All online poker players think on level 1, this is the basic level of understanding of what hand you are holding. When you first look at your hand then you understand how strong it is on a basic level. However we then move onto level 2 thinking where we also have to think about the holdings of our opponents. To see this level more clearly in online poker then we can look at a situation from no limit Texas hold’em ring games as an example.
An opponent limps under the gun with a 100bb stack and it is folded to you in middle position with Qh-Qs. You raise to 4.5bb also with 100bb and at this stage your queens look very likely that they are the best hand. We know that we have pocket queens and we know that they are a good hand and so we raise with them. But let us say that the button three bets to 11bb and then the original limper four bets to 40bb.
Suddenly a lot of extra information has come to the fore and we need to reassess or at least we should reassess. Our pocket queens are only a strong hand if there are not stronger hands out there against us. If there are and if we cannot get away from our queens despite them being second best then rather than win money with them we will lose money. So this now takes us onto level 2 and what we think our opponents hold. This then helps us to match our hand strength with that of our opponents.
This too is still a pretty basic level in online poker and is why many players quickly move to level 3 in games like no limit Texas hold’em poker. This is when you become aware of what your opponents think that you have. If you imagine for a minute that we you are at level 2 then you are actively noticing what your opponents might be holding. However you are clearly not the only poker player at the table that is doing this and so level 3 is simply an awareness of other players thinking on level 2.
Let us look at a hand example here to show you what I mean. It is folded around to you in the cut-off in a full ring $1-$2 online no limit Texas hold’em ring game and you make it $7 to go. Your opponent on the button makes it $25 to go and your initial raise had been with the Ac-4c and so you fold. However on the next orbit you open raise with the Jc-10c which is simply you thinking at level 1. Your opponent re-raises you with Ad-9d because they are not only aware of their own holding but what you likely hold also. They have seen you raise from position two hands running and so are pegging you for another steal. So they have switched to level 2 but if you are aware of that switch then level 3 becomes very profitable and you four bet to $75 and win the pot.
Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and 888poker ambassador