In poker, players can think on a few different levels. Generally the more advanced a player is the higher a level he is thinking on. You should be thinking on at least three levels whenever you play no limit hold em. The levels are:
- What do you have? This is the simplest level; you merely look at your hand and the board and figure out how strong your hand is.
- What does your opponent have? This is a bit more complicated as you have to try to pin them down to as narrow a range of holdings as you can.
- What does your opponent think that you think that he has? Here you are trying to figure out his level 3 thought process. Of course if you opponent doesn’t think that deep it will be less important but still not unimportant because though he may not pay that much mind consciously he is definitely doing so subconsciously. His subconscious thought may manifest itself in his play so it can still be helpful to be aware of it even though you would give it less weight than you would against a player who can think on that level consciously.
- What does your opponent think that you think that he has? Here you are trying to figure out his level 4 thought process. You can’t do this directly to a level but you can against a player who can think on that level consciously. Their level 4 thought process is when they are playing at a level of thinking beyond the normal. They are thinking beyond normal when they make certain decisions. They are thinking too much for their own good. Their game will tend to be a combination of a lot of things, such as being too anxious, too fear, and too greed. Their decision making will tend to be automatic and no thought will be given to any consequence of their hand. They will also be playing with too much confidence as if they are certain of winning the hand. And lastly they will be playing with a lot of self confidence as if they are certain of beating you.
As you can imagine the levels could theoretically go on forever, but you have to start somewhere. If you are a beginner you should start off by thinking about how strong your hand is and not being so confident of it. Over the years you will develop your own technique for thinking on these levels. It takes time and practice, but it is well worth it. If you think about the poker game from the level of a naive beginner you will gain extra insight to thinking on these levels by becoming a bit patient and not going in all guns ablaze. Take your time and slowly you can develop a strategy you are comfortable with. When you are becoming more accustomed to the style of thinking about your hand you can also become a bit more curious about what your opponents are thinking about their hands. Being curious about what others are thinking about their hands is the number one most important foundation when developing your thought process for no limit dewagg on the fly.
When you are thinking about the hand you are not sure if you have a lock on it, but you have a decent chance of having it. When you are thinking about your opponent’s hand without being too sure of it, you have a best chance of being right.