thinking

Level 0 – I don’t know anything

Level 1 – What hand do I have?

Level 2 – What hand might my opponent have?

Level 3 – What hand does my opponent think I have?

Level 4 – What hand does my opponent think that I think he has?

Level 5 – What hand does my opponent think that I think he thinks I have?

How Should I Use These Levels Of Thinking?

You should always aim to be thinking at one level (and only one level) above your opponent. For example, if your opponent is thinking at level 1, then you want to be thinking at level 2. He is only thinking about his own hand, so you need to try to determine what his hand is through his betting.

If, however, your opponent is thinking at level 2, then you want to be thinking at level 3. He is trying to work out what hand you might have and you therefore want to work out what he thinks you have.

If your opponent is thinking at level 3, then you want to be thinking at level 4. You need to respond to his betting based on the fact that he is thinking about what hand he thinks you are putting him on. You can also do this by going back to level 1 in some situations and just playing your hand.

Most poker players think at Level 3. If your playing someone who you think is playing at Level 4 then you should leave!

Thinking at 2 levels or more above your opponent

Having seen the levels it might appear that you should try to think at as high a level as possible. Actually this does not work. If your opponent is thinking at level 1 then there is no point thinking at level 3. Bluffing or slow playing are not successful strategies here because your opponent is not thinking about what you have.

Disadvantages of relying on thinking levels

You must always try to work out what your opponents level of thinking is but this can be difficult. You are not psychic and they can be thinking at different levels at different times. When most players are facing a difficult situation they will usually think at level 1.But the same players will think at level 3 or 4 when they have a great hand because they are trying to manipulate what their opponents think they have. Furthermore, you don’t know how your opponent is going to apply his thinking even if you know the level he is thinking at. How many times have you heard someone say at the river “I know I’m beat but I’m gonna call anyway”?!

Despite the disadvantages, thinking levels are a great poker strategy and a way to get into the minds of your opponents and exploiting their play. In particular not bluffing against level 1 players will save you a lot of money!

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