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Poker Strategy With Roy Cooke -- It's All About Your Judgments

Judgment is the Combination of Your Strategic Knowledge and the Specifics Obtained From Your Awareness of the Current Situation


Roy CookePlaying poker well requires a great deal of knowledge and effort in order to make your decisions all they can be. Not only must you amass the highest possible level of information by accurately analyzing what is happening, you also need to possess the strategic knowledge to make the best decision. Poker also requires that you consistently maintain the mental clarity to process these thoughts. It ain’t easy putting it all together! And it’s a major part of why poker is such a simple game to learn, but an arduous game to master.

Humans have varying degrees of judgment. Some are smarter than others, their brains having the capacity to process information at a higher level. In computer terms their “hardware” is superior to their opponents. Others make sounder judgments because they have better knowledge of the subject, or know how to formulate answers. Their “hardware” may be worse than their opponent’s, but they make better judgments because their “software” is better.

Also, humans’ levels of judgment often changes due to external or internal factors. Personal issues, psychological disorders and “tilt” impair their decisions. Those who maintain their mind at a consistently good judgmental level have a huge edge over those who cannot!

You don’t have to be an Einstein to play poker well, but you do need a combination of better knowledge, decision-making skills, powers of observation and emotional stability than your opponents. That said, if you want to be a world-class player, you’d better develop and become great at all four.

The complexity of poker decisions varies greatly. Some are automatic, such as folding 7-2 offsuit before the flop. Other judgments are mostly straightforward. Some decisions are very close, and you can delve deeply into an equation in which your conclusion will have little effect on your equity in the hand. Other decisions have a subtlety about them, one answer may appear clear, but a better answer lies in the cards. This is the reason you need to analyze all your non-automatic poker decisions thoroughly, even if your first thought intuitively appears correct.

Much has been written about the poker strategies and strategic knowledge is a huge part of every decision. But, in the end, your judgment is a combination of your strategic knowledge and the specifics obtained from your awareness of the current situation. Once you advance into the middle to high limits, most of your opponents will have a solid understanding of general strategies. In order to create a large edge over your opponents, you need to be aware and accurate in your observations at the table. Once you have developed an understanding of strategic concepts, keeping your mind on the game, paying attention to details, and maintaining a sound judgment mentality will separate your ability from those knowledgeable competitors.

Most players clog up their mind with focusing on the wrong information. I divide my observations into three categories for better recall and processing. I recognize I have limited “disk space” and cannot mentally recall everything I’d like to. By categorizing my observations in this manner, I’m playing within myself and am in tune with my capabilities.

Category one is things I must remember: Observations that create a large edge for me, either by situations that occur frequently or situations in which I can obtain extra dead bets or cause me to win a pot I otherwise wouldn’t have won.

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