What do poker players think about when they are facing a big decison?

What do poker players think about when they are facing a big decison?

Like on tv (wsop, hsp, poker after dark etc) poker players take a lot of time to think. What are they thinking about?

Question asked by: dunhate235


When poker players face a big decision, they typically go through a series of thoughts and considerations to determine their best course of action. Some of the factors they might think about include:

  1. Hand strength: Players evaluate the strength of their own hand relative to the possible hands their opponents might have. They consider the range of hands their opponents could hold and how their own hand fares against that range.
  2. Betting patterns: They analyze the betting patterns of their opponents throughout the hand to glean information about the strength of their holdings. This includes the size of bets, the timing of bets, and any changes in betting behavior.
  3. Position: Players consider their position at the table and how it affects the dynamics of the hand. Being in a later position allows for more information gathering before making a decision.
  4. Pot odds: They calculate the pot odds to determine whether it’s profitable to call a bet or make a raise. Pot odds compare the amount of money in the pot to the amount required to call a bet, helping players assess the risk versus reward of a particular action.
  5. Opponent’s playing style: Players think about their opponent’s playing style, whether they are aggressive or passive, tight or loose. This can help predict the range of hands the opponent might have and influence the decision-making process.
  6. Table image: They consider their own table image and how other players perceive them. A player with a tight image might be more likely to get away with a bluff, while a player with a loose image might be more likely to get called.
  7. Stack size: Players evaluate the stack sizes of themselves and their opponents. A player with a short stack might be more likely to make desperate moves, while a player with a large stack might apply pressure on smaller stacks.
  8. Tournament considerations: In tournament play, players may also think about factors like the current blind level, the average stack size, and their position relative to the bubble or the final table.
  9. Physical tells: Players observe their opponents for any physical tells or behavioral changes that might provide information about the strength of their hand.
  10. Intuition: Sometimes, poker players rely on their intuition or gut feeling when making a decision. While this isn’t necessarily a quantifiable factor, experienced players often develop a strong sense of when something doesn’t feel right.

Ultimately, poker players consider a combination of these factors when facing a big decision, carefully weighing the pros and cons of each option before making their move.


  1. I’m just going to list everything:
    – What happened pre-flop
    – What opponent did on flop
    — If he raised, how much. If he called, how much.
    – What happened on turn
    – What happened on river that would induce a big decision play.
    – What opponents acting like
    – What opponent’s body’s doing
    – What opponent’s saying
    – What he’s saying might mean
    – How much should I raise
    – How much should I bet

  2. They think about many things, such as what they are going to bet, why their opponent bet there, so many reasons. I’ll put this question on my 360 page of poker playing, and answer it to everyone in my next blog.

    BTW, check out my poker blog on my 360 page.

  3. Most of it is trying to put an opponent on a hand based on all the usual criteria. Often when an opponent seems especially deep in thought, he’s searching the depths of his memory banks trying to remember what his opponent was holding, what was on the board, how his opponent (and others in the hand) played pre- and post-flop, who was/ were his opponent(s), what was his position, etc. in similar previous situations… sometimes stretching back over the course of months.

    Also, some pros are very good at using table talk to glean information, so they’ll spend a ridiculous amount of time chatting the other up in hopes he’ll reveal something about his hand. Sometimes, even at the pro level, something as simple as a usually chatty player now acting a bit more reserved, provides crucial information.

    Also, of course, they’re counting the pot, calculating odds, etc.

    But mostly, I think, they’re playing to the camera. Let’s be honest, rarely does a player, even after a considerable amount of thought, decide on a course of action different than what his initial reaction would have been to do. However, many of the TV pros, even if they know how they’re going to proceed, like to soak up a little extra camera time when possible. The cameras can change things a bit, though, as no one wants to be bluffed on TV, others get an especially big jimmy if they know the viewers at home or in a bar somewhere witnessed their especially good decision, and some just like to think out loud (Negraneau, Hellmuth, etc.) perhaps in order to appear even smarter to the viewers.

  4. Like professional chess players, professional poker players are able to reconstruct a hand in their mind, and replay it a bit at a time.

    So when faced with a difficult decision they will start by thinking about what the opponent did in every single betting round that has gone before. What was their body language? What two cards are they likely to have to follow that betting pattern? What is their stack size relative to other players? How many players are still in the hand? If the player has a made hand, what are the odds that the opponent will outdraw (like trips versus a flush draw)? How much money does the player have to put in the pot, versus the odds of making their hand? What are the odds they have the best hand? What are the implied odds of making a call here? What are the implications of raising here? Is it mathematically correct to call, raise or fold here? How do the implied odds affect the math? Is the prize structure of the tournament such that it’s worth gambling here (for example Poker After Dark is a winner takes all structure)? What does the player know about the tendencies of the opponent (often they will have studied their opponents playing on TV)? What is the table image of each player involved in the hand? Is someone on tilt? Is someone playing differently knowing the hand is being televised? What is the texture of the board?

    There’s probably a lot more I’ve missed. But there are dozens of things to consider and make educated guesses on. The better the professional the more he has to think about. The more money is at stake, the more it would behoove a person to spend some time thinking. One wrong move can often be very costly, and also be professionally embarrassing if it is shown on TV.

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