Head Games

If you could fiddle with your ranges and fine tune your betting, maybe you can wring out an additional 10% return. Splendid! You should certainly do all that.

But what if I could play some head games that make the other 8 people at the table adjust their games in a way which will net me an additional 10% from each? That seems like a better deal to me, and I don’t have to mess with my own game if I can just make you change yours.

Head games are designed to make people make adjustments to their game.

Most people won’t make huge adjustments no matter what you do, some won’t make any, but the average will be “some” adjustment. If we make sure these adjustments are in the wrong direction, we will profit in the end.

There are many kinds of head games we can play. Most of these will provide concrete data points, clear proof that specific changes are perfectly reasonable and correct. After all, I showed you the cards, you know I was playing crap and just got lucky, right? You can even Replay the hand! OK, you got me, I like to play crap cards, remember that.

So now you and I are in another pot. You have something like A9s, which is less than you would normally have, but it’s probably better than any of the crap I play. The flop comes 7 high rainbow and I bet out half the pot.

It’s a crap flop, but I play crap, so it probably hit me somehow. Dude, you have 6 outs, assuming I don’t already have a crappy little set or a stupid little 2 pair. You really willing to take 3-1 pot odds on what, best case, is a 7-1 draw? I know you’re better than that, please fold. Are you really going to get any action if an ace comes off? Folding is smart, m’kay?

Because you think I play crap, how many of these am I allowed to steal?

How much more value will you allow me to extract from my premium hands?

You see, I’m not going to sit here and wait for you to make a mistake when it’s much easier to
force you to make the exact kind of mistakes I want. This is the essence of mind games.

This is a short introduction to a fascinating yet often overlooked aspect of the game. More to follow soon…

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Quite so, and then when you have bullets and play them like trash and they call with A9 and an Ace comes on the flop, they confidently sally forth determined to take all your chips from you!

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SPG you’d be surprised how many players are aware of this specific strategy and don’t fall for it. I admit it’s a good one, but it’s not as overlooked as you think. It’s quite common; many use it, and many don’t fall for it.

Looking forward to the next mind game :wink:


OK, we are thinking about ways we can get people to make adjustments that are based on bad information. I intend to detail a few specific examples, but not just yet.

How do you gather information on another player? What activities would make you take note, mental or actual? What would that note say?

Let’s boil the notes down into tags that we can attach to a player. There are lots of possible tags, and each will suggest a course of action. For example, if you earn the “super tight” tag, my obvious course of action would be to steal every pot that didn’t fit your “super tight” range.

This is a bad tag to get, so let’s do what we can to avoid getting it. Let’s never show strong hands unless we have to. Let’s bet people off a pot now and then, even if it’s possible to extract a little more value, just so they can never know that we had a monster. Maybe they will think we were bluffing.

The most basic tag is the “bluffer” tag, though it shouldn’t be. Every player should have this tag at all times. You would like to keep this one fresh, so you show a few more bluffs than you normally would. If someone thinks you bluff too much, they will pay you more when you make a hand.

One of the best tags to get is the “plays crap hands” tag. The higher grade tag would be the “Any 2 Cards” tag, and the best version would have the “From Any Position” rocker. If someone gives you that tag, it’s a license to steal. Thanks for the tag, you will be folding a number of flops that you normally wouldn’t. Each is a gift, thank you.

The collection of tags you give each player define that player and how you should approach their game. It doesn’t matter if you just do this mentally, we all do it, it’s a critical part of the game. Know thy opponent! You have some kind of system for gathering information that helps you “get a read” on someone.

What if I attack, not you, not your cards, not your stack, but instead attack your information gathering system itself?

I could fill your information gathering system with enough noise to make all of your data about me unreliable. Worse, you will have mostly bad data, and base your decisions on that bad data. This can’t be good for you.

If I could control the information flow, I could make you do things you don’t want to do,

More to follow…


What you are trying to describe is called playing LAG or loose aggressive and I have discussed it here several times and here is an article that explains that style:


It is an effective style but if you go too far in widening your range and become a loose cannon an advanced player will just switch to a TAG or tight aggressive and capitalize on just strong winning hands against your weak hands.

For example: I generally play loose aggressive on most tables but I joined a ring table last night with a guy holding a huge stack and playing a very wide range loose cannon style so he had everyone buffaloed and scared to bet.

I read his strategy fast and switched to tight aggressive and folded anything below a 10 and went for high connectors suited or large pairs.

Within an hour I had felted him and he reloaded and I felted him again and left with 10X my buy in and all his chips. He finally got so frustrated he would fold any time I bet the flop or turn knowing I already had him beat.

So for every strategy there is a counter strategy and you never want to use the same strategy for too long or advanced players will read you. Mix it up and stay unpredictable but don’t play crap hands and aggressive or that loose cannon style will backfire on you over time.

Have a great day and win big!

By the way, I’m not saying any of this is new, or any “big deal.” It’s not. It can be a minor part of a game that has a lot of parts, and it won’t be more than that. But it can be a lot of fun to mess with either way.

Maya, there’s nothing to “fall for,” not really. There are tons of different head games, but the one thing they have in common is that they affect someone else’s game.

Don’t tell me it won’t work on better players. Actually, most of this stuff ONLY works on better players. It also works on the top professional players in the world.

How do you think Durrr gets people to pay him insane amounts when he actually has a hand? He has forced people to give him the “Maniac” “Any 2 Cards” and “Insane Bluffs” tags, and he benefits most when he is playing opposite those tags. He should be the poster boy of head games.

Finally (for now) I don’t write this stuff for people playing elite stakes. Don’t get me wrong, I love those guys, but they have their games pretty dialed in already. I play the medium MTTs, and that’s the level I’m aiming at.

OK, here’s a little mind game to try. Enter an MTT, play however you want until blind level 3. Now wait until you get re balanced to a new table. Now bluff and show 2 hands in the next 2 orbits, and spend as little as possible doing it. Bet 30% more than usual on every street the next time you have a big hand. Tell us what happens!


Let’s take a step back.I didn’t really want to get bogged down in specific examples.

Is it possible to influence the way others are playing? Obviously yes. No doubt about it.

Consider this: a bingo player joins your table. The whole table switches to “anti-bingo” mode and folds all but their very best hands. You have all seen this. One player not only got you to play the way he wanted you to play, he dictated the only sane way you could play. And not just you, the whole table. You have seen this happen with your own eyes, it cannot be doubted.

So really, it comes down to what kinds of things we can do, when we should try them and when not to, how much will it cost or pay, and so on.

In holdem things change every few seconds here, its how u make adjustments to your decision making process that matters. The bingo all in player just makes players go more into defense mode for a short time till another player bets big, then they usually fold and go into defense mode too, and if they dont fold then they get bit hard a few times and lose their stack. So it goes both ways.

Mostly it is about recognizing where another player’s head is…

That’s exactly what it’s about.

Now what if I could get you to think my head is somewhere it’s not?

This goes back to our discussion in the other thread, but I have found that I can play “head games” just by opening a normal range, without having to do anything beyond ABC poker. So many people on Replay seem to only open QQ+/AK that my opening 7%+ of hands from under the gun in full ring up to 30% from the cutoff has people thinking that I am bluffing all the time. This makes it really easy to get paid when I actually do have a hand and makes it really transparent when they 3-bet that they have a big hand.

This kind of thing is much better in tournaments, I think.

Early in a tourney, I’m looking to limp into as many multi-way pots as I can. It won’t hurt to fold if I miss the flop, and I will usually be getting good pot odds if I catch a draw and want to continue. If I win with a junk hand, I will show it every time I can. If I win with an actual hand, I will hide it if I can. I ONLY play junk hands, remember that.

I will actually be playing loose and mostly passive. I’m not trying to trick you. I really do think this is the way to play early on, and it really is the way I will be playing. All i ask is that you remember it. Let’s call this “setting the table.”

So now it’s blind level 3 or 4, and time to switch to a tight/aggressive style. The blinds are going up and a lot of people are gone, so now’s a great time to switch anyway. The fact that everyone thinks they are “in your head” is splendid, because you have a new head now, and they are nowhere near to being in that one.

It’s really not the switching gears that counts, it’s the “transition” that switching creates. For some period of time… the transition… you will think I am playing one way while I am actually playing as close to the opposite way as I can manage.

In tournament poker, these transitions can be devastating.

I guess that’s one of the differences between tournament and ring… you guys actually look at your cards and use like, numbers and stuff. Well, I can use numbers too!

Let’s say it’s folded to me, and I open there for a modest 3BB, and let’s say I do this 10 times. There will be many times in a tournament where everyone will fold (BU, SM, BB) 70% of the time, so I win 7 of the 10 without needing cards. That’s 10.5BBs, any antes are just gravy.

Of the remaining 3, I would expect to fold 2 of them without investing another dime, so 6 BBs lost. I would expect to win the third one often enough to at least offset the 2 fold/losses. Let’s call those 3 hands a wash, and I’m still up 1BB per attempt, and that’s without any of that fancy “looking at my cards” stuff!

Edited to add: OR, again without looking at my cards, I could just bet half the pot on any non-paint flop and take down 2 of the three.

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The top ring players are solving Sudoku puzzles with their fellow accountants, which is fine if that’s your thing. :slight_smile:

Us mid-level MTT players are down here at the bingo hall, baby, working that fixed income out of sad tourists and funny grannies! I’m an evil scientist, this is my evil lab, and I intend to have fun testing my evil ideas!

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