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Expectation And Hourly RateThe Fundamental Theorem Of PokerThe Ante StructurePot OddsEffective OddsImplied Odds and Reverse Implied OddsThe Value of DeceptionWin the Big Pots Right AwayThe Free CardThe Semi-BluffDefense Against the Semi-BluffRaising
Check-RaisingSlowplayingLoose and Tight PlayPositionBluffingGame Theory and BluffingInducing and Stopping BluffsHands-Up On The EndReading HandsThe Psychology of PokerAnalysis at the TableEvaluating the Game



Psychological Plays

The late John Crawford was one of the great game players and gamblers of all time. His best games were bridge and backgammon, but he was also an excellent gin rummy player. He and the legendary games expert Oswald Jacoby used to play gin rummy against each other constantly. They were close in ability, but there was no question Crawford had the psychological edge.

  He would needle Jacoby, taunt him, even laugh at his play, until Jacoby sometimes became so enraged he could hardly see the cards in front of him.

  Along the same lines, Los Angeles backgammon pro Gaby Horowitz is well-known for his glib, sometimes disparaging talk during a game, which is calculated to put his opponents on tilt.

  Seven-card stud poker pro Danny Robinson is equally famous for his nonstop patter during a hand, which is used to distract and confuse his opponents.

  These are all psychological ploys, and there are an endless number of such ploys. Some people approve of them.  Some don’t.While they have a definite place in poker, they are not what we mean by the psychology of poker. They are psychological devices that apply to all games or, for that matter, to all forms of competition.

  Chess champion Bobby Fischer used them in his famous match against Soviet master Boris Spassky. Managers like Earl Weaver and Billy Martin use them on the baseball diamond. And the late Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was notorious for using them as tactics of cold war diplomacy.


  What we mean by the psychology of poker is getting into your opponent’s heads, analyzing how they think, figuring out what they think you think, and even determining what they think you think they think. In this sense the psychology of poker is an extension of reading opponents’ hands, and it is also and extension of using deception in the way you play your own hand.

  Recently, while I was working on this book, a friend ran up to me and said, “I made a great play in seven-stud last   night at the Castaways.” We had recently been talking about using deception by getting a second-best hand to make an opponent think you are  stronger than you really are in hopes he will fold if you improve.

  “Low card brought it in, and I called with a pair of kings,” my friend began. “One of the kings was showing. Behind me a guy who was steaming and almost all-in called with an ace showing.

  He could have anything. Another guy, A.D., the best player in the game, raised with an ace showing. We all called.  “On fourth poker street I catch a 5. I have a king, 5 showing still only a pair of kings. The guy who’s steaming has ace, 10, and he bets.

  Maybe he has a small pair. The good player calls. Now I know for sure the good player has aces because he would   never call another ace unless he had aces himself, especially with me sitting behind him with, maybe, two kings. He’s   played with me a lot, and he knows how I play.”
          “So you folded your pair of kings.”

          “No, I raised!”
          “That’s pretty dangerous in that spot,” I said.

  “Well, I knew A.D. had aces,” My friend continued, “and I knew he knew I knew he had aces. So when I raise, he has to figure that since I know he has aces, I must have made kings up. The guy who’s steaming calls, and A.D. reluctantly calls. Then I get lucky. I make an open pair of 5s on fifth street, and I bet out. The guy who’s steaming goes all-in, but A.D. shakes his head   and folds his two aces because now he’s worried I’ve made a full house 5s full of kings.

  I end up winning the poker hand with kings and 5s against a pair of 10s. A.D. grumbled afterward that he’s the one who should have been raising.”  My friend did get lucky when he paired the 5s. However, in playing the hand he demonstrated the kind of thought   processes that are the principle subject of this chapter.

  He went three steps beyond what he saw on the board. First, he though about what his opponents might have. He tentatively put the steamer on a small pair, and with more assurance he put A.D.

  on a pair of aces. Then he went one step further. He thought about what A.D. thought he had namely, a pair of   kings. Then he went a step beyond that.  He thought about what A.D. thought he thought A.D. had and he knew A.D. knew that he thought A.D. had two aces.   It was only after reaching this third level that he decided to raise with a pair of kings to make A.D.

  Think he had kings up. Of course, it was also important that A.D. was a good enough player to think on a second and third level himself. Otherwise the play would make no sense. Just as you can’t put a weak player on a hand, you can’t put him on a thought either. A weak player might reraise with two aces, without analyzing the possibility that the other man might   have kings up.


Calling on the Basis of What Your Opponent Thinks

Psychology and Future Impressions



state of the score and the particular hand often justifies a take on 35 or 30.  remember that in Klaberjass, length in the trump suit is not so vital as strength.  Actually, the most important factor is the presence or absence of jass.  A singleton jass plus a side ace and ten is the “classic take,” whereas many four-trump hands not containing jass and nine will be beaten.  Jass alone is often enough in trumps to warrant taking.
            The dealer, of course, should stay at a minimum for a take when the nondealer passes, rather than allowing his opponent a new suit.  Sometimes, however, it is wise, with an especially good defensive hand of several cards in jacks and nines, to permit the opponent to name trump.
            Under most conditions, the nondealer should not schmeiss on the first round, since he may be forced to become trump maker against a strong hand.  But  the nondealer can use the schmeiss to advantage on the second round, to prevent dealer from naming his own suit.