Four Level Poker Thinking

4 Levels of Poker Play

Take Your Self Assessment

There was mention in a forum thread of people at the APC locations getting better as the Four Level Poker Thinkingseason has progressed. That got me thinking about the progression that a poker player takes as he (she) gets better.
I also think it’s good to assess where you’re at every now and then so you know what you need to do to get better.

I put the learning poker player (i.e. non-professional) into four levels. These are players that are actually trying to play well, not the any two cards type. To me this is the progression that most players take. So lets have a little self assessment here.

What level you think you are at and what do you need to do to get to the next level? Also, if you think I’m completely off base or missing something, let me know.

Here are Four Levels Of Poker Play

Level 1: This player plays too many hands pre-flop (any two suited any Ace any king, etc.). They don’t raise much pre-flop and when they do it’s usually not the right amount. They go to the river with any piece of the pot (low pair, inside straight draw, Ace high). They pay no attention to position, betting patterns, previous hands, etc. They will never fold a pocket pair, even if there are 3 overs on the board. They bluff too much and go all-in too much.

Level 2: This player has figured out a few things, like tight pre-flop play keeps you in the game longer. This player has tightened up pre-flop, but has over compensated by becoming two passive. They no longer play Kx or any two suited, but they still can’t fold hands like KJ or AT or Axs or suited connectors. They can’t get away from top pair. They have a little understanding of odds and outs, but don’t apply it to their game. They don’t raise enough pre-flop. They don’t bluff enough. They’re easy to fold with a big bet. They rarely, if ever, re-raise or check raise. Basically this is tight, predictable poker.

Level 3: This is where the player starts to really understand the complexities of the game. They realize that you have to have a better hand to call a raise than you do to open raise. They have a decent understanding of the odds and can apply them (I have 12 outs, there’s 1,000 in the pot I can call around a 300 bet without making a mistake). They play their position and they bet aggressively pre-flop. They’ll put in a continuation bet on the flop to see where they’re at even if they haven’t hit the hand. They’ll bluff and steal blinds effectively. They are starting to pay attention to betting patterns during a hand and are able to put players on a range of hands. They can categorize players as tight, aggressive, loose, passive, etc.

Level 4: This player can read other players based on past betting patterns and has a mental note of the hands different players have shown down. They use “moves” like check raises, re-raises, slow plays, etc. effectively and often. They truly play the player and will bet aggressively regardless of their cards if they have a read on a player. They have the math down and can calculate odds and probabilities immediately. They win a lot of hands without having to go to showdown.

I’ll start (can you tell I’m bored today?).

I think I’m in Level 3 right now, though barely. I have a decent understanding of the game. I understand odds and how to apply them, but I most of the time I lose focus and don’t apply them.

I think I play my position well and have a pretty good idea of what to bet in different situations. I can read obvious moves by players, but tend to get caught by some of the trickier players.

I’m not very good at reading tells. I sometimes have a hard time getting my self to aggressively attack a player that I have a read on. Example: even though I’m almost positive I can fold the blinds with a raise I have a hard time doing it with a sub par hand (not playing the player).

The biggest thing I need to change to move to the next level is pay attention to the other players betting habits and patterns (and remember them). I know I’m missing out on some opportunities because I’m not gathering enough information on players.

I also think my play might have gotten a bit too tight (I don’t remember the last time I hit a straight or flush)