Psychology, at its core, is about self-awareness. Knowing who you are and why you do something will allow you to adapt and change, to see yourself and the activity in the proper perspective.
It has been said poker is just a card game people play, while others have said poker is a game of people who are using cards.
Poker psychology is determining who you are, what you want out of the game and why you play.
We have been trying to categorize people who play poker so we can have an edge over them. I want you to look into yourself and see who you are in poker so you can have an edge on the game.
One of the first ways of categorizing players was by playing style: loose aggressive, tight aggressive, tight passive, loose passive.
Phil Hellmuth analogized poker players to animals: mouse, jackal, elephant, lion and eagle.
Here’s another grouping: nit, the best player at my home game, college-dorm champ, super serious $2-$4 limit player, bad-beat storyteller.
We have seen the weekend golfer who sees poker as another way to bet; he drinks too much and throws around chips and you can bet he knows the ATM.
So I have devised a simple way of looking at yourself. Once you can determine who you are, you can get that edge on the game, not on the villains.
OCCASIONAL PLAYER: He plays some home games, maybe some tournaments, knows the general rules but doesn’t want to and doesn’t have the time to learn about the game. He can be lucky but doesn’t care too much about losing the money in his pocket.
RECREATIONAL PLAYER: He plays consistently one to five times a week, reads a little, watches poker on television and wants to be a regular, but still has a full-time job.
REGULAR: This person is often retired, likes the camaraderie and plays well. Goes up and down, plays the right stakes, stays in his comfort zone and gets home for dinner.
SEMI-GRINDER: This player wants to supplement his real-life job; he plays well, studies, talks about it and has visions of going on the circuit.
GRINDER: Plays regularly, knows the numbers, tries to know the psychology but often overestimates his skills; wants to go on the circuit and be a pro, building a stake.
LOW-LEVEL PRO: This person hit a tournament or two, has moved to $2-$5, $5-$5 or $5-$10; a solid player like the club pro at a golf course.
CIRCUIT PRO: He follows a tournament circuit and plays cash games.
ELITE PLAYER: This is their living, avocation and vocation.
As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self but true.” I would add, “Know yourself and keep your head in the game.”
— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.